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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with approximately 3.8 million members, has passed repeated resolutions to welcome LGBTQ people since 1991.
Of the three leading Lutheran organizations operating in the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is considered the most welcoming and inclusive of LGBTQ members. Formed in 1988 with the merger of three smaller Lutheran organizations, the ELCA is based in Chicago and encompasses nearly 10,000 congregations and more than 3.8 million members across the country.
Churchwide Assemblies are held every three years, with elected representatives establishing policy and addressing the concerns of the larger church body. As stated on the denomination’s web site, the Churchwide Assembly “provides a time and place for growth and change while remaining rooted in Scripture, tradition, Lutheran confessions and the rich histories of our congregations and communities.”
In 1991, the Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution stating that, "Gay and lesbian people, as individuals created by God, are welcome to participate fully in the life of the congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America."
Today, church programs include summer camps and homeless shelters for LGBTQ youth, and pastor participation in the “It Gets Better” campaign. Both Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity have been included in their "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" Social Statement. Social Statements set policy for the ELCA and guide its advocacy and work as a publicly engaged church.
While the Churchwide Assembly has not come to agreement on the issue of marriage equality, the ongoing debate has prompted a policy that gives autonomy to individual ministers and their congregations, resulting in the celebration of same-sex marriages at many ELCA churches across the country.
In 2013, The ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to “encourage all ELCA synods, congregations, and members to add their voices in support of legislation that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” According to the “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” Social Statement, ELCA "supports legislation and policies to protect civil rights and to prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public services."
LGBTQ ministers have been ordained by the ELCA since 2010. However, church policy, like that for same-sex marriage, gives individual congregations autonomy in calling ministers to serve. Women have been ordained in the church since its founding in 1988, and were ordained in the Lutheran churches that formed the ELCA beginning in 1970.
ELCA Churchwide Ministries
8765 W. Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631