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Lutherans elect first openly gay bishop
The Rev. R. Guy Erwin was elected the first openly gay bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on May 31.
June 3rd, 2013
02:12 PM ET

Lutherans elect first openly gay bishop

By Dan Merica and Daniel Burke, CNN

(CNN)– For more than two decades, the Rev. R. Guy Erwin couldn't officially be a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. On Friday, he was elected a bishop.

Erwin's election signals a shift not only for the ELCA – the nation's seventh largest church – but also for American Christianity. Only one other mainline Protestant denomination, the Episcopal Church, has elected openly gay and lesbian bishops.

“In these days such milestones seem to be coming at an ever-faster rate," Erwin told CNN, "and eventually what seems revolutionary now will seem normal and predictable."

With more than 4 million members in 10,000 congregations, the ELCA is the largest of several Lutheran denominations in the United States. The ELCA's decision to allow gay clergy has strained ties between those denominations, some of whom have partnered for relief work.

"The ELCA is a church that belongs to Christ, and there is a place for all here," said church spokeswoman Melissa Ramirez Cooper. "The election of Pastor Erwin illustrates what many in the 4-million-member church believe - that God calls each of us by name.”

The ELCA lifted its ban on openly gay, partnered clergy in 2009, clearing the way for pastors like Erwin, but angering conservatives. By some estimates, some 600 congregations have since left the ELCA for more conservative churches.

The Rev. W. Stevens Shipman, director of the Lutheran Coalition for Renewal, said the ELCA is not keeping promises it made in 2009 to respect the views of churches and individuals who regard homosexuality as a sin.

"The promise was also made publicly that no congregation would be required to call a pastor in a same-sex partnership," Shipman said, "but now an entire synod has been forced to live under the authority of a bishop who is in such a relationship."

Erwin, a scholar at California Lutheran University, will serve a six-year term representing the Southwest California Synod, a five-county area that includes Los Angeles. His election took place an annual three-day assembly in Woodland Hills, California.

Erwin, who was ordained a pastor in 2011, played down his election as the ELCA's first openly gay bishop. But acknowledged that his very “existence” was a symbol for broader acceptance.

“The work of a bishop in our church is to lift up the church's message of grace and peace in the wider society, to administer the church's work in our area, and to teach and preach,” Erwin said in an e-mail to CNN. “In this regard, the sexual orientation of the bishop may not be very important.”

Still, the bishop-elect said, “The very fact I exist will be a signal to others that GLBT folks are respected and have a full place in our church.” Erwin is also part Osage Indian and is active in the Osage Indian Nation, according to the ELCA.

Erwin’s election symbolizes a noticeable change for a church that once banned clergy who were in same-sex relationships, said Ross Murray, director of news and Faith initiatives at GLAAD.

Prior to the 2009 change, “hundreds of gay and lesbian clergy were forced out of congregations or served under secrecy,” Murray said.

“Dr. Erwin demonstrates how far the ECLA has come with LGBT inclusion,” said Murray in an e-mail to CNN. “He could not have been ordained just four years ago, and now he is a leader for the church. It makes me proud as a gay man, and as a Lutheran.”

Although the ELCA church did not allow clergy in same-sex relationships while he was attending seminary, Erwin  said that he “always believed that this would someday be possible.”

Erwin also said the church's 2009 change in policy was more of a "culmination of God's work" than a "start of something new."

Erwin has long been a board member of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a Lutheran group that advocates for the 130 openly gay Lutheran clergy who are members.

Amalia Vagts, the group’s executive director, said Erwin’s election was an “amazing day” for openly gay and lesbian Lutherans.

“This is a powerful message for LGBT people everywhere that the Lutheran church welcomes them,” Vagts said in an e-mail.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Faith Now • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Lutheran

soundoff (1,033 Responses)
  1. steve

    Hmmmmmm The church says it is okay....but the Apostle Paul does not agree.....

    1 Corinthians 5:11 (KJV) |
    11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

    November 20, 2013 at 6:48 pm |
  2. TheSnail

    Their finished

    August 3, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  3. Steve Finnell

    DIRTY LITTLE SINNERS?

    Are all babies born into this world as dirty little sinners?

