Following the votes of the ELCA churchwide assembly in August (CWA09) and the implementation of new rostering policies by the ELCA church council regarding partnered gay clergy last month, the reinstatement of once-removed pastors continues around the US.  First came Brad Schmeling and Darin Easler in Atlanta.  This week, the Sierra-Pacific synod has reinstated a group of eight California pastors who were once rostered but subsequently removed because of same-gender partners.

California reinstatements A routine Lutheran candidacy committee meeting turned extraordinary today as the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) approved the reinstatement and reception of eight gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender clergy.
Today’s meeting opens the door to complete the process of adding all eight to the roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in North America.

All eight are currently or were previously on the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a movement within the Lutheran church to expand ministry opportunities for openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pastors.

This week in Minnesota, another first: the approval of a lesbian pastor who had not previously been rostered.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper carried the story:

Mary Albing For seven years, the Rev. Mary Albing has been pastor of Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer in south Minneapolis. But the official roster of pastors lists the job as vacant.

Albing, a lesbian, couldn’t be recognized as a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Her stealth status ends Sunday morning when Bishop Craig Johnson of the Minneapolis Synod signs the original Letter of Call that Albing got from the church in 2003. She is believed to be the first lesbian to become a rostered ELCA pastor since the denomination voted last year to accept gays and lesbians in committed relationships.

“On one hand, it’s going to be a huge day, and I’m very excited about that,” said Albing, 55. “But at the same time, it’s not going to change anything in terms of what I do.”

In an earlier post, I suggested the national media has discovered the ELCA.  Now, the secular blogosphere is noting that the ELCA may be a welcoming church after all.  The blog entitled “Gay Rights” notes that Albing’s rostering “marks the trajectory that the Lutheran Church as a whole is moving toward — that of a welcoming place for people of all stripes, regardless of sexual orientation.”  And, Albing’s story is noted with approval in the blogosphere of the UK.

As a closing benediction, I will pass along the 20th anniversary story of one gay couple as reported by Pastor Roger Lovette, father of one of the partners, on his blog, Head and Heart.

We’ve learned a lot from them through the years. We’ve learned that being gay is not what one does but what one is as a person. We bristle when anyone says: alternative lifestyle—as if homosexuality was a choice. Ever heard anyone talk about the heterosexual lifestyle? Through this experience, we’ve learned a lot about injustice. Gay couples want the same legal rights and privileges as married folk. They want to serve in the military just like everyone else. To deny people who love one another full legal rights is just wrong. We have learned that to be different is no crime or sin.

We have come to know that all people are basically the same—with the same hopes and dreams. The tragedy is that when those that are gay are forced into a closet this becomes a crippling way to live. This silly idea that gay couples threaten or weaken the institution of marriage is strange. Can we blame gays when 50% of our marriages do not make it?

Pastor Lovette's family We have come to believe that Jesus really does love all the little children of the world. We believe that the prism through which we read the Scriptures must be filtered first through the spirit and attitude of Jesus. Jesus stretched out his arms and said: “Come ye…” and there were no exceptions.

But this we know. There is a couple in Philadelphia that have in their relationship what married people everywhere long for. Commitment, trust, caring for one another—in sickness and in health—a loving relationship.  Matthew and Mark, like a multitude of others, have faced incredible odds when they courageously struck out together twenty years ago. But their ties have lasted and grown stronger. I am proud of our son and his partner and wish them many, many more anniversaries. They are role models for us all.