May 24, 2010
A routine Lutheran candidacy committee meeting turned extraordinary today as the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) approved the reinstatement and reception of eight gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clergy.
Today’s meeting opens the door to complete the process of adding all eight to the roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in North America.
All eight are currently or were previously on the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a movement within the Lutheran church to expand ministry opportunities for openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pastors.
Those approved for reinstatement to the ELCA roster today include Rev. Ross Merkel and Rev. Steve Sabin. Those approved for reception to the ELCA roster include Rev. Jeff Johnson, Rev. Craig Minich, Rev. Dawn Roginski, Rev. Megan Rohrer, Rev. Paul Brenner, and Rev. Sharon Stalkfleet.
Rev. Jeff Johnson said, “Twenty years ago when I was ordained, we could dimly imagine that Lutherans would one day fully recognize lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and celebrate our relationships and marriages. This day is dawning in our church. I’m very thankful for all who have helped to carry this struggle forward and for our church which has finally opened up to the new and exciting future God has in store for us!”
ELM co-chair Rev. Erik Christensen stated, “Today is cause for celebration for these eight people, their families and the communities they have served so faithfully for so many years. It is also a landmark day for the whole church as the ELCA becomes a more fully inclusive denomination. This historic decision is another step toward justice for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the church, and helps open the doors to people from all walks of life who feel called to offer their gifts and talents to the church.”
ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts said, “This is another important day for so many in the church. It is wonderful to have leaders like Bishop Mark Holmerud and Bishop’s Associate Nancy Fenuik Nelson and the members of the Sierra Pacific candidacy committee demonstrating holy hospitality to all.”
The Sierra Pacific Synod candidacy committee’s actions came as a result of 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly votes to open the roster of the ELCA to gay and lesbian pastors in relationships. Previously, gay and lesbian pastors were required to be celibate.
Plans are underway for a service of reception, reinstatement and reconciliation to be held within the Sierra Pacific Synod later this summer.