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. Science

    Hey HS better watch the unprotected BS on that other thread you are on..... can be hazardous to your mental state of mind.

    Like fred above.

    June 21, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
    • Science

      Oops below

      June 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  2. the real Tom

    What some posters here don't seem to be able to understand is that nothing you say or quote has EVER resulted in anyone "deciding" not to be gay. Why do you think people are attracted to each other? Do you think they choose to be drawn to those of the same gender? If so, then you should be able to prove it by choosing to be attracted to someone of the same gender as well. Can you do that?

    June 21, 2013 at 10:52 am |
  3. HUH!

    "Lutherans elect first openly gay bishop"
    Why, that's no news...Devil has been planting his servants in the Church for ages. "If he can't beat them, join them" strategy. This man is one of his "seeds".
    What does it matter anyway? True Christians KNOW who is who.

    June 21, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • the real Tom

      And everyone knows you're an ass.

      June 21, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      If Yahweh is so badass, why not just eliminate Satan? Unless Satan is an agent of Yahweh, which means Yahweh is supporting evil, thus making him evil.

      June 21, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • HUH!

      Your words are worthless, Tom. You've got no credibility! That's why some people here never respond to you, ignoring you totally. You need to change, but only Jesus Christ can make you change. Don't run from Him, Tom.

      June 21, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • the real Tom

      You responded, so your point is moot.

      You're not very bright, are you?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • DUH!

      "Devil has been planting his servants in the Church for ages"

      LOL. No one wants a boring imaginary friend. The "Devil" has always been there is good times and bad for Xtians to spice things up.

      June 21, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Re: "If Yahweh is so badass . . ." because Yahweh is not writing the script for this bit of fiction. The goat herders that did are long dead.

      June 21, 2013 at 11:25 am |
  4. Aoife

    "No one should be surprised at the difficulty of faith, if there is some part of his life where he is consciously resisting or disobeying the commandment of Jesus. Is there some part of your life which you are refusing to surrender at his behest, some sinful passion, maybe, or some animosity, some hope, perhaps your ambition or your reason? ... How can you hope to enter into communion with him when at some point in your life you are running away from him?”
    -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    June 21, 2013 at 10:37 am |
    • the real Tom

      Do you abstain from sex with your spouse?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Aoife

      “But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE.7“FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER,8AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH; so they are no longer two, but one flesh.9“What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” Mark's Gospel.

      June 21, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • the real Tom

      And? Does it specifically say anything about gays? Where?

      What good reason is there to deny gays the right to enjoy the same things you do?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      “The essence of Christianity is told us in the Garden of Eden history. The fruit that was forbidden was on the tree of knowledge. The subtext is, All the suffering you have is because you wanted to find out what was going on. You could be in the Garden of Eden if you had just keep your f,ucking mouth shut and hadn't asked any questions.” ― Frank Zappa

      June 21, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • The disconnect

      Zappa is as relevant as to this thread as Kanye West is.

      June 21, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      The disconnect

      Zappa is always relevant. And let's face it, if people are going to copy and paste truly irrelevant scripture and quotes from guys who devote their lives to fictional ent.ities, a response from a great, rational mind like the mind of Frank Vincent Zappa is always a welcome antidote.

      June 21, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Answer

      "...Is there some part of your life which you are refusing to surrender at his behest, some sinful passion, maybe, or some animosity, some hope, perhaps your ambition or your reason? ... How can you hope to enter into communion with him when at some point in your life you are running away from him?”

      -That is the crux of allowing Jesus to lead your life, without this surrender how can there be a genuine communion with Him?

      June 21, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • the real Tom

      Answer, do you have s#x with your spouse? Or have you 'surrendered' that because Jeebus says you must?

      June 21, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      Didn't Jesus tell his followers to leave their families to follow him?

      June 21, 2013 at 11:39 am |
  5. Question

    Why did Jesus hang out with sinners?

    June 21, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Answer

      He wanted to transform their lives.
      As Fields aptly asked last Sunday, are you leading Jesus or is Jesus leading you?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Eye of the needle

      Not easy to give up on fleshly desires.The Bible never promised it was going to be an easy path.
      "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."– Holy Bible

      June 21, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • the real Tom

      Are you going to give up sex with your spouse? Why should gays have to deny that part of the themselves when you don't have to?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Krom

      Are you going to give up s.ex with your spouse? Why should bi se xuals have to deny that part of the themselves when you don't have to?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Krom

      Are you going to give up s.ex with your spouse? Why should polygamists have to deny that part of the themselves when you don't have to?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • the real Tom

      Now you're catching on. Why shouldn't people who are gay, bi, or polyamorous have the same rights you do? Why should they be denied the right to love and marry the people they wish, when you are free to do so?

