Soulforce Supports Pastor Bradley Schmeling, Urges ELCA to Lift the Ban on Clergy in Committed Same-sex Relationships

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The civil rights organization Soulforce expresses support for Pastor Bradley Schmeling and urges the the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America to end its policy of excluding partnered gays and lesbians from serving as ordained ministers. Schmeling faces a denominational disciplinary hearing and possible removal from the clergy roster because he has been open about his committed relationship with another former ELCA minister.

In response to the news that Pastor Bradley Schmeling of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) will face a denominational disciplinary hearing, the social justice group Soulforce expressed support for Schmeling and his partner, Darin Easler. In the words of Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes, “Brad and Darin’s relationship is a wonderful gift from God. We call on the ELCA to change their policy and truly model God’s all-inclusive love.”

While ELCA policy does not explicitly exclude LGBT-identified people from the ministry, the guidelines state that “practicing homosexual persons are precluded from the ordained ministry of this church.” Says Lutes, “It is unconscionable that the ELCA rejects those pastors in relationship who are modeling the values of love, devotion, and long-term commitment for their congregations, yet upholds those pastors who agree to remain alone or live in secrecy.”

Schmeling learned on August 8 that the Bishop of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA had filed formal charges against him for violating the denomination's Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline of Ordained Ministers. The charges will now be referred to a Disciplinary Hearing Committee composed of twelve jurors -- six from the Southeastern Synod and six from a national pool of the ELCA. In accordance with the church constitution, Schmeling has the right to select two of the jurors and to reject one juror selected by the ELCA.

Schmeling had previously refused to resign from the ELCA roster or from his position as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran church in Atlanta, Georgia. In a public statement, he expressed the hope that the hearing “will provide a means to witness to the gifts of gay clergy and to demonstrate the destructive consequences of the church's current policy.”

In 2005, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly rejected a proposal to allow gay men and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy. At that meeting, and at every ELCA churchwide assembly since 2001, Soulforce has partnered with other Lutheran and LGBT organizations to stand for justice for all LGBT persons called to ministry in the ELCA.

Soulforce is a social justice organization dedicated to freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance.

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Paige Schilt
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