Gay pastors reinstated
A gay Atlanta pastor and his partner who have been at the centre of a battle over the treatment of gay clergy by America's largest Lutheran denomination are being reinstated to the denomination's clergy roster, church officials announced yesterday.
The Reverend Bradley Schmeling and his partner, the Rev. Darin Easler, have been approved for reinstatement, the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said in a news release.
The approval came roughly eight months after the denomination voted to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy, and just weeks after the ELCA's church council officially revised the church's policy on gay ministers.
Schmeling, who serves as pastor of St John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta, was removed from the church's clergy roster in 2007 for being in a same-sex relationship with Easler.
A disciplinary committee ruled that Schmeling was violating an ELCA policy regarding the sexual conduct of pastors.
"I'm grateful that this journey has come full circle and that the church has changed its policy," Schmeling said yesterday.
"I think the church saw the gifts and the abilities of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and saw that the spirit was calling them into ministry and wanted to create a way for people to serve," he said.
Paperwork must be filed
The reinstatement will become effective "once the paperwork has been filed", which should happen in the coming days or weeks, he said.
At their biennial national convention in August, ELCA leaders called for revisions to ministry policy documents, making it possible for "eligible Lutherans in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships" to serve as clergy, the church said in the statement. The ELCA Church Council adopted those revisions April 10.
The candidacy committee of the ELCA Southeastern Synod in Atlanta met two weeks later and approved Schmeling's request for reinstatement.