Historic Day! First Openly Gay, First Native American Elected Lutheran Bishop

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The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin
The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin

Just moments ago, the Reverend Dr. R. Guy Erwin was elected bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on the sixth ballot. 

Bishop-elect Erwin is the first publicly-identified gay and first Native American bishop in the history of the twenty-five year old denomination. 

Erwin’s election to bishop comes just two years after his ordination as pastor in the church.  Erwin has served congregations in the ELCA for over twenty years but chose not to be ordained until the ELCA changed its policy regarding gay and lesbian ministers.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted in 2009 to ordain gay and lesbian people in publicly accountable, lifelong committed same-gender relationships. Erwin was one of the first publicly-identified gay pastors in the ELCA to be ordained after the 2009 changes. There were seventeen publicly-identified LGBTQ people who were extraordinarily ordained outside the regular ELCA process prior to the vote, and subsequently received onto the ELCA roster following 2009.

Erwin is a member of Proclaim, a professional association of 130 Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a social ministry organization that supports LGBTQ pastors and their ministries. Bishop-elect Erwin also currently serves on the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Board of Directors.

Amalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, said, “This is a great day for the Southwest California Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  The Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin is a gift to the church, a terrific Lutheran theologian, and a pastor who has served his church faithfully for over twenty years.  All kinds of diverse leaders are called to positions in the church – and the Lutheran church is blessed with many committed LGBTQ pastors, whose callings can now be fully recognized in the ELCA. This church has come a long way in four years. More and more people are realizing all the time that LGBTQ people have important ministry gifts, including the gifts to lead the church as a bishop. We are thrilled to see such a wonderful leader from the LGBTQ and Native American communities called to the position of bishop at this time in history.”

Bishop-elect Erwin currently serves Faith Lutheran, Canoga Park as interim pastor and is Professor of Religion and History at California Lutheran University.  Erwin is a native of Oklahoma and an active member of the Osage Tribe of Indians. Erwin and his partner Rob Flynn are members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, CA, and are very active in Lutheran circles locally, nationally, and internationally. He will be installed as bishop September 21, 2013 and will serve a six year term.

James Boline
Rev. James Boline

Related News: Proclaim member Jim Boline elected Secretary of the SW CA Synod

The Rev. James Boline, has served St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica, CA since 2000. Boline was elected SW CA Synod Secretary. Boline is a member of Proclaim. Pastor Boline came out during the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. He is married to Christopher Ma.

We are thrilled for the church and both of these wonderful leaders!

2 Replies to “Historic Day! First Openly Gay, First Native American Elected Lutheran Bishop”

  1. Congratulations to the Bishop. May the Lord continue to bless your work on behalf of the ELCA !

    John Belcher
    St.Timothy ELCA
    Crystal River

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