The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is getting set to vote on whether to drop its ban on practicing homosexual clergy.
When the ELCA General Assembly convenes next week in Orlando, the denomination will decide whether to allow bishops and synods to make exceptions for the ordination of certain active homosexuals.
The denomination will also be voting on a proposal regarding pastoral care for same-sex couples, and a recommendation calling for unity despite disagreements over what the Bible says about homosexuality.
Dr. Roy Harrisville, who heads the conservative group Solid Rock Lutherans, says to allow exceptions to church policy and Bible teaching means the church is immediately split. "We think it's a recipe for disunity, not for unity," Harrisville says. "[I]f the church is seeking to find some ground on which to stand with unity, that's not going to be it."
The conservative Lutheran leader believes instead of pondering whether to approve homosexual clergy, the ELCA should focus on its "Renewing Worship" program, which includes new hymnals, worship styles, prayers, and services.
"As the church prays, so it believes. And the way we worship, of course, always determines the character of the church," he says. "Unfortunately, however, we have talked very little about this new hymnal and these new services."
Harrisville notes of the three recommendations related to homosexuality the church-wide assembly will consider in Orlando, the one on exceptional homosexual ordinations has received the most opposition in synod assemblies this year. That is why he doubts the General Assembly will approve the recommendation as it is written now.
In a newsletter released by Harrisville's group, a Washington pastor who serves as a board member of Solid Rock Lutherans described the upcoming vote on homosexual ordination as "the ELCA's Gene Robinson moment."
Robinson is the openly homosexual bishop consecrated by the Episcopal Church USA in November 2003 - an act that has caused a major rift in the worldwide Anglican Church.
Solid Rock Lutherans (www.sldrck.org)
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