After an emotional debate over the authority of Scripture and the limits of biblical inclusiveness, leaders of the country’s largest Lutheran denomination voted Friday to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as members of the clergy.
The vote made the denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the latest mainline Protestant church to permit such ordinations, contributing to a halting sense of momentum on the issue within liberal Protestantism.
By a vote of 559 to 451, delegates to the denomination’s national assembly in Minneapolis approved a resolution declaring that the church would find a way for people in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships” to serve as official ministers. (The church already allows celibate gay men and lesbians to become members of the clergy.)
Conservatives members of the church reacted in the same manner as conservative members of the Episcopal church, with threats to leave the denomination:
“I think we have stepped beyond what the word of God allows,” said the Rev. Rebecca M. M. Heber of Heathrow, Fla., who said she was going to reconsider her membership.
Conservative dissenters said they saw various options, including leaving for another Lutheran denomination or creating their own unified body.
Before the vote but sensing its outcome, the Rev. Timothy Housholder of Cottage Grove, Minn., introduced himself as a rostered pastor in the church, “at least for a few more hours,” implying that he would leave the denomination and eliciting a gasp from some audience members.
“Here I stand, broken and mournful, because of this assembly and her actions,” Mr. Housholder said.
Of course they will cite to the Bible, and to non-orthodox interpretations of it as their justification for talk of leaving, but of course non-orthodoxy doesn't seem to be a huge issue until it involves gays and gay rights. I'm bound to offend someone with this comparison but to me, that argument seems vaguely reminiscent to arguments that the Civil War was really about "states' rights."