St. Paul church defies ELCA and ordains lesbian pastor

Posted: Friday, May 04, 2001

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- More than 1,000 people crowded into a Lutheran church to witness the ordination of a lesbian pastor in defiance of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Anita Hill, 49, was ordained at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in a service animated by spirit, laughter, faith and exhortations for inclusion.

Hill has satisfied all the requirements for ordination into the ELCA, but she is a lesbian in a committed relationship and therefore cannot be ordained by the church. The ELCA does ordain homosexuals, but only if they abstain from sexual relationships.

More than 200 clergy members -- Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Jewish, Buddhist and others -- surrounded Hill as she knelt at the altar. With hands on hands on hands, they blessed her ministry.

Then the Rev. Michael Cobbler, an old friend and the preacher for the service, led her to the center of the sanctuary, where the congregation blessed her and ordained her to the ministry.

Cobbler said, ''The last time I checked, the grace of God left no one out.''

St. Paul-Reformation faces discipline from St. Paul Synod Bishop Mark Hanson and the St. Paul Synod council. Options range from a public reprimand to removal from the roster of ELCA congregations.

In a prepared statement, Hanson and Janet Thompson, synod vice president, said, ''We in leadership are seeking to make a decision that is consistent with the ELCA's governing documents and that will also enable us to focus on our mission of making Christ known.''

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