Last week, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) elected the first openly gay and Native American bishop. The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin was elected to be the bishop of the Southwest California Synod, which encompasses the greater Los Angeles Area.
Erwin will join the contingent of Lutherans who participate in the Los Angeles Pride march tomorrow. It's been a tradition for the Lutheran bishop to ride in a car during the march, and Erwin will now be able to ride as Bishop-elect.
Erwin spoke with KPCC, Southern California Public Radio about his upbringing, his election as the first openly gay bishop, and how he's looking forward. Alex Cohen, the host, reminded listeners that the bishop of Southwest California Synod has historically been pro-LGBT, noting that a previous bishop, Paul Egertson, participated in the ordination of Anita Hill, a partnered lesbian, long before the ELCA dropped their ban on clergy in same-gender relationships.
The media response to Erwin's election has been positive, telling the story of a teacher of the church who was called to leadership. CNN reported that Erwin was not elected until 2011, two years after the policy banning clergy in same-gender relationships was lifted in the ELCA. However, his election has not created the same level of controversy that the election of Bishop Gene Robinson did 10 years ago. Bishop Robinson reflected in an op-ed in the Washington Post on how much more open and accepting mainline Christian denominations have come since his election in 2003:
I couldn’t be happier for and prouder of Dr. Erwin for allowing his name to go forward and the ELCA for recognizing his gifts for ministry. Their denomination now looks a little more like the inclusive church they have long preached about and longed for. And given the changing attitudes among religious people about homosexuality, Dr. Erwin might get to be just a bishop, not a “gay bishop.”
You can see Bishop-elect Erwin, along with the other pro-LGBT Lutherans at the LA Pride parade tomorrow. You can also join GLAAD and march with Shane Bitney Crone and GLAAD's Wilson Cruz. Join us in representing GLAAD for the occasion as we share our programmatic work with festival goers! RSVP here to join our contingent. We'll be meeting by the Bank of America at the Santa Monica and Crescent Heights at 10 am and marching until 2pm.
After the parade, join GLAAD and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Lisa Vanderpump at her restaurant SUR! The post-parade event starts at 2pm with special cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Bravo will be filming for the show and will air this event in next season.
Happy Pride, Bishop-elect Guy Erwin, and the rest of Los Angeles!