Lutherans Come Around: First Female Leader Elected

Religiously, my childhood was an interesting one. I both did and did not grow up in the church. Raised Catholic, my parents eventually made the decision that the Catholic church wasn’t for us before I was confirmed. I don’t know why the decision was made and I never asked, but later in my life, I turned to different churches due to an inherent curiosity about religion and spirituality.

Eventually, I found a Presbyterian church that I really liked and attended there for a while. Soon after, the musical director of the church came out as gay. This wasn’t a big deal to me, but it was to the church leaders. They asked him to step down from his position as musical director, saying that it was inappropriate for him to keep a leadership position because of his sexuality. I never went back to that church again, and decided I wouldn’t go back to any church until the highest of leaders could figure out the whole “love thy neighbor” thing and accept everyone into their congregation, no matter what.

It turns out that I am not alone. One of the most dividing issues in all Christian churches right now is the issue of sexuality. Many LGBTQ parishioners are craving the acceptance of their faith-based organizations, and many others are fighting for the acceptance of their peers.

Last week, the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church of America — the largest Lutheran denomination in the nation — took a step in the right direction for both LGBTQ individuals and women when it elected its first woman leader.†Northeast Ohio Bishop Elizabeth Eaton defeated Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. Hanson had held his position since 2001, but Eaton, a moderate leader who supported the denomination’s 2009 decision to ordain openly gay clergy but allowed room for individual churches to disagree, adds a diverse voice to the church leadership that many members are looking for.

In fact, the ELCA has seen a steady decline in membership from 1987 and has lost nearly 500,000 members in 2010 and 2011 alone. Many believe this declining membership to be a reflection of the fact that church leaders are mostly old, white, male and straight and, therefore, members do not feel their views and values are being recognized by church leadership. Eaton’s election is a historical and important one, not only because she is the first woman leader elected, but because she adds a more diverse voice to the church leadership.

At the†ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh after the election, Eaton said, “We are a church that is overwhelmingly European in a culture that is increasingly pluralistic…†We need to welcome the gifts of those who come from different places, that is a conversation we need to have as a church.”

Though the other bishops didn’t necessarily agree with her election, not one of them resigned in protest, a fact that made Eaton “proud.” The defeated Hanson was also gracious in his loss, saying, “When I stood before you 12 years ago, I told you this is not an election won, this is a call received. And now this call has been extended to Bishop Eaton.”

It will be interesting to see how the ELCA moves forward from here with Eaton among the leaders of the pack. I can only hope that we will begin to see more movement toward tolerance and acceptance of women and LGBTQ church members as the ELCA sets an example for other faiths.

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Photo Credit: Phillie Casablanca

52 comments

Jerome S
Jerome S11 days ago

thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim V11 days ago

thanks for sharing.

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Jessica Larsen
Janne O3 years ago

Uhm... Whut? But the Protestant church is the normal one! We're the ones who allow female priests and are far more accepting of abortion and contraceptives than the Catholics could ever hope to get. Norway saw its first female priest, Ingrid Bjerkås, start working in 1961, and the first female bishop in 1993. When did the catholic church stop fighting contraceptives and female priests? Oh yeah, they didn't. And you criticize the one branch within Christianity who have come to terms with this to some degree??? That makes no sense.

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Leigh EVERETT
Leigh EVERETT3 years ago

I dont get it.

There is nothing in the Bible, as far as I'm aware (correct me if I'm wrong), that says women cannot teach or become leaders in the church.

However, Gods word is very clear about how we are supposed to live and that includes avoiding all sexual immorality (homosexuality falls into this category). This is simply not pleasing to God and has absolutely nothing to do with the church not being modern enough or not living in the 21st century.
What I can't get my head around is people insisting that churches accept this sort of action just because the rest of the world thinks it is OK.

God says it is NOT OK so between the rest of the world and God, sorry but YOU LOSE.

I simply cannot ignore a fundamental basic of christianity just because the world is going insane.

This is just another example of Satan lowering our bar of principles little by little until it is accepted by all. What's next? If someone says that murder is no big deal, maybe in five generations that will be accepted too.

Don't let yourselves be influenced, eternity is a very long time and we will have plenty of time to realise where we went wrong.

Please folks for you own sakes, think about it.

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Lyn Smith
Lyn Romaine3 years ago

There is no law in the Bible that says women cannot preach. God will use anyone He chooses and all they have to do is be willing to walk the path that He has laid out for you.

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Lynn Squance
Lynn S3 years ago

I am very proud of my church, the United Church of Canada, which is the largest protestant church in Canada. Years ago we elected a female Moderator, Lois M Wilson in 1982. Since there have been 4 more. Our current Moderator is Rev Gary Paterson was is gay and has been in a gay relationship with Rev Tim for many years. The church also was the first church in Canada to ordain openly LGBT ministers. It hasn't been without it's controversies, but we are a progressive church trying to live out Jesus teachings.

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Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se3 years ago

its about time i say.........

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Lynn C.
Lynn C3 years ago

ty

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Robynne W.
Robynne W3 years ago

My Grandmother would be so proud.

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Natasha Salgado
natasha s3 years ago

Congrats 4 realizing we're in the 21st century!

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