Featured Stories, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Lutheran congregation recognizes City of Edina for human rights changes

Edina Community Lutheran Church (ECLC), an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation situated just over the Minneapolis border in Edina, recognized the City of Edina on Sunday, September 19 for its new far-ranging human rights statute concerning domestic partners. The public recognition at Arden Park, just blocks from the church, was one of the culminating events in ECLC’s 25th anniversary celebration of its decision to become a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation.

The Rev. Pam Fickenscher reminds all those in attendance about the memorable aspects of 1985. Metro Lutheran photo: Bob Hulteen

“Edina became the first Minneapolis or St. Paul suburb to make such far-reaching changes to allow for fundamental fairness for all of Edina’s residents.”

The RIC designation refers to ECLC’s commitment to be a congregation that welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people in all aspects of the community’s life. “In 1985, we embedded the congregation’s ‘mission purpose statement,’ which included a section regarding welcoming all persons without regard to sex, marital status, age, race, sexual orientation, abilities, or other human conditions, into our constitution,” said the Rev. Erik Strand, one of the pastors at ECLC. “In 2006, we changed the constitution again to make it possible to call someone not on the roster of the ELCA” in order to call as a pastoral leader an LGBT person who was in a same-gender relationship.

RIC is a program of Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA), a group working for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people in congregations and the larger church. According to the LC/NA Web site, the “roster of congregations, synods, colleges, seminaries, and organizations [for Reconciling in Christ] now exceeds 450.”

The congregation commends the city

The City of Edina recently embarked on a campaign to ensure that all of the city’s public employees would be treated consistently through enactment of a domestic partnership ordinance that would allow domestic partners registration rights and the same rights in public venues as married couples. It would also provide city employees with family leave domestic partner benefits by creating a registry of domestic partners. The proposal came to the Edina City Council with the unanimous endorsement of the Edina Human Rights & Relations Commission (HRRC).

From left, ECLC president Lois Bollman, the Rev. Pam Fickensher, the Rev. Erik Strand, and James Hovland, mayor of Edina, Minnesota.

On June 1, 2010, the Edina City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 2010-12, which amended the city code to include this language about domestic partners. “Edina became the first Minneapolis or St. Paul suburb to make such far-reaching changes to allow for fundamental fairness for all of Edina’s residents,” James Hovland, mayor of Edina, said.

Three members of the commission — Jessica Kingston, Arnold Bigbee, and Lisa Finsness — were present as the congregation presented its Good News Award to Hovland. “The Human Rights and Relations Commission created the type of ordinance other suburban communities will be emulating in the near future,” Hovland told ECLC congregants.

Hovland is a member at ECLC.

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