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. HeavenSent

    CommonSense, you posted “Non-religious people do what's right, not what's told.
    Religious people do what's told, not what's right.”

    Answer: Non-religious people don't know, therefore, don't know to care what is right from what is wrong. They do whatever/wherever vanity takes them. Not knowing what the true meaning of right (righteous) from wrong (unrighteous), they call wrong, right, right, wrong ... Isaiah 5:20. They have no tools to add to their tool belt of life.

    Religious people commit (Psalms 51:10) themselves to learn Jesus Christ's spiritual truth through their lives. After comprehending lessons He teaches, they apply His righteous spiritual truth to their life to produce righteous outcomes that are good for them as well as all others involved. They can add His tools of righteousness to their tool belt of life.

    June 30, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • mama k

      All religious people in the world Religious people commit (Psalms 51:10) themselves to learn Jesus Christ's spiritual truth, HS?

      Wow you really do try to speak on behalf of a lot of people; LOL.

      June 30, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • The real Tom

      This is simply not true, HS. Atheists know what is right and wrong without a god to tell them or threaten them with punishment.

      June 30, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
    • mama k

      I pasted incorrectly, but it's obvious that HS is speaking as if all of the religious world is Christian.

      June 30, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The real Tom, you know the basics of what Jesus taught due to your parents and grandparent passing down His truth to your life. You rejected His truth and your family's values and never furthered your studies. Hence, why you are stuck on the basics never to come to fruition of as much of His spiritual truth as you could have handled if you didn't rebel.

      June 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Nonsense. You don't know a thing about me. You think you do because you're a sanctimonious, judgmental person. I never 'rebelled' or 'rejected' what I learned from my parents at all. I simply don't believe what you do. That you can't wrap your head around that isn't my problem-you own it.

      June 30, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • The real Tom

      The fact is that my parents were very giving, loving people who did a great deal for others, they were honest and ethical to a fault, they were generous with their money and their time, and they didn't waste their years on earth judging others according to their beliefs.

      What's to 'rebel' against?

      You don't have a shred of evidence that anyone is a better person because he believes in a god. If that assumption were true, then you'd be a saint. You are nothing of the sort.

      June 30, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The real Tom, now you sing a different tune from 3 years ago when you explained how you rejected Jesus' teachings. I'm happy to read you have had a change of heart (renewed your mind) on His spiritual teachings as well as realizing that when you ejected Jesus' truth you rejected the love of the people who introduced Him to you.

      June 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I didn't say I rejected OR accepted any such thing. You have a lot of trouble reading, don't you?

      I said that I left the church and that I live by my parents' example, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with beliefs in a religion or a god. It's simply a matter of empathy and thoughtfulness. But you wouldn't know anything about that, would you?

      June 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The real Tom, when you posted as Tom, Tom, The Piper's son you single handily hated Jesus Christ's truth and went on to say that your parents were brainwashed, that politicians use Jesus to control the masses, that we are brainwashed, have no minds of their own, blah blah, blah etc. how you would never be controlled what to think... Not realizing, that Jesus' spiritual truth sets you free to be the best that He wants us to be. All other teachings are not truth and have multiple flaws.

      June 30, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Correction: handedly.

      June 30, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • The real Tom

      Oh? If that's so, then you should be perfectly capable of posting a link the page where I said anything remotely resembling any of this tripe. You can't, but you'll bluster and blow about it for the next umpteen posts as if it were true.

      You're tiresome and dull with your constant lies.

      June 30, 2013 at 5:47 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      The real Tom, rewrite history all you want, you've been doing that all along. Hence, why the double mind.

      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. .


      June 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      mama k, you posted "All religious people in the world Religious people commit (Psalms 51:10) themselves to learn Jesus Christ's spiritual truth, HS?

      Wow you really do try to speak on behalf of a lot of people; LOL."

      Answer: Everyone walks at their own pace, when they comprehend Jesus' spiritual truth, it sinks in, thirsting (searching) for more. You can read the same scripture(s) at different intervals in your life and see (get) more of His wisdom than before. His truth forever grows as you grow in His spiritual truth.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
    • The real Tom

      I haven't rewritten a thing. You have.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
  2. Austin Lutheran

    As a Missouri Synod Lutheran I just wish they wouldn't report this as Lutherans since we do not hold the same values as the Evangelical Lutherans – the liberals that they are. Im agast that they continue to make their own rules and no longer follow scripture and the Word of God.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • CGDoc

      Thank you Austin Lutheran! I was just about to post the same thing. CNN, please don't lump ALL LUTHERANS into the same Cesspool.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  3. kjvav

    1 Timothy 3:2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

    Romans 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    What Bible are they using?

    June 29, 2013 at 11:45 pm |
    • Santex

      “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."

      This too was spoken of in the Bible when wrong would be declared right.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  4. OT rebellion

    You bumper sticker would read-

    "Proud Bible rebel"

    June 26, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Science


      The cult.

      What a joke below !!!



