The openly gay Rev. R. Guy Erwin was elected bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Church in America Friday.
It’s noteworthy how far America has come in a short period of time on the gay issue that the news passed relatively quietly.In a press release, church officials say Erwin was selected for a six-year term Friday at a church annual assembly.
A fairly stunning development when you consider the ELCA only changed its rules in 2009 to allow gays and lesbians to be ordained in the nation’s largest Lutheran denomination.
As a point of comparison, women gained the right to vote in 1920, yet it took 12 years for a woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate. Of course, we are still waiting for the first female president.
Erwin currently serves as a pastor at Faith Lutheran Church and a professor of Lutheran Confessional Theology at California Lutheran University.
Officials say the “partnered gay man” is also the first Native American to be elected. Erwin is part Osage Indian.
While the gay issue is evolving remarkably fast in faith circles, I received an email the other day that reminded me divisions remain. With the 2009 decision by the ELCA, an estimated 600 congregations nationwide have left the church for more conservative ties.
With more than 4 million members in 10,000 congregations, the ELCA remains the largest of several Lutheran denominations in the United States.
But, as my emailer noted, there are three Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, three Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, and two North American Lutheran Church congregations in York County.
All are more conservative denominations.
What do you think about the election of a gay Lutheran bishop? Too soon? Or courageous vote by members of the ELCA?