ELCA’s Gay Policy Draws Fire From
Other Lutheran Churches    
[Main Story]

BY KEVIN ECKSTROM                                                                                           ©2009 Religion News Service   
he leaders of two conservative Lutheran denominations blasted the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for approving a measure to allow non-celibate gay clergy.
Both the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod said the ELCA's new policy goes against Scripture by condoning a practice that they say is sinful.
"We are saddened that a group with the name Lutheran would take another decisive step away from the clear teaching of the Bible, which was the foundation of the Lutheran Reformation," said the Rev. Mark Schroeder, president of the 390,000-member Wisconsin Synod.
The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, president of the 2.4 million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, told ELCA delegates on Saturday that the new policy threatens to expand the division between the two churches into a "chasm."
"I speak these ... words with a heavy heart and no desire whatsoever to offend," Kieschnick said. "The decisions by this assembly ... will undoubtedly cause additional stress and disharmony within the ELCA. It will also negatively affect the relationships between our two church bodies."
The three churches have had tense relations for years. The ELCA, which was formed as a result of a merger of three Lutheran Church groups in 1988, has taken more progressive stands on a number of issues. The Missouri Synod was founded by German immigrants in 1847; the Wisconsin Synod was also formed by German immigrants, in 1850.
After the vote, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson acknowledged the decisions would impact ecumenical relationships, but said he hoped "our shared confessions that hold us together as Lutherans ... will be strong enough for us to continue to be in conversation" and to work in cooperative ventures.

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