From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Council Requests Report on Exceptions to Expectations

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 11 Apr 2000 11:39:26


April 11, 2000


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) asked the ELCA Division for Ministry to prepare
a report on a request to create a process for granting exceptions to the
ELCA's expectations of its ordained ministers, which include rules
against ordaining gay or lesbian Lutherans who are in homosexual
relationships.  The division develops the church's standards for
     The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and serves as
the legislative authority of the church between its churchwide
assemblies.  The council met here April 7-9.  Assemblies are held every
other year; the next is Aug. 8-14, 2001, in Indianapolis.
     St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn., is seeking
an exception for Anita Hill, a lay minister who has served the
congregation for several years and will earn a master's of divinity
degree this year.  The degree is a requirement for ordination in the
     The ELCA's 11,000 congregations are organized into 65 synods, each
headed by a bishop.  St. Paul-Reformation is a congregation of the
ELCA's Saint Paul Area Synod.
     On behalf of St. Paul-Reformation, the Saint Paul Area Synod
Council petitioned the ELCA Church Council to amend "Vision and
Expectations," a document the council adopted in 1990.  The Rev. H.
George Anderson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, said "Vision and
Expectations" describes "both the vision for ordained ministry in the
life of this church and the high expectations its members have of those
who serve in this ministry."
     "Vision and Expectations" states, "Ordained ministers who are
homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from
homosexual sexual relationships."  Hill is a lesbian in a committed
relationship with another woman.
     The proposed amendment to "Vision and Expectations" would add two
sentences to its opening section: "Exceptions to the provisions of
'Vision and Expectations' may be granted by the Conference of Bishops.
The Conference of Bishops may consult the Division for Ministry
concerning exceptions it seeks to make."
     Janet Thompson, council member, Eagan, Minn., said the
congregation at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church has contacted every
expression of the ELCA and learned "no one can make an exception to this
policy."  The congregation is not asking the church to change or suspend
its governing documents or to change its process for ordination, she
said, but to grant an exception.
     The ELCA Church Council voted "to refer the resolution of the
Saint Paul Area Synod to the staff of the Division for Ministry in view
of that division's responsibility for the document 'Vision and
Expectations;' and to request a report from the Division for Ministry,
following consultation with the Conference of Bishops, to the Church
Council at the November 2000 meeting of the Church Council."
     In November 1989 the Church Council approved the ELCA's
"Definition and Guidelines for Discipline of Ordained Ministers," which
outlines "conduct incompatible with the character of the ministerial
office."  It stated, "Practicing homosexual persons are precluded from
the ordained ministry of this church."
     The ELCA's 1999 Churchwide Assembly denied a motion to suspend
enforcement of ordination and discipline standards regarding homosexual
clergy.  A second motion, asking the Division for Ministry and the ELCA
Conference of Bishops to propose strategies leading to the removal of
these standards, was also defeated.
     Since the council serves as the assembly's interim authority,
Brian D. Rude, council member, Coon Valley, Wis., questioned whether it
could request a report that seems to contradict the will of the
     The Rev. Joseph M. Wagner, executive director of the ELCA Division
for Ministry, said the Saint Paul Area Synod's resolution does not
specifically mention homosexual clergy and the assembly's actions would
be taken into consideration while drafting a report for the council's
November meeting.  He also said division staff would consult with
representatives of the synod about the full intent of the resolution.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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