Pastor Bradley Schmeling is a Lutheran minister who led the push for acceptance of LGBT clergy with partners in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. He was a native of Ohio and attended undergraduate college at Ohio University in Athens before being called to Lutheran ministry. He received his Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, in 1989. After ordination, he began his pastoral work at Calvary Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio, where he would serve until 1995.
In 2000, Bradley was called to serve St. John’s Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia. Despite the ELCA’s prohibition against partnered clergy he was able to serve, since he was single at that time. In 2005, he entered a relationship with Pastor Darin Easler, also an ELCA pastor, and followed through on a promise made to the bishop that he would inform the synod on any change in his relationship status. While St. John’s celebrated the news with a party, the bishop of the Southeastern Synod, ELCA, filed formal charges, and Bradley was placed on trial in January of 2007. The jury voted to remove Bradley from the roster of clergy, but provided a rare opinion on the matter by stating that it believed the policy was wrong and should be changed. In fact, the jury set his date of removal after the upcoming church-wide assembly in order to give the church time to change the policy. They also affirmed the ministry that Bradley had at St. John’s and said that he was an exemplary pastor. Both sides appealed the ruling, and in July 2007, one month before the church-wide assembly, Bradley was removed from the clergy roster. Despite this ruling, St. John’s made clear that it would retain Bradley as its pastor.
The decision of the jury led to an unprecedented legislative season in the ELCA with 22 synods asking the denomination to change its policy. While the policy was not changed in 2007, the church did vote to urge bishops to exercise restraint in discipline and to refrain from filing formal charges. This vote effectively brought an end to church trials for GLBT leaders. The vote also helped to set the stage for a full reversal of policy in 2009 when the ELCA removed its policy and opened the clergy roster to leaders in same-gendered relationships. In 2010, both Bradley and his partner, Darin, were reinstated to the roster.
Pastor Schmeling was called to serve Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2012. Gloria Dei has a long tradition of serving as a voice of welcome and hospitality in St. Paul, both of which appealed to Schmeling. With 2,300 members, it is the largest congregation in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to have a partnered gay pastor as its senior pastor. He also serves as an adjunct professor in liturgical practice at Emory University's Candler School of Theology.
(This biographical statement provided by Bradley Schmeling, edited by Joel Layton)
Biography Date: April 2012
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) | Church Trials | Clergy Activist | Ordination/clergy