The largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. has reported that its baptized membership was 4.85 million in 10,549 congregations last year, a one-year decrease of about 1.6 percent and the 14th straight annual decline in membership.
One Sunday morning in 1960, the Episcopal pastor of a 2,500-member parish in suburban Los Angeles told his congregation that he and 70 other members had been “speaking in tongues." At the end of the service, an assistant priest pulled off his vestments and stalked out, saying, “I can no longer work with this man!” Tumult reigned. One man stood on a chair, shouting, “Throw out the damn tongue-speakers!”
On the face of it, the nation’s largest Lutheran church didn’t budge on issues of homosexuality. Though aware that some same-sex couples receive blessings from pastors and that some openly gay or lesbian pastors are ordained, delegates to the biennial assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, held in Orlando, declined to authorize either practice, even on a provisional basis.
In what one official called the “penultimate” step toward full communion with the United Methodist Church, delegates at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s biennial assembly overwhelmingly approved an interim agreement to permit the sharing of the rite of communion.
The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination will finally speak with a collective voice this month on whether to allow gay and lesbian pastors and on whether same-sex couples may receive rites of blessing. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, whose biennial Churchwide Assembly meets August 8-14 in Orlando, is one of the last mainline church bodies to act on the controversies.
United Methodists have taken the first step toward full communion with Episcopalians and most Lutherans after their bishops approved an agreement to share the Eucharist, with members of the two other denominations.
The church council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has recommended that its churchwide assembly in August approve interim sharing of the Eucharist between the ELCA and the United Methodist Church. The ELCA bishops earlier endorsed the step, which follows years of Lutheran–United Methodist dialogues.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s high-ranking church council has prepared a proposal to the churchwide assembly in August that would give bishops the final authority to let congregations ordain gay and lesbian clergy who are in committed same-sex relationships.