Thursday, January 18, 2007

Lutheran Pastor Faces Ouster for Being Openly Gay

A minister who disclosed that he was gay before Atlanta’s oldest Lutheran church hired him as its pastor could now be defrocked for announcing he has a partner.

The Rev. Bradley Schmeling was chosen in 2000 to lead St. John’s, though some worried his sexuality could threaten its standing with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. But last year, the 350-member congregation threw a party for him and his partner, when Schmeling announced he had found a lifelong companion.

Bishop Ronald Warren of the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod, however, asked the 44-year-old pastor to resign. When Schmeling refused, Warren started disciplinary proceedings against him for violating church rules barring sex outside of marriage.

On Friday, Schmeling will face a hearing — structured much like a trial — where a committee of 12 ELCA members will decide whether he can remain an ordained minister in the church that sits among mansion-lined hills just east of downtown.

If the committee rules against Schmeling, he could face suspension or no longer be recognized as an ordained minister in the ELCA. In the latter case, if his congregation opts to keep him as its pastor, the ELCA could also discipline St. John’s.

I don't know enough about the ELCA to know how this will work out if the congregation decides to keep him anyway, which is what the article says is their sentiment. But these battles have to be fought in every denomination until gay and lesbians are fully accepted as members and clergy, and more importantly, as normal everyday people.

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