Saint Francis Lutheran Church Again An ELCA Congregation
The following is an update from Phil Soucy of Lutherans Concerned North America.
Saint Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco, is again a congregation of the Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA. On February 27, a special ceremony was held at St. Francis during which Bishop Mark Holmerud received the congregation, a ceremony he described as “joyous, healing and celebrative.”
St. Francis was expelled from the ELCA in 1996 for having called and ordained Rev. Ruth Frost and Rev. Phyllis Zillhart as pastors in 1990. This calling was a principled act of ecclesiastical disobedience. The policy of the time was that ministers living in committed, same-gender relationships were precluded from service in the ELCA. St. Francis and First United of San Francisco were thrust into controversy, disciplinary action and expulsion, when St. Francis ordained Ruth and Phyllis, and First United ordained Jeff Johnson as pastors.
In 2009, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly ended the policy discriminating against ministers living in committed, lifelong, same-gender relationships. In 2010, Jeff, Ruth and Phyllis were received onto the roster of ELCA clergy, their 1990 ordinations and their subsequent ministries recognized.
Of the service on the 27th, Rev. Robert Goldstein, pastor of St. Francis, said, “There is a lot of joy from the congregation and from supporters throughout the country,” as quoted by ELCA News.
St. Francis had maintained close ties and relationship with the synod while in exile, even attending synod assemblies though they could not vote.
This principled advocacy for full inclusion and reconciliation across the years is made joyous and fulfilling in the case of St. Francis, being received back into a synod and a church body moved by the Holy Spirit, changed by the majority action of the churchwide assembly, and now continuing the work of spreading the good news of the Gospel.
Lutherans Concerned celebrates with St. Francis, their joy in the discernment that led them to the decision that return to the ELCA was best for their ministry and witness. Please join St. Francis in their celebrating. Visit their website, www.st-francis-lutheran.org, or on Facebook to share your thoughts and prayers.
According to its current pastor, Rev. Susan Strouse, First United continues a process of discernment and dialog with the Sierra Pacific Synod regarding whether or not to return to the ELCA. Lutherans Concerned joins First United and the Sierra Pacific Synod in prayer as they continue conversations discerning the best path for ministry and witness.
Photo from St. Francis Lutheran