Although a comprehensive study of sexuality is due in 2009, many in the ELCA do not want to wait. Having refused to change their rules governing non-celibate clergy at the assembly in 2005, they will again address resolutions on the place of gay clergy and same-sex blessings at the assembly scheduled to meet on August 8 - 12.
No less than 21 of he 65 synods have asked the assembly to again debate these issues, with many actually asking for change in the denomination's stand. "The battle lines are being drawn," notes one advocate.
The 5 million member Evangelical Lutheran Church of Amercia, the largest Lutheran denomination in the US, will certainly be watched closely this coming week, especially by their Lutheran denominational neighbors such as the LCMS. No other Lutheran body in this county has ventured to alter the long-standing biblical prohibitions against homosexuality. Still, considering the ELCA's more liberal approach to the doctrine of scripture, such change is predictable. The change would be seen as simply a new and broader understanding of the Bible, recognizing that many past prohibitions were simply 'culturally conditioned' and not part of the original text.
Given the ELCA's fellowship agreements with other denominations such as the Episcopalian church, there must certainly be pressure from the outside to change, since so many of the liberal mainstream bodies already have. If overtures are passed that fundamentally change the ELCA's acceptance of non-celibate clergy and adopt same-sex blessings, the divide that separates them from other Lutheran bodies will be a virtually insurmountable obstacle to any hopeful unification and fellowship in the future.