A North Hollywood theology professor ordained just two years ago after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America dropped its ban on same-sex ministers was elected Friday as the church’s first openly gay bishop.
The Rev. R. Guy Erwin won a six-year term to the Southwest California Synod, which encompasses the greater Los Angeles area, according to church officials.
The historic vote came Friday during a three-day assembly of the synod held in Woodland Hills.
FOR THE RECORD:
Lutheran bishop: An article in the June 1, 2013, LATextra section about the election of an openly gay bishop in Southern California incorrectly described the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as the largest denomination in the United States. It is the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. It also said the bishop-elect, the Rev. R. Guy Erwin, is a North Hollywood theology professor. He is a resident of Woodland Hills.
Erwin’s election marks a welcome turning point for the congregation’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members, said Emily Eastwood, executive director of Reconciling Works, an arm of the church that worked for decades to lift the ban on gay and lesbian clergy.
“One of our own has been chosen not in spite of being gay, but because he is truly gifted and skilled for the office,” she said in a prepared statement. “Once again, today we are proud to be Lutherans.”
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the largest denomination in the United States, the product of a merger of three denominations in 1987. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, founded in 1847, is a separate body.
Lutheran teachings date to Martin Luther, a 16th-century Roman Catholic priest whose objections to elements of Roman Catholic practice began the movement known as the Protestant Reformation.
Since 2000, Erwin has taught theology and Christian history at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. He is considered a scholar on the life and teachings of Martin Luther.
Erwin was raised in Oklahoma and has Native American roots, according to his biography on the Cal Lutheran website. He was unable to serve in the Lutheran ministry under the church’s earlier ban against gay and lesbian pastors.
But the church reversed that policy in 2009, and two years later Erwin was ordained. He and his partner, Rob Flynn, are members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in North Hollywood.