Historic Day for ELCA: Gay Marriage, Clergy Approved

lutheran-logoUnbelievable developments today from the General Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Following their approval of an LGBT-inclusive social statement Wednesday, the Assembly returned to LGBT concerns Friday morning with four “steps”. These take the form of three statements about the church followed by a fourth that addresses implementation of the first three. The full text of the recommendation of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality can be found here (pdf, just two pages).

Since nobody likes confusions like Christians, they decided to address them out of order. Following is a summary of the resolution/step, followed by the vote count taken from their live feed. All needed a simple majority to pass.


Resolution One/Step Three is a preparation resolution, requesting mutual respect if the others pass.

Step three asks this church whether, in the future implementation of these commitments, it will make decisions so that all in this church bear the burdens of the other, and respect the bound consciences of all.

Resolution One/Step Three APPROVED (with amendment) 771-270 74.06%-25.94%


Resolution Two/Step One is significant because it permits pastors to accept and celebrate gay marriages and to officiate same gender weddings.

Step one asks the assembly whether, in principle, this church is committed to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.

Resolution Two/Step One APPROVED 619-402 or 60.63%-39.37%


Resolution Three/Step Two is the bigger news of the day. It permits lesbians and gay men who are married (or in marriage-esque relationships where those aren’t legal) to be ordained ministers.

Step two asks the assembly whether, in principle, this church is committed to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as professional leaders of this church.

Resolution Three/Step Two APPROVED 559-451 or 55.35%-44.65%

After the emotional and relatively close vote for Resolution Three/Step Two, the General Assembly was called immediately to prayer followed by a hymn that acknowledged the division in the vote.

(Searching for an appropriate hymn, Bishop Mark Hanson, who led the meeting, noted that three people shouted out the same number, saying “Where three or more Lutherans agree on a hymn…” Oh, how humor helps us through difficult times.)

I’m overjoyed by the outcome today, but I also understand that many of our sisters and brothers are dismayed. While I disagree with them wholeheartedly, I do understand that there will be pain in their hearts for some time. There will be difficult decisions to be made.

Once/If it’s made available, I intend to post the transcription for the day’s business, but for now I’ll just tell you that all the elements missing at UMC General Conference last year were evident even in text today.

I’ve said before (though I don’t think here) that I don’t believe most people in the pews view homosexuality as a line of demarcation. Those who do are vocal and active, but I know too many Christians who exemplify acceptance to believe that most of us wish ill for each other. My prayers are indeed with those who don’t find room in God’s church for lesbians and gay men, not only that they’ll be comforted, but that through this action today they may come to a new understanding.


Resolution Four/Step Four wraps up the statements with specific actions.

Step four proposes the specifics of how this church can move toward change in a way that respects the bound consciences of all. (More here.)

Resolution Four/Step Four APPROVED (with amendment) 667-307 68.48%-31.52%


rev-lee-miller-iiFinally, a quote from one of the General Assembly delegates. In testimony before the vote on Resolution Three/Step Two, Rev. Lee M. Miller, II of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran in Philadelphia stepped to the microphone and had this to say:

I stand in favor of this resolution because I stand on the shoulders of gay and straight folks who have proclaimed the gospel of Christ and a message of love.

I am not saved because I’m a heterosexual. I’m saved because of what God has done.

And I want to say to those who are listening that they are not condemned because of their sexuality; but they are saved because of how God loves them, that God’s grace is for all, in all.

Thank you.

This is the message of the Christian Church. That we’ve gotten so far away from it is disheartening, but I’m so proud of my Lutheran sisters and brothers for their courageous move back in the direction of the message. One day we will be of one mind on this issue. Until then, we all will continue to work.

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19 thoughts on “Historic Day for ELCA: Gay Marriage, Clergy Approved

  1. I am so happy to hear this, and I am not even Lutheran. I am a recovering Catholic, driven from the church by its hatred for gays (among other things). When Cardinal Ratzinger, the biggest homophobe and probable closet case I can think of, was elected Pope in 2005, I knew the church was kaput possibly for the rest of my life. I miss going to church. I'd consider Lutheranism, especially after today's big news.

  2. YAY!!! Happiest Day EVER. You wrote very movingly, thank you! As a bisexual who has more gay friends than straight… AND whose spouse works for the ELCA, this is one of my proudest days. Awesome, awesome news. They did good.Will be linking back if it is alright by you!

