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BOWLING GREEN Bishop Marcus Lohrmann yesterday laid out several major challenges facing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including continued controversies over homosexuality and a desire to become more multicultural.
The church has always had to wrestle with hard issues, the bishop said in his annual report to 550 delegates attending a two-day assembly of the Northwest Ohio Synod the regional body of 188 ELCA churches held on the Bowling Green State University campus.
Today delegates will decide whether the synod supports existing ELCA policies banning ordination of noncelibate gay and lesbian clergy and forbidding the blessing of same-sex unions.
The vote will not set policy for the synod, but results will be forwarded to the national ELCA, along with those from the other 64 U.S. synods, as the denomination prepares for its biennial churchwide assembly in Orlando in August.
The local resolution, submitted by the Rev. Raymond Vance of Zion Lutheran Church in Huron, Ohio, recommends the 5.1-million member denomination take a strong and unequivocal stance against blessing gay unions or ordaining homosexual clergy who are not celibate.
It cites an ELCA task force s 1993 report that said, There is no scriptural or traditional support for either blessing of same-gender unions or rostering [ordaining] of persons in committed gay or lesbian relationships.
The delegates were scheduled to debate the resolution this morning and possibly consider amendments or newly introduced alternative resolutions.
Bishop Lohrmann, 54, who was re-elected at last year s assembly to a second six-year term as head of the 107,000 members of the northwest Ohio synod, did not take a stand on the resolution during his address.
But he did say he was concerned only 40 percent of the synod s 188 congregations have held discussions on homosexuality during the last six years.
He also said he was disappointed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has not been effective in reaching out to those who are not like us, largely white and middle class.
Saying he was profoundly disappointed that the synod council had to halt a recent project to establish a multicultural worshipping community, he said a new Ethnic Mission Strategy Team has been formed to find ways to bolster the church s outreach to persons of color, particularly African-Americans and Latinos.
Bishop Lohrmann also lamented a drop in donations for mission projects for the third year in a row, forcing the synod to make what he termed potentially devastating cuts to Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Lutheran Campus Ministry, mission opportunity grants, and other ministries.