Magazine article The Christian Century

Ordained against the Rules

Magazine article The Christian Century

Ordained against the Rules

Article excerpt

IN A WORSHIP SERVICE called "irregular" because it violated church rules, Anita Carol Hill was ordained April 28 as a Lutheran pastor in Minnesota's capital city by four bishops and 150 clergy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Hill is a lesbian in a committed relationship and refuses to agree to a promise of celibacy.

No immediate action was taken by the local synod against St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, the ELCA congregation whose members voted unanimously to call her in defiance of church policy. Nor was Bishop Paul W. Egertson of Los Angeles, the one active bishop taking part along with three retired bishops, notified immediately of disciplinary action against him by the presiding bishop's office.

"A time comes when words cry out to become deeds," Egertson said in a statement before the service. "I find it self-evident that movements of change in both church and society do not arise as voluntary actions from within our organizations."

More than 1,000 people gathered at a nearby larger Lutheran church for the ceremony. Also participating were Lowell O. Erdahl, bishop emeritus of the Saint Paul Area Synod; Stanley E. Olson, a former Los Angeles bishop in the old Lutheran Church in America; and former Harvard professor Krister Stendahl, retired Lutheran bishop of Stockholm, Sweden.

Lutheran ordination calls for a laying-on of hands, and all the assembled clergy joined Bishop Egerston and the three former bishops in crowding around the kneeling Hill for the rite at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. The service led by Paul A. Tidemann, senior pastor at St. Paul-Reformation, was punctuated with laughter and shouting. "Like a crowd cheering for a winning team, the congregation clapped and stomped, shaking the stone church to its foundation," said the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Michael Cobbler, an ELCA pastor from Indiana, preached on the story in Mark's Gospel about the faithful believers who opened the roof of a house and lowered their friend to Jesus for healing. He charged the ELCA with "a sin of omission for failing to recognize the gifts of those who would lower a pallet through the roof" rather than remain standing outside. …

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