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IRD Commends Lutheran Church for Suspending Pastor, Upholding Church Law

“Lutheran teaching on the matter of clergy limiting sexual relationships to marriage is clear.”
-Jim Tonkowich, IRD President

Contact: Loralei Coyle, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-905-6852 cell, lcoyle@ird-renew.org; Radio Interviews: Jeff Walton jwalton@ird-renew.org

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 /Christian Newswire/ -- Yesterday a church spokesman announced that a clergy committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has recommended the suspension of Pastor Bradley Schmeling’s clergy credentials after finding that he violated pastoral conduct guidelines by entering into a extra-marital sexual relationship. Schmeling, who entered into a same-sex relationship in 2005, leads St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta. Following his disclosure of the relationship to ELCA Southeastern Synod Bishop Ronald Warren, the Bishop requested Schmeling’s resignation, which was refused. ELCA pastoral conduct guidelines allow openly gay pastors to serve the church, but only if they do not engage in same-sex relationships.

IRD President Jim Tonkowich commented:

“While we commend the ELCA clergy committee for upholding church law in this matter, we remain disappointed in the statement of the committee, which essentially calls for a method to bypass the guidelines.”

“Lutheran teaching on this matter is based on the scriptural directive that sexual relationships are to be within marriage. As Bishop Warren said in his letter of explanation, the 2005 Churchwide Assembly decided that the church would not create a process for possible exceptions to existing behavior expectations for pastors. The IRD believes that the ELCA committee decision should be centered on the Word of God, not on an arbitrary attempt to circumvent it in order to appease the culture.”