Lutheran bishop warns about withholding donatonsAssociated Press - 9/23/2009
CHICAGO - The presiding bishop of the nation's largest Lutheran denomination warns that withholding financial support to protest a recent gay clergy vote would be "devastating" to the church.
Bishop Mark Hanson lays out his concerns in a letter Wednesday to leaders of the 4.7 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA voted last month to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy, dropping a requirement that gay clergy remain celibate.
Hanson's letter comes on the eve of a meeting in suburban Indianapolis of conservative ELCA group Lutheran CORE, which has urged supporters to "direct funding away from the national church" because of the vote.
Hanson says withholding funding would hurt the church's mission.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is holding its biennial national meeting this week in Minneapolis, with several controversial items regarding sexuality on the agenda.
Delegates of the ELCA will vote on a policy that would allow Lutheran churches to hire homosexual men or women in committed same-sex relationships to serve as pastors. They will also decide the fate of a statement on human sexuality that tries to establish a theological framework for differing views on homosexuality.
Reverend Mark Chavez is director of Lutheran Coalition for Reform.
"What's at stake is whether or not the ELCA is going to practice what it says it believes. Our confession of faith in the ELCA confesses that the Bible -- the whole Bible, the Old and the New Testaments -- are the inspired Word of God and the norm and authority for all our faith in life," he explains. "And what's being proposed is a clear rejection of that faith. And the other thing that's at stake here is the ELCA isolating itself from most other Christian churches in the world."
Chavez says his organization will be at the meeting in Minneapolis to educate voting members about the issues.
At least one ELCA leader is lamenting his denomination's decline as it debates the issue of homosexual clergy. Bishop Mark Hanson tells Associated Press the ELCA has lost almost 500,000 baptized members in the eight years he has served as its presiding bishop.
Hanson noted his denomination's decline when asked about the vote scheduled later this week on whether ELCA congregations should be allowed to hire pastors who are in homosexual relationships. He would not say whether he supports that, but he told reporters that partnered homosexual clergy are willing to serve, and that there are ELCA churches that want to hire them.
In contrast, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod views homosexual behavior as "intrinsically sinful" and a lifestyle that is contrary to the Word of God.