This morning, the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly passed a resolution that empowers the Synod Council to act to welcome St. Francis Lutheran Church and First United Lutheran Church back to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and invites these congregations to discern this action. The resolution passed with 291 votes for, 26 against and 10 abstentions. The vote was announced to great applause.
St. Francis (photo) and First United were placed on trial by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1990 for extending calls to openly gay Jeff Johnson and openly lesbian Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart. The ELCA suspended their membership until 1995 and then dropped them from the roster of congregations. Both St. Francis and First United have remained thriving Lutheran ministries since then and have been served by both ELCA pastors and pastors rostered by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
In another step for the ELCA toward becoming a welcoming and inclusive church, Bp. Mark Holmerud (left), Bishop of the ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod, ended his report to the synod at today’s assembly with the news that he was lifting the censure of University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, CA. The Chapel was placed under censure in 2000, after calling Rev. Jeff Johnson (ELM Roster).
Bp. Holmerud’s announcement was greeted with tears, cheers and a standing ovation from the assembly. Bp. Holmerud has been a strong supporter of opening the doors and pulpits of the ELCA to people of diverse sexualities and genders. Bp. Holmerud has shared his own story of transformation from his decision to not attend the extraordinary ordinations of Rev. Jeff Johnson, Rev. Ruth Frost and Rev. Phyllis Zillhart to his committed and outspoken support in recent years.
University Lutheran Chapel was placed under censure when they called Rev. Jeff Johnson ten years ago. Pastor Jeff was extraordinarily ordained in 1990 (photo at right) and served First United Lutheran Church for ten years before accepting a call to the Chapel. Pastor Jeff was a founder of Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries and Extraordinary Candidacy Project, the predecessor organizations to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Jeff is a visionary and passionate pastor. Pastor Jeff lives in Oakland with his partner, Pepe Sanchez Aldaco.
Pastor Jeff was also elected today to the Sierra Pacific Synod Council, pending his reception onto the ELCA Roster. Stay tuned for more updates from the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly.
We give thanks for the members and friends of University Lutheran Chapel for their long witness to an inclusive and welcoming church, to Pastor Jeff and Pepe, and to Bishop Mark Holmerud!
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries celebrates the good news that Pastor Bradley Schmeling and Pastor Darin Easler have been reinstated to the roster of the ELCA. This is yet another joyful moment as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America takes steps toward becoming a more fully inclusive church.
Pastor Bradley was removed from the ELCA roster in 2007 by church trial after telling his bishop that he was in a relationship with Easler. Easler had already been dropped from the ELCA roster after coming out to his congregation and bishop in Southeast Minnesota.
Bradley and Darin’s stories are two examples of the stories of countless other gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pastors. The actions of the Southeastern Synod to reinstate them are a step towards reconciling those in the church who have been separated from one another because of the ELCA’s former policy barring partnered gay and lesbian people from serving as pastors.
Pastor Bradley, Pastor Darin, and the members of St. John’s Lutheran Church have been a powerful witness in their community and to the church about full inclusion, hospitality and welcome. Bishop Julian Gordy and the ELCA Southeastern Synod are a witness to the power of reconciliation.
Many new people are learning about the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries following the recent changes in the ELCA’s ministry policies. Part of the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has been support of “extraordinary ordinations,” the ordinations of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people who were previously barred from serving in the ELCA.
“In The Beginning” shows rare footage of the first extraordinary ordinations and gives viewers a glimpse at the beginning of a movement that has supported openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutheran pastors for twenty years.
The short film was produced by award-winning filmmaker Pam Walton and includes clips from her film, Call to Witness (2000), a documentary on gay and lesbian Lutheran pastors who took stands against unjust church policies barring gay and lesbian people from serving as pastors.
You can view (and share!) this moving and informative short film here: