HRC Blog

Evangelical Lutheran Church Reinstates Two Gay Clergy Members

The following post comes from Harry Knox, Director of HRC's Religion and Faith Program: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) announced today that Pastor Bradley Schmelling of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta, and his partner, Rev. Derin Easler, have been added back to the roster of the denomination’s authorized clergy. So in the words of the old Shaker hymn, things have “come round right”. Pastor Brad became the face of the movement for full inclusion of LGBT clergy in the life of the ELCA when he was removed from the roster after announcing his commitment to Derin several years ago. Under Pastor Brad’s inspired leadership, St. John’s church has blossomed into a vibrant, active and growing congregation in Atlanta’s Druid Hills Neighborhood. St. John’s Church retained Brad as its pastor, despite his removal from the authorized roster. That the denomination would turn its back, by way of a church trial, on Pastor Brad, and St. John’s Church, was a gross example of what its discriminatory policies were costing the ELCA – the marvelous ministry gifts of LGBT clergy eager and ready to serve the mission of the Church. When those policies were changed last summer, the barriers to full utilization of those gifts were removed. Thanks be to God! The Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program was privileged to lend a hand to Pastor Brad and St. John’s Church during the painful period of the denominational trial in 2007. Working with Beth Cope of Talking Heads Media, we provided Pastor Brad and the lay leadership of St. John’s Church with media training that helped them set the rhetorical frames for all communications that related to the trial. Beth helped the congregation maximize media opportunities that educated the nation about what was happening in the ELCA and kept pressure for change on the denomination. We supported the work of Lutherans Concerned North America as they advocated tirelessly for policy change in the ELCA by co-sponsoring conferences in which their members were trained for advocacy using language and approaches that were uniquely Lutheran. HRC is proud to have helped with the end game that culminated years of work on the part of Lutherans Concerned and the Goodsoil coalition. Our esteemed colleague, Emily Eastwood of Lutherans Concerned, was the indefatigable, spirit-filled mastermind behind this successful campaign for change. We salute Emily, Brad and Derin, and the loving members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in this hour of celebration and praise to God for God’s faithfulness. And we salute the people of the ELCA for having wrestled this hard issue for a blessing. They will surely find that blessing in the unleashed ministry of LGBT clergy in years to come.

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