Evangelical Lutheran Church of America
Events from 1974 to 1999
Events within the ELCA:
1974: "Lutherans Concerned" founded: This group was formed to inform
ELCA members about
sexual orientation and to promote understanding and acceptance of gays and
lesbians as full members in the ELCA. It urges individual
congregations to welcome lesbians and gays as members. Such congregations are called "Reconciled
1989: Sex and marriage; ordination of gays & lesbians: The church went on record as stating:
"The Biblical understanding which this church affirms is that the normative settings for sexual intercourse is
marriage. ... Practicing homosexuals are excluded from the ordained ministry."
A "practicing" homosexual apparently means a sexually-active gay or lesbian. This
policy was challenged by two San Francisco congregations: St. Francis Lutheran Church
who had called a gay pastor, and First United Lutheran Church who had called a
lesbian couple. In the mid-1990s, these congregations were tried and suspended from membership
in the ELCA.
1990: Member punished: Bill Kunish, a Berkeley seminary student urged Lutherans to prayerfully
study the homosexual issue on their own. Because of this sermon, his church council
suspended his financial support and the Synod Candidacy Committee withdrew their
endorsement for his ordination. He was forced to leave the seminary.
1991: Homosexuals affirmed: 1991 biennial Churchwide Assembly
moved to "affirm gay and lesbian people, as individuals created by
God," to participate fully in the life of congregations of the ELCA.
However, the church would not bless their committed relationships, nor
did it allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to be
ordained or to remain as clergy.
1993: Civil rights: The ELCA Church Council passed a resolution
that the historical position of the ELCA is ... support for legislation, referendums, and
policies to protect the civil rights of all persons, regardless of their sexual
orientation, and to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public services
However, this policy was not extended to employment and ordination within the ELCA
1993: Homosexuality and the Bible: A committee of the ELCA prepared a
secret draft statement which
stated that the Bible did not condemn homosexual relationships. It described
and homosexuality as a healthy part of human life. Unfortunately, the media obtained a
copy before it could be sent to the congregations for study. The ELCA leaders were met with a
firestorm of angry members, including several death threats. They received over 21,000
responses; the vast majority of which were negative. The Division of Church and Society
appointed a new committee to prepare a new social statement.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- Blessing of Homosexual Relationship," ELCA, 1993-OCT-5-8, at:
Copyright © 1998 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-AUG-21
Author: B.A. Robinson