Bishop Olson

ReconcilingWorks celebrates the life and ministry of Bishop Emeritus Stanley E. Olson, former bishop of the Pacific Southwest Synod of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), one of the predecessor churches merged into the ELCA. Bishop Olson died on July 2, 2014, in Sacramento, California, at 87 years old. 

Ordained in 1952, Bishop Olson’s ministry was marked by his commitment to social justice — civil rights in the 1960s and an early champion of full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the Lutheran church. 

“Bishop Olson spoke out for full inclusion and the rights of LGBT people when that was not a popular thing to do. Preaching at the first national convening of Lutherans Concerned in 1980, he continued his public witness for a church that lives up to the promise of Christ – that all are welcome,” Aubrey Thonvold, ReconcilingWorks Interim Executive Director said.

His life and ministry serve as a bright beacon and example for the rest of us.”

Bishop Olson was the first LCA synod bishop to meet in 1979 with members of the-then fledgling Lutherans Concerned.

He preached in 1980 at Lutherans Concerned’s first assembly at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco. Retiring in 1988, he continued to be a championing voice and presence in advocacy for an inclusive church. 

In 2001, Bishop Olson was one of four retired or then-sitting bishops who participated in the extra-ordinary ordination of Rev. Anita Hill. The other bishops participating were retired bishops Krister Stendahl, Lowell Erdhal, and sitting-bishop Paul W. Eggertson. 

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 19, 11 am, at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Sacramento. At the request of the family, donations in his memory can be made to the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Sacramento; ReconcilingWorks; or the ELCA Foundation. 

Condolences can be sent to his wife, Mary Lou Olson, 4307 Garden Oak Court, Sacramento, California 95841, or emailed to one of their daughters at