Thursday, February 08, 2007

No discipline for gay Lutheran minister |

No discipline for gay Lutheran minister | "The Rev. Bradley E. Schmeling of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta learned Thursday that he faces removal from the denomination he's loved since he was a kid.

But the news didn't discourage him or some of his biggest supporters."

"The more I think about it, the more hopeful I am that the conversation is continuing," Schmeling said in an interview after the decision was released. "They could have chosen to remove me immediately, but they clearly want the church to change the policy."

An Evangelical Lutheran Church in America jury Thursday called for the removal of Schemling from the clergy roster for defying church policy that bans clergy from same-sex relationships. Schmeling's removal takes effect Aug. 15 -- four days after the ELCA has a chance to debate the policy at its church wide assembly in Chicago.

Yet a detailed reading of the decision -- and even the timing of Schmeling's removal -- convinces the 44-year-old pastor and his supporters that he eventually may be vindicated.

Schmeling and his supporters pointed out that a majority of the 12-member jury concluded that "no discipline of any sort" should be imposed against the pastor. The jury, noting the growth in St. John's congregation and its support for Schmeling, also called for the ELCA to change its ban on sexually-active gay clergy at its church wide assembly, supporters said.

"They were so clear that my [same-sex] relationship didn't interfere with my ministry and even more, they said the policy was bad and unconstitutional," Schemling said. "That was a courageous and bold decision."


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