German lutherans agonise over gay bishop

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A Lutheran church in northern Germany is divided over the candidacy of an openly gay archdeacon for the post of bishop

Berlin -- Germany's Lutheran Church has become embroiled in a debate over whether to elect its first openly gay bishop.

Conservatives say the candidacy of Horst Gorski, 51, could lead to divisions within the church, the way it has in other faiths around the world.

Gorski, an archdeacon in Hamburg, is one of two candidates for a bishopric in Schleswig, northern Germany. He is running against local cleric Gerhard Ulrich in an election on July 12.

They are vying to replace incumbent Bishop Hans Christian Knuth, who retires in September.

Launching his candidacy at St Nicholas' Church in Kiel this week, Gorski spoke about religious values, but made no reference to his sexual preferences.

Gorski, founder of an organization for gay and lesbian clergy, said he did not believe being gay should be an issue.

But others disagree. Retired pastor Dieter Mueller, a member of a Lutheran bible circle, said electing Gorski could destroy the church's credibility in the Christian world.

Gorski said there had been initial misgivings about his homosexuality when he took up his church post in Hamburg, "but after a few years it was no longer an issue."

His main concern today, he said, was that the Church should find a language that communicated with people.

The Lutheran Church, one of several branches of Protestantism, was founded by Martin Luther in the 16th century. Currently there are around 25.4 million Lutherans in Germany.

Schleswig is part of an independent regional church, the North of the Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Friedemann Green, vice president of the synod which will choose the new bishop, said both candidates were eminently qualified for the job.

"It is regrettable that some people find homosexuality an obstacle," he told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.

Green was supported by Norbert Radzanowski, spokesman for the North Elbe synod, which sanctioned the ordination of homosexual pastors in the mid-1990s.

"The same criteria applies without reservation to the post of bishop," he said.

In 2007, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said it would consider gay candidates for ordination who are in committed same-sex relationships.

The issue has also divided the Worldwide Anglican Communion, which numbers 73 million members, particularly after the US Episcopal Church confirmed an openly gay bishop five years ago.

Maria Jepsen, who was elected the world's first female Lutheran bishop in 1992, said she did not believe relations with other churches would suffer if a gay bishop were elected.

"There are differences with the Catholic Church, she said. "But these are basic issues related to functions and do not have anything to do with sexual orientation."

Germany is, in terms of legislation at least, progressive in its attitude to homosexuality. The mayor of Berlin, Klaus Woewereit, is himself openly gay.

3 Comments To This Article

  • Al posted:

    on 24th June 2008, 15:11:32 - Reply

    Rev.Gray, ELCA and Anglican churches also abandoned Biblical and Confessional criteria with regard to women in the ministry and have very lax 'teachings' regarding co-habitation before marriage, homosexuality, etc. There are some American Lutheran groups who still adhere, Missouri Synod, WELS, CLC for example (most trace their roots to the German "Old Lutheran" immigrants post-William III forced merger of Reformed Church/Lutheran Church in Germany) and Anglican groups in Africa. Are there any REAL Lutheran groups left in Germany? Maybe "Old Lutheran" groups who split away during the merger by Prussia of Reformed Church
  • Rev.Denis C. Gray posted:

    on 24th June 2008, 13:29:02 - Reply

    The German Lutheran churches long ago abandoned the Biblical and Confessional criteria to decide issues such as whether women in the ministry is agreeable to God's plan or whether or not homosexual acts are sinfully disordered not to mention the current situation re the candidacy of an openly gay for the office of bishop.
  • Al posted:

    on 22nd June 2008, 15:27:21 - Reply

    This is same problem that is occuring in the ELCA Lutheran Church in America and in the Anglican. There seems to be a concerted effort by militant homosexuals to destroy Christian churches. Oddly, the same homosexual pressure groups allow Islam to spread although Islam is FAR more harsher towards deviance, homosexuality, and women. Yet is allow to spread and be practiced without any repercussions or protest by the homosexual lobby. One wonders why homosexuals seem to have a fixation with the destruction of Christianity but turn a blind eye toward Islam? Perhaps because they know the Christians will roll over and accept them or just give up and the Church leaders are too weak to stand up for their convictions or scriptures.