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National Religious Leadership Roundtable Condemns Lutheran Church Decision

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    PRESS RELEASE National Religious Leadership Roundtable condemns Lutheran church decision to remove gay pastor WASHINGTON, July 6 — The National Religious
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 7, 2007
      National Religious Leadership Roundtable condemns Lutheran church
      decision to remove gay pastor

      WASHINGTON, July 6 — The National Religious Leadership Roundtable
      condemns the July 2 decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of
      America (ELCA) Committee on Appeals to immediately remove the Rev.
      Bradley Schmeling from the clergy roster because he has a same-sex
      partner. By a 10–2 vote, the committee reversed an earlier panel's
      ruling allowing the pastor to remain on the roster until Aug. 15.
      Under ELCA rules, Schmeling is now a layperson within the denomination
      and should not wear a stole or perform sacraments. Schmeling
      reportedly has the support of his congregants and said he will defy
      the decision and stay as pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church in
      Atlanta, Ga.

      Responses from National Religious Leadership Roundtable Members

      "We are deeply saddened, angry and more determined following the
      artless and callous treatment of Pastor Bradley at the hands of the
      Committee on Appeals. The decision was delivered by e-mail, no
      pastoral call was made or human contact given. The committee actually
      noted as positive that they limited themselves to the transcripts of
      the hearing. They never met Pastor Schmeling or the members of St. John's.

      "There are no scriptural precedents for such behavior in Christ's
      life. Jesus was moved with compassion and broke the religious laws of
      his age, time and again meeting and embracing outcasts in their
      contexts. There are others in the Gospels, the Scribes and the
      Pharisees who, according to Jesus, kept the letter of the law but
      neglected the weightier matters of justice and mercy. Jesus goes on to
      say to the Pharisees, 'blind guides, you strain out a gnat and swallow
      a camel.' Matthew: 23. Pastor Schmeling has been treated by the church
      like a gnat to be swatted away and forgotten. Christ would not
      recognize the behavior of the Committee on Appeals, and by default the
      ELCA in this case, as his own.

      "This is what happens when human law becomes an end to itself. The
      judicial process has proven to be an ecclesiastical dry hole. It
      started with an unjust, discriminatory policy and decided that it had
      been rightly and justly executed.

      "We now turn to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August seeking the
      legislative remedy offered by the DHC and confirmed as the only
      alternative by the COA. The Spirit has moved 22 synods of the ELCA to
      state in no uncertain terms that the policy of discrimination must be
      changed. These synods represent a full 40 percent of the membership of
      the ELCA. They believe that this matter must come to the floor of the
      assembly, be debated, and the current policy eliminated leaving a
      single standard for pastors more fitting to those who follow Christ
      and Martin Luther.

      "The struggle is not over, LGBT Lutherans and their allies both clergy
      and lay will not relent until justice and mercy prevail."

      — Emily Eastwood
      Executive Director
      Lutherans Concerned/North America

      "One day the Protestant churches of America will surely recognize
      that sexual diversity is part of God's blessing. Unfortunately today
      is not yet that day for the ELCA and other mainline churches. God
      bless the people of St. John's for refusing to remove Bradley
      Schmeling from their pulpit and speaking truth to power. May the
      General Assembly of the ELCA later this summer do the same."

      — Rev. Debra W. Haffner
      Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing

      "Bradley trusts love; we pray this blessing for the Lutheran church as

      — Rev. Troy Plummer
      Executive Director
      Reconciling Ministries Network, United Methodist Church

      "We are outraged at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and are
      hurting for the St. John's community. The powers that be in the ELCA
      have struck the most Faustian of bargains. Presented with a loving and
      community-based alternative, the Committee on Appeals chose instead to
      willfully sacrifice the few, in this case the beloved Pastor Bradley
      Schmeling and his spirit-filled congregational family, St. John's
      Lutheran Church, on the altar of expediency. The committee has acted
      to hurt lesbian and gay people and those who love us in the cynical
      belief that we will simply go away. They obviously don't know us and
      have forgotten God's constant love and God's call to justice. We will
      not go away. In fact, we will be present with Goodsoil and Lutherans
      Concerned at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and at every Churchwide
      Assembly from now until the gifts and graces for ministry of all
      people are both recognized and celebrated."

      — Harry Knox
      Human Rights Campaign Religion and Faith Program

      "The struggle to realize the vision of God's beloved community is
      often an arduous, painful journey which requires much courage and
      perseverance. The witness of Rev. Schmeling and the congregation he
      serves is like so many congregations in the welcoming church movement,
      a testament of grace enriched by the many blessings of God's gifts for
      mission and ministry. They remind us that faithful discipleship is not
      without cost and I pray they may know they are supported by a great
      cloud of witnesses through this challenging time."

      — Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer
      Minister for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Concerns
      Wider Church Ministries, United Church of Christ


      Pedro Julio Serrano, Communications Coordinator
      (Office) 646.358.1479
      (Cell) 787.602.5954
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