In a Lutheran Rite of Reception service on October 28, in Kansas City, a lesbian pastor will be officially welcomed to serve in the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
“We are so proud of this denomination, which has taken a major step toward the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons,” said Donna Simon, pastor of Abiding Peace Lutheran Church. “We are closer to the day when we can sing ‘all are welcome’ with gusto, knowing that our policies reflect our declaration.
“I must thank our bishop, Gerald Mansholt, who has encouraged me to be connected to the work of our region and the larger church. He has always treated me with dignity and respect, and I have only the same for him.
“I am excited to stand alongside my clergy colleagues now as a full participant in our church. It’s been a long wait, but I’ve had the support of the people of Abiding Peace and so many clergy colleagues. We look forward to continuing the work of preaching good news to those on the margins, the same folks whom Jesus invited to share prayer and supper with him.”
Simon had been barred from serving in the ELCA because of previous ministry policies that prohibited people in same-sex relationships from their rosters. She is currently on the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, which credentials openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rostered leaders. In August of 2009, the ELCA changed its policies to allow people who are in same-sex relationships to serve as rostered leaders.
The rite of reception was created specifically for people who had been extraordinarily ordained–that is, ordained outside the regular process of the Lutheran church. There have been seventeen extraordinary ordinations in the United States of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people. The service marks the ELCA’s official recognition of these pastors.
The evening service of welcome will be held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 3800 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri at 7pm.
Valorie Bratcher, council president at Abiding Peace says, “Pastor Donna has been the pastor of Abiding Peace Lutheran Church for the past 10 years. She has served her congregation in word and sacrament and with love and devotion. We have been enriched by her teaching, and led to service in our community. She has challenged us to live and do as Christ taught. We look forward to our continued relationship with the ELCA as they receive her onto their roster.”
Lutheran Bishop Gerald Mansholt will preside at the service. Rev. Susan Langhauser of Advent Lutheran Church, Olathe, Kansas, will be the preacher. Special music will be provided by Peter Mayer, Lutheran musician and guitarist for Jimmy Buffett.
Abiding Peace Lutheran Church has been a Reconciling in Christ church since 1993, and has been public in welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to participate fully in the life of the congregation. In 2000, the congregation called Simon, a 1999 graduate of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Simon became the first openly gay candidate ordained in an American Lutheran Church in over a decade.
Eleven members of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster have been received or reinstated to the ELCA roster this fall. There are other rite of reception services scheduled this fall in Minneapolis, MN and Houston, TX.
We celebrate this joyous rite of reception!