  3. I am inspired by this call to Pastor by the ELCA, involving all of our defrocked Lutheran Pastors and those that will serve after them. In 1999, at the Denver ELCA Convention, under the Stoles Project, I proudly searched for the Stole of defrocked Pastor Anita Hill. I wore it with pride (undeservingly). I, personally, believe that I would prefer to take communion from a Pastor that just might understand my plight and give me full communion regardless of my condition. That is what Pastor Hill delivers to me and all the many that come to Christ’s table to receive mercy and forgiveness through her ministry. I further believe, that Pastor Hill would bring Christ’s compassion to the plight that each of us shares, whether we want to acknowledge our need for the Love of God, or not. Our Lutheran faith is based on grace, compassion, forgiveness, understanding, kindness, generosity, mercy… This list of God’s blessings, for each of us, goes well beyond just words, and is found in the teachings of a Loving Christ. Literalists can believe otherwise, but their own reconciliation with a Loving God is based on these common trends and repeat themes found in our Bible. A cornerstone belief, and tenet, of Lutheranism echoes back to this: “but for the grace of God there go you or I”. The foundational tenet of the ELCA is faith by “grace”. Let us be gracious, one unto the other, and let us receive the blessings and forgiveness of a Loving God. None of us should deny anyone these Blessings and God’s forgiveness, least we forget what it is that we have asked for ourselves from a Loving God. I believe that today, a certain grace and compassion has been bestowed on former Pastor Anita Hill, and her faithful colleagues, that were turned away by the ELCA. Today is a good day that God has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it. Let us learn to love one another as Christ has loved us, through our Heavenly Father.Mark Floding

  4. We must discern God's will and boldly proclaim his Word. Scripture is clear in multiple places that God did not intend sex between same gender people, and that God sees this as sexual perversion and sin. In addition, a review of basic human anatomy clearly shows that God did not intend for a man to place his penis in another man's anus. God created sex for procreation, and for pleasure and closeness between a Husband and Wife.The ELCA social statement should say that the ELCA recognizes God's law as written in the Bible, and therefore concludes that homosexuality is a sin. The ELCA should also state that we love all sinners, for which one of us is free of sin? However, we should encourage confession and repentance of sins as part of welcoming homosexual people into our midst, which is what is expected by God of all of us sinners.By being vague on this subject, we condemn people to hell by not exposing their sin as sin. Loving Christians lift each other up by confronting our sins, confessing to God and repenting of our sins. If we see a Brother or Sister in Christ that is sinning repeatedly, it is our calling to help that person out of their sin and to help them restore their relationship with God, who hates sin. God has given us the free gift of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ, but we are to honor that relationship by trying to be as sin free as possible, loving our neighbors as ourselves and by inviting others into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

  5. Obviously I disagrewith you, as do many others in every denomination.On a side note, please read the comment tips linked to directly abovethe comments section. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I believe homosexuality is a sin no different than other sin. To accept this life style as the ELCA is unacceptable.

  7. The church doesn't hate gays, I think this is a misconception that is construed by many. People need to have an understanding about what the church teaches about homosexuality. It is very explicit in the catechism (2357-2359). If you miss going to church, why aren't you still going? Try to find the beauty in the church before riding it off.

  8. Hope you don't wear cotton-polyester blends, cut your hair, or eat bacon. Oh – and that woman shook hands with the other day? She was menstruating. Uh-oh! Come back and let us know if you ever take the lord's name in vain, because then we'll have to stone you to death. We all have to pitch in and follow the word of God.

  9. Hope you don't wear cotton-polyester blends, cut your hair, or eat bacon. Oh – and that woman shook hands with the other day? She was menstruating. Uh-oh! Come back and let us know if you ever take the lord's name in vain, because then we'll have to stone you to death. We all have to pitch in and follow the word of God.

  10. Biblicly, a Christian is obligated to point out to any who would listen that sexual congress outside of marriage is condemed and that those who practice these things unrepentantly will not inherit the blessings spoken of in the Bible. They will not “burn in hell”, (a platonist teaching borrowed from babylonian tradition). The appostle Paul in his first letter to the congregation in Corinth exhorted them to eject from the congregation one who was having sex with his fathers wife, this to keep the congregation clean and to motivate that one to rethink his course of action that would bring God.s denunciation. Paul later exhorted them to restore that one after he demonstrated repentance. Christians are not apointed as judges of homosexuals or anyone, but they themselves might adversley be judged if they did not lovingly point out that homosexuality is a practice that is condemed and that reconciliation to God is possible to repentant ones by means of Christ Jesus.

