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Minnesota same-sex marriage: A Lutheran congregation in East Grand Forks decides

George Kelley, congregational president at Family of God Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, says the congregation is still deciding whether to allow same-sex marriages to be conducted at the church. Photo by John Stennes/Grand Forks Herald.

As a law legalizing same-sex marriage goes into effect Thursday, Family of God Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks is deciding whether it will allow such marriages to be conducted in the church.

The congregation of about 75 members is currently undergoing a lengthy discernment process, according to congregational president George Kelley. A vote most likely will take place in January.

"Personally, I would hope that our church would eventually conduct ceremonies there," he said. "But until somebody actually asks to use the sanctuary, or asks our pastor to perform a service, it's kind of a non-issue for us right now."

Family of God is considered to be particularly accepting of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered. In June, it became the first church in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Northwest Minnesota Synod to be labeled a "Reconciling in Christ" congregation by Reconciling Works, a group comprised of ELCA members seeking to make the church more accepting of all people.

The label means the congregation "actively welcomes everyone into the fullness of God's love regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation or other station in life."

Kelley said the new Minnesota law gives churches the right to decide whether to conduct same-sex marriages.

"The law... actually divides it out, between pastors and churches," he said. "So, in our case, (our pastor) could go and do a wedding as a minister, maybe in a park or another location. But she wouldn't be allowed to do it in our church until our church votes on it."

On the other hand, he said, a congregation can choose to allow same-sex marriage ceremonies in its church, but its pastor may decide not to perform the ceremony.

Whether Family of God ever receives a marriage request from a same-sex couple, Kelley said he is confident the congregation's discussions will be insightful and respectful.