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Lutherans move
toward key vote on role of gays in church

Lutherans move
toward key vote on role of gays in church

Delegates to a national meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted Friday to remain unified despite their differences over homosexuality, and they prepared to take up contentious proposals on the role of partnered gays in their denomination. The unity resolution was approved by an 851-127 vote following a short debate and was the first of three measures before the churchwide assembly Friday. "Our job is not to judge one another, our job is to love one another," said Patrick Monroe of the Central/Southern Illinois synod, speaking in favor of unity. "This motion allows us to move forward in that way, not just with sexual issues but with all issues." The two other proposals under consideration would: --Affirm the church ban on ordaining sexually active gays and lesbians but allow bishops and church districts, called synods, to seek an exception for a particular candidate if that person is in a committed relationship and meets other conditions. --Uphold the denomination's prohibition against blessing of same-sex unions but allow pastors discretion in providing "pastoral care" to gay couples. The proposals are meant as a compromise, aiming to uphold Lutheran restrictions on gays and lesbians who are not celibate while allowing congregations and bishops to make exceptions in some cases without risking disciplinary action. Several delegates have complained that the measures are confusing and their implications unclear. Activists on opposing sides of the issue have argued against the proposals for different reasons. Advocates for full inclusion of gays say the measures would create a second-class roster for gay clergy in the church. Conservatives say the proposals would effectively overturn prohibitions against noncelibate gays in the denomination's ministry. Delegates have discussed the proposals in two public hearings and a floor debate this week. Several delegates opposed to the changes worried that ordaining gays would strain relations with other Christian denominations and with the many conservative Lutherans overseas. Many delegates said the truly Christian approach would be to convince gays to change their sexual orientation. "We would be granting exceptions to biblical, moral standards that have seen approval for 2,000 years," said David Glesne of the Minneapolis-area synod. But gay rights advocates contend that nothing in Christian teaching supports the current church policy. James Boline of the Southwest California synod said he has been with his male partner for eight years and is the third generation of his family to feel a call to ministry. "I ask your prayers for me refusing to be banished from this church," he said, holding up a Bible he was given at a Lutheran church when he was a boy. (AP)

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