Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Events from 2003 & 2004
2003-JAN-15: Censure lifted in St. Paul:
Rogness of the St. Paul Area Synod lifted the sanctions that prevented
members of St. Paul-Reformation from serving in any Synod office. However, the
congregation itself is still censured. He commented that the violation of the ELCA
constitution by the congregation:
"... may, in the long run, be contributing to the life of the church in ways
more constructive than destructive. We may be better served by adopting the
wisdom of Gamaliel (Acts 5), trusting in God's spirit and time, rather than
being preoccupied with our own judgments."
2003-AUG-15: Churchwide Assembly begins:
The ELCA's held its biennial
Churchwide Assembly. The theme was: "Making Christ Known: For the Healing
of the World."
Further delay discussed and rejected:
The delegates discussed a "time line" regarding two
||Whether to ordain gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships, and
||Whether to create a church ritual to bless the relationships of loving,
committed same-sex couples.
The ELCA Division for Ministry and the Division for Church in
Society prepared a time line to conduct a joint denomination-wide study of
these two issues. This line was intended to lead to a vote by the 2005 Churchwide
The ELCA Central-Southern Illinois Synod
submitted a memorial (resolution) to retain this time line. Six other other synods initiated
memorials to delay these decisions:
||The Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod said the decisions should be made at
2007 Assembly when a social statement on sexuality is presented.
||The Allegheny Synod wanted these decisions to be delayed until after
action is taken on the 2007 social statement.
The Lower Susquehanna, Nebraska and Northwestern Pennsylvania
Synods said a social statement on human sexuality should be adopted first.
The West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod said policy decisions
should be delayed by two churchwide assemblies after the sexuality study is
approved. i.e. in 2011. 1
The desire to put off any decision making as long as possible might have been
motivated by the intense division and talk of
schism that was then observed within the Episcopal Church, USA.
Earlier in the month, that denomination ratified the election of their first
openly gay bishop, and accepted that same-sex relationship blessings are "an
The memorials committee recommended that the 2003 Churchwide Assembly commend the
current ELCA Studies on Sexuality and "decline to alter the time line."
The Rev. Carol S. Hendrix, bishop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod,
Harrisburg, PA favored a delay in the time line, and offered an amendment. He
said that it was not designed to rescind the actions of the 2001 assembly, "but
to allow the social statement on human sexuality to inform" the church in
its two decisions.
June C. Ericcson, a voting member from Metropolitan
Washington, DC, Synod, said that a delay in the time line "would be a
serious breach of trust and a betrayal of the promises we have made." The
memorials committee's recommendation was accepted by a vote of 687 to 278; the
time line remained unchanged. 2
Other assembly topics:
The study of homosexuality has made some progress. Study materials were
distributed in 2002. They were based on "A Message on Sexuality: Some Common
Convictions," which had been approved by the ELCA Church Council in 1996.
The second guide "Journey Together Faithfully Part II" was then being
printed and was scheduled to be distributed to church leaders in 2003-SEP. Rev. James
M. Childs Jr., director of the sexuality studies, said:
"A background paper
on biblical interpretations will accompany the study document and has been
written by two of our finest Bible professors, who despite their different views
on the subject, have set an example of working together to provide a helpful,
in-depth discussion of how different interpreters have been working on the
Two memorials were proposed:
The Northeastern Ohio Synod and Metropolitan New York Synod
and the 2001 Churchwide Assembly requested that the creation of a commission
for sexual minorities be considered.
||The Oregon Synod asked that a commission for children and families be
Both memorials were rejected by the delegates.
2004-JUL-25: Ordination of openly gay pastor in Twin Cities:
Bethany Lutheran Church in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area ordained Jay
Weisner. He is the third openly gay pastor in the Twin City area. Afterwards "...the
audience ripped into an unbridled display of clamorous applause, joyous
hollering, foot-stomping and fist-pumping."
Dora Lofstrom, a church member of 20 years standing, said: "I
kind of feel like we're paving the way for the Lutheran Church. I think the
tide is with us. I think little by little the church will come."
||Rev. Roy Harrisville III, executive director
of Solid Rock Lutherans, an ELCA conservative reform group, was not pleased
with the ordination. He said: "To ordain an active homosexual man is to
reject the foundations of scripture and the Lutheran confessions."
||Retired Luther Seminary Prof. Loren Halvorson
said the ordination shows that the ELCA is becoming more accepting of gays
and lesbians. He said: "I believe we've already reached a critical-mass
Since the ELCA does not allow the ordination of gays or lesbians unless they
commit to celibacy, Bishop Craig Johnson of the ELCA Minneapolis Synod did not
attend the ceremony. He can impose sanctions against the congregation, ranging
from a reprimand to severing the congregation from the denomination, and firing
the pastor. 3
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Committee Recommends ELCA Assembly Discuss Eight Topics," ELCA
News Service, 2003-AUG-5, at:
"ELCA Assembly Declines to Alter Studies on Sexuality Time Line,"
ELCA News Service, 2003-AUG-16, at:
"Openly gay Lutheran pastor ordained," Associated Press,
Copyright © 2003 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-AUG-22
Author: B.A. Robinson