The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America removed Atlanta Pastor Bradley Schmeling from the church’s pastoral roles on Thursday because he is an out gay man.

But according to the Associated Press, the Reverend Schmeling says he won’t leave the pulpit of St. John’s Lutheran Church.

This decision that could open the 350-member congregation to disciplinary action from the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The denomination allows openly-gay clergy as long as they’re celibate.

Speaking for the Human Rights Campaign, Harry Knox, Director of the Religion and Faith Programme, offered the following reaction to this decision:

“We are outraged at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and are hurting for the St. John’s Community.

“The committee has acted to hurt lesbian and gay people and those who love us in the cynical belief that we will simply go away.

“They obviously don’t know us and have forgotten God’s constant love and God’s call to justice. We will not go away.

“In fact, we will be present with Goodsoil and Lutherans Concerned at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and at every Churchwide Assembly from now until the gifts and graces for ministry of all people are both recognised and celebrated.”

Last year, when Schmeling announced he had a gay partner, his bishop asked the pastor to resign. When Schmeling refused, the bishop started disciplinary proceedings.

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