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Congregations to discuss vote allowing active gays in clergy

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Lutherans concerned about the direction their church is headed -- especially in light of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly's decision to allow practicing homosexuals into the clergy -- can join with like-minded individuals at a Lutheran CORE meeting Saturday at Millwood Fire Hall.

At the churchwide assembly meeting in August in Minneapolis, the organization decided to allow homosexuals in committed relationships to be active in the church's ministry. The decision came on a 559-451 vote, according to a news release posted on the ELCA's Web site.

"Earlier the assembly also approved a resolution committing the church to find ways for congregations that choose to do so to 'recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships,' though the resolution did not use the word 'marriage,'" the release says. "The actions here change the church's policy, which previously allowed people who are gay and lesbian into the ordained ministry only if they remained celibate."

Ryan Schwarz, who attends a Lutheran church in McLean, is on the steering committee of Lutheran CORE, and is on the agenda Saturday.

"We are a collection of congregations, individuals and reform movements, Lutherans who, as we say, seek to be a voice for the word of God, the authority of scripture, the Bible," he said in a Thursday afternoon phone interview. "The ELCA voted this past summer to change its teaching on human sexuality, and we believe that that was in error because it conflicts with, as we understand it, the clear teaching of the word of God."

At Saturday's meeting, which starts at 10 a.m., there will be discussion about the churchwide assembly's decision, Schwarz said.

"It's one part informational meeting, one part sort of fellowship amongst folks who share a common perspective on these issues, and perhaps a little bit planning for the future for Lutherans in the Northern Shenandoah Valley," he said.

Lutheran CORE was formed four years ago out of concern that the ELCA had "been drifting away from the Bible" in several areas, Schwarz said. One of the major concerns was what he said was a failure to evangelize.

CORE had been sanctioned by the ELCA up until the churchwide assembly, according to Schwarz.

"We renounced that designation at the time of the vote," he said.

Schwarz said CORE includes some celibate gay pastors.

"They walk a very hard path," he said.

While not currently planning a schism, that could come, Schwarz acknowledged.

"It's not, at least yet, forming a breakaway organization," he said. "Who knows what the future holds? What it is is forming an alternative fellowship for people who simply cannot in good conscience accept the decisions the ELCA made this past summer. Whether the fellowship in future evolves into an alternative church body is in God's hands."

Many CORE members hold titles within the ELCA, Schwarz said.

"These are people who are very, very senior in ELCA ... who are just so concerned about the direction of the Lutheran Church that they've gotten together and formed CORE," he said. "A lot of people are very upset. They're looking for a place where they can worship with themselves and their family where they will hear preaching that they believe is faithful."

Those planning to attend Saturday's meeting are asked to RSVP by calling 678-8748, or e-mailing tcandmr@verizon.net.


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