Pioneering Lutheran Pastor Blazes Trails Again in Taking New Position

August 11, 2012
Pioneering Lutheran Pastor Blazes Trails Again in Taking New Position
The Rev. Anita C. Hill, an openly lesbian and partnered pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), was installed August 11, 2012, as a Regional Director for ReconcilingWorks at a worship service held at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Pastor Hill began in her position with ReconcilingWorks, an organization that works for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, on May 1. The worship service was a formal installation of Pastor Hill in her position following the action of the of the ELCA’s St. Paul Area Synod council to issue a letter of call for her to serve in the position as a pastor. She directs ReconcilingWorks’ activities in Minnesota and North and South Dakota.
This is the first time an independent Lutheran LGBT advocacy organization has been officially recognized as a proper context for the purposes of the ordained ministry: care of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, and pastoral care.
“When the St. Paul Area Synod issued a call to Pastor Anita Hill for her ministry with ReconcilingWorks, the synod, and, by extension, the larger ELCA, further demonstrated that it views our organization as a partner in this ministry we share,” said ReconcilingWorks Executive Director Emily Eastwood. “Anita’s pioneering spirit, powerful preaching, and willful tenacity are matched by her deep faith and loving care for all kinds of people. Her installation was a covenant of relationship where promises were made between a pastor, the congregation assembled, the organization, and the synod.”
Pastor Hill was called as a pastoral minister to St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul in 1994. As an open lesbian, she made history in 2001 when the congregation formally ordained her as a pastor “extraordinarily.” At the time, this was an act of ecclesiastical disobedience because the policy of the ELCA barred ministry by LGBT persons who were in committed, same-gender relationships. As a result, the ELCA censured the congregation and did not recognize Pastor Hill as a pastor of the congregation, much less the denomination.
In 2009, all prohibitions against lesbian and gay clergy were dropped, and the following year Pastor Hill was placed on the roster of ELCA ministers.
“To continue my ministry beyond parish service in 2012 with ReconcilingWorks while retaining active roster status brings many blessings to ReconcilingWorks and to me personally,” Pastor Hill said. “I waited and worked for change for many years before being received on the roster of our church. This call means I will be able to serve fully as a pastor of Word and Sacrament with ReconcilingWorks.”
Pastor Hill said that her role as Regional Director will be to help both pastors and members in ELCA congregations live into the new policies of the denomination. “I will be spreading the good news of Christ Jesus, sharing the ministry of reconciliation, facilitating workshops such as anti-bullying, faithful conversations about LGBT concerns, and generally building an inclusive church,” she said.
Pastor Hill will also focus on Lutheran communities of faith and with similar faith leaders in other denominations, as well as allies in the secular arena throughout Minnesota to defeat an amendment to the state’s constitution that would stop gay and lesbian couples from marrying the person they love. She will also co-chair ReconcilingWorks’ committee working at the intersection of oppressions.
The Rev. Bradley Schmeling, another national figure like Pastor Hill whose congregation stood with him as an openly gay pastor, preached at the worship service. Pastor Schmeling is senior pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul. Also participating in the service was The Rev. Paul Erickson, an assistant to the St. Paul Area Synod’s bishop. He participated in the service of installation for Pastor Hill when she was officially received to the ELCA clergy roster in 2010.
“Some may say today’s service was simply part of the natural progression from policy to practice,” said Eastwood. “For those of us who have been involved in this ministry for the last 38 years or more, tears were mingled with smiles and applause as our cups overflowed in joy and fulfillment. We thank God for the gift of this ministry of reconciliation and for calling leaders like Pastor Anita Hill. We thank Anita for her willingness to share her gifts with us.”
The reception following the service also allowed participants to be the first to tour the new offices of ReconcilingWorks at Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church.
About ReconcilingWorks:
Working at the intersection of oppressions, ReconcilingWorks (formerly Lutherans Concerned/North America) embodies, inspires, advocates and organizes for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and global partners. ReconcilingWorks is based in St. Paul, Minnesota. The new email addresses for ReconcilingWorks end with Our website is now Phone numbers are unaffected.