A couple of days ago I blogged about the ELCA Rite of Reception (I erroneously referred to a Rite of Reconciliation) that will take place tomorrow in St Paul, Minnesota. Three pioneering activists in the ELCA gay clergy movement will be formally welcomed onto the roster of ordained clergy of the ELCA in a festive service in St Paul. St Paul Area ELCA Synod Bishop Peter Rogness will preside.
I have received word that both the press conference before the celebratory service as well as the service itself will be webcast. So, for all of you out there who can’t be present in St Paul, you can watch online. The webcast link is available through the website of St Paul Reformation Lutheran Church. The press conference webcast begins at 1:00 pm on Saturday, September 18th to be followed by the Rite of Reception at 2:00 pm.
Minnesota Public Radio recently interviewed ELCA pastors Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart in a piece entitled, Lesbian clergy once expelled, now embraced. The full interview is available online in both voice and text format. Of course, the Saturday Rite of Reception will welcome this lesbian couple onto the roster of ELCA ordained clergy along with Pastor Anita Hill. The interview is excellent, and I commend you to clickthrough to read the full text or to listen to the imbedded audio. What follows are quoted highlights.
Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart didn’t set out to be revolutionaries. But their determination to serve the church as openly gay pastors accomplished what only two decades ago many thought impossible.
Zillhart and Frost met at Luther Seminary in St. Paul in 1984. Zillhart was 27 and fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a Lutheran minister. She said she hadn’t yet come to terms with her sexuality.
Due to the restrictive ELCA policies then in place, Zillhart was forced to choose between her call to the ministry and her love of another. She brought Frost, her partner, to a meeting with the bishop of the St Paul Area Synod, Lowell Erdahl (now well known as a strong advocate for LGBT clergy in the ELCA), and explained that she could not accept her call because of her relationship with Frost. In the interview with MPR, Zillhart poignantly spoke of that meeting:
“I said, I just can’t live this fractured life that’s cutting me off from the source of integrity, joy, and meaningfulness in this ministry, and it’s sabotaging this relationship”.
Five years later, St Francis Lutheran Church of San Francisco extended a joint call to the lesbian couple despite facing official ELCA censure and ultimately expulsion. See my earlier post for full details including an historic video of those heady days twenty years ago when Frost and Zillhart, along with gay man Jeff Johnson, received extraordinary calls to the ministry. It was the height of the AIDS crisis, and their ministry to the gay community in San Francisco …
was sacred ground, walking the valley of the shadow, and having come from a place of my own sense of feeling previously hidden, disempowered, caught in my own shame,” she said. “At that time there really still was a shame message being given, that you were sick, or evil, or wrong somehow in God’s eyes.”
Their message to AIDS victims was simple. “We’re not here to pity you. You are loved and cherished and respected.”
Since returning to Minnesota five years ago, Pastors Frost and Zillhart have continued to minister to the dying as hospice chaplains.
Again, it is a compelling article, and I encourage you to read or listen to it in its entirety.