R. Guy Erwin's ordination on May 11 proved quintessentially Lutheran: Two ELCA bishops and a former bishop played key roles; the service doubled as a "teaching" moment for California Lutheran University students, and the 75-member university choir led the 450-strong congregation in singing the final hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."
The symbolism rang poignantly true since Erwin, 53, serves as the Gerhard and Olga J. Belgum Chair in Lutheran Confessional Theology at CLU in Thousand Oaks; taught Lutheran studies and church history at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Conn., for several years; and studied in Germany for his doctoral thesis on Martin Luther's era.
Also new to the ELCA roster is Keith Fry, a second-career pastor serving a growing congregation in Elgin, a traditionally politically conservative northwest suburb of Chicago. Christ the Lord Lutheran isn't in the Reconciling in Christ program, which recognizes congregations that welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) believers, and hadn't discussed the issue of gay pastors before calling him.
A year-and-a-half after calling Fry, 52, the congregation is thriving, and just called a deaconess to serve as its director of ministries.
Both men exemplify how openly gay leaders are finding their full expression as rostered ELCA pastors.
Erwin and Fry are among 47 gay pastors ordained, received, reinstated, consecrated, returned to active status, or approved for ordination, reception or reinstatement since the 2009 Churchwide Assembly vote accepting partnered gay and lesbian rostered leaders, according to an unofficial tally by Lutherans Concerned/North America.
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