Seven pastors from the San Francisco Bay area who were barred from serving in the nation's largest Lutheran group because of a policy that required gay clergy to be celibate have been welcomed back to the denomination.
St. Francis Lutheran Church, a San Francisco congregation that was removed from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1995 for defying a ban on pastors in same-sex relationships, voted Sunday morning to rejoin the national church after it ended the ban.
In a ceremony Sunday afternoon, six pastors were added to the clergy roster. Another pastor who was expelled from the church, but was later reinstated, also took part in the service.
The group is among the first gay, bisexual or transgender Lutheran pastors to be reinstated or added to the rolls of the ELCA since the organization voted last year to lift the policy requiring celibacy.