      Got a good reason? What is it?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Answer

      There are two sides to this argument. One that comes from within the Bible and the other that comes without.

      Since this article is about church leadership, the only relevant position is that which comes from the Bible. All else is a failure!

      June 21, 2013 at 11:07 am |
    • the real Tom

      The difficulty is, honey, that your interpretation of the bible isn't the only one, nor is it correct just because you say so. Obviously, people far more knowledgable about it don't see it your way. And guess what? Nobody asked for your approval. Buzz off from the ELCA if you don't like it.

      June 21, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Answer

      ELCA? Church? Bishop? Have you read the Bible?

      June 21, 2013 at 11:30 am |
  6. wisdomVSknowledge

    Sooner or later the church must cross this bridge. If they don't they will cease to be. Why? Because many of it's members have gay children, relatives, friends and neighbors. Jesus said... "This commandment I give you, that ye love one another." Gays were not singled out and denied. If the church fails to see a spiritual need in the gay community it has failed to keep this commandment. There are many who are both gay AND Christian. It would appear that the gay community understands loving one another and helping one another in time of need better than the church does.

    June 21, 2013 at 10:14 am |
  7. fred

    "Good morning. We want to apply for a marriage license."


    "Tim and Jim Jones."

    "Jones?? Are you related?? I see a resemblance."

    "Yes, we're brothers."

    "Brothers?? You can't get married."

    "Why not?? Aren't you giving marriage licenses to same gender couples?"

    "Yes, thousands. But we haven't had any siblings. That's incest!"

    "Incest?" No, we are not gay."

    "Not gay?? Then why do you want to get married?"

    "For the financial benefits, of course. And we do love each other. Besides, we don't have any other prospects."

    "But we're issuing marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples who have been denied equal protection under the law. If you are not gay, you can get married to a woman."

    "Wait a minute. A gay man has the same right to marry a woman as I have. But just because I'm straight doesn't mean I want to marry a woman. I want to marry Jim."

    "And I want to marry Tim, Are you going to discriminate against us just because we are not gay?"

    "All right, all right. I'll give you your license. Next."

    "Hi. We are here to get married."


    "John Smith, Jane James, Robert Green, and June Johnson."

    "Who wants to marry whom?"

    "We all want to marry each other."

    "But there are four of you!"

    "That's right. You see, we're all bisexual. I love Jane and Robert, Jane loves me and June, June loves Robert and Jane, and Robert loves June and me. All of us getting married together is the only way that we can express our sexual preferences in a marital relationship."

    "But we've only been granting licenses to gay and lesbian couples."

    "So you're discriminating against bisexuals!"

    "No, it's just that, well, the traditional idea of marriage is that
    it's just for couples."

    "Since when are you standing on tradition?"

    "Well, I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere."

    "Who says?? There's no logical reason to limit marriage to couples. The more the better. Besides, we demand our rights! The mayor says the constitution guarantees equal protection under the law. Give us a marriage license!"

    "All right, all right. Next."

    "Hello, I'd like a marriage license."

    "In what names?"

    "David Deets."

    "And the other man?"

    "That's all. I want to marry myself."

    "Marry yourself?? What do you mean?"

    "Well, my psychiatrist says I have a dual personality, so I want to marry the two together. Maybe I can file a joint income-tax return."

    "That does it!? I quit!!? You people are making a mockery of marriage!!"

    June 20, 2013 at 12:33 am |
    • Observer

      God commanded that people be FORCED into marriage.

      Now THAT makes a mockery of marriage.

      Read a Bible.

      June 20, 2013 at 12:34 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      All those people should legally be allowed t marry each other if they wish to.

      June 20, 2013 at 12:39 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that


      June 20, 2013 at 12:40 am |
    • fred

      I'm sorry Dave, I can't let you do that

      You are two for To tonight !

      June 20, 2013 at 1:03 am |
    • sam stone

      same gender marriage is coming, fred.

      your hyperbole is amusing, but nothing more

      the religious will wring their hands when it comes

      eventually, they will get over their bigotry

      June 20, 2013 at 7:17 am |
    • fred

      I get lost on the bigotry claim. How is defining traditional marriage as between a man and woman and civil marriage as between any two people a bigoted statement?

