AP: Chicago Lutheran Church Ordains Lesbian (Nov 20)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chicago Lutheran Church Ordains Lesbian

A Lutheran church in Chicago has ordained a lesbian who refuses to take a vow of celibacy, becoming the first to test a new resolution that gives bishops leeway in disciplining such violations.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America requires vows of celibacy for gay but not for heterosexual clergy -- a policy the Reverend Jen Rude, 27, calls discriminatory.

Chicago's bishop, Wayne Miller, did not try to block Rude's ordination at Resurrection Lutheran Church on Saturday, but he also didn't attend the ceremony. While he has said he believes the celibacy rule should reversed, he also has urged bishops to follow rules set by the church.

''My goal is to keep people in the conversation, and I do not see this as an issue that should be dividing the church,'' he said before the church ordained Rude.

Rude, whose father and grandfather are both Lutheran ministers, expressed gratitude to the congregation.

''It's meaningful to me in the sense that my call is being affirmed not only by God, but the people of God,'' she said.

Some of the more than 100 members of the congregation cried as Rude stood before them during the ceremony.

''We all realized that sexual orientation has nothing to do with how well a person can minister a congregation,'' said Kathy Young, a church member.

At a national assembly in August, Evangelical Lutherans urged bishops to refrain from defrocking gay and lesbian ministers who violate the celibacy rule, but they also rejected measures that would have permitted ordaining gays churchwide.

Advocates for full inclusion of gays were encouraged at the time, calling the resolution a powerful statement in support of clergy with same-sex partners. Conservatives, however, said bishops would feel more secure in ignoring denomination policy.

Miller said he met with Resurrection's congregation last month to discuss the possible consequences of Rude's ordination if national church leaders decide to enforce the policy later. Among those consequences: the congregation could be expelled from the denomination.

Like other mainline Protestant groups, the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been struggling for decades to reconcile differences on the issue.

An ELCA task force is near the end of an eight-year study on human sexuality, which is expected to culminate in the 2009 release of a statement that will influence church policy.

The 4.8 million-member ELCA is the country's largest Lutheran denomination. (AP)