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American Lutherans to bless same-sex marriages

August 17, 2003

MILWAUKEE - America's largest Lutheran denomination voted Saturday to stick to its schedule for making decisions on blessing same-sex marriages and allowing sexually active gays and lesbians in the clergy.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted 526 to 462 to defeat an amendment that would have postponed the decisions from 2005 to 2007.

Members wearing rainbow scarves, signifying support for keeping the timeline on track, hugged each other and cheered after the assembly sang the hymn "I've Got Peace Like a River" immediately following the vote.

The church's assembly in 2001 commissioned a four-year study on homosexuality in the church and called for the vote to be held when the report is completed.

Some members had sought to delay the vote until 2007, when the church's study on human sexuality is scheduled to be completed.

Later Saturday, the ELCA assembly rejected 832 to 139 a motion to break ties with the Episcopalians. Last week the Episcopal General Convention ratified the election of that denomination's first openly gay bishop, and affirmed same-sex blessings as "an acceptable practice in the church."

The motion to suspend relations was proposed by a church member before the meeting but had not been recommended by a committee that studied the issue.

The ELCA recognizes and shares Episcopalian sacraments and clergy under a full communion pact the ELCA approved four years ago.

Although the ELCA doesn't have a definitive position banning same-sex unions, an advisory statement in 1993 said bishops do not approve of such a ceremony as an official rite because they see no basis for it in Scripture or church tradition.

The ELCA welcomes gay and lesbian members, and its ministers can be openly gay or lesbian if they are celibate. -Sapa-AP

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