With embraces, hymns and common prayer, Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist leaders recalled joyfully the pact made a decade ago that ended a centuries-old division over a key church doctrine. Vows were made at a Chicago service to seek greater unity—even as a Catholic archbishop noted a new challenge to unity posed by diverging views on sexuality.
Leave it to Lutherans to address the issue of gay clergy with repeated references to a “bound conscience.” The term echoes the words of Martin Luther, who when he was put on trial for his critique of the Catholic Church declared that he would not recant, for he was “bound in conscience by the word of God.”
Though they’re not merging, the nation’s two largest mainline Protestant denominations have agreed to share ministers and resources. The full-communion agreement, which was approved at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s biennial assembly in Minneapolis, connects the 4.6 million–member ELCA with the United Methodist Church, which has 11 million members.
Close on the heels of a similar decision by the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lifted its ban on calling gay and lesbian pastors and approved of supporting committed, same-sex relationships of church members.
The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination has issued election-year guidelines for congregations and outlined seven issues, from hunger to health care, that reflect the church’s emphasis on social justice.
For years, the largest U.S. Lutheran denomination has avoided some of the rancor over the issue of same-sex relationships that has divided the Episcopal Church and, to a lesser extent, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Methodist Church.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America saw a slight drop in membership in 2006, continuing a trend of decline since the 1990s. The total of baptized members at the end of last year was 4,774,203—a 1.6 percent decrease from the 2005 total of 4,850,776, denominational officials said.
Committee removes him while calling for reinstatement
Mar 06, 2007
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America may be asked to change a ban on practicing gay and lesbian clergy after a disciplinary committee voted to remove an openly gay pastor but suggested that the church find a way to reinstate him.
Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has announced that he will be available as a nominee next year for a second six-year term as presiding bishop. The ELCA’s 2007 biennial Churchwide Assembly will meet August 6-12 at Navy Pier in Chicago, the denomination’s headquarters city.