Inside the office of Pastor Arlo Peterson is an array of flying pigs. Not just pigs. Flying pink pigs. According to Pastor Peterson it has been said that “there will be a gay Lutheran pastor when pigs fly.” Well, on Sunday, November 11, 2001 the pink oinkers got their take off orders as Arlo David Peterson was installed as pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Key West, Florida.
Ordained as a Lutheran pastor in 1974, Arlo David Peterson served congregations on Long Island, New York, and in the New York City borough of Queens until moving to Key West in 1994 to become a case manager for AIDS Help, the local organization that has a multi-faceted response to the AIDS epidemic in the Florida Keys.
“I came down here because I had friends who had suffered from HIV disease and I wanted to do something to help. I have a gift of being able to get close to people, then back away at their death and not be destroyed by it. It’s a very difficult thing to do. But I felt God was calling me to do this work.”
So Arlo and his partner, Michael Cilento, sold everything they had in New York and moved to Key West. Peterson remained on the ELCA clergy roster until he was removed without his knowledge in 1999.
He only became aware of his removal when the ELCA Board of Pensions contacted him two years later, inquiring about his status as he was still being covered by the ELCA pension and medical plans. It was only in April of 2001 that he received official word that he was off the ELCA clergy roster.