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12 June 2013

LGBT for the ELCA

Correction (7:02 PM): Errantly typed ELCA instead of LCMS below where noted.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), one of the most confusingly named religious denominations ever, has elected its first openly gay bishop. You can read more about it here and here. I just wanted to add a bit of personal reflection to the conversation. I grew up in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), the conservative evangelical prodigal brother to the ELCA. (I'm now an Episcopalian via Catholicism.) As a kid, I heard a lot of bizarre stuff in and around church about homosexuality and the ELCA, independently. The ELCA, I was taught, were a bunch of ineffectual, anything-goes liberals who had lost their spiritual way. Generally, it was agreed that those folks weren't going to heaven. I also witnessed a lot of homophobia. I mean this in the true sense of the word in that people--mostly heterosexual married men--were afraid of gay men being attracted to them. It really was, in my experience, that most folks at my church weren't so much intolerant or hateful as they were irrationally frightened. From those with a "traditional" patriarchal view of masculinity, men aggressively pursued what they wanted without much regard to the subjective desires of those they were pursing. In this way, their homophobic reactions were an extension of their cultural--and religiously rationalized--views of gender. What is tragic to me is how long it took me to hear alternative ideas about religion and sexuality, being enveloped in this particular religious subculture. I was well into high school and college before I truly was able to appreciate the backwardness of what the ELCA LCMS was selling. While I am no longer Lutheran, I am quite happy to see the ELCA continue their progress as well as to see that progress garnering media attention.

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