Last summer, the churchwide assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America decided that synods could ordain homosexual clergy.
Gays in the ELCA no longer need to be celibate in order to be ordained.
The ELCA was specific in its formulation: it would allow ordination of
persons who were in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous"
Since legal matrimony remains
unavailable in most states, the ELCA was in effect declaring that it
would recognize gay partnerships even if the state didn't. That was
welcome news for pastors like Mary Albing in Minnesota, who otherwise
was barred from being on the ELCA clergy roster.
At the same
time, the decision sets up new issues for the church's bishops: how
will they hold gay pastors who aren't married accountable to the
standard of monogamy and lifelong commitment? Do same-sex couples have
to prove what is taken for granted in the case of married heterosexual
couples? Is there a double standard now at work in the case of
evaluating gay partners?