The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination, the 4.7-million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA), voted Friday to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy.
The ELCA - the nation’s seventh largest Christian church - reached its conclusion after eight years of study and deliberation. That culminated Friday when the church’s national assembly in Minneapolis struck down a policy that required any gay and lesbian clergy to remain celibate.
While not calling it marriage, the assembly also signed off on finding ways for willing congregations to “recognize, support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships.”
Conservative ELCA members have warned of damaged relationships with Lutherans in other countries. While Lutherans in Europe and Scandinavia are to the left of the ELCA on homosexuality, African and Asian Lutherans have been taught a more conservative line by missionaries and theologians, said the Rev. Conrad Braaten, senior pastor of Church of the Reformation, an ELCA congregation in Washington, D.C.
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