Will the ELCA authorize gay clergy? The vote on this highly anticipated issue is today. Discussion and debate has already been underway and will continue this morning. The issue comes up in the context of A Report and Recommendation on Ministry Guidelines.
For those who have been following the assembly on this blog or elsewhere, you know that a social statement on human sexuality (The Sexuality Statement) was adopted by the assembly on Wednesday. The social statement is a teaching document or a broad view of the church’s understanding of certain social issues. The social statement does not contain any policy provisions per se, but policy decisions, such as Ministry Guidelines, may grow out of a social statement.
The Sexuality Statement passed by a 2/3 majority. The Recommendation on Ministry Guidelines needs only a majority to pass.
The present policy of the ELCA is to allow gays and lesbians, who are otherwise qualified to serve in the ordained ministry or as rostered leaders, only if they avoid “same-gender sexual intimacy.” A number of individuals and congregations have challenged this policy with the result that gay clergy presently serve in various congregations but they are not rostered with the ELCA (or, if once rostered, then considered to be “on leave from call”) and the congregations are censured. See my earlier blog post on these situations.
The proposed recommendation would change this policy to allow gay or lesbian clergy and rostered leaders in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.” The task force that made the recommendation recognized the concerns of many and offered a “bound conscience” provision that commits the ELCA to respect differing opinions when implementing the resolution.