      June 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • wisdomVSknowledge

      That was so lame.

      June 21, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Science

      Hey freddy....................you know ...............where are your other sock puppets today ?

      Remember Adam had to poke himself hard with his BONE to create Eve ?

      Bone Tumor in 120,000-Year-Old Neandertal Discovered

      June 7, 2013 — The first-known definitive case of a benign bone tumor has been discovered in the rib of a young Neandertal who lived about 120,000 years ago in what is now present-day Croatia. The bone


      The bible is BS !!!

      Biblical Marriage Not Defined Simply As One Man, One Woman: Iowa Religious Scholars' Op-Ed


      June 21, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • the real Tom

      Everything fred posts is equally lame. He's a lame-brain. He cannot find anything in the bible that condemns gays or gay marriage, so he resorts to nonsensical dreck.

      June 21, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Doobs

      @ fred

      You forgot the guy who wants to marry his dog in your dopey little scenario.

      June 21, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • Science

      Or fred sounds like if you are married you can have se-x create children .............but can not talk about how it works ?

      Unless the red hor-ny beast did it then you can talk about it right ?

      June 21, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Science

      Hey fred/chad/dot bite the bullet................take the test and find out !

      DNA tests reveal Prince William's Indian ancestry


      June 22, 2013 at 6:22 am |
    • Science

      Way to funny dot/fred/captain ass hat as soon as the DNA deal was posted ..............prayer bot shows up.

      So bite the bullet chad and take the test you might learn something.

      June 22, 2013 at 7:00 am |
    • sam stone

      fred: because you seek lesser rights for gays

      June 22, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • rick

      i think fred is every bit as effective in arguing a point as is chad, austin or gopher.

      June 22, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • rick

      how about this, fred, civil unions for all? no government endorsement of marriage. this way, all have equal rights, and the church ceremony (totally ceremonial and conveying NO rights) will be up to the inidivdual churches. that goes for the ted haggard toe tappers for jeebus or dill beacon's st. pedophilia

      June 22, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
    • sam stone

      come on, freddie, answer me......civil unions for all, NO govenmental involvement in marriage......that will insure equal rights. are you in favor of that, freddie, or do you want SUPERIOR rights??

      June 24, 2013 at 7:00 am |
  8. motorcitymac

    the ELCA is about as Lutheran as the Pope is. What a joke that CNN calls them Lutheran. They are not. Martin Luther is spinning in his grave.

    June 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm |
    • the real Tom

      Would that be the same Martin Luther who condemned Jews?

      I have no problem with him spinning. If you don't like the ELCA, then go join another denomination. You won't be missed.

      June 21, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  9. Skillet Chitlins

    Towards God this is scriptural insubordination.
    Towards the faithful in Christ this is insult piled on top of absurdity.
    Towards the innocent and naive this is perversion and corruption.
    Jesus warned against this Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he be cast into the sea, than he should offend one of these little ones.
    Beware those who rejoice regarding perversion, eternity may not serve you well.

    June 17, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • heofthegeese

      Aaaaand this is why religion just isn't worth preserving. In an age where we have pocket sized computers and endless proliferation of knowledge you people want to live by the morals of an ancient people who would be considered monstrous in this modern age. If you live by true biblical laws, eye for an eye, stoning adulterers and children who don't honor their parents; you are at odds with our modern western society, no us with your's.

      June 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      Fvck you, your impotent vindicticive petty pr1ck god, and your empty proxy threats.

      June 18, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • sam stone

      the perversion and corruption is wearing a cloak of piousness and hiding behind iron age comic books

      June 18, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • sam stone

      read "the year of living biblically", by a.j. jacobs, if you have the courage, chitlins

      June 18, 2013 at 9:02 am |
    • I AM

      But God Loves Us All....he said so.

      June 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm |
  10. faith

    0. nothin.


    June 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
    • My Dog is a jealous Dog

      What is – your worth to society, Alec?

