Gay pastor becomes unlikely hero

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ATLANTA - The tattered cloth scraps started arriving at St. John's Lutheran Church shortly after the Rev. Bradley Schmeling took his stand against the church hierarchy, each with an embroidered or drawn message of support.

The Rev. Bradley Schmeling, of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta, was ordered to leave the pulpit after admitting to a gay relationship. He refused and is currently appealing the order.  Associated Press
Associated Press
The Rev. Bradley Schmeling, of St. John's Lutheran Church in Atlanta, was ordered to leave the pulpit after admitting to a gay relationship. He refused and is currently appealing the order.

"God is with you. Make fire in Atlanta," reads one of the hundreds of prayer cloths. "All love is holy," says another.

The Rev. Schmeling's refusal last year to resign after telling a church bishop he was in a gay relationship has earned him a following.

More than 1,000 supporters joined an online prayer vigil to back the Rev. Schmeling while a disciplinary committee was making its decision to defrock him and order him to vacate his pulpit by Aug. 15. He's appealing the order.

Since the panel's ruling, his congregation's membership has spiked and he came in fourth in the election for the region's next Lutheran bishop.

He was even chosen grand marshal for Sunday's annual gay pride parade in Atlanta, one of the nation's largest gay pride festivals.

"I'm a little embarrassed by all the attention," he said Saturday. "But I feel like it's a chance for me to witness for a church that's open, accepting and loving to everyone. So many churches have only harsh and negative words for gay and lesbian people."

He said that when he became pastor of St. John's seven years ago his gay lifestyle was no secret to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He was single then, and he said he told Bishop Ronald Warren he'd come forward if his situation changed.

The change came in March 2006, when the Rev. Schmeling decided his relationship with his boyfriend had become a lifelong partnership. He told Bishop Warren, and the bishop promptly asked him to resign.

Bishop Warren called a disciplinary hearing, and the 12-member committee decided that church rules left them no choice but to defrock the Rev. Schmeling and order him out of the pulpit. The denomination's policy excludes gay, bisexual and transgender persons in relationships from the ordained ministry.

However, the committee also angered Bishop Warren by suggesting the church consider reinstating gay clergy forced to step down because of their relationships. It said that, aside from his relationship, the Rev. Schmeling has proved he is worthy of his title.

The denomination could consider making such a change at its churchwide assembly starting Aug. 6 in Chicago.

Church leaders will meet this week to sort through 119 proposals, and roughly half are related to gay and lesbian matters, said John Brooks, a spokesman for the denomination.

"I know of proposals that have come forth arguing the church should change its policy, others saying they don't want a change in policy and others saying we shouldn't deal with this at all," he said. "The church is certainly not of one mind on this."

The Rev. Schmeling won't predict what will happen.

"We're still praying that the church will do the right thing and change the policy. If not, we haven't wanted to speculate," he said. "That's what this process is teaching us: How to live in the moment."

His congregation has stood by him during the dispute.

"From the beginning, the congregation has been very supportive of him - and wanting the church to be inclusive of all people," said Barbara Arne, a 25-year member of the congregation who led the committee that selected the Rev. Schmeling seven years ago.

"Just based on our own congregation, it's quite clear to me that there's a great need for Schmeling's message," she said. "We've had a lot of members that have been very badly hurt by the church, and you'd like to think the church is a place you can turn to for support, no matter who you are."

At a meeting of southeastern Lutheran leaders in Atlanta this month, the Rev. Schmeling joined about 60 colleagues in an election to replace the bishop, who is retiring.

"I told them I yearn for a church that's accepting to everyone," the Rev. Schmeling recalled. "And I hope for a church that could be a model for remaining united even in the face of deep disagreement."

After his surprising fourth-place finish in that election, he said he's now more confident than he was a few months ago.

"I pray the change in policy will come this summer," he says. "But if it doesn't, I know it will come one day."

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pofwe
5
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pofwe 06/25/07 - 08:11 am
0
0
Hero my eye. Closer to a zero

Hero my eye. Closer to a zero since he is in a position of leadership.I'm not a Lutheran, or a homosexual. Though I call myself a Christian it would be difficult to prove in a court of law. But I know that someone whom is living a lifestyle that is sinful, (Romans 1:27), is not the person God says should lead the congregation. Let us worship God, NOT a flesh & blood corrupted figurehead. I know that I myself am not worthy to lead God's people while commiting sins that defile his word. "Pulpit Queer," just doesn't sound like a title for a CHURCH pastor. Pray for me as I pray for you.

keepinitreal
0
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keepinitreal 06/25/07 - 08:38 am
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Yes pofwe, I agree with you.

Yes pofwe, I agree with you. If the Lord say's not to, then you should not, be it that he is gay, he needs to step down as a spiritual leader and be a regular person, not to say it is still acceptable in the Lord's eyes if a person is gay, but to be in a LEADERSHIP position is fatal because of misguidance and mixed emotions. He may be true to the religion, but not true to obedience of God's laws.

brown
0
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brown 06/25/07 - 08:39 am
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I'll pray for you, pofwe.

I'll pray for you, pofwe. I'll pray that God doesn't hate the same people that you do.

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/25/07 - 08:44 am
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Christ did love all kinds of

Christ did love all kinds of people but he hated their sin. If Mr. Schmeling is truely a child of God he is going against Christ teachings. It states in the bible that homosexuality is a sin. Mr. Schmeling's sin can be forgiven but he does not need to be in a position of leadership. If he continues to live in sin it's like throwing it up in God's face. He alone will have to answer to his maker on Judgement Day and we as Christian brothers and sisters need to be praying for him and his followers.

greenhulk1980
0
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greenhulk1980 06/25/07 - 08:59 am
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I love how all these people

I love how all these people like to make statements picking and choosing what parts of scripture they believe. God detests sexual immorality and perversion. Scripture clearly states this. Homosexuals are welcome to attend church but not lead in any way shape or form.

sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 06/25/07 - 09:08 am
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All of you ignorant gay

All of you ignorant gay hating homophobes are going to lose in the long run. Not only in this life but maybe the after life as well. Society's views towards gays is much more accepting, tolerant, and compassionate, and I believe a loving God is as well, than your closed minded bigoted beliefs.

curly123053
4222
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curly123053 06/25/07 - 09:21 am
0
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This is a true disgrace to

This is a true disgrace to the Holy Bible of God !! Yes, God loves us all, but He also wants us to live the life He has laid out for us in the Holy Bible. God specifically states that this type of lifestyle is sinful without exceptions. The Bible is NOT a "politically correct" document. It is a "morally correct" document inspired by God and he expects us all to follow His book as a whole. We cannot tear pages and verses out of the Bible and claim those don't pertain to us. We have got to accept God's Word as a whole.

bone
23
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bone 06/25/07 - 09:37 am
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sjgraci, i am no student of

sjgraci, i am no student of religion and i have expressed my views on gay rights several times in the past few days regarding the srw gay pride day. as much as i support your opinion that many of the posters who will weigh in on this topic are gay hating homophobes who demonstrate very little christian love & charity, a gay priest probably violates the tenants of lutheran priesthood. i'm way out of my depth on this one 'cause i really don't know much about the evangelical lutheran church; are they similar to episcopals in their tolerance for gay clergy?

critter
2
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critter 06/25/07 - 09:48 am
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Wow, "pulpit queer"? I'm sure

Wow, "pulpit queer"? I'm sure Jesus would approve of that particular title that you dreamed up.

BoldTruth
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BoldTruth 06/25/07 - 09:52 am
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It is amazing how people will

It is amazing how people will use GOD's Love to justify their life-style. In no uncertain terms does anyone committing sin, especially openly, should be able to lead GOD's people. This is not a matter of hating anyone, it is a matter of honoring GOD's Word and hating SIN.

BoldTruth
0
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BoldTruth 06/25/07 - 09:59 am
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sjgraci, I do not go with

sjgraci, I do not go with what society accepts, I go with what the Word of GOD says. Rom. 12: 1-2, I beseech you therefore brothers, by the mercies of GOD, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto GOD which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this word, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of GOD.

NEone
6
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NEone 06/25/07 - 10:01 am
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The church itself started

The church itself started this one. Why allow a pastor to lead when he has been open about his lifestyle that is anti-biblical? Waiting until he is "in a relationship" was their mistake. If he wasn't willing to live biblically, then he should not have been called as anyone's pastor. Also, it seems like there only two extremes in people's minds: Either stone the deviants for their behavior or welcome anything and everything, with no sense of right and wrong. How about some middle ground, where we speak the truth IN LOVE, but maintain some standards God himself set up?

getoverit1
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getoverit1 06/25/07 - 10:12 am
0
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God leaves no room for wonder

God leaves no room for wonder in his word. The living Bible. He tells us it is wrong for same sex relationships no matter how much the world will tolerate or justify. We are not here to judge just minister to the lost, in hopes that they find happiness in the same God that we do. Sunday our preacher talked about our purpose, we were not created by God and put on this earth for our pleasure. But that is often times the way we like to live.

kai@reasontostand.org
1
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kai@reasontostand.org 06/25/07 - 10:22 am
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Society can embrace any

Society can embrace any number of things that aren't nessicarially good or moral. Just ask anyone from the Third Reich, Communist Russia, or China.

When did we abandon the concept of an objective moral standard that is outside of ourselves that we ought to uphold rather than redefine?

