MINNEAPOLIS (AP) A local leader in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is trying to convince denominational leaders to delay a divisive final vote on homosexuality next year.
Bishop Peter Rogness of the St. Paul Area Synod sent an e-mail to his 425 pastors asking if it would be better to pray about the issue than vote on it. The St. Paul synod is the third-largest in the 5 million-member church.
''Can we agree that living with these differing perspectives for a time might be less harmful for the church?'' Rogness wrote. ''Can we agree that it is more important for us to be a church that prays about these matters than a church that votes about them?''
The ELCA is scheduled to vote at its August 2005 assembly on whether to ordain sexually active gays and authorize an official rite to bless same-sex unions. Church members are bracing for a major confrontation.
The debate over homosexuality has fractured several mainline Protestant denominations, including the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
The Rev. Paul Harrington, pastor of one of the largest congregations in the St. Paul Synod, said, ''I'm very inclined to believe that Peter's right. It doesn't have to come to a point where we vote.''
However, the Rev. Roy A. Harrisville, director of Solid Rock Lutherans, a Minnesota-based national group that opposes ordination of gays and lesbians, disagreed.
''It would be nice if everybody was a winner, and wonderful if the ELCA could remain intact,'' he said. ''But, unfortunately, this issue is something that the church has decided it will tackle. Ignoring the issue isn't going to do anybody any good.''
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