Unjust Recent ELCA Action

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted some thoughts about the Church and the inclusion of GLBT people. So, excuse me going off in a long post. A few weeks ago Pr. Brad Schmeling of Atlanta was charged to be in violation of ELCA “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline for Ordained Ministers” and asked to resign as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church due to his non-compliance with the ELCA policy forbidding clergy to be in a committed same-sex relationship. I have known Brad for many years. He served as an openly gay pastor in Columbus for many years. He is a talented and well liked pastor.

This is an interesting development to watch. His congregation has defied the Bishop of the Southeastern Synod and is refusing to remove Brad from his position. Over the past 15 years or so, Lutherans have witnessed this in California, Iowa, Minnesota and other states. The game takes awhile to play out. The results have been pretty much similar in almost all cases. The church stands by their pastor and ends up being stripped of their ELCA affiliation. These Christians stand on the side of justice and Christian principles while the church stands on the ever-weakening side of intolerance and discrimination. Thanks goodness Christian ideals win out.

The problem with the guidelines under which Brad is being measured is the narrowness in which they are applied. Behaviors such as marital infidelity, substance abuse and fiscal responsibility (paying debts on-time) are included in the list. However, these are routinely ignored. Only one sentence in these guidelines is ever referenced and used, “Practicing homosexual persons are precluded from the ordained ministry of this church.“ This is certainly reminiscent of the many laws in the pre-Civil Rights Act south meant to deny blacks their civil rights. Why won’t the church apply all of the guidelines?

It seems that the time has come for the Church to wake up and recognize the talents and gifts of all people. The policy is weak and un-evenly enforced. The 2005 Churchwide Assembly wimped out left open the interpretation of what can be done under “pastoral care”. They did affirm that gay people could not be ordained into the ministry. Many see the issue closed. Many continue to fight on. Amid all of these politics, it comes down to the fact that a church in suburban Atlanta that wants to keep their pastor, a man who serves them well and is an asset to their community, is being told they can not. His crime is being open to who he is and the love and commitment he has for his partner. Somehow this all seems so wrong.

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