Thursday, August 10, 2006

AJC: Lutheran bishop begins disciplinary procedure for gay pastor

AJC's John Blake reports on the disciplinary proceedings against an Atlanta Lutheran pastor who happens to be in a committed gay relationship and who also happens to be loved and supported by his congregation. The pastor, Bradley Schmeling, has been honest with the bishop from the beginning about his orientation and situation. This could have far-reaching reverberations: "A Lutheran bishop is asking the church to discipline an Atlanta parish pastor for defying church policy banning clergy from same-sex relationships.

Bishop Ronald B. Warren of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Southeastern Synod released a letter Tuesday explaining the action he is taking against the Rev. Bradley E. Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta.

He said he made the decision after Schmeling told him he was in a same-sex relationship.

Schmeling, who could face expulsion from St. John's pulpit, said he doesn't agree with his church's policy for gay clergy.

He made his position clear to Warren when he first arrived at St. John's six years ago.

'The policy isn't working,' Schmeling said. 'Good and qualified people are being excluded from the ministry. In a congregation likes ours, this is not a divisive ministry.'

Homosexuality has been a divisive issue for many mainline Protestant denominations that generally preach tolerance of gays — within limits.

These denominations have tried to avoid splitting by adopting variations of a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, but such efforts are starting to fray.


Warren, who declined to comment for this article, wrote that he made his decision after 'a lengthy process of prayerful discernment.'

His action sets in motion an ELCA disciplinary process that culminates in a hearing and a decision by a church committee.

Schmeling, who said the process could take several months, told his congregation that he will remain pastor of St. John's as the process unfolds.

The 43-year-old Schmeling said he holds no grudges against Warren for his decision.

'I have respect for him,' Schmeling said. 'We've had a good working relationship. This is difficult for everyone.'"


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