The head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said he's "mindful" that the Episcopal Church confirmed its first openly gay bishop last week but that his denomination would not quickly follow suit. The Reverend Mark Hanson, the Evangelical Lutherans' presiding bishop, said Monday that his denomination, gathered in Milwaukee for its weeklong national meeting, planned to continue consulting Scripture, church members, and gays and lesbians--but that it will ultimately decide alone whether to ordain noncelibate gay and lesbian clergy.
ELCA was scheduled to present an interim report on homosexuality Tuesday; the report was commissioned at its last assembly in 2001, but the body won't make recommendations until 2005 on whether to bless same-sex relationships or allow people in such relationships to be pastors. Hanson affirmed the church's current position of allowing gay people in the clergy as long as they remain celibate.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church has 5.1 million members and is the fourth-largest Protestant denomination in the United States.