|Ecumenical pact does not open door to gay clergy|
2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
voted Aug. 20 to enter into full communion with The United Methodist
Church. From left, Sarah Lancaster, Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of
the United Methodist Council of Bishops, and United Methodist Bishop
Sally Dyck of Minneapolis wait for the vote. UMNS photos courtesy
of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
August 26, 2009
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's acceptance of pastors
in same-sex relationships does not pave the way for noncelibate gay
clergy to serve in United Methodist churches, officials from the two
The Lutheran vote Aug. 21 to drop its ban on gay clergy, coming a
day after the denomination approved a full communion pact including the
sharing of clergy with The United Methodist Church, raised the question
of whether practicing homosexual Lutheran pastors would be permitted in
United Methodist pulpits.
Leaders from both churches said Aug. 26, however, that The United Methodist Church’s ban on noncelibate gay clergy is unchanged.
Palmer speaks at a press conference.
“Our Book of Discipline on that subject did not become null and void
when they took that vote," said Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the
United Methodist Council of Bishops. "It still applies to United
He said there is an expectation that the church's stance "would need
to be respected" by clergy appointed to serve United Methodist churches.
On the Lutheran side, Michael Trice, associate executive for
Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America, said the full communion agreement on Aug. 20 “did
not compromise” United Methodist ministerial standards.
If clergy in “same-gendered, long-term relationships in the ELCA …
want to serve in a United Methodist Church, The United Methodist Church
can say we are sorry but that does not fit our protocols," Trice said.
Not a merger
On Aug. 20, the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America voted to enter into into full communion with The
United Methodist Church. The pact was approved earlier by the 2008
United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top
Trice, an ecumenical officer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America, says full communion does not require uniformity.
Full communion means that each church acknowledges the other as a
partner in the Christian faith, recognizes the authenticity of each
other’s baptism and Eucharist, observes the validity of their
respective ministries and is committed to working together toward
greater unity. Some church leaders are already looking forward to
sharing clergy in underserved areas.
In the turmoil over the Lutherans’ subsequent Aug. 21 vote to open
the ministry to gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships,
church officials made clear the pact was not a merger.
"The doctrine, polity and standards of ministry of the respective
denominations in any full communion agreement are not wiped out when
one denomination does something," Palmer said.
The 2008 United Methodist General Conference upheld its decades-old
policy that homosexual practice is "incompatible with Christian
teaching" and that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be
certified as candidates, ordained as ministers or appointed to serve in
The United Methodist Church."
Unity, not uniformity
“Unity does not require uniformity in all cases," Trice said. "It
requires faithfulness to the Gospel, honesty with our Christian
partners, and wherever we can share a sense of mission and service in
For the past 11 years, he pointed out, the Lutheran denomination has
been in full communion with the United Church of Christ, which allows
"We were in full communion long before this church made the decision
it did last week. We lived faithfully into that relationship and at the
same time respected one another's differences of ecclesiology or
The 4.7 million-member Lutheran denomination also shares full
communion agreements with the Episcopal Church, Moravian Church in
America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Reformed Church in
It is the first such agreement for United Methodists. The United
Methodist Church has almost 8 million members in the United States and
11.5 million members worldwide.
A joint commission of members of both churches is being established
to iron out details of the ecumenical pact, including the process of
appointing and calling clergy to each other’s churches.
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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