(RNS) Leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America haveasked for a report on whether an exception can be made to a churchwideban on active homosexuals in the pulpit so that a lesbian could pastor achurch in St. Paul, Minn.

The ELCA, with 5.2 million members, allows celibate homosexuals topastor churches, but prohibits active homosexuals in the clergy. Achurch in St. Paul is asking for an exception to that rule to allow itslay minister to become an ordained pastor.

Anita Hill, pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Church, has led thechurch as a lay pastor for several years. She expects to graduate with adivinity degree soon and wants to become ordained. Hill is in acommitted relationship with another woman.

The St. Paul Area Synod petitioned the ELCA's Church Council, thehighest ranking legislative body outside of churchwide assemblies, toallow an exception to the ban on active homosexuals. The Church Councilmet in Chicago April 7-9 and forwarded the request on to the churchagency that sets standards for the clergy.

Under the current guidelines, church rules state, "Ordainedministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected toabstain from homosexual sexual relationships." The proposed amendment tothat rule states, "Exceptions ... may be granted by the Conference ofBishops. The Conference of Bishops may consult the Division of Ministryconcerning exceptions it seeks to make."

In a vote, church leaders forwarded the proposed change to theDivision of Ministry and asked for an opinion. They will reconsider theissue when the Council meets again in November.

At last year's Churchwide Assembly, the church voted down attemptsto suspend the ban on non-celibate clergy and a similar move to developstrategies for ending the ban.

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