ELCA elects a gay bishop

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (not to be confused with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, or other more conservative Lutheran bodies) has elected its first openly gay bishop, the Rev. R. Guy Erwin, who will lead ELCA congregations in the Los Angeles area.   The ELCA only approved gay pastors two years ago, which was when Rev. Erwin, a theology professor at Cal Lutheran, was ordained.  Is it usual in the ELCA to rise in the ranks from newly-ordained pastor to bishop in only two years?  (The ELCA has adopted an episcopal polity and claims apostolic succession through the Swedish church.)

From   of the Los Angeles Times:

A North Hollywood theology professor ordained just two years ago after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America dropped its ban on same-sex ministers was elected Friday as the church’s first openly gay bishop.

The Rev. R. Guy Erwin won a six-year term to the Southwest California Synod, which encompasses the greater Los Angeles area, according to church officials.

The historic vote came Friday during a three-day assembly of the synod held in Woodland Hills.

Erwin’s election marks a welcome turning point for the congregation’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members, said Emily Eastwood, executive director of Reconciling Works, an arm of the church that worked for decades to lift the ban on gay and lesbian clergy.

“One of our own has been chosen not in spite of being gay, but because he is truly gifted and skilled for the office,” she said in a prepared statement. “Once again, today we are proud to be Lutherans.” . . .

Since 2000, Erwin has taught theology and Christian history at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. He is considered a scholar on the life and teachings of Martin Luther.

Erwin was raised in Oklahoma and has Native American roots, according to his biography on the Cal Lutheran website. He was unable to serve in the Lutheran ministry under the church’s earlier ban against gay and lesbian pastors.

But the church reversed that policy in 2009, and two years later Erwin was ordained. He and his partner, Rob Flynn, are members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in North Hollywood.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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