Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) gives thanks that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is now living more fully into the inclusive vision that many have had for this church for so long.
The ELCA made historic advances toward being a more inclusive church when the Church Council formally adopted changes in ministry policies this weekend. The change in policy allows people in same-sex relationships to serve as pastors and rostered leaders in the ELCA.
The documents approved this weekend include a Rite of Reception for extraordinarily ordained pastors on the ELM roster, the ELCA Candidacy Manual, Vision & Expectations (used to establish expectations for rostered leaders), Definitions & Guidelines for Discipline (used for discipline of rostered leaders), and changes to the Board of Pensions policy to include same-sex partners and families. All votes passed overwhelmingly. Members of the ELM roster who wish to begin the process to join the roster of the ELCA may do so immediately.
Twenty years ago two ELCA congregations, St. Francis Lutheran Church and First United Lutheran Church, broke with ELCA policy to call an openly gay man, Jeff Johnson, and two openly lesbian women, Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart. The actions of these congregations and pastors began a movement now known as Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Their vision has made it possible for dozens of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to follow a call to ministry. It is a joyful time in the church as the ELCA opens wider its doors to the fullness of God’s creation.
We express gratitude for the congregations and individuals who have long supported gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pastors during times when they were punished and alienated for doing so and for those who continued to follow a call to ministry despite incredible barriers. We give thanks for the Goodsoil Legislative Team, Lutherans Concerned/North America, the voting members of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, staff, Church Council, Conference of Bishops and the leadership of Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson.
We give thanks to God and pray that one day all may find that the doors of the ELCA are open wide to them.