Last week, on Friday, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted not only to allow churches to develop ceremonies to “recognize, support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationships,” but they also decided to allow openly gay clergy in committed relationships to serve within the church (striking down a requirement of celibacy for gay clergy).
Earlier in the week, a majority in the church voted to approve a social statement on human sexuality to acknowledge without judgment the wide variety of views within the ELCA regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion.
(That's kind of a sop to homophobic, conservative views, but it's still a big step forward. By working to keep conservative parishioners within the church, you provide them with more exposure to gay people so they can see we're just like them. Experience and education, not isolation and ghettoization, are the only cures for ignorance.)
All of this is huge news. The ELCA has almost 4.8 million members and is the seventh largest Christian church in the country. This decision came after almost a decade of study.
Following the ground-breaking work of the Episcopal church, you can see the beginning of a seismic shift in how mainstream religion regards gay folks. This is the largest church to date to take a gay-positive stance.
My partner was Lutheran for many, many years, and when we moved to Wake Forest, we tried to find a Lutheran church to call home. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find one that was a fit for our openly gay family and ended up going Episcopalian.
I'm thrilled, though, that LGBT Lutherans will no longer have to choose between their sexuality and spirituality. Churches are notoriously conservative institutions, but it's always affirming to see when their commitment to humanity and divinity move them forward towards inclusion and support of all.