Lutheran ministers who are in same-sex relationships will not be allowed to serve as clergy in United Methodist congregations despite the new full communion agreement between the two denominations.
Bishop Gregory Palmer, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, made clear on Wednesday that UMC's ban on noncelibate gay clergy still stands.
"Our Book of Discipline on that subject did not become null and void when they took that vote," said Palmer, according to the United Methodist News Service. "It still applies to United Methodist clergy."
Palmer was referring to the highly publicized vote last week by the chief legislative body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to approve a resolution allowing gays and lesbians in "life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships" to be ordained.
The controversial vote took place a day after ELCA delegates overwhelmingly adopted a full communion agreement with The United Methodist Church.
Full communion is not tantamount to a merger, church officials said. Instead, under the pact each church acknowledges the other as a partner in the Christian faith, recognizes the authenticity of each other's baptism and Eucharist, and is committed to working together toward greater unity.
The two denominations also express mutual recognition of ordained ministers for service in either church, according to the agreement. Some UMC leaders have already expressed eagerness to share clergy in underserved areas, as reported by the United Methodist News Service.
Although the agreement recognizes full interchangeability of all ordained ministers, UMC congregations will not be accepting partnered homosexuals from the ELCA.
As Palmer stressed, "the doctrine, polity and standards of ministry of the respective denominations in any full communion agreement are not wiped out when one denomination does something."
Last year, the highest legislative body of The United Methodist Church rejected changes to its constitution and voted to uphold its ban against the ordination of practicing homosexuals. United Methodists continue to hold that homosexual practice is "incompatible with Christian teaching."
Michael Trice, an ecumenical officer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, noted that if partnered homosexuals in the ELCA want to serve in a United Methodist congregation, The United Methodist Church can say to them "we are sorry but that does not fit our protocols."
"Unity does not require uniformity in all cases," said Trice. "It requires faithfulness to the Gospel, honesty with our Christian partners, and wherever we can share a sense of mission and service in the world."
The agreement with the ELCA is UMC's first full communion relationship outside the Methodist tradition. The ELCA, meanwhile, has full communion pacts with The Episcopal Church, Moravian Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ.