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
[twitter-follow screen_name='DanMericaCNN'][twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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 • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Lutheran

soundoff (1,122 Responses)
  1. JimmyAlex777

    You go girl!

    June 16, 2013 at 12:04 am |
  2. george

    As far as I am concerned the Evangelical Lutheran Church is fake

    June 15, 2013 at 9:52 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      As far as I'm concerned, all churches and religions are fake.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:27 am |
    • sam stone

      If you convey that to them, georgie, i am sure they will feel shamed and re-evaluate their position.

      June 17, 2013 at 6:37 am |
  3. Science

    Martian Clay Contains Chemical Implicated in the Origin of Life,


    Discovery Channel – Prehistoric New York .

    And 1900 million year fossils found... north (as the crow flies) of the shack where the chondrites are

    found and Woolys to the east and a bottomless swamp pit in the middle.............we have not been able to find the bottom


    Scientists Offer First Definitive Proof of Bacteria-Feeding Behavior in Green Algae

    Life on Earth Shockingly Comes from out of This World

    Life-Producing Phosphorus Carried to Earth by Meteorites

    Ancient Egyptians Accessorized With Meteorites



    June 15, 2013 at 5:54 pm |
  4. Concerned Lutheran

    The NALC and Missouri Synod are picking up steam because of these decisions. Churches started leaving the ELCA in droves after the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. I'll be surprised to see the ELCA survive this choice in the long run. They've chosen what's in vogue over the Word. It'll come back to bite them eventually.

    None of this will matter though for quite some time. Churches will be driven underground in the next 50 years as socially acceptable behaviors continue to conflict with religiously acceptable behaviors. Christians will continue to be labeled bigots for their beliefs. Society will slowly spiral downward as "tolerance" takes the place of morality. Then in another 50 to 100 years religion will see a huge resurgence as people realize these lifestyles are not sustainable.

    It's all inevitable. Brace yourselves.

    June 15, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
  5. matt

    And another angel followed, saying, “Babylon (the Protestant churches) is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. (Revelation 14:8)

    And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)

    June 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      Funny, the Protestants say that Babylon is Rome.

      June 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
    • Fred

      Yeah, Babylon is Rome and, by extension, the Catholic Church with its false beliefs.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
    • matt

      Babylon is Papal Rome. Babylon is said to be “the mother of harlots. By her daughters must be symbolized churches that cling to her doctrines and traditions, and follow her example of sacrificing the truth and the approval of God, in order to form an unlawful alliance with the world.

      Many of the Protestant churches are following Rome’s example of iniquitous connection with “the kings of the earth” the state churches, by their relation to secular governments; and other denominations, by seeking the favor of the world.

      June 15, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
    • Harrison

      Maybe Babylon is just Babylon.

      June 16, 2013 at 12:12 am |
  6. Andre Belous

    sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is in most of Christians traditional religions , because they don't even follow Gods Commandments and teach there members to do the same , Satan is the first Gay of the universe (he cannot procreate) so we know who all this Gay priest worship to.
    watch Vatican the Naked truth on YouTube

    June 15, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
  7. fear the word of God not man.

    The bible says all these things must com to pass. The people who allow theses things to happen should really become born again. If they have the spirit of God then they would be delivered of all there flesh and past sins. These things the Lord Jesus said will come to pass. people will accept false doctrines and be deceived. And they will become lovers of them selves. Being in love with their abominations. How can you people really say they are born again and follow Christ when they still commit sin, and abominations. In Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! yes anything that would make truth twisted. No good thing can really can from any tree that bears bad fruit. The devil has many Prophets but God has His few, they like me stand for truth and what the doctrines say. I pray you all seek God and not yourselves. If you want God repent and deny yourself and pick up your cross. May God have Mercy on those who speak out in wrath and malice. But woe unto you for if you don't have an ear. Accept truth and not lusts. If people continue to accept these things as common then woe Unto you, and to those who change or pervert the word and not teach truth. The Book of revelation 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book, speaks of woes to those who change, add to, or take away for the sake of covering sin. The Devil is o.k with the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah read Genesis 18:16-19:29. But when it comes to real issues everyone run. Do what is right by God and not for yourselves. We all know truth, but those who need deliverance do there own thing and deny the truth of God. For those who hold on, and do whats right and truly seek the kingdom of God continue to pick up your cross, and remember Romans 8. For by Gods spirit we are a new Creation. And by his spirit truth will be. No weapon formed shall prosper, in Jesus Name.

    June 14, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • tony

      If there was a god, churches wouldn't need collection plates.

      June 14, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • JimmyAlex777

      Blah, blah, blah, the bible is full of lies and stupidity, now what?

      June 16, 2013 at 12:05 am |
  8. David

    Another sad day for what used to be my church. May God have mercy on them, and most especially on "the bishop."

    June 14, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Doobs

      It must be so sad for you to be losing all your safe houses for practicing bigotry.

      June 14, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • douda872

      he doesnt believe the same thing u believe so he's a bigot?

