As Protestant churches continue to grapple with the issue of homosexuality, Lutheran bishops have agreed that exemptions should not be made to allow gay clergy in the pulpit and an Episcopal parish in Atlanta has been told by diocesan officials that it cannot bless same-sex unions.
The Lutheran case involves St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn., where a lesbian lay minister, Anita Hill, has been serving as pastor for several years and asked to be ordained after completing seminary. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America does not allow openly gay clergy to serve as church pastors.
The St. Paul Area Synod had requested an exemption for Hill, but the church's Division for Ministry advised against it. The bishops rejected a request for an exemption at a recent meeting in Chicago.
The bishops said they have no authority to change the requirements for ordination and such a change would have to come from amending the church's governing documents.
In Atlanta, the Episcopal Diocese has told St. Bartholomew's Church that the congregation cannot bless same-sex unions because the church's General Convention, meeting this summer in Denver, did not grant such authority.
The 2.5-million-member Episcopal Church allows each diocese the option of whether to bless same-sex unions, as well as to appoint openly gay clergy. Liberal factions in the church had wanted a churchwide policy supporting gay marriage and ordination, but conservatives at the Denver meeting blocked such a move.
The Atlanta diocese's Standing Committee told the Rev. Marion Kanour, priest-in-charge at the 1,100-member St. Bartholomew's church, that blessing same-sex unions would "seriously damage or even destroy the possibility of such development in the future."
Kanour, a lesbian who had planned the same-sex blessing for late October, said she hopes that when the diocese gets a new bishop, the bishop will move to change the committee's decision.