Guest Author - Barbara Sharpe
There are religions who are clear that LGBT people cannot be clergy. There are those who say it’s okay if the clergyperson is celibate. There are a few who are fine with LGBT clergy. The Episcopal church not only has LGBT ministers but also leadership. The Unitarian Universalists, Metropolitan Community Church, United Church of Christ, Unity and others all have openly LGBT clergy.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (EVLA), with more than 4 million members, voted to allow openly LGBT clergy who are in life-long, committed relationships to serve as clergy and in lay positions. The vote was 559-451 in favor of allowing LGBT clergy who are in relationships to serve. Previously, a gay clergy could only serve if they agreed to remain celibate. The EVLA is one of the largest denominations to allow LGBT people to serve openly.
As is to be expected, there was emotional debate on both sides. Some were sure that this vote would cause a rift in the church, much as happened when the Episcopal Church made the same vote. Some conservatives tried to get a measure passed to require a two-thirds majority, but that effort failed.
As reported by the Washington Post, Tim Mumm, a Wisconsin lay delegate, said, “We live today with an understanding of homosexuality that did not exist in Jesus’ time and culture. We are responding to something that the writers of Scripture could not have understood.”
Of course, the opposition’s position is that the Bible and the position of the church cannot be twisted to say whatever we want it to say and that by approving this measure, the EVLA is biblically weakened.
I will leave you with a quote from Bishop John Selby Spong. He was referencing constitutional amendments specifically banning LGBT rights, but the basic premise fits the religious argument as well.
Bishop Spong says,"Stop playing ecclesiastical games. Compromising truth never serves the cause of unity. The call of Christ is not to be all things to all people. The time for negotiating and compromising is over. It matters not if you are the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury or one of the heads of the various national and international bodies of Christians around the world, both the moral integrity of the Christ you claim to serve and your ability to speak for Christ on any other issue are at stake. There is no room for waffling on this moral imperative. The idea that you will allow politicians to advocate placing discrimination against homosexual persons into the Constitution of this country, while your voices are either in agreement or remain deafeningly silent, is an embarrassment. If it takes a split in the body of Christ to make this generation understand that homosexuality, like slavery, is a non-debatable, moral issue, then for God's sake, for Christ's sake, you must be willing to pay that price."