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National Religious Leadership Roundtable responds to Evangelical Lutheran Church in America decision on LGBT pastors

Date: 
August 13, 2007

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CHICAGO, Aug. 13 — Delegates to the Tenth Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted Saturday to urge bishops to refrain from disciplining lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) pastors in committed relationships. The vote was a victory for advocates of equality in this important Protestant denomination with 4.8 million members, but it falls short of changing the church’s policy of discriminating against LGBT pastors who have families.

The National Religious Leadership Roundtable commends the work of Lutherans Concerned/North America and the Goodsoil Coalition for their advocacy and clarity of gospel values. The Roundtable looks forward to the day when true justice comes to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its faithful LGBT pastors.
  

Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members

“One week ago, on August 6 at 6:30 p.m. in Chicago, 82 Lutheran ministers put their careers on the line by announcing at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly that they are gay or lesbian and in loving, committed relationships.

“On Saturday, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted not to discipline them — which means an end to the practice that, in only the past two years, has meant the blocking of the gifts and graces of a couple of hundred ministers and seminarians who have been removed because they are in same-sex relationships.

“But it doesn’t mean an end to discrimination. Several years ago, the ELCA voted to ordain lesbian and gay ministers if they agreed to be celibate. It’s hard for me to understand the rationale behind this type of decision: If sexuality is part of God’s gift to us, if sexual diversity is part of God’s blessing, if God calls us to be in communion in others, surely God rejoices when we find loving partners to journey with in life. How can this church teach ‘where there is love, the sacred is in our midst’ yet deny it to their gay and lesbian ministers?

“Today, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pastors hang in limbo. Their sexuality is still named as less than, sinful and ‘other.’ I look forward to the day when the ECLA understands that sexuality is part of God's blessing.”

— Rev. Debra Haffner
Executive Director
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing



“At such a time as this, when the winds of justice and gospel truth are blowing all around us, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has responded with timidity.Such lukewarm response does not befit the greatness of a church whose founder is Martin Luther. I pray that the ELCA will find its moral courage and its thirst for justice and end its discrimination against faithful, committed and called lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pastors who have families.”

— Rev. Rebecca Voelkel
Program Director
Institute for Welcoming Resources



“The decision to delay continues discrimination. The 82 clergy who courageously came out at the Churchwide Assembly are caught in limbo, waiting to see if the church will do the right thing.

“Using committees and dialogues to delay is abusive to faithful lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Lutherans, their families and supporters. The church knows better. They just lacked courage.”

— Rev. Troy Plummer
Executive Director
Reconciling Ministries Network

 

“We are encouraged and empowered by the decision reached today. Our feelings are mixed, but this is a substantive change in the direction of full inclusion. On the one hand, the ELCA’s formal urging of bishops to lean on the side of inclusion and flexibility shows that they are listening to the Holy Spirit and have recognized the abundant ministerial gifts of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in their midst. They witnessed firsthand in Chicago the prophetic witness of 82 pastors who have come out as LGBT people within the Lutheran denomination and they saw the reform spirit of Martin Luther working through LGBT people of faith and allies. On the other hand, we are saddened that they did not summon the courage to fully overturn a clearly discriminatory policy and we grieve for the congregations and pastors who continue to suffer because of this unjust policy.

“We commend our colleagues at Lutherans Concerned and the Goodsoil Coalition for their consistent, strategic and thoroughly loving leadership. God’s beloved community is working through this mighty coalition and the whole church and LGBT people everywhere have been strengthened and encouraged by their efforts. The seeds of change have taken root in Chicago and with faith and hard work we will see them blossom.”

— Harry Knox
Director, Religion and Faith Program
Human Rights Campaign

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the grassroots power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. We do this by training activists, equipping state and local organizations with the skills needed to organize broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.