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“Recognizing the gifts of gay and lesbian pastors would encourage more growth,” she said. “This resolution is about allowing people to follow their conscience.”

Emily Eastwood, executive director of Lutherans Concerned, the denomination’s gay caucus, said Friday night that she was “proud to be a Lutheran.”

“Supporters and advocates of full inclusion have longed for this day since the inception of the ELCA, and for many of us what seemed like a lifetime,” she said. “The ELCA has always had gay ministers; now those and all ministers are free to claim who they are and to have the love and support of a lifelong partner, regardless of orientation or gender identity, which is all we ever asked.”

Each of the four resolutions before them concerned some aspect of welcoming homosexuals into all aspects of church life.

The first resolution, which promised that Lutherans respect the “bound consciences” of those who disagree with them, easily passed by 771-230 Friday morning. A fourth resolution, which implements the other three, passed early Friday evening by a 667-307 vote.

“The results will be immediate, deep and for many, profoundly negative,” said Mr. Schwarz, a McLean, Va., layman who as of late Friday was a top candidate for vice president of the ELCA. “I believe the decisions we have taken are wrong.”

Matthew Riak, leader of the Sudanese Christ Lutheran Church in Wyoming, Mich., said the votes meant “that you do not need Africans in this church.”

Saying he represented 114 African immigrant congregations, “The African national congregations may leave this church,” he added. “You care so much for your [gay] brothers and sisters and you forget us.”

His is not the only foreign group to protest the votes. In late July, Bishop Nicholas Tai of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hong Kong said the votes, if passed, would be “a source of profound embarrassment for the Lutheran Church in Asia.”