Hundreds of people braved sub-zero temperatures to gather at Salem English Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and ordain Jennifer Lea Nagel. Rev. Nagel is the 13th member of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster to be ordained extra ordinem because the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) does not allow the ordinations of individuals in same-sex relationships.
Nagel’s ordination occurred almost exactly 18 years after the first extraordinary ordinations of Rev. Ruth Frost, Rev. Jeff Johnson, and Rev. Phyllis Zillhart in 1990 in San Francisco, California.
“Now 18 years later,” Rev. Nagel told the congregation, “I experience awe in the witness of the Gospel alive in communities of faith, and frustration that extraordinary ordinations are even necessary.”
She continued, “Our tradition’s long history of reformation guides us as we stand with our hopes and prayers before God this day to participate in this extraordinary ordination. My heart is full of gratitude for your presence that mingles with the prayers of friends and colleagues far and wide.”
Preacher Rev. Angela Denise Davis continued the theme, recognizing the extraordinary action Salem English Lutheran Church is taking and their response to the Gospel.
“Being extraordinary is being open and willing to how God brings people into the fold.” Citing the story of Peter and Cornelius, she exhorted the congregation, “listen to Joppa; do work in Caesarea; and know there will be fallout in Jerusalem.”
The ordaining ministers in the service included three retired ELCA bishops – Rev. Darold Beekmann, Rev. David Brown, and Rev. Lowell Erdahl, and around one hundred clergy. During the rite of ordination and throughout the service stoles from the Shower of Stoles Project served as a backdrop. The Shower of Stoles Project is a collection of over a thousand liturgical stoles and other garments representing the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered religious leaders. Jen wore the red stole that was originally presented to Rev. Anita Hill at her ordination in 2000 and which has been worn by six openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender pastors since then.
Following the Saturday ordination, Rev. Nagel was back to work on Sunday presiding at worship with Rev. Erik Christensen, co-chair of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, preaching.
“There is a sense of urgency,” Rev. Christensen remarked, “with the acceleration of ordinations. More and more Lutheran Congregations, like Salem English, are recognizing that the best pastor for them may not be on the ELCA roster. They are standing in principled non-compliance against institutional policies that not only deny qualified people from serving as pastors, but also deny them the gifts of those pastors. It is an honor for ELM to work with these congregations and insure the credentials of the pastors they call.”