Conservative Lutheran church leader criticizes gay clergy proposal

ST. LOUIS (AP) - The president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod expressed "great disappointment and deep sadness" over a proposal that would allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy in the larger and more liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Gerald B. Kieschnick, in a letter to his 2.5 million-member denomination, said the change "would constitute a radical departure from the 2,000-year-long teaching of the Christian tradition that homosexual activity, whether inside or outside of a committed relationship, is contrary to Holy Scripture."

In 2001, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod adopted a resolution saying it does not consider the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to be "an orthodox Lutheran church body" but recognizes that many members of the larger denomination "remain faithful" to the Christian Gospel.

Last week, a task force of the 4.7 million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America issued a series of recommendations that could lead to lifting a ban on non-celibate gay clergy.

The task force acknowledged a lack of consensus on the issue and proposed that congregations and synods, or regional church bodies, be given "structured flexibility" to decide whether to hire people in "lifelong, monogamous, same-gender committed relationships" as clergy.

The recommendations, which may be revised in the coming months, will be considered at the denomination's biannual convention in Minneapolis this August.

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