Four years after voting to allow openly homosexual clergy, the four million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has elected its first openly homosexual bishop. The ELCA announced June 1 that the Rev. R. Guy Erwin (shown in photo), who holds a bachelor's degree from Harvard and a doctorate from Yale, was elected at the annual meeting of the ELCA's Southwest California Synod to serve the next six years as that synod's bishop. Erwin was chosen on a 210-171 vote of the synod's pastors and church leaders.
Erwin currently serves as interim pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Canoga Park, California, as well as professor of Lutheran confessional theology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. He is also the ELCA's representative to the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches.
Ordained by the denomination in May 2011, “Erwin is the ELCA’s first synod bishop who is gay and in a partnered relationship with Rob Flynn, a member of the ELCA,” the ELCA announced with no apparent sense of shame. The denomination added that the newly elected bishop is also “part Osage Indian and is active in the Osage Indian Nation.”
Despite living a lifestyle plainly condemned by the Christian faith for 2,000 years, Erwin nonetheless claimed that he would bring to his new position of pastoral leadership a “deep faith in Christ’s presence in his church lived out in 20 years of parish experience blended with university and seminary-level teaching.”
According to Religion News Service (RNS), Erwin said he “waited until 2011 to become ordained, after the denomination’s 2009 change to allow people in 'publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.'”
Erwin told the homosexual group GLAAD that he knew many would see his election “as a significant milestone for both LGBT people and Native Americans, and I pray that I can be a positive representation for both communities.” He recalled that there “was a time when I believed that I would not be able to serve as a pastor in the ELCA. Our church has now recognized the God-given gifts and abilities that LGBT people can bring to the denomination.”
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Photo of Guy Erwin: AP Images