The Lutheran Church in Germany could elect its first openly homosexual bishop, prompting claims that the move would alienate many Christians and open new divisions in the Lutheran Church.
Horst Gorski, a senior cleric from Hamburg, being considered for the post of bishop of Schleswig in northern Germany against Gerhard Ulrich, a senior cleric from the Schleswig area, according to Reuters. The post will become vacant in September.
According to Reuters, Gorski is a widely respected theologian who has helped set up a center for gay and lesbian Lutheran pastors.
Critics of Gorski’s candidacy argue his election as a bishop would alienate many German Christians.
"Many members of the community would have little understanding for a bishop with this kind of lifestyle," Ulrich Ruess, a pastor in the northern city of Hamburg, told Die Welt newspaper.
Election committee member Bishop Maria Jepsen, the world's first woman Lutheran bishop, defended Gorski’s candidacy, saying both candidates were “experienced provosts” who have “excelled in their localities.”
The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which represents nearly 69 million Christians in 140 church bodies in 78 countries, said it would not involve itself in the episcopal election because it has no common stand on homosexuality.
Last year the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest U.S. Lutheran body, said it would allow homosexual clergy in same-sex relationships to serve as pastors.