Colorado Lutherans divided over baptism of lesbian couple's son

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2003

DURANGO, Colo. (AP) A dispute over the baptism of a lesbian couple's son has divided a Lutheran congregation and prompted departures of 60 members from both sides.

The conflict erupted last summer after the Rev. Darin Johnson, associate pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, baptized the boy. Critics felt Johnson's reference to the couple as the boy's parents violated the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's teaching against homosexual activity.

Johnson said members who objected to the baptism disagreed more with the congregation's view that the Bible is not infallible than its policy on homosexuality.

While conservatives left, gay members were also upset. A former president of the congregation's council, herself a lesbian, called the dispute ''a modern witch hunt.''

Johnson said the church has attracted about the same number of members it lost and ''our identity as a place that welcomes all people, period, is much stronger.''

Former member Harold Steinhoff said he accepted lesbians who joined the church but ''homosexual behavior was not within God's will according to Scripture.''

The Lutheran denomination is formally studying whether to accept same-sex unions and the ordination of gays and lesbians.

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