The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has elected its first openly gay bishop, also its first Native American one.
The Reverend Dr. R. Guy Erwin was elected Friday as bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. He will serve a six-year term with the synod, which covers the greater Los Angeles area, reports GLAAD. He will be installed as bishop September 21.
Erwin has served churches for 20 years but was ordained as a pastor just two years ago, as he chose to wait for ordination until the ELCA adopted an inclusive policy regarding gay and lesbian ministers. It did that in 2009, approving the ordination of ministers in committed same-sex relationships.
Erwin is currently interim pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Canoga Park as and is professor of religion and history at California Lutheran University. A native of Oklahoma, he is an active member of the Osage Tribe. He and his partner, Rob Flynn, are members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in North Hollywood. Erwin serves on the board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, which supports LBGT pastors and their work, and he is a member of Proclaim, a professional association of LGBT Lutheran pastors, lay leaders, and seminarians.
“This is a great day for the Southwest California Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” said Amalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, in a post on the group’s website, calling Erwin “a wonderful leader from the LGBTQ and Native American communities.”
Another gay minister, James Boline, was elected Southwest California Synod secretary.