      June 21, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  11. Donna LS

    I'm 'one of those Episcopalians' – – I belong to a church whose Pastor is Gay – – as far as I'm concerned 'we' are NOT judges – God is – – our Pastor 'Walks the Talk' – –

    June 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  12. Thomas

    When it becomes publicly acceptable by the majority when it comes to electing gay people to Christian leadership roles, we've officially lost our marbles. It simply doesn't get any more absurd than that. I don't even know what else to say, so I'll just shake my head in disbelief.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • billy wingarrtenson

      Lots of churches sus[pport gay clergy. Its only the right wing zealots, living in the past that oppose them

      Most of these zealots arre the so. Baptist / evangelicals/ born agains

      The churches in the past who made America the second to last to end slavery, the only one to need a war to do so etc, and then came segregation

      BTW the southern baptists are the spinoff of the old dutch church of Apartheid in south Africa.

      You and your kind in the near future Thomas will be seen as benedict artnolds to the goals of this nation – equality for all.

      June 17, 2013 at 2:00 am |
    • sam stone

      Of course it gets more absurd. The myth of judgement, for example

      June 17, 2013 at 6:36 am |
  13. nelson4truth

    This is exactly what's wrong with the church. This man is no reverend number one, I feel silly just to even comment on such evil and blasphemy. Those who voted this man in need to leave that church as soon as possible. The prophet Isaiah said woe to those who put good for evil and evil for good. Woe to those who put light for darkness and darkness for light. Woe means grievous distress, affliction or trouble. Jesus will have a surprise for those who think they are saved, think they are ok., depart from me workers of iniquity, I NEVER KNEW YOU.

    June 16, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Rick

      nelson: biblical quotes are only convincing to those who accept the validity of the bible

      June 16, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • sam stone

      how incredibly judgemental, nelson

      June 18, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • wisdomVSknowledge

      Jesus never condemned gay society. He did have a few words for adulterers who now make up over 65% of the Fundamentalist church today. Why are they accepted rather than stoned? Hypocrites!

      June 21, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  14. N&W 1000

    Oh well, somebody write Ichabod over the door of this "church" and last one turn out the lights.

    June 16, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • Lew

      It really doesn't matter about them ordaining a gay bishop, have you been to one of these funerals they call church? God hasn't showed up there in decades.

      June 16, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  15. scrogs22us

    Catering to the world, because that always goes well

    June 16, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  16. Elliott Carlin

    Why would anyone wish to go into the pastorate if they had no intention of abiding by the standards found in the NT? Its similar to an individual who went to school to be a surgeon, then didn't practice surgery.

    Wait a minute, we live in the post-modern age where we get to do things the way we want to do them.

    June 16, 2013 at 7:47 am |
    • Winston5

      Really, just google: Vatican II, cults always rewrite their own rules to fit whatever need (I.e. the passage of time, no one speaks Latin anymore, etc) they have. MAYBE he wanted to change the status quo. Props from a devout atheist, Rev!

      June 16, 2013 at 8:59 am |
    • Heaven Sent

      "Why would anyone wish to go into the pastorate if they had no intention of abiding by the standards found in the NT?"

      Ask Ted Haggard

      June 17, 2013 at 7:02 am |
    • Science

      Hey HS............are you protecting yourself ?..................you know with a rubber ?



      June 17, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Science

      Hey HS and the gang !

      60,000 resultsAny time

      From the little blue box.............first one out of.................lmao !

      My take: A word to Christians – Be nice – CNN Belief Blog ...


      Feb 09, 2013 · Evolution WINS hands down...time for the horn-y red ... Evolution WINS hands down...time for the horn-y ... Time for the horn-y beast to get the hell out ...



      June 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The phony heavensent posted " Heaven Sent, "Why would anyone wish to go into the pastorate if they had no intention of abiding by the standards found in the NT?" Ask Ted Haggard June 17, 2013 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |"

      Answer: Not my post, I know Ted is lost in denial.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:53 pm |
  17. Richard the Lionheart

    the only thing gay about this man is his goatee

    June 16, 2013 at 6:59 am |
  18. MesaMax


    June 16, 2013 at 1:41 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Shameful!!!"
      I agree. they should have done this decades ago.

      June 16, 2013 at 1:43 am |
    • Winston5

      SHAME! MesaMax has casteth SHAME upon a sodomite. Let us all run in terror because some clown just can't get into the 20th century. (I realize it's the 21st, change takes time...;)

      June 16, 2013 at 9:02 am |
  19. JC

    A church of man has no power to get anyone to heaven. Another "religion" to take your money. What happened to God's church?

    June 16, 2013 at 1:20 am |
  20. JimmyAlex777

    ...and I'm sure you'd love to watch!

    June 16, 2013 at 12:25 am |
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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.