The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination Friday reversed a long-standing ban on the appointment of non-celibate gays to the clergy, becoming the second major Christian group in a month to liberalize policies governing who may minister the faith.
Leaders of the 4.6-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, meeting in Minneapolis, gave local congregations the authority to choose ministers or lay leaders who may be in “lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”
The decision follows a similar action last month by officers of the Episcopal Church, who lifted a de facto ban on the consecration of partnered gay bishops.
Theologians and church analysts said both votes could influence other Protestant denominations — including Presbyterians and United Methodists — that are struggling to reconcile conflicts over homosexuality and the Bible.
One scholar characterized the move by the two groups as a “watershed moment in American Christianity” that could further divide churches already laboring to stem the flight of traditionalists.