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Lutherans Embrace San Francisco Church Again After Gay Pastor Ban

Lutherans Embrace San Francisco Church Again After Gay Pastor Ban

It’s been 17 years since the First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco has been an official part of the larger Lutheran religious structure. The community was barred from Lutheran inclusion in the 1990s after they ordained an openly gay pastor. Another church, St Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco, was barred at the same time for ordaining two lesbian pastors, the San Francisco Examiner points out.

The ban became effective in 1995 and it wasn’t until 2009 that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) voted to change the rules. Openly gay men and women were suddenly welcomed back into the Lutheran community. Leaders in the ECLA even asked current reverends of both of the churches that had been barred from acceptance for forgiveness, hoping the congregations would come back to the denomination.

Reverend Susan Strouse, a current pastor at First United Lutheran Church, notes on her blog how confusing the decision was to rejoin the denomination after so many years of exclusion:

Everyone immediately wanted to know if we’d be coming back. St. Francis began their process towards reinstatement. Opinion in the community was divided. Some asked, “Well, why wouldn’t you?”  Others, “Why would you?” Within the congregation there didn’t seem to be much incentive to make a change.

The church finally decided to return to the congregation on Sunday, July 15 after a few years of reflection and discussion. Reverend Strouse argues that the move allows members and leaders of the community to make a bigger impact in the wider Lutheran community. In her own words, “it gives us a voice and it’s a huge opportunity to look at the denomination and say, ‘You made the right decision and that’s good, but there’s more to do.’”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is one of the first denominations to completely change their stance on LGBT rights in the religious community in recent years. This past May, leaders of the United Methodist Church voted against changing language in the Book of Discipline that would have allowed the inclusion of LGBT leaders or community members. Yet, like the ELCA, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church also voted to amend language in order to be more inclusive, the New York Times notes.

Bishop Mark Holmerud of the ELCA stated his approval regarding the two San Francisco churches. “They took a stand, paid the consequences, and our church has finally seen the wisdom of our opening the rosters to all committed gay and lesbian couples. And we’re all better for it.”

The story sheds a hopeful light on religious communities that embrace a wide variety of people in the hope of building stronger communities and happier leaders.

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Photo Credit: Wild West Fisch

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28 comments

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4:59PM PDT on Oct 16, 2012

God loves everyone.

3:35PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

To heck with the LGBT arguments! Let's have an Elaine Roast! LOL! I bet we're the only ones who give her any attention which is why she just LOVES to spew here. I almost can envision Linda Blair in the Exorcist as her head spins around and she projectile vomits everywhere! Perhaps Elaine is where they got the visuals for the movie from. I see a STRONG similarity here. Anyone wonder if Elaine is really Gary Bauer in drag? Hmmmmm... Religion belongs in church and home not politics that dictate other peoples' lives. People like Elaine make me glad I found the Goddess!

11:21PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

@Elaine, I see your posts on here often. One post you actually sound normal and have a heart. Then the next post, like this one I have to shake my head. You keep making quotes like you knew God first hand. I think God first and foremost would want us all to love each other. And I really dont think he cared if you were straight or gay, as long as you have love in your heart, why does it matter? And just for the record Elaine, gay people believe in God just as you do. So please, stop being so bigoted.

9:54PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Historically, it's a brown building. St. Matthew's Lutheran church in the Mission District seems to strongly resemble this photograph above. :) Thank you.

9:32PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Did they paint their church? Historically, it's a brown building. There's another Lutheran church in the Mission District which seems to resemble this photograph above. :) Thank you.

9:22PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Good Evening Folks!

I am an active ELCA Lutheran and PRO-Everyone. Believe it or not, I attended this church and even sought assistance from one of their pastors.SHE was awesome!!!! They are incredibly active in the City! It is AMAZING TO SEE THEIR work. Many congregations can take some notes. ;) I am glad they were 'progressive' enough to do THE RIGHT THING. :)

8:43PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

Makes me glad I don't bother with religion. I know there are religious people who believe and go to a chruch that preaches love, of all people, and accepts gays equally, but it's a mess. one half is saying this, the other half says that, screw it, ill be a heathen.

8:20PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

I want a bumper sticker that has the word Thank", a pic of a fish, followed by the word "for" and a bunch of cheese wedges. It would interpret as: Thank cod for cheeses. That work for you, Elaine? All right.

8:16PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

When Blacks had to sit in the back of the bus, Gays weren't allowed in church. Times are a changing! Jesus would most likely have welcomed LGBT people to sit at the table with him. I'm sure there must have been a few of them munching on the loaves and fish. Jesus was a good host to all.

8:13PM PDT on Jul 19, 2012

My bumper sticker: JESUS, GOD, & I SUPPORT LGBT!

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I say that judge was bought and paid for! The people spoke and have now been ignored.

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