ELCA Ordains Gay Pastors - But Only Churches Hire Them ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Friday, February 20, 2009

ELCA Ordains Gay Pastors - But Only Churches Hire Them

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will allow the ordination of gay pastors, but leaves individual congregations and synods discretion on ordaining or, more importantly, hiring them.

A pastor in the ELCA churchImage via Wikipedia

The issue of homosexuality (and the host of LGBTQQi issues swirling around American Christianity) continues to strain the decision-making processes of denominational bodies across the United States. Some are solving it in some fashion or other, but others are waiting and waiting, hoping that some bold solution to the issue will present itself.

Yet no easy solution is being found for positions that simply fail to recognize any form of homosexuality as legitimate. The ELCA now offers a type of compromise solution. The denomination ordains gays, but ultimately it is up to churches to hire them.

As an outsider to the ELCA, this strikes me as an interesting position. This is a move that may protect the reputation of the denomination ("Hey, we ordain gays!") and stave off controversy from the standpoint of denominational headquarters (who can publish official positions on the matter), but it certainly leaves the issue unresolved.

The burden of actually figuring out an approach to gay pastors will be done on a church by church (or synod by synod) basis. This not only heightens the salience of local churches but also has vast implications for the issue -- and the decision will be watched closely by other "conservative" denominations.

Overall, this position is essentially a conservative solution. The denomination is throwing up its hands in the face of what are undoubtedly several progressive leaders in the body and their many compelling arguements for gay ordination.

But it is a conservative position in that most congregations will likely continue the path of barring both the ordination and employment of gay pastors.

Example of a small Image via Wikipedia

On the other hand, the "open" denominational position does leave the possibility of new ELCA congregations being formed by gay pastors. I would guess that as ELCA seminaries graduate more openly gay ministers -- and perhaps some seminaries will become havens for such ministers -- they will seek to establish new ministries where the issue is solved at the outset by their very presence.

The history of homosexuality in the modern church is still being written. How important are ELCA's actions? Or will they only be seen as a side-step to another, larger development? Finally, as church-planting efforts continue, are there new, gay-affirming, "strip mall" ELCA churches coming to a neighborhood near you?

1 comment:

Jason K. said...

This is an interesting way to handle it, but I don't believe it is truly conservative... (well in a fiscal sense perhaps). The ELCA have watched as other denominations have torn themselves apart over the issue, and are attempting to learn from their lessons.

The current schism in the Episcopal church will wind up costing the denomination Churches and people, in a time when Mainline denominations are already hemorrhaging people. Those churches and people equal dollars. Congregations that are unhappy with the direction of the denomination have left, and they currently are in fellowship with anglican fellowships outside the US.

However, here is talk of a New Conservative Anglican Denomination in the US. Which would draw conservative Bodies and people out of the Episcopal Church.

The ELCA already has what could be called competition for the Conservative Churches and people that would leave should they fully embrace GLBT Clergy. Perhaps they think this compromise is an attempt to please all of the people, all of the time.

I suppose time will see.