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LGBT Inclusion in Church: A Study in Contrasts

In Minneapolis, we have a fascinating study in contrasts, which illustrate the differences between churches, and divisions within them, on LGBT inclusion in Church.

wcco.com reports on a Lutheran celebration for lesbian pastors who can finally be formally recognized within the ECLA structures :

3 Lesbian Pastors Join Lutheran Roster In Minn. Saturday was a historical day for many Twin Cities Lutherans who believe people shouldn’t have to choose between sexuality and spirituality.

Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) presided over a St. Paul ceremony that officially received three openly lesbian pastors onto the denomination’s roster.

Pastors Anita C. Hill, Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart took part in a rite of reception service Saturday at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul.

Pastors Anita C. Hill, Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart took part in a rite of reception service Saturday at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in St. Paul on Sept. 18, 2010.

All three are in committed lifelong relationships and were prohibited from joining the ELCA roster until a denominational assembly voted last summer to liberalize its gay clergy policy. Before that vote, gay clergy were required to remain celibate.

“Today is the day that I become a has-been and dear God, am I glad,” said Hill. “Amen.”

“Today that fracture is being healed,” said Frost.

“Acknowledging sexuality is not easy,” said Zillhart.

ELCA’s St. Paul Synod Bishop Peter Rogness presided over the ceremony where dozens of pastors from around the Twin Cities placed their hands on the three women and they were added to the ELCA roster. The congregation followed with a standing ovation and several minutes of applause.

From Winona Daily News:

Minnesota’s Roman Catholic bishops are launching a campaign against gay marriage and calling on Catholics to take political action.

Members of the Diocese of Winona will soon receive DVDs “about the possible effects that same-sex marriage would have in our state,” Bishop John Quinn wrote in the latest issue of the diocese’s newspaper, the Courier.

“This is our time to stand up and defend marriage as a unique institution that, from the beginning of human history and in every culture, is the union of one man and one woman for the propagation of the human family and the upbringing of children,” Quinn wrote.

In this, they are not alone. A dissenting Lutheran pastor had this to say:

Associate Pastor Challa Baro of Our Redeemer Oromo Evangelical Church was conflicted over the possibility of this moment. He said it isn’t an issue of sexuality, but scripture.

“It is complete departure from the Bible. It is a public departure from the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The ELCA is departing from the rest of the Christian community, officially, that is what is happening,” he said.

It is reasonable for him to argue that this is a departure from Scripture. This is a traditional belief, although many Biblical scholars now believe it is a mistaken interpretation – but still, a reasonable one. What is off the wall, is that the claim that this is a departure from the teachings of Jesus Christ, who had absolutely nothing specific to say on same-sex relationships, but indirectly showed by word and example that full inclusion for all is the Christian way.

And if the progressive, inclusive Lutherans have their reactionary dissenters, the Catholic bishops are not having it all their own way either. Some state Catholics are actively promoting the same-sex marriage the bishops are trying to prevent.

This was in The Wild Reed, earlier this year:

This past Saturday, April 17, saw close to 300 people gather at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN, for a CPCSM co-sponsored event that showed support for marriage equality for same-sex couples and protested the presence on campus of two high profile anti-equality activists, Maggie Gallagher of the National Organization of Marriage (NOM) and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, CA. Both were invited to the Twin Cities by Archbishop John Nienstedtand the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life to address the archdiocesan “Reclaiming the Culture of Marriage and Life” spring conference. This conference was held at the University of St. Thomas at the same time as the pro-equality rally, and drew about 150 people.

Three things impressed me most about Saturday’s rally for marriage equality. First, the number of people who turned out for it. I’ve heard no official count, but I estimate that at least 250, possibly 300 people were in attendance. Second, I was greatly impressed and heartened by the number of young people in attendance. I’ve noted before at The Wild Reed, that for the vast majority of people under 35, homosexuality and gay marriage are non-issues. Justice and equality, however, are issues that these younger generations are very much energized by and engaged in.

Finally, I was impressed by just how Catholic the whole event was. By this I mean that most of the speakers at the rally made reference to the positive impact of their Catholic upbringing. This upbringing and what the church taught them about justice, compassion, and the value of both faith and reason, informs and inspires them to take a stand for marriage equality.

This process will continue. In the not too distant future, queer exclusion in church will be just as anachronistic in Christian churches as racial segregation – or as an exclusively male, nominally celibate priesthood.

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for this! I knew Ruth and Phyllis in San Francisco in the 1980s, when they were doing wonderful ministry there. But I had lost track of them. I ‘m glad to see that they are still standing strong as lesbian ministers.

  2. […] blogger Terence on Open Tabernacle notes the study in contrasts between the Roman Catholic hierarchical response to progressive […]

  3. I attend an ELCA church and I was so overjoyed to hear this news.

  4. […] LGBT Inclusion in Church: A Study in Contrasts (Open Tabernacle) […]

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