Gay pastor in US faces dismissal for having boyfriend

Anthony Cuesta | August 14, 2006

Rev. Bradley Schmeling
ATLANTA — A gay Lutheran pastor facing possible expulsion from his church says he will choose his partner over his vocation if he is disciplined for being in a gay relationship, reports The Southern Voice.

Rev. Bradley Schmeling, pastor of St. John�s Lutheran Church in Atlanta, has been charged with violating pastoral conduct guidelines mandated under the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

According to SoVo, Southeastern Synod Bishop Ronald Warren filed the charges against Schmeling with the ELCA�s Discipline Hearing Committee. He announced his action in an Aug. 8 open letter to Lutherans posted on the ELCA Southeastern Synod website.

�After a lengthy process of prayerful discernment, today I filed charges against The Rev. Bradley E. Schmeling, presently serving as pastor of St. John�s Lutheran Church, Atlanta, Ga.,� Warren wrote. �Pastor Schmeling has admitted to me that he is in violation of ELCA �Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline...� for ordained ministers. Specifically, Pastor Schmeling disclosed to me that he is in a sexual relationship with an adult male. He has declined my requests for his resignations from his call to St. John�s Lutheran Church and the ELCA clergy roster,� Warren wrote.

If the Discipline Hearing Committee rules against him, Schmeling could be fired and stripped of his clerical authority within the church, SoVo reports.

When Schmeling became pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church six years ago, his homosexuality was no secret to the hierarchy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He was also single then, so it didn't pose as great a problem, reports The Associated Press.

�These charges are not coming from the congregation. In fact, the congregation is very supportive of me on this issue, and in fact, isn�t divided in any way about this. They�ve known that I was gay since I came six years ago,� Schmeling said.

Lutherans Concerned, a gay rights group, estimates there are hundreds of Lutheran pastors reluctant to come out of the closet for fear of losing their jobs.

According to The AP, for those who choose to come out, the reaction varies by region. When a handful of pastors on the West Coast came forward, they faced no discipline. Schmeling's case, however, is the first in the more conservative Southern region, and a test case for the entire denomination's tolerance, Emily Eastwood, executive director of Lutherans Concerned, told The AP.

"It would be a travesty for the church to say he can't be a pastor because he found a life partner," she said.

SoVo reports that Warren declined comment through a church spokesperson, who pointed to Warren�s letter and the ELCA web site for information regarding the disciplinary procedure.

Regardless of the outcome of the disciplinary process, Schmeling told SoVo that he vows to stay with his partner.

�Nothing is going to change. I am in a lifelong, committed, wonderful relationship. None of this will impact this relationship,� he said. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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