L.A. Lutheran bishop asked to quit over gay stance

David Virtue DVirtue236 at AOL.COM
Thu May 24 01:32:36 EDT 2001


L.A. Lutheran bishop asked to quit over gay stance

By Sarah Tippit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Rev. Paul Egertson, the bishop who oversees
the religious life of 50,000 Evangelical Lutherans in Southern
California, is under pressure to resign his post after he took part in
the ordination of a lesbian as a church pastor, church officials said
Wednesday.

A source familiar with the situation who wished to remain anonymous
confirmed that the top clergyman in the 5.1 million member Evangelical
Lutheran Church of America, Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson, has
asked Egertson to step down. The source said that the California bishop
will take the rest of the week to decide what he will do.

Rev. Anderson declined to comment Wednesday. Anderson's spokesman John
Brooks told Reuters that the controversy stems from Egertson's
participation last month in a ceremony in which a woman, who is openly
living in a committed lesbian relationship, was ordained as a minister.

The ceremony, at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul,
Minn., marked the first time an active Lutheran bishop took part in
such a practice. Egertson, the source said, "did not do the ordaining
but participated in the service."

Prior to the ordination, which was conducted by the local congregation,
Anderson had begged Egertson not to take part. However Egertson "felt
it was time that someone be willing to step out and participate in the
ordination of a lesbian or gay person" despite the fact that the
practice violates church law, the source said.

Egertson, whose son is gay, has long been criticized for his views and
practices. Prior to his election as a bishop in 1995 he had been pastor
of a North Hollywood congregation that was predominantly gay and
lesbian and he took part in the blessing of same-sex unions there, the
source said.

"He was extremely selective about it. Because it was a policy of the
congregation that their pastor do those services he did a couple but he
has not done any during the time he has been bishop," the source said.
Some church officials were upset about his participation in those
services.

As a result, when he was elected bishop, Egertson agreed in writing to
resign if he ever felt led by his conscience to break church law. The
source said Anderson now has asked him to abide by his promise.

"Bishop Anderson on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Council of
Bishops is saying that we require you to do what you said you would
do," the source said.

Egertson was ordained as a pastor in 1960. In 1995 he became bishop of
the five-county Southern California synod which includes 140 churches,
275 ministers and 45,955 members.

His term in Southern California expires Aug. 31, and he had not planned
to seek reelection at that time, the source said. Egertson was
unavailable for comment on Wednesday.

The Lutheran Church is one of several mainstream U.S. denominations
struggling with mounting pressure to defy traditional church teachings
by ordaining openly gay people as ministers and blessing same-sex
unions in official church ceremonies.

Last summer Presbyterian Church leaders meeting in Long Beach, Calif.,
voted to bar ministers from blessing gay unions, calling the practice
contrary to "God's intention."

The Episcopal Church of the United States of America is also seriously
divided over the homosexuality issue.

Although not officially sanctioned by the U.S. Episcopal Church polity
more than half of its 108 dioceses already engage in same-sex union
rites, which has raised the ire of conservatives, and entire
congregations have left the church.

Last summer at its triennial convention Episcopal leaders voted to
recognize same-sex relationships in a pastoral sense, a move which was
widely believed to be a victory for those who support gay unions and
the full participation of openly gay clergy in the church.

The issue has also caused a rift in the worldwide Anglican communion
from which 2.5 million U.S. Episcopalians take direction.

END




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