From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Former Presiding Bishop Says Time Has Arrived For Policy Change

Date Sat, 16 Aug 2003 19:42:00 -0500


August 16, 2003

Former Presiding Bishop Says Time Has Arrived For Policy Change

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- About 150 people attended a "Festival
Worship" service Aug. 15 here, led and attended by people who
want the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to be more
welcoming to people who are gay and lesbian, and want the church
to change its expectations for ordained pastors. The sermon was
preached by the Rev. Herbert W. Chilstrom, a former ELCA
presiding bishop.
     The worship service, held here at St. James Episcopal
Church, was sponsored by Lutherans Concerned/North America, a gay
and lesbian rights advocacy organization.  The service was held
in conjunction with the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center.  There are about 2,100 people participating, including
1,031 ELCA voting members.  The theme for the biennial assembly
is "Making Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."
     In the ELCA, people who are gay or lesbian may serve as
ordained pastors, but they are expected to refrain from
homosexual sexual relationships.  The church has no official
policy on the blessing of same-sex relationships; however, its
Conference of Bishops has advised the church that it does not
approve of such ceremonies.  The conference has an advisory
status within the church, not legislative authority.
     The ELCA is presently undertaking a four-year study process
exploring questions about the ordained ministry and whether
people in committed homosexual relationships should be ordained,
and whether the church should have an official policy on blessing
same-sex relationships.
     In his sermon, Chilstrom reflected on the meaning of
tradition, and spoke about instances in the Christian Bible where
traditions were challenged and in some cases, changed.	He cited
examples from the books of Corinthians, Deuteronomy, Luke and
     "All are examples of how the word of the gospel breaks down
honored traditions that get in its way," Chilstrom said.
     The time is now for change in ELCA clergy policies, he said,
to allow for those who are in committed homosexual relationships
to serve as ordained pastors.  In his sermon, Chilstrom spoke
about about how he has changed his mind about the issue over
     "Yes, the time has come," he said.  "In fact, it is long,
long overdue.  I regret that it took so painstakingly long to
make that change."
     In his sermon, Chilstrom referenced a story in Acts 10, a
story which is "really about the conversion of Peter," he said.
In that story, God gives Peter a vision, which he resists, an
example of how change is difficult, he said.
     "I'm like Peter," Chilstrom said.	"But I'm thankful God
never gave up on me.  For me, the "visions" were real human
beings, sincere and beautiful daughters and sons of God who share
my faith and deserve to share all my privileges."
     Every morning, Chilstrom said he and his wife, the Rev.
Corrine Chilstrom, pray that their friends who are gay, lesbian,
bisexual or transgendered, will enjoy the same rights and
privileges they have.
     "It takes time," Chilstrom said.  "I know that from my own
slow change of mind.  But we must have confidence that the
powerful word of the gospel will prevail in the end, because that
word is a word of freedom and hope."
     Worship leaders were Anita Hill, St. Paul, Minn., and Jeff
Johnson, Berkeley, Calif., whose ordinations are not recognized
by the ELCA because they are not in compliance with ELCA clergy
     Among those attending the service were some ELCA pastors,
bishops and churchwide staff, as well as representatives of The
Lutheran Alliance for Full Participation, encompassing five gay
and lesbian advocacy organizations.  They are the Extraordinary
Candidacy Project, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Lutheran
Lesbian and Gay Ministries, Lutheran Network for Inclusive Vision
and Wingspan Ministries.
-- -- --
Information about the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found
at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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