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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian Lutheran church was proceeding on Friday with plans to ordain a gay pastor who is married to another man, despite warnings it would be violating church teachings and would be disciplined.
It will be the first Lutheran ordination of a gay pastor in Canada, following 14 such ordinations in the United States, according to the Toronto-area church that will employ the man, Lionel Ketola, as an associate pastor.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Canada, though the issue of gay unions or hiring gay ministers has been a divisive one for many church organizations.
Battles over homosexuality have divided the Anglican church in Canada and worldwide and have also been prominent in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the denomination involved in this case.
It is Canada's largest and most liberal Lutheran denomination, but it narrowly defeated an attempt last summer to allow churches to bless same-sex unions and it does not allow for the ordination of practicing homosexuals.
The bishop of the regional synod governing the congregation, Michael Pryse, favors gay ordinations but warned the church that the rules forbid it now and he would have to publicly censure it or suspend or expel it from the denomination.
"I mourn that reality particularly because of the witness that it sets," Ketola told CTV ahead of the Friday evening ceremony. "What my ministry will be about is opening spaces in the church for all people and particularly queer people who have been marginalized in the church."
In his letter to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket, Ontario, Bishop Pryse said the ordination would not advance its cause given the current atmosphere and recent decisions of the denomination.
"Instead, I believe that it may well undermine the considerable, though slow, progress that has been made more this end in recent years," he wrote.
He also sent a separate letter to Lutheran ministers telling them they would be subject to disciplinary action if they took part in the ordination service in an official capacity.
Editing by Rob Wilson