The Reformed Church in America adopted a resolution expressing "concern" over the Evangelical Lutheran Church's controversial action to allow partnered homosexuals to be on the clergy roster.
The resolution was approved during the RCA's 204th General Synod, which concluded Tuesday.
It comes nearly a year after the ELCA's highest legislative body voted to permit persons who are in "life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships" to serve as clergy. The ELCA also adopted a social statement on human sexuality, acknowledging that there is no consensus in the denomination on homosexuality and recommending that the ELCA commit itself to finding ways to recognize same-sex relationships.
The Lutheran body's actions have raised a red flag for at least one of its partners. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod – the second largest Lutheran church body after the ELCA – is reconsidering its cooperative relationship with its sister Lutheran denomination.
RCA leaders, however, have voted to dialogue more with the ELCA on the pro-gay actions.
The two denominations have been full communion partners for more than a decade, recognizing each other "as churches in which the Gospel is rightly preached and the sacraments rightly administered according to the Word of God" and providing for the orderly exchange of ordained ministers.
When the ELCA opened the doors to noncelibate gay and lesbian clergy in 2009, the RCA – which currently does not affirm homosexual behavior and holds that it is contrary to the will of God – had no plans to end its relationship with their Lutheran brethren.
"Cutting ties with the ELCA over their Assembly's narrow decision would witness to the world that Christians will fight and divide themselves from one another, and break the bonds of Christian fellowship, over such an ethical difference," RCA spokesman Paul Boice told The Christian Post last year.
Still, the RCA voted to express concern with the actions and to direct a panel to discuss and explore the ELCA's human sexuality statement with representatives from the ELCA "in the spirit of 'mutual affirmation and admonition' called for in the Formula of Agreement." The panel will report on the progress of the dialogue to the General Synod in 2011.
RCA delegates also approved a resolution that invites the ELCA, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ and the Christian Reformed Church to join in a "consultation on the interpretation and use of Scripture in moral discernment and ethical decision making."
The ELCA welcomes the dialogue and invitation, the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, executive of ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, told the ELCA News Service.
Notably, McCoid said that the discussions are not intended to alter the full communion partnership the denominations have.
"In the committee meetings, it was the expressed intention to have a dialogue with the ELCA and other Formula of Agreement partners. There was not any consideration to suspend or change the relationship of the RCA with the ELCA," he said.
The Rev. Douglas Fromm, RCA associate for ecumenical relations, also explained that the decision to adopt the resolutions was "to honor the full communion" relationship.
The RCA, ELCA, UCC and PC(USA) signed the "Formula of Agreement" in 1997 establishing a full communion partnership.
In other business during the General Synod, the RCA adopted the Belhar Confession as the denomination's fourth standard of unity to the Book of Church Order. The last time the church adopted a new standard was more than two centuries ago. Rooted in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the Belhar Confession confronts the sin of racism and affirms unity and reconciliation among Christians.