Prospect of gay bishop unsettles German ProtestantsJune 20th, 2008 - 11:01 am ICT by IANS
By Mike Swanson
Berlin, June 20 (DPA) Germany’s Lutheran Church has become embroiled in a debate over whether to elect its first openly gay bishop. Conservatives say the candidacy of Horst Gorski, 51, could lead to divisions within the church, the way it has in other faiths around the world.
Gorski, an archdeacon in Hamburg, is one of two candidates for a bishopric in Schleswig, northern Germany. He is running against local cleric Gerhard Ulrich in an election slated for July 12.
They are vying to replace incumbent Bishop Hans Christian Knuth, who retires in September.
Launching his candidacy at St Nicholas’ Church in Kiel this week, Gorski spoke about religious values, but made no reference to his sexual preferences.
Gorski, founder of an organization for gay and lesbian clergy, said he did not believe being gay should be an issue.
But others disagree. Retired pastor Dieter Mueller, a member of a Lutheran bible circle, said electing Gorski could destroy the church’s credibility in the Christian world.
Gorski said there had been initial misgivings about his homosexuality when he took up his church post in Hamburg, “but after a few years it was no longer an issue.”
His main concern today, he said, was that the Church should find a language that communicated with people.
The Lutheran Church, one of several branches of Protestantism, was founded by Martin Luther in the 16th century. Currently there are around 25.4 million Lutherans in Germany.
Schleswig is part of an independent regional church, the North of the Elbe Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Friedemann Green, vice president of the synod, which will choose the new bishop, said both candidates were eminently qualified for the job.
“It is regrettable that some people find homosexuality an obstacle,” he told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.
Green was supported by Norbert Radzanowski, spokesman for the North Elbe synod, which sanctioned the ordination of homosexual pastors in the mid-1990s.
“The same criteria applies without reservation to the post of bishop,” he said.
In 2007, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said it would consider gay candidates for ordination who are in committed same-sex relationships.
The issue has also divided the Worldwide Anglican Communion, which numbers 73 million members, particularly after the US Episcopal Church confirmed an openly gay bishop five years ago.
Maria Jepsen, who was elected the world’s first female Lutheran bishop in 1992, said she did not believe relations with other churches would suffer if a gay bishop were elected.
“There are differences with the Catholic Church, she said. “But these are basic issues related to functions and do not have anything to do with sexual orientation.”