    BABIES ARE NOT GUILTY OF ADAM'S SIN

    ORIGINAL SIN: Accord to the proponents of original sin, men are born with hereditary depravity and corruption of nature and liable to God's wrath. They think all men are inclined to do evil, and that continually. They believe every person born into this world deserves God's wrath and damnation due to the sin of Adam. They believe all men are guilty of sin at the moment of birth. They believe all babies are dirty little sinners.

    Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

    Was Jesus saying the kingdom of God belongs to DIRTY LITTLE SINNERS, like these children?

    Mark 10:15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all."

    Was Jesus saying in order to enter the kingdom of God you have to be DIRTY LITTLE SINNERS, like children?

    If all babies are born DIRTY LITTLE SINNERS; that would have made Jesus a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER.

    Hebrews 2:14-17 Therefore, since children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.........17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make the propitiation for the sins of the people.

    Jesus was a descendant of Adam. He was made like His brethren in all things. According the original sin advocates that would make Jesus born as a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER. JESUS WAS NOT GUILTY OF ADAM'S SIN NOR ARE ANY BABIES GUILTY OF ADAM'S SIN.

    1 John 3:5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

    Jesus was not born a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER.

    Psalms 139:13-14 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

    Did David believe God made him, wonderfully made, because God made him totally depraved and a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER?

    Ezekiel 18:20 The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.

    Men will not be punished for their fathers' sins nor will they be punished spiritually for Adam's sin. Men do not inherit sin. Men are not born as DIRTY LITTLE SINNERS; they become sinners by choice.

    Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.

    Was Jesus saying the kingdom of heaven will be filled with unforgiven DIRTY LITTLE SINNERS? No, He was saying the kingdom belongs innocents like these children.

    Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.

    How could Job have been blameless and upright and be born as a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER? Job was not totally depraved, and inclined to do evil continually.

    2 Kings 2:1 And it came about when the Lord was about to take up Elijah by a whirlwind to heaven....

    Did the Lord take Elijah to heaven because he was born a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER and deserved His wrath and damnation, because of Adam's sin? Elijah was not totally depraved.

    Genesis 6:8-9 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. 9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.

    Noah was a righteous man. How is it possible for Noah to be born a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER; only inclined to do evil, be guilty of hereditary depravity, and find favor in the eyes of the Lord? Noah was saved because he trusted God and was obedient. Noah was not going to be sent to hell because of Adam's sin. Men will die spiritually because of their own sins; not Adam's.

    Acts 10:1-2 Now there was man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.

    Cornelius was neither Jew nor a Christian, but he feared God and gave alms to the poor. How would it be possible for Cornelius to act in this manner if he was born a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER; inclined only to do evil, and was totally depraved? Cornelius was not guilty of Adam's sin nor was he guilty any other man's sin.

    Luke 8:15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

    Jesus said some men have a good and honest heart. How can a man who was born as a DIRTY LITTLE SINNER and are totally depraved, and only incline do to do evil, have a good an honest heart?

    MEN ARE GUILTY OF THE SINS THEY COMMIT; NOT THE ONE ADAM COMMITTED.

    1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

    Babies no not practice lawlessness in the womb.

    James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

    Babies are not tempted and enticed by lust in the womb. Adam and Eve sinned when they were enticed by their own lust. Men today sin because the are enticed by their own lust. Men will be held accountable for their own sins, not Adam's.

    MEN WILL DIE PHYSICALLY BECAUSE OF ADAM'S SIN.

    MEN WILL DIE SPIRITUALLY BECAUSE OF THE UNFORGIVEN SINS THEY THEMSELVES COMMIT.

    BABIES ARE BORN INNOCENT OF SIN.

    BABIES ARE NOT DIRTY LITTLE SINNERS!

    (All Scripture quotes from: NEW AMERICA STANDARD BIBLE)
    Posted by Steve Finnell at 12:13 PM

    You are invited to follow my Christian blog at: steve-finnell.blogspot.com or you may google search steve finnell a christian view.

    July 25, 2013 at 9:18 am |
    • midwest rail

      Does your God condone stealing free advertising ?

      July 25, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • jesussavior44

      We are all born into sin the reason Jesus didn't sin is because he is the word/Torah manifested. Jesus is not a regular human being he is god in the flesh, watch what you say because you blasphemed god, he is an example of what we should be

      February 13, 2014 at 12:20 pm |
  4. Kindness

    Kindness
    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    July 18, 2013 at 12:38 am |
  5. CSX

    A sinner is one thing washed in the blood.
    A sinner lost is another.

