In a historic move for the Evangelical Church and religion worldwide, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America announced the election of Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin to a six year term yesterday, making him the first-ever openly gay bishop in history. Educated at Yale with a PhD in Lutheran history, Dr. Erwin will serve the Southwest California Synod, which encompasses the greater Los Angeles area.
“I know that many will see my election as a significant milestone for both LGBT people and Native Americans, and I pray that I can be a positive representation for both communities,” Erwin told GLAAD in a statement. “There was a time when I believed that I would not be able to serve as a pastor in the ELCA. Our church has now recognized the God-given gifts and abilities that LGBT people can bring to the denomination.”
The announcement comes only four years after the ELCA overturned a ban on clergy in same-sex relationships. Instead of seeking ordination during a time when hundreds of his openly gay peers were being forced out of seminary school, Dr. Erwin sought his PhD at Yale (where he met his partner Rob Flynn) and became Professor of Religion and History at Californnia Lutheran University in 2000.
“All kinds of diverse leaders are called to positions in the church – and the Lutheran church is blessed with many committed LGBTQ pastors, whose callings can now be fully recognized,” said Amalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. “This church has come a long way in 4 years. More and more people are realizing all the time that LGBTQ people have important ministry gifts, including the gifts to lead the church as a bishop. We are thrilled to see such a wonderful leader from the LGBTQ community called to the position of bishop at this time in history.”