      June 14, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • Doobs

      He can believe whatever he wants. Denying some people the same rights that everyone else has based on your beliefs is bigotry.

      His favorite church has decided that all humans are eligible to join and participate in whatever capacity they wish. Boo hoo.

      June 14, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • Fred

      Doobs has made the same mistake that all people who know zero about the Bible make. He thinks that his thinking is the correct way and not the Bible.
      A "bishop" that is openly gay is unscriptural. Call that bigotry if you like, but you're just advertising YOUR ignorance.

      June 15, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      yep, god should be merciful on them for not being bigots.

      June 17, 2013 at 7:04 am |
    • sam stone

      "He thinks that his thinking is the correct way and not the Bible."

      and fred is unable to discern between "the correct way" and iron age mythology

      June 17, 2013 at 7:05 am |
    • sam stone

      "Call that bigotry if you like, but you're just advertising YOUR ignorance."

      and fvcks like fred are just advertising their own pompousness

      June 17, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  9. Jon

    The ELCA is no longer a true Lutheran church body. It is a pseudo Lutheran church body that Martin Luther would want nothing to do with. If you want to see true Lutheranism one needs to go to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod where this would never happen.

    June 14, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • The real Tom

      Misery Synod is a crock.

      June 15, 2013 at 9:56 am |
  10. Gay pride month

    gay is news

    June 14, 2013 at 10:56 am |
  11. Hilarian K.J

    Actually we should cast out that person from the church. Gods wrath is come upon that person , he lost his natural quality and has become a gay.

    June 14, 2013 at 2:16 am |
    • myweightinwords

      He didn't "become" gay. He was always gay. There is nothing unnatural about it.

      June 14, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  12. Catholic4ever

    This is a mockery of Christianity!! If he truly wants to serve God, he can do it in many other ways without mockering God. Shame on him!

    June 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
    • Matt

      I mock your stupid ass God all the time...

      June 14, 2013 at 4:35 pm |
    • Fred

      I'm sure you do, Matt.
      I'm equally sure that you will regret it.
      Sad, really.

      June 15, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • Winston5

      Ok, "Catholic4ever", how do you feel about pope whathisass confirming (pun) that there is a gay agenda within the Vatican. Do you REALLY think this issue is going away?? Or do you want to clutch tightly to the Vatican II and notices you're one of 6 people at a service. Conform or....fade away. Toodles!

      June 16, 2013 at 9:10 am |
    • Rick

      folks like fred like to bloviate empty proxy threats.....in truth, they are as impotent as their god

      June 16, 2013 at 10:53 am |
  13. EX catholic

    IDOLATRY IS NOT RELIGION, IDOLATRY like Ho-mo-se-xuality is a Very Serious and Grave SIN. Both carry within themselves their own consequences.

    June 13, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • .

      "Ho-mo-se-xuality is a Very Serious and Grave SIN"


      The Biblical condemnation of homosexuality is based on human ignorance, suspicion of those who are different, and an overwhelming concern for ensuring the survival of the people. Since the Bible regards homosexuality as a capital crime (Leviticus 20:13), it clearly assumes that homosexuality is a matter of free choice, a deliberate rebellion against God. We have learned from modern science that people do not choose to be gay or straight; hence it is neither logical nor moral to condemn those whose nature it is to be gay or lesbian.

      June 14, 2013 at 9:50 am |
    • Fred

      Wrong, Janet. He made a choice. He's a deviant who enjoys aberrant behavior.
      I see you mentioned Leviticus. That's because you people don't know the Bible and are unaware of Romans chapter one.

      June 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • EX catholic

      The pseudo-science of charlatans will say that ho-mos are born.

      The Word of God say it is a Very Serious Sin just as IDOLATRY is. Actually Paul in writing to the church in Rome back then relates this behavior/conduct/practice with Idolatry and as a result of it.

      Rom. 1:20-27
      20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
      21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
      22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
      23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and 4-footed animals and crawling creatures.
      24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
      25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
      26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
      27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

      June 15, 2013 at 6:45 pm |
    • Don

      "Wrong, Janet. He made a choice. He's a deviant who enjoys aberrant behavior.
      I see you mentioned Leviticus. That's because you people don't know the Bible and are unaware of Romans chapter one."

