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Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries

St. Paul-Reformation Responds To Lifting Of Sanctions

January 16, 2003

It is with appreciation that St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church received the news that the Rev. Peter Rogness, Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod, has lifted the sanctions imposed on our congregation on September 1, 2001. Bishop Mark Hanson placed St. Paul-Reformation under censure and admonition because of our congregation's decision to call and ordain Anita C. Hill, a lesbian woman in a committed life partnership, as a pastor. This decision was made after long consideration and appeal within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America because of our conviction that the requirement of the ELCA that no gay or lesbian person can be called and ordained as a pastor in the church if that person is in a committed same-gender relationship is unjust and restrictive of our mission.

The censure and admonition which was received in 2001 did not sever St. Paul-Reformation's official relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and allowed us to continue as voting members of the Synod assembly, as participants in the Urban Strategy and in matters pertaining to the discussion of ministry with gay and lesbian persons. However, the sanctions which were applied meant that our pastors and laity were precluded from holding office in the Synod, from serving on any committees or boards, or to be elected as synod representatives.

St. Paul-Reformation has continued to participate in and support the work of the ELCA. The congregation contributes financially to the benevolence of the Synod and ELCA.

St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church deeply appreciates the fact that the Saint Paul Area Synod in Assembly in May 2002 voted to ask our new Bishop to lift the censure against the congregation. Now, Bishop Rogness has given this sensitive consideration and has decided to lift the sanctions, thus allowing the congregation's pastors and laity to serve on Synod and ELCA groups and to have members elected as ELCA Churchwide Assembly voting members.

Bishop Rogness has indicated his conviction that there is a need greater openness and freedom to talk together about difficult issues in the church. He said that he realizes that each congregation may have special needs in terms of mission and ministry which may mean that congregations will occasionally color outside the lines of the rules of the church.

In particular, Bishop Rogness wrote: "some congregations see a need for public ministry by persons who are gay or lesbian, whose conduct parallels the standards expected of heterosexual clergy." He continued, "the church may best served by some discerning flexibility."

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is currently in a process of studying the matter of ordination of gay and lesbian persons and of issues surrounding blessing of persons in same-gender relationships. The congregation is hopeful that the decision to lift the sanctions against St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church will send a signal that the ELCA needs to allow congregations and church-wide offices to engage wholeheartedly in life-giving ministry with gay and lesbian persons and allow for their full participation and leadership in the life of the church as clergy and lay persons.

100 North Oxford Street
St. Paul, Minnesota 55104
E-mail: STPAULREF@aol.com
Website: www.stpaulref.org

CONTACT: Paul A. Tidemann, Pastor

Full Story from the Miami Herald