By Fredrick Nzwili and Kevin Eckstrom
Religion News Service
NAIROBI (RNS/ENI) The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania says it will not accept money or help from groups that allow or support the legalization of same-sex marriages.
"Those in same-sex marriages, and those who support the legitimacy of such marriage, shall not be invited to work in the ELCT," says a statement posted to the church's Web site on April 29. "We further reject their influence in any form, as well as their money and their support."
Church officials referred Ecumenical News International to the presiding bishop of the church, the Rev. Alex Malasusa, but neither he nor the ELCT general secretary Brighton Kilewa could be reached.
The statement comes in advance of the 70-million strong Lutheran World Federation assembly in Stuttgart, Germany, from July 20-27, where homosexuality is expected to be a divisive issue.
"This church affirms that love is the essence of a relationship between two people who live, or who want to live, together in marriage," the church statement said. "But, with regard to married spouses, this is the love between two people of the opposite sex." The Tanzanian church is the world's second-largest Lutheran body after the Church of Sweden, which last October deeply angered Lutherans in Africa by allowing the celebration of same-sex marriages.
Last summer, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lifted restrictions on non-celibate gay clergy, and approved a broad local option for congregations that want to bless same-sex relationships.
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, said he expects to have "honest and open conversations" when he hosts Malasusa at ELCA headquarters in Chicago on May 18. Hanson said the "the ELCA's shared commitment ... to be engaged in God's mission for the sake of the world" remains unchanged.
The Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director of the ELCA's Global Mission department, told ELCA News Service that the ELCA has promised sister churches that it will "continue to be respectful of local policies and practices" when assigning U.S. missionaries overseas.