      June 27, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  5. OT rebellion

    You taught them well. At least 4 out of the 9 got it right. Sadly, 2 of yours were led astray 🙁

    June 26, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • sam stone

      waaaah, waaah, fvcking waaaah

      June 26, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
  6. DM

    Perfect example of "spirituality" guided by feelings and emotions instead of the Spirit – the book of Revelations could not be more accurate.

    June 24, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • sam stone

      Isn't that EXACTLY what your spirituality is based on, DM?

      Try not to be so pompous

      June 24, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • DM

      Not at all Sam Stone – the Holy Spirit guides you to understand the Scriptures and live out its principles, whereas feelings and emotions will have you pick and choose what seems right to believe or not and go from there. It's alright if you dont have a clue what I am talking about – I dont expect you to.

      June 24, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • sam stone

      "the Holy Spirit guides you to understand the Scriptures and live out its principles, whereas feelings and emotions will have you pick and choose what seems right to believe or not and go from there."

      that must be why there is only one denomination of christianity

      thanks for clearing that up

      June 24, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • DM

      No problem Sam Stone – like I said, I didnt expect you to understand. Have a nice day.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • sam stone

      you too

      June 24, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • sam stone

      the vast number of different christian denominations show that making it up is common to the christian, even to DM

      June 24, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • kjvav

      All of those denominations are not guided by the Holy Spirit. Pentacostals need to read 1 Corinthians chapter 14, Lutherines need to read Romans 1:27 and 1 Timothy 3:2. Catholics need to read the WHOLE book of Romans. The Jehovah's Witnesses need to read Revelation 20....etc, etc, etc.

      There are a handful of churches out there that study, understand, and believe the WHOLE Bible.

      June 29, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
  7. FedUpwithLA

    Good for the Lutherans! Last time I looked, they were all going to Hell anyway. Why not elect a gay bishop so that he can send you there now? Why wait?

    June 23, 2013 at 10:56 pm |
  8. MohamedThePhoenician

    I feel sad to see people deviate from our creator's way, but I feel happy too when those who falsely claim to be God's proxies who were never on that path show their real color, and stop fooling the people that they are people of God. I feel bad for the masses that are very frustrated and some of them may abandon religion altogether and become atheists. To those I can assure you that there is a better alternative, there is a true religion. Find for yourself by studying Islam. Please visit whyislam dot com

    June 23, 2013 at 8:23 pm |
    • John

      Islam will put their souls in greater danger than sodomy.

      July 2, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      There are no such things as souls, John, and Islam is one of the more coherent religions, although they are all stupid as fvck. Which stupid-as-fvck invisible sky wizard do you believe in?

      July 2, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
  9. MohamedThePhoenician

    Time for Christians, and non-Christian still looking for clarity and the truth to consider learning more about Islam. Learn Islam from its source and don't allow any one to decide your destiny, but take full control of it.

    June 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm |
  10. Dhall

    This was a very interesting post. I am not very familiar with the Lutheran and Episcopalian demonization. This post makes very interesting points and questions parts of religion that have been a certain way for years. I am not sure that I agree but it definitely gives me a more worldly view of religion especially outside of the Bible belt. I think the Lutheran Church is making a very strong statement for the LGBT community!

    June 23, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
  11. Amazing Grace


    There is no place we can go that God's grace cannot reach!

    June 23, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
    • Science

      Bible thumpers think outside the bible it will be nice for you !!!.................from the little blue box and the matrix.

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


      Feb 09, 2013 · Mom and Dad.....did it faith ! ... no bible needed ! HEY HS ... Science. You know faith about all the pages that went bye bye ...

      Hey lol??.................where is chad/vic ? (ICR, RCC and the Discovery Insti-tute}

      June 27, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Science, you think outside the bible and it hasn't done a thing for you except allow you to hide behind what science has done and what? Claim it as your own?.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
  12. Chris

    One more sign of a so-called Christian Church which stands for nothing and accepts everything.

    June 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
  13. Tom

    For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
    And they shall turn away their ears from the truth...

    June 23, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • The real Tom

      So you know better than the people of the ELCA? Says who?

      June 23, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      Hey, Tom, if you don't like "Freedom Of Religion," why don't you move to Iran? They don't have Freedom Of Religion there.

      June 23, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  14. luke hildebrand

    I am going to pray for this man and this church.
    Willing sinners have no place in God's kingdom.

    June 23, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • jj

      That's God's call. Not yours.

      June 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • sam stone

      aren't you a bit full of yourself, luke?

      June 24, 2013 at 6:54 am |
    • Savannah

      Unless you are actually God using a Pseudonym, stop judging others, it is "Christians" like you that bring scorn on Christianity. What is going on here with the Lutherans is wrong in my book, but is not my (or your's) place to pass final Judgement.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Ron Sheen

      Luke you're exactly right...Satan has entered the Church....

      June 30, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  15. DJP

    I was not aware that the ELCA had moved that far away from God's word. Will pray for them to return to what has been taught to us bu God our fatherin heaven.

