A Minneapolis congregation has installed a partnered lesbian as its pastor despite a requirement by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that unmarried clergy be celibate, whether they're gay or straight. The Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer embraced the Reverend Mary Albing as its pastor on Sunday in a service presided over by three former bishops of the country's largest Lutheran denomination. Albing, 48, is in a committed relationship. While sanctions are not expected from the ELCA's national headquarters, the current bishop will not "sign the call," meaning the synod will not officially recognize Albing's installation.
Also on Sunday, congregants at Pilgrim Lutheran of St. Paul overwhelmingly passed a "statement of welcome" to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people at its annual meeting. On a 74-16 vote, the church became one of about two dozen Reconciling in Christ, or gay-welcoming, congregations in the state, which is home to 1,178 ELCA churches. "I think people understood this as an important part of our mission of outreach and witness to the wideness of God's mercy," said Pastor Carol Tomer.
A few weeks ago another St. Paul ELCA congregation, Gloria Dei, voted by a wide margin to allow its pastors to bless same-sex unions. The ELCA has no official policy prohibiting such blessings, but church leaders have discouraged them. At the 2005 Churchwide Assembly, members will discuss a four-year sexuality study and reconsider the ban on ordaining noncelibate gays and lesbians.