The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest U.S. Lutheran body, narrowly met its two-thirds requirement–by a single vote–to pass a statement on human sexuality that affirmed the validity of "chaste, monogamous and lifelong" same-sex relationships, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The same statement deals with a range of issues related to sexuality, and it seems to provide a place in its pages for those who disagree on biblical grounds with same-sex sexual behavior.
A hurdle easier to clear but possibly more divisive is a vote tomorrow on whether non-celibate same-sex oriented clergy–basically those in committed partnerships–can be hired by Lutheran congregations as pastors. That requires only a majority vote, so is likely to pass. During this week's ELCA assembly, 95 Lutheran ministers came out as GLBT, echoing the 95 Theses Martin Luther posted on the Wittenburg church door.
Though we Catholics don't do things this way (yet?), there's something inviting about the fact that the Lutherans are able to gather, discern, and come to decisions on these issues. We Catholics have only the non-official forums and interest groups we make for ourselves, which I think contributes to greater divisiveness–take a look at any of the comments at any Catholic blog. A moderated assembly of laypeople and clergy gathered to discuss and deliberate issues might go a long way toward informing the bishops of the sense of the faithful.
I doubt those who think the truth comes always from the Vatican will agree with me on this one, but I have a lot of confidence in the Holy Spirit speaking in the faithful, and I wonder if it's not something "conservatives" would welcome every bit as much as "liberals."