    But a practicing sinner acting like a holy man is another thing.

    July 7, 2013 at 7:54 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      And a sinner named CSX passing judgement, is another sin entirely. Calling someone a sinner for something that is no sin is in itself a sin.

      July 7, 2013 at 8:01 am |
  6. The real Tom

    It still cracks me up that HS thinks her posts are a means of saving others. Who would be influenced in any positive way by such posts? Why would anyone follow the advice of such a mean-spirited person, who sees nothing but hellfire and brimstone for anyone who doesn't believe exactly as she does?

    Why would anyone listen to her? I surely won't.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Tom, some day you will outgrow this trash and burn mentality and grow to build. Jesus will assist you if you seek Him.

      June 30, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  7. The real Tom

    I'm laughing at LL's pleas to the moderator.

    June 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  8. A. Gabriel

    How sad for a religion that once resembled Christianity. All true values have left.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • The real Tom

      What values would those be?

      June 30, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  9. The real Tom

    I'm very impressed that the ELCA is progressive enough to see that change is coming. The days of forcing gay people out of the church are ending, and rightly so.

    June 30, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Everyone is welcome to church as long as they allow Jesus to renew their heart (mind) to His spiritual truth. How? By reading the letter He wrote to ALL (the Bible) and stop listening to tradition of men teachings that stroke your ego of what you want to hear instead of what He wants you to hear.

      James 4:8

      Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded. .

      Amen.

      June 30, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Good to know that you support the ELCA in their efforts to include all, including gays.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Tom. as long as folks are willing to come out of denial to hear His truth. Which means read how He wants the best for us and stop listening to satan's lies being whispered in their ears every time they turn around in life. Jesus' truth vs satan's lies. Who is the parishioner going to focus on? Remember: It's easy to listen and abide in satan's lies. It takes courage to abide in Jesus' truth to begin the process of renewing your heart (mind). No instant gratification applications needed. Step by Step doing the work to get the righteous results..

      June 30, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • The real Tom

      According to my beliefs, Jesus and God love EVERYONE. Even the people you don't.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      How many times Tom, do I have to tell you I don't hate anyone. Jesus tells us that we are to forgive others their trespasses (sins) against us in order for us to be forgiven by Him. You want to believe I do so your pride is quenched. Which is irrelevant to me, but, not to you until you allow Him to renew your heart (mind). Also, we speak two different languages ... spiritual vs carnal ... never shall the twain meet. I never asked Jesus for a lobotomy. I remember when people trespassed against me, but, I do not dwell on them. I can talk about them as lessons that I learned.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It doesn't matter what you "tell" me or anyone else. Your posts speak for themselves.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:10 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I don't "need" to do a thing, HS, just because you believe it to be so.

      Your beliefs are yours, not mine. I don't fear you or your god. I know that I'm not in any peril at all, since this life is all there is. You have had to resort to falsehoods to make your points; therefore your points are invalid.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The real Tom, you posted "It doesn't matter what you "tell" me or anyone else. Your posts speak for themselves."

      Answer: You read what you want to read instead of reading what you need to read. Again, Jesus' spiritual truth will renew your heart (aka mind).

      You also posted "I don't "need" to do a thing, HS, just because you believe it to be so. Your beliefs are yours, not mine. I don't fear you or your god. I know that I'm not in any peril at all, since this life is all there is. You have had to resort to falsehoods to make your points; therefore your points are invalid."

      Answer: To fear God means to learn His wisdom. His wisdom is spiritual truth. You see falsehoods because you see and hear carnally, not spiritually. Truth is carnal will not dwell with Jesus through spiritual eternity. My prayer for you Tom is that you find a preacher that lives in His truth to teach you:

      Corinthians 9:11

      If we have sown unto you spiritual things, [is it] a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

      Amen.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:57 pm |
    • The real Tom

      HS, you can threaten me with all the hellfire you wish. You aren't credible and I don't believe a word you say any longer. I don't believe what you claim is 'true' because you've said so little that is true by any standard that you've discredited yourself.

      Your posts are nothing but empty threats.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • The real Tom

      And your wish for a preacher for me?

      I wouldn't spend 2 seconds with a preacher who thinks as you do.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:01 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.