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By Ron Csillag
Religion News Service

Toronto – Despite stern warnings and threats of discipline, a Lutheran church north of Toronto on Friday (May 16) ordained an openly gay man who is legally married to another man.
Lionel Ketola, 45, will now serve as associate pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket, Ontario, and will also assume the non-official title of “ambassador of reconciliation.”
It was the first Lutheran ordination of a non-celibate gay pastor in Canada, following at least 14 such ordinations in the United States.
“It’s a privilege, but it’s about so much more than one individual,”
a beaming Ketola said just before the ordination ceremony, held before a packed church. “It’s about claiming justice within the church.”
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, to which Holy Cross Lutheran belongs, narrowly defeated an attempt last summer to allow churches to bless same-sex unions. It does not allow for the ordination of practicing gay or lesbian clergy.
In the lead-up to the ordination, the bishop for the church’s eastern synod, the Rev. Michael Pryse, warned that Holy Cross would face disciplinary action if the ordination and hiring of Ketola went ahead.
“I am fearful that your actions have the potential to do irreparable damage to the already fragile connecting fabric of our church,” Pryse wrote in one letter posted on the denomination’s Web site.
He also sent a separate letter to Lutheran ministers telling them they would be subject to disciplinary action if they took part in the ordination service in an official capacity.
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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