From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Outreach with Lesbians and Gays

Date 30 May 1996 13:38:44


May 30, 1996


     MUNDELEIN, Ill. (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America will develop "outreach strategies to gay and lesbian
people, especially in communities where there are large
populations of homosexual persons, either with new ministries or
through existing congregations."  Without dissent the board of
the ELCA Division for Outreach passed a three-part resolution to
that effect when it met here May 8-11.
     "The purpose is to ensure that we get the basic gospel
message of salvation by grace through faith to the lesbian and
gay communities throughout this country," said Joseph E. McMahon,
Washington, D.C.  He said he introduced the resolution "to engage
straight, lesbian and gay people in reaching out to these
communities, to enrich peoples" lives through the Lutheran church
and our traditions."
     "Young men and women who are lesbian and gay are welcomed
and affirmed by the bar crowd, by the sex crowd and by the drug
crowd," he said.  "They are not welcomed by the church crowd, and
we have to reverse that."
     "We have to let these young people know that they are every
part of God's creation as are all of us," said McMahon.  "We are
their partners in this journey, and we are going to be with them
into living lives that are responsible and respectful as we
respect them as young lesbian and gay people."
     "The resolution on gays and lesbians simply called us to do
what we should be doing -- to be open and affirming to all
people," said Michael Kohn, West Columbia, S.C., board vice
chair.  The three parts of the resolution direct division staff
to engage gay and lesbian Lutheran organizations in dialogue, to
develop outreach strategies and to work with new and existing
congregations in affirming and welcoming homosexual members.
     "We have been developing ethnic specific strategies with the
people in various communities," said the Rev. M.L. Minnick Jr.,
executive director of the ELCA Division for Outreach.  "So, it's
the right thing for us as a division to be in dialogue with our
gay and lesbian members to see if there are learnings to help us
develop strategies for outreach to gay and lesbian people."
     "The board was suggesting to the staff that we also do
sensitizing of the ministries that we relate to," he said.  "A
part of our inclusivity is an inclusivity to persons of different
sexual orientation."
     "That will be probably a controversial action coming out of
the board for some," said Minnick.  "For others it will be seen
that it was appropriate that we be moving in this direction."
     With the encouragement of the ELCA's 1995 Churchwide
Assembly, the Conference of Bishops issued a letter to the church
in March, saying: "The debates and controversy surrounding
homosexuality sometimes have turned bitter. ... We ask all our
members to join us in repentance for hurtful actions toward
others, and in forgiving when we have been the objects of anger
or hate. ... The way we face our differences on the issues
surrounding homosexuality can be an important expression of grace
for our particular church body and for the communities in which
we live. ... We invite gay and lesbian persons to join with other
members of this church in mutual prayer and study of the issues
that still divide us, so that we may seek the truth together."

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service,
(312) 380-2958; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir., (312) 380-2955; Lia
Christiansen, Asst. Dir., (312) 380-2956

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