Dutch Protestant church leaders have tilted to more liberal views in recent decades in an attempt to keep pace with society, according to a recent report by the Associated Press. Six months after the Netherlands Reformed Church, the distinct Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, and the nations small Lutheran Church merged to form the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the new church announced that it would grant blessings to gay couples and permit female pastors.
Though the Protestant Church in the Netherlands said that it would not force local congregations to accept gay couples blessed by the church, the new decision did not sit well with conservation factions in the three churches, according to AP. At least 15,000 members refused to join the new church and have formed a breakaway group.
It is a scenario that is all but unfamiliar in recent years, and an issue that has surfaced across many congregations in many places.
Most recently, the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles, Jon Bruno, announced that he would stop blessing same sex unions, in an attempt to win back three conservative breakaway churches that broke ties with the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) because of vast theological differences on issues such as homosexuality.
In June, the Southern Baptist Conventionthe largest U.S. Protestant body with 16.3 million membersvoted to quit the Baptist World Alliance to protest a perceived liberal shift that included support of female pastors and gay-friendly congregations.
And even in nations such as New Zealand, where the Presbyterian Church voted to ban the ordination of active homosexuals in all its leadership positions during the Churchs general assembly on Sept. 24, the issue of gay clergy has divided the Church for decades. Similar to its counterpart in the U.S., the Presbyterian Church USA, the New Zealand church suffered membership losses because of its midway stance on the issue.
In January 2005, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, whose policy states that ordained ministers are to refrain from engaging in homosexual sexual relationships, will release a four-year study that primarily deals with the blessing of same-gender unions and the rostering of persons in committed gay or lesbian relationships.