ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 21, 2009
ELCA Assembly Actions Draw Criticism, Praise from Advocacy Groups
MINNEAPOLIS (ELCA) – Leaders of organizations favoring and opposing further involvement of people who are gay and lesbian in the church praised and denounced actions taken at the churchwide assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Both expressed a desire to have the church remain united and for those with disagreements on sexuality to respect one another’s views.
The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA is meeting here Aug. 17-23 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,045 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is “God’s work. Our hands.”
Lutheran CORE, a reform group opposing the new policies, has called for a meeting in Indianapolis next month of people who will not support the decision to allow non-celibate gays and lesbians to become clergy and other rostered leaders.
“Lutheran CORE is continuing in the Christian faith as it has been passed down to us by generations of Christians,” said the Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pa., chair of the organization. Today, CORE ended its relationship as an organization “officially recognized” by the ELCA. A statement issued here said CORE will begin to encourage ELCA members and congregations to withdraw financial support from the denomination.
The actions of the assembly mean that many of those sharing CORE’s concern “will participate in and support faithful ELCA ministries, but cannot support ELCA ministries that reject the authority of God’s word,” said the Rev. Erma S. Wolf of Brandon, S.D., vice chair of CORE’s executive committee.
While CORE’s disagreements with the ELCA run deep, Spring said he was not encouraging congregations to leave the ELCA, although he admitted that some pastors and congregations are already planning to do so.
Ryan Schwarz of Washington, D.C. a member of CORE’s steering committee, said of the assembly actions, “the church should not be voting on whether or not to follow the teaching of the Bible.” Schwarz is one of three remaining nominees for ELCA vice president.
Emily Eastwood, director of Lutherans Concerned/North America said, “Today, I am proud to be a Lutheran.” Lutherans Concerned/North America has long been working to encourage the ELCA to accept people who are gay and lesbian, but not celibate, into the ministry.
“The ELCA has always had gay ministers,” she said, “Now those and all ministers are free to claim who they are and to have the love and support of a lifelong partner.” Eastwood also said the actions of the Assembly focused on the “centrality of family life” for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.
At the same time, Eastwood said, the ELCA recognizes the “bound consciences” of those who disagree with this week’s actions. “Congregations that wish to call a qualified minister in a committed, long-term, same gender relationship can do so without hindrance,” she said. “And congregations that do not wish to do so cannot be required to ever do so.”
“We pledge to work with the church, including with those who would oppose us, for reconciliation to fulfill our collective mission to spread the love of Christ for the sake of the world,” Eastwood said.
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Information about the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found at http://www.elca.org/assembly on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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