Lutherans hope to heal schism over ordination of gay clergy
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America can mend its fractures over its decision to allow gay clergy to be ordained by being a welcoming place for all brethren, regardless of their views, the newly elected leader of the church said Thursday in Pittsburgh.
After the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted in 2009 to allow its congregations to ordain gay pastors in committed relationships, 647 congregations disaffiliated with the church.
“We lost less than 10 percent, but it's still painful because these are our brothers and sisters,” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, 58, who on Wednesday became presiding bishop-elect of the church during its national Churchwide Assembly. Roughly 2,000 people are attending the assembly, which began Monday and will end Saturday at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.
Eaton is the first woman elected to the role since ELCA formed in 1988.
There are about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations in the United States and the Caribbean, spokeswoman Melissa Ramirez Cooper said. Congregations are grouped by regions into synods, of which there are 65, Cooper said.
On Wednesday, Eaton defeated the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, who was seeking a third six-year term, and two other finalists for the seat of presiding bishop. Eaton, who is bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, will begin her term as presiding bishop of ELCA on Nov. 1.
“We're hopeful. We're trusting, and we're going forth in that kind of courage,” said the Rev. Kurt Kusserow, bishop of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod in McCandless.
Some of Eaton's goals include telling congregants that mission work does not have to be in the farthest corners of the world — the work of feeding people spiritually and physically should happen locally, too, she said.
“We want every congregation to see itself as a mission station,” she said.
Even though the church assembly allows gay clergy to be ordained, it has not developed any rites or blessings regarding same-sex marriage.
“We still call marriage a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman,” but everyone is welcome in the church, Eaton said.
Eaton is a skilled leader whose focus is in the right direction — reconciliation and unification — and she made important steps when she spoke to the assembly about inclusivity, several attendees said Thursday.
“She's a very gifted person. I'm looking forward to her leadership,” said the Rev. Robert Driesen, bishop of the Upper Susquehanna Synod in Lewisburg.
Known to be lighthearted, Eaton is letting people know the church is always welcoming new members.
“Just tell people to check us out. We're open Sundays,” she said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Parkway West off-ramps at Carnegie to close beginning Friday night
- Contempt citation sought by state against Highmark for alleged violation of deal with UPMC
- Prosecutors say cyanide-death defendant Ferrante tested toxin on mice to gauge effect on human
- VA promotion for administrator stuns legislator
- Newsmaker: Mary Barkhymer
- Prosecutor in Ferrante cyanide trial attacked; partner charged with assault
- Proposal to limit access divides Penn Hills, Homewood neighborhoods
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office asked to prosecute case alleging assault of Allegheny County assistant district attorney