The Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada voted 197-75 to allow individual congregations to decide whether to bless same-sex couples who are committing to lifelong relationships. Opponents tried to reverse the decision at the Waterloo convention because the synod does not have the jurisdiction to conduct the vote. They pointed out that a virtually identical motion was voted down at the church's national convention in Winnipeg last year. The rules allow a synod to ask the National Church Council to refer the issue of jurisdiction to a church court, but
delegates in rejected a motion to ask the National Church Council to consider the matter.
Before a Lutheran pastor can bless a gay couple's union, the pastor must consult the bishop and get a two-thirds majority approval from the congregation.
If the church council decides on its own to refer the jurisdiction question to the church court, pastors will be asked to refrain from blessing couples until there is clarity. But bishops do not have the authority to veto decisions made by synod delegates, so pastors might decide to go ahead. However, it will probably be September before the congregations can meet, discuss and vote on the whether they will allow the blessings.
Rev. Raymond Schultz, the church's national bishop, said he believes jurisdiction over same-sex blessings resides with the national church. He views the Eastern Synod's vote as an act of civil disobedience akin to the civil rights movement in the United States which fought for equal rights for African Americans during the 1950s and 1960s.
I am amazed at how quickly this has changed the ELCIC. My family goes to the ELCIC's church in Elmira. My aunt was a theologian teacher at the Lutheran Seminary in Waterloo. Before she died in 1997, she was researching on Paul's views of homosexuality and the ordination of gays as clergy. If she were she alive, she would not believe how the acceptance of homosexuals in the church has come a long way in a short period of time.