  11. I assume your first sentence is referring to Galations 5. Other problem areas (other than “sexual immorality”) found in this section include idolatry, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, envy, and drunkenness.I have a feeling you aren't as adamant about casting out offenders of the rest of the list as you are about the one that doesn't affect you.Secondly, I don't believe that homosexuality is condemned, either in the Bible or by God. So there's that.

  12. Adding the term homosexual to a Lutheran pastor should be quite acceptable to our clergy. I am sure if we called our brothers in the cloth drunks, rapists, murderers, and drug addicts they would probably defend their calling. Didn't God also make the rapist and give him these special needs? Why should we try to change what God has ordained? Is taking the name of the Lord in vain really such a big deal–why not make them Bishops!!I now listen to the “unity” sermons with contempt. I have lost all respect for the ELCA and will no longer fund them intentionally. When the Bishop comes I will read a newspaper during his sermon. Don't blame me–God made me this way–in his image. Our Lord overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple because he had so much contempt for the so called “Holy Men” that ran the place. Was he right in doing so? Martin Luther hung condemnations on the church door, started a whole new church, and watched 100,000 people die because of his departure. Was he right in doing so?I would consider it an honor if the ELCA banned me from attending services but it will not happen–it is now a country club not a religion. God is not with these men and dishonor will come down upon their houses.

  13. Adding the term homosexual to a Lutheran pastor should be quite acceptable to our clergy. I am sure if we called our brothers in the cloth drunks, rapists, murderers, and drug addicts they would probably defend their calling. Didn't God also make the rapist and give him these special needs? Why should we try to change what God has ordained? Is taking the name of the Lord in vain really such a big deal–why not make them Bishops!!I now listen to the “unity” sermons with contempt. I have lost all respect for the ELCA and will no longer fund them intentionally. When the Bishop comes I will read a newspaper during his sermon. Don't blame me–God made me this way–in his image. Our Lord overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple because he had so much contempt for the so called “Holy Men” that ran the place. Was he right in doing so? Martin Luther hung condemnations on the church door, started a whole new church, and watched 100,000 people die because of his departure. Was he right in doing so?I would consider it an honor if the ELCA banned me from attending services but it will not happen–it is now a country club not a religion. God is not with these men and dishonor will come down upon their houses.

  14. I believe that there is no sin biggere than the other. If homosexuality is a sin which I think it is we all do not deserve to be in the church for we also everyday of our lives. I think that very good move by the ELCA approving the gay and lesbians marriage. this will actually opens doors for counselling if we think that is a sin. as much as we need forgiveness everday so are the gays and lesbians.

  15. To be a Pastor in the church is to be a leader, and example to others. To allow GLBT’s to stand before the masses as the example of how to live your life according to God’s Word is no different than having a flask holding alcoholic, or a bloody knuckled wife-beater, or an axe carrying murderer stand before me. My cousin is a gay Catholic priest. I have no problem sitting in his church when I visit. BECAUSE HE’S CELIBATE. He does not deny his past lifestyle, but he doesn’t practice it today. I’ll sit next to, eat dinner with, and be friends with any celibate GLBT person. It’s what I’m supposed to do – love thy neighbor.

    This isn’t about acceptance in the church. It’s about Biblical authority and the way it is studied. Look up exegesis and you’ll understand why some things like eatting bacon, shaking hands with a menstruating woman, or cutting your hair are no longer perceived as sinful. You have to take into account the audience and the state of the world at the time of the writing. Many of those examples could be linked to simple disease control. Not alot of running water, sinks and soap to wash your hands or refrigerators around to properly store your food back then. Nowhere in the Bible does it give examples of homosexuality being OK but there are plenty of examples to the contrary. The Ark had one of each, the Garden of Eden had one of each, etc. How long does any species last if it trends toward homosexuality?

    Social statements are meant to set policy and determine focus of mission in the church. I can’t approve of advocating homosexuality as a lifestyle, and this is what the latest social statement does. How much good could have been done with the millions of dollars that was spent on this crap, and how much else will be missed on the millions the ELCA will spend on the genetics and feminism studies now underway?

    The time for arguement is over anyway. Folks that share my view that the ELCA has more problems than this one social statement and is overrun by eisegesis following theologians have formed a properly aligned and organized church called the NALC and I can’t wait for my church to join it. It’s embarrassing being in the ELCA with all this fighting and obvious confusion on the authority of the Bible.

    Resist the urge to make this personal in replies. It’s important to remember that no matter how much we disagree that we all are following Jesus Christ and that’s an awesome thing!

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