A gay clergyman in Germany is standing for election as Bishop of Schleswig.
Horst Gorski, 51, is a member of the Lutheran Church in Germany (EKD).
There is one other candidate in the July 12th election.
If chosen he could open a schism within the EKD, claim some leading conservatives.
30% of Germans are members of the church.
Some of the 23 member churches in the denomination bless same-sex couples.
Ulrich Ruess, a Hamburg pastor, told Die Welt newspaper:
“Many members of the community would have little understanding for a bishop with this kind of lifestyle.”
If elected he would become the first gay bishop in the EKD, which is a federation of regional Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant churches.
His election could create a rift similar to those caused by the question of gay clergy and same-sex unions in several other worldwide faiths, most prominently the Anglican Communion.
However Maria Jepsen, who was elected as the world’s first female Lutheran bishop in 1992, said she did not believe relations with other churches would suffer if a gay bishop were elected.
Gorski is a widely respected theologian who founded a centre for gay and lesbian pastors.
Launching his candidacy in Kiel this week, Gorski spoke about religious values and made no reference to his sexuality, reports Reuters.
Gorski previously stated there had been initial misgivings about his homosexuality when he took up a post as an archdeacon, “but after a few years it was no longer an issue.”
His main concern today, he said, was that the Church should find a language that communicated with people.