Dozens of gay and lesbian clergy and seminarians from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) protested at Chicago's Navy Pier on Tuesday in an effort to persuade ELCA's national assembly to forego the rule that requires homosexual clergy to remain celibate.
The 4.8-million-member denomination is headquartered in Chicago and is holding its tenth biennial Churchwide Assembly meeting here this week.
The protesters distributed a list of 80 pastors and seminarians awaiting a call or already removed from the clergy roster because of the church policy.
Nearly one-third of ELCA's 65 synods (or regional districts) have requested that the celibacy requirement be dropped. The Metropolitan Chicago Synod already welcomes some clergy in same-sex relationships.
Chicago Bishop Paul Landahl attended a worship service Wednesday sponsored by Goodsoil, a coalition of groups working to lift the ELCA's celibacy requirement for gay clergy. A New England bishop led the service.
Another group, called Lutheran CORE, opposes changing the celibacy rule.
The national assembly has not yet debated the issue, but it is on the agenda. A decision may be announced on Friday.
In other ELCA news, the national assembly re-elected Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson on Tuesday to lead the church for another six years.