Evangelical Lutheran theologians propose support for same-sex couples

Two theologians say the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America should consider approving same-sex couples in a new anthology commissioned by presidents of the denomination's eight seminaries.

Deciding a policy on homosexuals is the most divisive issue facing the denomination of 5 million members, which is awaiting a 2005 report from a study panel.

The panel's director, James Childs Jr. of Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, compiled the anthology, "Faithful Conversation."

Mark A. Powell of the Columbus seminary wrote that the Bible's view of heterosexual unions as "God's original design does not of itself rule out the possibility of the church recognizing the legitimacy of some homosexual unions."

Powell believes Jesus favored "mercy and compassion" and the church should grant "exceptions" to the Bible's heterosexual model. He reads the Genesis story of the creation of Eve as meaning that no one should be alone.

Martha Ellen Stortz of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif., wrote that same-sex relationships "should be supported by the church" if they express faithfulness and other Christian values.

However an article by the Rev. James A. Nestingen of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., says Protestant founders kept Catholicism's "universal condemnation of homosexual practices" and change would isolate Lutherans from fellow Christians who support this "ecumenical consensus."

Nestingen was second runner-up in 2001 elections for head of the denomination.