Ninety-five Lutherans come out during ELCA vote on gay pastors

Revs. Phyllis Zillhart and Ruth Frost with their daughter

As the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) meets in Minneapolis to vote on the inclusion of openly gay and lesbian clergy, proponents are making sure the stories of gay and lesbian pastors are heard. Advocates are distributing a document in which 95 members of the Lutheran clergy — a number that references Martin Luther’s 95 Theses — announce that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The booklet, “One Table, Many Blessings” (pdf), shares how the ban on openly gay clergy has affected their lives.

Currently church rules state openly gay or lesbian clergy should remain celibate and not enter into same-sex relationships. A vote later this week could change those rules to allow clergy who are in committed, life-long same-sex partnerships.

“You will read in these individual life stories of calls to ministry thwarted, delayed, set aside, or hamstrung by a man-made policy that precludes LGBT persons from serving in the ministry of the ELCA if, and from the very moment, they are in a committed, loving, lifelong, same-gender relationship,” said Phil Soucy of Lutherans Concerned. “You will read of the wondrous ministry being done by these ministers and lay people despite and sometimes in opposition to the burdens imposed by this policy.”

Among the stories told in the booklet includes a lesbian couple from Minnesota, Rev. Phyllis Zillhart and Rev. Ruth Frost, whose church in California was expelled from the ELCA because the two pastors are married.

“We could not and will not wait for the ELCA to approve our ministries,” the couple wrote in the booklet. “January marks the 20th anniversary of our extraordinary ordinations together with our gay colleague, Jeff Johnson. Yet there are people who do not recognize our marriage, our shared parenthood, or our ministry as legitimate.”

The couple said that young people like their daughter are leaving the church over these issues. “She has marched in Pride parades every year of her life. She is clear about who her parents and her village are to her,” they wrote. “She is not clear what the Lutheran Church as a whole is to her. Her generation will decide what place the Church will have in their lives based on the justice and hospitality they see extended to or withheld from LGBT people.”

Of the 95 Lutheran clergy members coming out at LGBT, 17 are Minnesotans. Here are the list of Minnesotans taking a stand on the ELCA vote on ordaining openly LGBT clergy in committed relationships.

Pastor Mary Albing, ordained 1988, serving Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer, Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

Pastor Richard Andersen, ordained 1986, serving as Executive Director of the Foundation of St Andrew’s Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi, MN, St. Paul Area Synod

Pastor Jodi Barry, ordained 2008, serving Mercy Hospital as chaplain and Grace University Lutheran as youth director, Coon Rapids and Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

Pastor Terry Hagensen, ordained 1992, last served Wild Rice Lutheran Parish, Twin Valley, MN, Northwest Minnesota Synod, ELM On Leave From Call

Candidate Jean Hay, awaiting ordination, graduated Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN 2006

Pastoral Minister Brenda Froisland, awaiting ordination, graduated Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN 2005, serving Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

Pastor Brad Froslee, ordained 2004, serving Calvary Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

Pastor Ruth Frost, ordained 1990, serving Hospice of the Twin Cities, Plymouth, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

Pastor Anita Hill, ordained 2001, serving St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, MN, Saint Paul Area Synod

Candidate Margaret Kelly, awaiting ordination, graduated from Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN 2009

Pastor Jen Nagel, ordained 2008, serving Salem English Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

Pastor Betsy Lee, ordained 1990, serving St.Edward the Confessor Episcopal Church, Wayzata, MN, Diocese of MN, Episcopal Church of the USA

Seminarian Javen Swanson, graduated Yale Divinity School 2009, Northeastern MN Synod, in ELCA Candidacy Process

Pastor Donn Rosenauer, ordained 1968, served parishes in ND, MN, NE, and WA

Diaconal Candidate Lauren Wendt, graduated Luther Seminary in St. Paul 2008, serving Edina Community Lutheran Church, Edina, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

Associate in Ministry Mark Sedio, consecrated 1980, serving Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

Pastor Phyllis Zillhart, ordained 1990, serving Abbott NW Hospital Chaplaincy, Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis Area Synod

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Thank you

I am thankful for your honest report. As a straight, ELCA pastor in the Minneapolis synod, I have been disapointed with the reporting the other news sources have done with regards to the very important work the church is doing in our own convention center. This is an issue that has been dealt with for quite some time, and it is about time we move forward and openly honor the amazing work the 95 gay ministers are doing.