      Romans 1:24-27 Most New Testament books, including the four Gospels, are silent on same-sex acts, and Paul is the only author who makes any reference to the subject. The most negative statement by Paul regarding same-sex acts occurs in Romans 1:24-27 where, in the context of a larger argument on the need of all people for the gospel of Jesus Christ, certain homosexual behavior is given as an example of the "uncleanness" of idolatrous Gentiles. This raises the question: Does this passage refer to all homosexual acts, or to certain homosexual behavior known to Paul's readers? The book of Romans was written to Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome, who would have been familiar with the infamous sexual excesses of their contemporaries, especially Roman emperors. They would also have been aware of tensions in the early Church regarding Gentiles and observance of the Jewish laws, as noted in Acts 15 and Paul's letter to the Galatians. Jewish laws in Leviticus mentioned male same-sex acts in the context of idolatry. The homosexual practices cited in Romans 1:24-27 were believed to result from idolatry and are associated with some very serious offenses as noted in Romans 1. Taken in this larger context, it should be obvious that such acts are significantly different from loving, responsible lesbian and gay relationships seen today. What is "Natural"? Significant to Paul's discussion is the fact that these "unclean" Gentiles exchanged that which was "natural" for them, physin, in the Greek text, for something "unnatural," para physin. In Romans 11:24, God acts in an "unnatural" way, para physin, to accept the Gentiles. "Unnatural" in these passages does not refer to violation of so-called laws of nature, but rather implies action contradicting one's own nature. In view of this, we should observe that it is "unnatural," para physin, for a person today with a lesbian or gay sexual orientation to attempt living a heterosexual lifestyle.

      June 19, 2013 at 10:08 am |
  14. Observer

    If believers are so concerned about boys being molested, why don't ANY of them advocate replacing altar boys with altar girls?

    June 12, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • The real Tom

      That would destroy their contention that pedophilia and homosexuality are one and the same. Girls have also been molested by priests; the Catholics just like to pretend otherwise.

      June 13, 2013 at 5:43 am |
  15. William

    Martin Luther would approve. As long as it wasn't an evil Jew.

    June 12, 2013 at 3:00 pm |
    • seth

      Social Change at its best! Congratulations!!!!!

      June 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
  16. Seek the Giver of life before you face the reality of death

    It's ironic that scientist, atheist, nor anyone else can provide that smallest piece of evidence PROVING the non-existence of an intelligent Creator. By definition making them people of great faith. Yet they boast around blinded by the pride of their foolishness thinking themselves wise. They say Christians believe in an imaginary fairytale, yet all of their changing theories came from the thoughts and imagination of limited minds. On the contrary Christians embrace the evidence of creation which shows intelligent design. Proving its origin being from a mere coincidence impossible, and clearly pointing to the incomprehensible genius of an Immortal Creator. Q:If life was not created by an intelligent Creator, why are the smartest among the geniuses of the world finding it impossible to figure out the origin of life? If you are open minded to learning visit www . theeternalwisdom . com Trusting in finite minds to figure out infinite things is more senseless than a blind mind chasing the wind. P.S. I'm speaking of a Creator not a specific God.

    June 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Yawn

      How many times are you going to post this garbage. This has been disputed, and you've been proven wrong. Stop posting this crap.

      June 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • sam stone

      And you cannot PROVE the existence of a creator. What is your point?

      June 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Matt

      Holy Crap! you got me! I can't prove the non existence of a God!!

      I therefore contend that you cannot disprove my magical flying donkey...what's that? You can't? Well I suppose it must be real!!

      AND you good sir must have faith in not believing in my magical flying donkey that you cannot disprove!

      June 12, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Greyhound37

      "That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence."


      June 12, 2013 at 6:22 pm |
  17. RainMaker

    I wonder why there isn't a demonstration about this. I would make Wash D.C look like Tahrir square!

    June 12, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Doobs

      Tahrir Square? You mean the place in Cairo where women are routinely gang raped in order to silence and subjugate them?

      I can see why you'd like that. It fits right in with the bible's teachings.




      For the first and last link, take the * out of rap*e(d). That is, if you even bother to read these.

      June 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
  18. gt

    As usual, people that know nothing about the Bible or Christianity making all kinds of ill-informed comments and judgements.

    June 12, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • sam stone

      as do the people who know nothing about atheism

      June 12, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  19. RainMaker

    Stop treating The Bible like an apple IOS patch. There was nothing wrong with the original when it was delivered. But those who have curtains on their eyes failed to see it. Some misinform and purposefully dis-inform the people because of the gay lobby. What is next?? The Church of Osama Bin Laden in the middle of D.C.? This is what happens when people start to put their opinion on top of the divine order. If you can question the bible and go against it then you SHOULD be able to question the holocaust. It is not more sacred than the Bible. But you see how the zionists are working. You are allowed to question and research God but not the holocaust because people may discover that those innocent jews that were murdered were not the same as these zionists jews that have occupied Palestine.!!

    June 12, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Doobs

      Actually, it's more like a Microsoft product. Poorly written, scrabbled together with the intent to establish market dominance, different applications don't work together, depends on the end user to find mistakes and bugs, requires frequent updates to fix holes and doesn't respond no matter how many times you click ctr-alt-del.

      Time for a reboot.

      June 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm |

    I'll now add "Lutheran" to that "Certain LIST". IT'S -IS- UNFORTUNATE!

    June 12, 2013 at 5:33 am |
    • sam stone

      i am sure they will miss you

      June 12, 2013 at 7:46 am |
    • Doobs

      Add it to your red serious injury book too.

      June 14, 2013 at 7:34 pm |
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About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.