The Los Angeles Times reports:
One scholar characterized the move by the two groups as a "watershed moment in American Christianity" that could further divide churches already laboring to stem the flight of traditionalists.Delegates of the Church voted 619 to 402 to approve a resolution allowing churches that want to recognize same-sex unions to do so in the manner they see fit.
"Those who have been actively campaigning for a change of this sort in the other mainline denominations will see this as a sign that they should intensify their efforts," Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, said in an e-mail. "For those of us who have opposed this on biblical grounds, it is bound to reinforce the sense that we are no longer welcome in the mainline."
Following this vote, the resolution that will allow gay and lesbian clergy in committed relationships to serve openly passed with a 559-451 vote.
These votes did not occur without controversy. Bad weather caused a tornado to hit the Central Lutheran Church across the street from the convention, a sign from God that the Lutheran church was headed in the wrong direction with homosexuality claimed one pastor.
"We cannot support this departure from God's word," the Rev. Mark Chavez said in a statement, the director of CORE, a conservative Lutheran group. The group has called for congregations to direct funds away from the national church and give to more "faithful" ministries within the church.
The Catholic Church tried to butt into Lutheran business through Archbishop Wilton Gregory, a former President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Through a video message the bishop claimed that if the Lutherans allowed openly gay and lesbian clergy, it could spell the end of relationships between the denomination and the Catholic Church.
Some fear the church can suffer from the same schism facing the Episcopal Church following its decision to lift the ban on gay clergy.
Mark S. Hanson, the national church's presiding bishop, acknowledged the strain but called for congregants to remember that both sides come from heartfelt convictions.
"It's going to take time to sort out how we live together in light of these decisions," Hanson said in a webcast news conference. "It would be tragic if we talked away from one another. This is a time for thoughtful, engaged, prayerful, imaginative response."
According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the ECLA has a "heavily Midwestern membership and the fact that it is generally seen as falling squarely in the middle of the theological milieu of mainline Protestantism imbues Friday's vote with added significance."
So far the Lutheran church, with nearly five millions members, is the largest denomination to recognize same-sex relationships and gay and lesbian clergy, and many theologians see the church's decision as opening the way for the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterians to follow suit.