When the Reverend Lura Groen was ordained as the pastor of Montrose’s Grace Lutheran Church in July of 2008, it was in violation of the standing regulations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). At that time, the official Lutheran line on gay and lesbian pastors was that they were to remain celibate.
Groen was certified for ordination through Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), an organization that helped Lutherans who disagreed with this policy prepare for ordained ministry and find churches to serve. For their role in ordaining Groen, who prefers to define herself as “queer,” Grace Lutheran received a reprimand and was in danger of expulsion from the national Lutheran denomination.
Then, in August of 2009, at the biennial Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA, the ban on ministers in same-sex relations was lifted. Since then, ELM and ELCA leaders have been working to bring ELM-certified pastors officially into the larger church body. A “rite of reception” was developed, and several have already been performed in churches throughout the country.
November 7 is Grace’s turn, as Groen is officially welcomed into the roster of ELCA clergy.
The Reverend Michael Rinehart, bishop of the ELCA’s Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, says of Groen, “She is an extraordinarily gifted pastor with a great deal of theological depth and a passion for those disillusioned with the church. This church is stronger with her.”
Titled “No Longer Strangers,” this welcoming service will be held at Grace Lutheran Church, 2515 Waugh Drive, at 4 p.m. on November 7. The ELCA’s reprimand of the Montrose congregation will also be lifted at this service. Everyone is welcome to attend. —Neil Ellis Orts