ST. PAUL, Minn. — The congregation of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church voted December 3, 2000 to approve a resolution to call Anita C. Hill as a pastor of the congregation. The resolution, passed by a 176 to 0 vote, authorized the Congregation Council to arrange services of ordination and installation for Ms. Hill. These services are tentatively set for April 28-29, 2001.
The resolution vote was preceded by the congregation’s approval of Constitutional changes allowing St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church to call a pastor outside the guidelines of the Evangelical Church in America (ELCA). These guidelines prohibit the ordination of gay or lesbian pastors candidates living in committed relationships. Ms. Hill is a lesbian woman in such a relationship.
“Our journey to this day began more than 18 years ago when this congregation established Wingspan, a ministry with and on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangender (GLBT) persons,” said Paul A. Tidemann, pastor of St. Paul-Reformation.
“This ministry seeks ways to welcome GLBT people into the church and to encourage their full participation in the life of the congregation. Full participation is not possible so long as the ELCA excludes calling and ordaining qualified gay and lesbian candidates in committed relationships. Today’s vote signals our congregation’s commitment to living the Gospel and ensuring full participation for all its members.”
Anita Hill began her ministry at St. Paul-Reformation in 1983 with its Wingspan ministry; she was named Pastoral Minister in 1994. In May of this year Ms. Hill received her M.Div degree from United Theological Seminary, New Brighton, Minn. The Candidacy Committee of the Saint Paul Area Synod of the ELCA rejected Anita Hill’s application to gain committee approval for call and ordination despite meeting all other requirements under ELCA guidelines.
“Our process leading to today’s decision has been thoughtful and intentional,” said John Whalen, co-president “The path we’ve taken is consistent with our understanding of what it means to be Lutheran and our commitment to inclusive ministry. It is difficult for us as Gospel-driven Lutherans to invite gay and lesbian persons into a Church which welcomes them only conditionally as second class members.”
St. Paul-Reformation formed a Call and Ordination task force in 1997 to study the issues, explore the options and engage the congregation and the council in dialogue and conversation.” In January 2000, the Saint Paul Area Synod Council adopted a resolution from St.-Paul Reformation calling ELCA leaders to implement a process which would allow exceptions to current guidelines. This resolution was referred for study in April and denied by the ELCA Church Council in November.
St. Paul-Reformation sent a letter to the ELCA Church Council before their November meeting urging them to accept the Synod’s resolution for exception. “We focused the Council’s attention on three ideas evangelism, justice and Gospel,” said Tidemann. “We believe these to be compelling reasons to call qualified gay and lesbian persons to ministry. In the letter we stated that our request comes from our pastoral concern, our passion for justice and our theological conscience.” The ELCA Church Council’s denial of the resolution closed the door to approving Anita Hill for ordination within the ELCA any time soon.
In the resolution approved today, the congregation went on record saying we can no longer, in good conscience, comply with the ELCA’s policy because it is unjust (and) at odds with the message of the Gospel. We take this action with courage and conviction that it is Gospel-based and at the heart of what the Lutheran Church has stood for theologically.
Founded in 1883, St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church has been dedicated to urban, transcultural ministry for more than 115 years. The congregation is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and of its Saint Paul Area Synod.
St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church
Paul A. Tidemann, Pastor
Founded in 1883 as Memorial Lutheran Church this congregation has been through some consolidations, the last being a consolidation of St. Paul Lutheran and Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation to form St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in 1977. The congregation has been dedicated to urban, transcultural ministry for more than 115 years. The congregation is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and of its Saint Paul Area Synod.
St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church reflects the call of the ELCA to be inclusive in membership and outreach. The ELCA particularly emphasizes racial diversity, which we affirm (this congregation integrated in 1953). However, we also extend our mission of inclusivity to other dimensions of diversity including age, gender, marital or economic status and sexual orientation, as well as those with disabilities and those who have chronic diseases (such as AIDS). In 1993, the congregation adopted a long-range plan focused on four areas of congregational life which included the vision to have really good worship; to emphasize effective ministry with children, youth and their families; to enhance our mission of inclusivity and multicultural ministry; and to strive for greater internal spiritual and theological growth.
Since 1982, the congregation has engaged in a ministry called Wingspan, with and on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, their friends and family members. This ministry has focused on pastoral care, education and advocacy for justice in church and society.
Anita C. Hill:
Anita C. Hill first joined the staff of this congregation in 1983, working in its Wingspan Ministry with and on behalf of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. In 1994 she was called to the position of Pastoral Minister which includes a full spectrum of ministry in the congregation, including preaching, teaching, counseling, worship leadership, outreach and advocacy work, and sharing ministry with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people with others on the pastoral staff. Anita Hill received her Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary, New Brighton, Minnesota in 2000. She received a Master of Arts in Religious Education from that seminary in 1987 and a Bachelor of Science degree from Mississippi State University in 1973. In addition to her work in ministry, Ms. Hill has served as HIV/AIDS and Anti-Homophobia Educator for Family Service of St. Paul and as Coordinator of AIDS Ministry for Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota. She is an accomplished author and speaker.