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Sunday, June 02, 2013

Lutheran progress

Four years after finally deciding to allow gay clergy who are in a committed relationship, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has now elected Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin as its first openly gay bishop. This is good progress.

It was only in August of 2009 that the church decided to allow gay clergy who are in a committed same-gender relationship, after roughly a quarter century of “studying” the issue. Once the decision was made, it was inevitable that this day would come, and by Lutheran standards, it happened really quickly after the 2009 rule change.

In November, 1970, The Lutheran Church in America (of which I was a member at the time; in 1988, it merged with other US Lutheran churches to form the ELCA) became the first Lutheran church in the US to ordain female clergy. Elizabeth Platz was the first American woman to be ordained a Lutheran pastor.

The first female Lutheran Bishop worldwide was Maria Jepsen of Germany, who was elected bishop in April, 1992. That same month, Ulring Larson was elected bishop of the Lacrosse (Wisconsin) synod, making her the first female American bishop, and second in the world.

So, it was 22 years from the ordination of the USA’s first Lutheran female clergy to the church’s first female bishop, and the first openly gay and partnered bishop was elected only four years after gay partnered clergy were first permitted. However, since it took 25 years to get to that rule change, it actually took 29 years before the first gay partnered bishop was elected. Lutherans do nothing quickly.

Still, Lutherans have a long history of eventually doing the right thing, even if it takes them awhile to get there. The point is, they do get there eventually. Well, done!

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