On August 25, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, during its biennial Minneapolis Assembly, voted to allow non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy who are in committed same-gender relationships to serve in the church.
The Church had allowed celibate lesbian and gay ministers to serve since the 1990s. With 4.7 million members throughout the country, the ELCA is the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, and the country’s largest denomination to allow for the appointment of sexually active lesbian and gay clergy.
Of the more than 1000 Church representatives who gathered at Minneapolis, 559 voted to lift the previous ban, while 451 voted to keep it, fearing that acceptance of non-celibate LGBT clergy would drive some of the ELCA members away from the denomination.
But, even before the decision, some members of the church recognized the importance of this vote for years to come. “What they don’t say is that we’re losing people now who see that exclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals by the church is unloving and hypocritical,” Atlanta minister Bradley Schmeling said, “We have the chance to demonstrate to the next generation of Christians that our church can be open and loving to all people.”
During the same meeting, the ELCA voted 619-402 to allow individual congregations to recognize same-gender unions if they choose to do so.