Associated Press, 17 Aug 03
ELCA votes to not delay decision on blessing same-sex marriages
by Tim Cigelske
MILWAUKEE -- The nation's largest Lutheran denomination voted Saturday to avoid
further delaying a decision on blessing same-sex marriages and allowing sexually
active gays and lesbians in the clergy.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted 526-462 to defeat
an amendment that would have postponed the decisions from 2005 to 2007.
Members wearing rainbow scarves, signifying support of keeping the timeline
on track, hugged one another and cheered after the assembly sang the hymn
"I've Got Peace Like a River" after the vote.
The church's assembly in 2001 commissioned a four-year study on homosexuality
in the church and called for the vote to be held at the completion of the report.
Some members had sought to delay the vote until 2007, when the church's study on
human sexuality is scheduled to be completed.
Directors of a Lutheran study on
homosexuality issued an interim report on their progress Friday that did not
make any conclusions. The report outlined how the directors were conducting
the study in terms of budget and timeline.
The next step in the timeline of the sexuality study is the release of
interim findings to the ELCA's congregations in early September for further
comment and debate.
Later Saturday, the ELCA assembly rejected by 832-139 a motion to break
ties with the Episcopalians. Last week the Episcopal General Convention
ratified the election of that denomination's first openly gay bishop
and affirmed same-sex blessings as "an acceptable practice in the church."
The ELCA recognizes and shares Episcopalian sacraments and clergy
under a full communion pact the ELCA approved four years ago.
Although the ELCA doesn't have a definitive position banning same-sex
unions, an advisory statement in 1993 said its bishops did not approve of
such a ceremony as an official rite, because they saw no basis for it in
scripture or church tradition.