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Reform movement leader says
door open to blessing gay unions

by Betsy Carlson (Editor, WordAlone Network)

NEWS RELEASE -- Aug. 12, 2005

The 2005 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America propped the door open for blessing of homosexual relationships, according to leaders of the WordAlone Network, a reforming movement within the ELCA.

The assembly did this Friday by approving an amended but still ambiguous form of an ELCA Church Council recommendation. The vote was 670-323.

“The blessings door has been swinging back and forth in the ELCA, perhaps since 1993. (Director, WordAlone Network)This assembly has propped the door open firmly. photo of Betsy CarlsonBy what authority can the ELCA bless homosexual relationships? Scripture clearly doesn’t authorize sex outside of marriage,” WordAlone president, Pastor Jaynan Clark Egland, stated in an interview that day.

The assembly voted 490 for to 503 against the council’s third recommendation, a proposal to allow gays and lesbians in same-sex relationships to serve as ordained or lay ministers. It would have taken a two-thirds majority to pass.

“Thankfully, at least the assembly didn’t disregard the authority of God’s Word concerning the standards for church leaders,” she added.

Both proposals came out of recommendations from a task force that studied homosexuality and church life for several years. A third recommendation called for unity in the denomination in spite of intense and conscientious disagreements within the ELCA on the topic. It passed 851-127.

The churchwide council reviewed the recommendations, modified them some and forwarded them to the assembly. Many people called both the task force and later church council recommendations on blessing same-sex relationships ambiguous. Some asked for clarification. Both recommendations included a portion of a 1993 Conference of Bishops statement that seemed to ban blessing gay relationships based on Scripture and tradition. But both also included an ambiguous sentence calling for pastoral care of persons in such relationships.

Opponents and proponents of blessing homosexual relationships tried and failed to get the assembly to clarify the council recommendation in favor of their viewpoints. Finally, the assembly adopted an amendment to drop the reference to persons in homosexual relationships and included all persons to whom pastors were ministering. This brought the resolution in line with the language of the 1993 bishops’ statement.

Egland said that even with this amendment the recommendation okays same-sex blessings.