This summer, the largest Lutheran and Episcopalian denominations in the U.S. voted for more complete inclusion of gay and lesbian ministers within their churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) narrowly voted to remove a ban on people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships” serving as clergy and also voted to allow congregations to “recognize, support, and hold” same-gender relationships. Previously, the ELCA allowed openly gay people to serve as clergy only if they agreed to live as celibates. These resolutions were passed in the context of a broader social statement called “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” which the ELCA has been working on for seven years.
In a similar vein, more than 70 percent of the Episcopal Church’s general assembly passed a resolution affirming “that God has called and may call” gay and lesbian people “to any ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church,” and empowered the church’s liturgical commission to develop rites for blessing same-gender relationships that are “characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication, and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God,” according to the convention documents.
Prior to this vote, the Episcopal Church had put a hold on ordaining gay or lesbian clergy as bishops out of deference to the worldwide Anglican Communion. Now, “the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church are clear about who may be ordained” at every level, Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane told Sojourners. “The ordination process does not permit discrimination based on age, sex, or sexual orientation.”