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 06/25/07 - 10:28 am
0
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Most Christian denominations

Most Christian denominations do not accept, based on their canons and doctrine, homosexuals in positions of leadership or authority. Exceptions that I know of are the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ. For the rest, the issue, once again, is not who attracts you or turns you on , but is about engaging in sex outside of marriage. Since marriage in the church, even the pitiable Episcopal Church, still is only between a man and a woman, well, no need to explain further. It's not unloving, bigotted or ignorant to prohibit gays from leading a church where the rules forbid it. And it doesn't shown a rejection of gays as people in any other capacity except as leaders/pastors/priests, and spouses. They can be Christians, and hopefully would be. They just aren't given a pass to have sex with anyone but the person of the opposite sex whom they marry. Doing otherwise is a sin not different than adultery or fornication. Notorious sinners (ie, known drunkards, pedophiles, thieves, adulterers...), once recognized as such aren't allowed to mislead others in matters of the faith. They just aren't.

sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 06/25/07 - 10:55 am
0
0
So our society is not

So our society is not "accepting, tolerant, and compassionate"? Those "aren't nessicarially good or moral" "things"??? It is hateful intollerant societies like the" Third Reich, Communist Russia, (and) China" that imprisoned and put to death their fellow humans that they hated and were intolerant of. Some of you so-called "Christians" would be better off living in such a society.

kokousa
0
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kokousa 06/25/07 - 10:59 am
0
0
Forget about the religious

Forget about the religious aspect of homosexuality, it’s just not natural for 2 men to have sex together. The hole that is being used is for releasing “WASTE” from the body, not procreation. “That’s not natural.”

cwwjake
1
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cwwjake 06/25/07 - 10:59 am
0
0
I don't know but I see some

I don't know but I see some humor in this article. First, his name. Secondly, the fact that his denomination wants to "defrock" him, which I think he would probably enjoy.

Manuel_Izturis
0
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Manuel_Izturis 06/25/07 - 11:24 am
0
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This case is just another

This case is just another example of moral relativism running amok and undermining Biblical instruction. Why, can you imagine that just yesterday I saw someone, in clear violation of Leviticus 19:19, take communion while dressed in a garment mingled of linen and woolen? As Mr. (or Ms.) Curly commands us, we cannot just pick out which parts of the Bible to follow.

LynxRHot
0
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LynxRHot 06/25/07 - 11:35 am
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In the end, God's word will

In the end, God's word will prevail. Personally, I am tired of being referred to as a bigot simply because I oppose homosexuality.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
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WorriedAboutOurFuture 06/25/07 - 11:42 am
0
0
"Accepting, tolerant and

"Accepting, tolerant and compassionate" Episcopalians were so tolerant and accepting that the homosexual agenda totally destroyed that beautiful, old denomination in this country. The Episcopal Church is no longer considered Christian by the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion. For some of us, it was a very big deal, having the basic tenets of the faith disavowed or redefined so that a very few could have homosexual sex. It was all that homosexual activists could have hoped for. It’s also what is on the agenda for every mainline denomination if the pew-sitters are as inattentive as Episcopalians were. Co-opting all of Christendom would be quite a feather.

Manuel_Izturis
0
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Manuel_Izturis 06/25/07 - 11:50 am
0
0
All heed

All heed WorriedAboutOurFuture's warnings about "the homosexual agenda": they'll have us all drinking diet soda and watching "Will & Grace" if we're not careful.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 06/25/07 - 11:53 am
0
0
No church that isn't in

No church that isn't in heresy teaches that sex is only for procreation. From the beginning, sex has had two functions: for procreation AND to enhance the union of husband and wife (ie, for their mutual pleasure). By biological design of our organism, both aspects are intended to be present AS POSSIBLITIES whenever someone engages in sex, not that both or even either are present every single time. That's the main idea behind the Catholic prohibition of artificial birth control. There's something about being at least open to what God may have in mind for us and our marriages and family that informs any understanding of legitimate sex. Unfortunately, most westerners, well-represented in this forum, don't seem to have much interest in what God may want for us in this area.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 06/25/07 - 11:54 am
0
0
MANUEL: Do you actually think

MANUEL: Do you actually think there isn't a homosexual agenda at work in mainline denominations in this country?

Manuel_Izturis
0
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Manuel_Izturis 06/25/07 - 12:03 pm
0
0
WORRIED: I certainly do, and

WORRIED: I certainly do, and it began with the shift from ministers wearing flowing robes to tight, figure-hugging suits.

WorriedAboutOurFuture
16
Points
WorriedAboutOurFuture 06/25/07 - 12:04 pm
0
0
lol.

lol.

kokousa
0
Points
kokousa 06/25/07 - 12:15 pm
0
0
johnrdupree, you sound like

johnrdupree, you sound like another person who is trying to justify homosexual behavior. Sexual perversion by anyone is unacceptable to me. Homosexuals attempt to justify their behavior by either saying it's a civil rights issue (WHICH IT IS NOT) or that other people (heterosexuals) are doing the same thing. The bottom line for me is that it is disgusting for 2 men to be doing that act period! It’s (RECTUM) still a “EXIT WOUND, and NOT A ENTRANCE”.

norviel
0
Points
norviel 06/25/07 - 12:25 pm
0
0
"All love is holy", let's

"All love is holy", let's call it what it really is "Lust" and it is the kind of lust God calls an abomination...forever!

critter
2
Points
critter 06/25/07 - 12:27 pm
0
0
Damn. Didn't get the most

Damn. Didn't get the most recent copy of my homosexual agenda this year. Must've overlooked that table, or maybe they had given away all of the copies by the time I got there.....those agendas go fast!

jmoval0315
2
Points
jmoval0315 06/25/07 - 12:28 pm
0
0
Why does everyone care so

Why does everyone care so much about this.

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