At larger metropolitan and suburban congregations, it's not unusual to find a staff of 10. But then there's Messiah Lutheran Church on the Iron Range in northeast Minnesota. Fewer than 100 worship every Sunday, but it boasts a staff of 10.
Since 2005, Messiah, Mountain Iron, has created a process of commissioning staff, said Kristin Foster, pastor. It identifies gifts and equips nonpaid congregational leaders for ministry in the areas of worship, education, spiritual direction, and parish nursing and lay pastoral care.
The latest expansion of the staff was Ellen Taube, installed as assistant pastor of worship, education and pastoral care in shared time ministry (a person has another significant vocation and income source), and reinstated to the ELCA clergy roster Sept. 9. Taube, also a pharmacist, was removed from the roster in 2003 for being in a same-sex relationship.
"We aren't self-selected liberals," Foster said, describing the congregation instead as "a beacon of hope in a small-town, rural-industrial-mining area."
Members spent considerable time on the ELCA sexuality study, "Journey Together Faithfully," that led to a 2009 Churchwide Assembly vote to allow for partnered gay clergy.
In 2010, Messiah also became a Reconciling in Christ congregation (a program that recognizes communities that publicly welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender believers) — the first outside a Minnesota metropolitan area.
"The ELCA has had to deal with controversy and the departure of some congregations," Foster said. "We at Messiah have a story of benefiting from that decision by being able to have Ellen serve as pastor, of coming together and growth in people's awareness about who God's call is for."
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers