On November 7, Grace Lutheran Church pastor Lura Groen is set to become the first LGBT clergyperson received onto the roles of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) since the recent rule changes allowing non-celibate clergy to serve went into effect.
Explaining the move, Pastor Groen said in a statement to the press that the church is opening up. “The Lutheran Church is more welcoming than most people think it is. I am proud of the ELCA for publicly celebrating the ministry of myself and so many other pastors who were excluded by the previous policy.”
Grace Lutheran defied ELCA policy when it called Pastor Groen in 2008, and was reprimanded by the denomination. The reprimand was officially lifted as soon as Pastor Groen was recognized.
In August of 2009, the ELCA voted to make changes in its ministry rostering policies. The ELCA eliminated a policy that precluded non-celibate gay and lesbian persons from serving as pastors. Once the policy was revised, Pastor Groen began the process of being accepted onto the ELCA clergy roster, including being interviewed by the Synod Candidacy Committee.
Under the ELCA’s previous policy, Pastor Groen would have been expected to remain celibate and refrain from dating in order to have her ordination recognized. Pastor Groen took a position of “Principled Noncompliance” against the previous policy, refusing to pursue her candidacy until the denomination recognized the calling of queer clergy.
“Our Candidacy Committee enthusiastically approved Lura for reception on the roster,” said Bishop Rinehart. “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.”
A celebration entitled “No Longer Strangers—A Service of Reception” is scheduled Nov. 7, 4 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church (2515 Waugh Dr.) with Bishop Michael Rinehart presiding. Everyone is welcome. — Nancy Ford