    June 23, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • CarrotCakeMan

      It's sad to see another traitor attack the Freedom Of Religion of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

      June 23, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • sam stone

      djp: i think you confuse the word of god with the edited, translated hearsay of the bible. as far as your prayer, if all this is god's plan, aren't you being blasphemous by purporting to know better than god?

      June 24, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things'

    June 22, 2013 at 6:26 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.

      See previous page fred/dot

      June 22, 2013 at 8:19 am |
    • Science

      Hey Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things..............the sock puppets and crickets ?

      June 22, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Science

      Come on who is who today chad ?

      June 22, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Science

      Hey dot/ass hat............the bad carny show with sock puppets HS included.

      June 22, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Science

      Well chad you going do the DNA deal?

      June 22, 2013 at 12:41 pm |
    • Science

      Hey creationists and the supreme court is going to rule when ?

      That se-x deal and love ?

      Face it: Monogamy is unnatural

      By Meghan Laslocky, Special to CNN

      updated 11:02 AM EDT, Fri June 21, 2013


      June 22, 2013 at 3:16 pm |
    • Science

      Hey iboom are you freds partner ?

      June 23, 2013 at 4:58 am |
    • Science

      Trolling for the devil aye ass hat ?

      Church without God – by design


      June 23, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
    • Science

      Or who was/is the STORK ? (trolling today AH).

      June 24, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Science

      You are one lost human aren't you Freddie ?

      June 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm |
    • Steve - Dallas

      No, it doesn't.

      June 29, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
    • Science

      So still trolling I see.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:12 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Science, monogamy is easy when living His spiritual truth. Not easy for those that insist on staying carnal in their thinking/being.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
    • The real Tom

      It's been very easy for my husband and me to be faithful. How do you explain that, HS?

      June 30, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  17. Cpt. Obvious


    June 21, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • Science

      And they more than likely do not know the families own bloodline .

      There might be that great great great uncle that was a lustful son of a gun on record even.

      June 21, 2013 at 5:51 pm |
    • Secrect - 666

      Shocking! CNN actually covers Bilderberg conference



      June 21, 2013 at 6:12 pm |
    • lol??

      Cpt. Oblivious, is your Betty an XX, before I bother to play the vid??

      June 22, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  18. Marriage

    To each his/her own

    Traditional marriage vs. Open marriage

    Polygamy vs. monogamy

    If marriages were open for definition then every Tom, Harry and Larry would come up with their own definition of what 'marriage' ought to be. Get it rev?

    June 21, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      What's wrong with that? Don't people get to define their friendships in whatever terms they wish and model them on whatever basis they desire? Why shouldn't people get to define their own secksual relationships and living arrangements? Didn't the old heroes of the bible do just that? Multiple spouses and conc.ubines and such?

      June 21, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • 2 Corinthians 6:14

      Solomon should have known better than to listen to idolaters.

      June 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm |
    • Dan

      That is exactly why these stories are there in the scriptures, a wise man learns from the mistakes but a fool walks into the trap.

      June 21, 2013 at 5:21 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      What trap would that be Dan? Why do you think you get to define marriage?

      June 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • sam stone

      marriage equality is coming. if that bothers you, you are a bigot. if you hide behind your bible to justify your bigotry, you are a pious bigot

      June 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
  19. Doc Vestibule

    It's a slow day on the blogs, so here's a few things to ponder if you're one of the folk who believe atheists are inherently evil.

    4 years ago, the Journal of Religion & Society published a study on religious belief and social well-being, comparing 18 prosperous democracies from the U.S. to New Zealand.
    #1 on the list in both atheism and good behaviour is Ja.pan. It is one of the least crime-prone countries in the world. It also has the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy of any developed nation. Over eighty percent of the population accept evolution.

    Last on the list is the U.S. It has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and homicide rates are at least five times greater than in Europe and ten times higher than in Ja.pan.
    Louisiana, with America's highest church attendance rate, has twice the national average murder rate.

    June 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  20. Doc Vestibule

    God digs polygamists.

    GENESIS 4:19
    "Then Lamech took for himself two wives : the name of one was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah."
    Deuteronomy 21:15
    "If a man have two wives, one beloved and another hated, and they have born him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son be hers that was hated:"
    Exodus 21:10
    "If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights."
    King David is called "a man after God's own heart" and he had multiple wives.
    1 Samuel 25:43 states:
    "David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel, and so both of them were his wives."
    2 Samuel 5:13:
    "And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he had come from Hebron. Also more sons and daughters were born to David."
    2 Samuel 12:8
    "Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel : 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. ' I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!"
    GENESIS 32:32
    "And he [Jacob] arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok."
    2 CHRONICLES 11:21
    "Now Rehoboam loved Maachah the granddaughter of Absalom more than all his wives and his concubines; for he took eighteen wives and sixty concubines, and begot twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters."

    June 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
    • Elisabeth Hagans

      Amen!! Very well written.

      June 21, 2013 at 9:43 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.