German church allows gay pastors to live with partners

BERLIN (RNS) Gay and lesbian Lutheran ministers in the conservative
German state of Bavaria may live with their partners in parish
parsonages, but only if they enter into a state-sanctioned civil union.

Although the move may seem bold for what is generally considered one
of Germany's most traditional states, Bishop Johannes Friedrich of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria said it was no great departure
from existing policies.

He noted that the church had already welcomed openly gay ministers
and same-sex unions. "We had only left out that a couple could live in a
civil union in the parsonage," he said.

To abide by the ruling, gay or lesbian ministers must receive a
church blessing for their union and enter into a civil union officially
recognized by government officials.

According to church officials, six Bavarian ministers already live
in same-sex civil unions.

The new ruling, announced Monday (Nov. 15), follows a series of new
operating principles, known as the Magnus Consensus, that were adopted
by the Bavarian church council in July.

Friedrich conceded that the new policy could cause dissent among
some of the church's more conservative members.

"Over the course of time, society has become ever more liberal and
open on this question, indeed much more liberal than church circles," he
said. "In the meantime, I expect homosexual ministers to make their
first focus on harmony in their community and church, putting it before
considerations of their lifestyle."

A church group calling itself the Working Group of Avowed Christians
in Bavaria (ABC) has already expressed opposition, and says it plans to
seek a formal review during a state-level church synod scheduled for
Nov. 21-25.

Friedrich said the authority to make the ruling lies with the state
organization, and said it was important to cement this policy before
synod members engage in a wider discussion on homosexuality and the

Niels Sorrells

Niels Sorrells writes for Religion News Service.

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