There are a number of news stories out this evening about what the decisions made by the Evangelical Lutheran Church meeting in the final day of their assembly. Having decided to postpone any decisions on officially sanctioning same-sex blessing until 2009 earlier this week, a resolution passed today encourages Lutheran bishops to refrain from disciplining clergy "who are in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship" in the interim.
This action is being taken to mean that the Lutheran Church now officially allows non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy, according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times:
"For the first time, clergy in same-sex committed relationships can serve the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America without threat of discipline to them, their congregations or their bishops.
The historic decision, made today at a national assembly at Navy Pier, was spearheaded by Bishop Paul Landahl of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod.
A day earlier, attendees voted down a measure that would have ended a ban on non-celibate gay clergy. But Saturday’s vote calls on church leaders to ‘refrain from or demonstrate restraint’ in disciplining those who violate the policy."
But as Eric Bjorlin, who presents the situation in detail points out:
The assembly seemed to say that we (the entire 4.8 million members of the ELCA, as represented by the assembly) aren’t ready to make formalized changes of policies and procedures, but if certain areas (via their bishops) don’t want to abide by the rules established, then we’ll accept that. As Phil Souchy of Lutherans Concerned said, it’s basically a call by the assembly saying, “Do not do punishments.” Now while this doesn’t technically change anything, but it’s an obvious step in a new direction and a likely indicator of where the ELCA is headed. There is technically no “official” change, but the Yahoo! News article’s title would have you think there had been.
It will probably be a while until the full implications and ramifications of the decisions are understood.