Gay Lutheran pastors got the same-sex go ahead Saturday, minus the sex. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Assembly voted voted 538-431 to “curb discipline” against gay pastors in “faithful relationships.”to allow gay pastors to love up on their lovers.
Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson offered his wishy-washy interpretation:
I interpret that as a way to reflect this journey of conversation, discussion, decision, seeking to be faithful to the authority of Scripture, the interpretation of our confession and mindful of the very context in which we are engaged in God’s mission.
This engagement, however, doesn’t involve any sex. Yet. The Assembly also voted that gay pastors must remain celibate, an ungodly request if you ask us.
These new moves come after the two ink-grabbing developments. One came last week, when 82 clergy and lay folk came out en masse, but it’s Reverend Brad Schmeling who grabbed the most ink. The Atlanta-based reverend got booted earlier this year after coming out. Reacting to the Assembly’s decision, Schmeling said,
I’m grateful the resolution passed, because now no one else will have to go through what I went through. What I hope we’ve done is provide some relief for others in the church who now may not face discipline. And they can live with a little less fear and a little more confidence that the church isn’t out to get them. Even though we’ve got a long way to go to get an overall change in the policy, maybe we can take a deep breath and we don’t have to be so afraid anymore.
Unfortunately for Schmeling, the decision does not reinstate him.
While the Assembly isn’t ready to address gay pastors’ sexuality, they did recommend a task force compose a “comprehensive” study of sexuality, which will be delivered at the next Lutheran conference in 2009. Discussing the 4.8 million strong church’s ethics, Pacific Lutheran University professor Dr. Marit Trelstad reminded the Assembly that Martin Luther took an “anchored, yet flexible approach” to the Scripture. Trelstad also stressed Lutheran’s hands on approach to community building:
We are free in Christ to love and serve the neighbor. [We should] develop a relevant, healthy understanding of sexuality where ‘health’ is understood as cultivating a growing love and concern for God, neighbor and self. What would a social statement on human sexuality look like if it were shaped by God’s promises, our common identity, and our call to love and serve the neighbor?
Or, rather, service one’s neighbor.