Featured Stories, National Lutheran News

Rite of reception welcomes three pastors onto ELCA roster

Prior to the decision of the 2009 Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly concerning the ordination of gay or lesbian people in committed life-long, monogamous relationships, such ordinations violated church policy. Still, 17 such ordinations had taken place across the country.

As the policy changes have begun to be implemented with synod call committees, one of the unresolved questions revolved around those 17 individuals who had not been officially added to the clergy roster of the ELCA.

These pastors had been ordained “extra ordinem” or in an “extraordinary” manner outside of the normal path of ordination. At the time these ordinations were considered acts of ecclesial disobedience. However, many of the affected individuals were called into some form of Word and Sacrament ministry.

The Revs. Frost, Zillhart, and Hill (front row) surrounded by other ELCA clergy, prepare for the procession to open the Rite of Reception at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, St. Paul. Metro Lutheran photos: Bob Hulteen

The Revs. Anita Hill, Ruth Frost, and Phyllis Zillhart, all of St. Paul, were ordained under the auspices of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

With many already functioning in pastoral offices, supporters believed re-ordination was unnecessary and redundant. A different way of receiving those clergy who had been authorized for ministry by an Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) panel, an alternative candidacy committee not officially recognized by any Lutheran body, was required.

In late July, the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA held a “Rite of Reception” for seven of the clergymembers who had been ordained through the extraordinary method. The Twin Cities service was held September 18 at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, St. Paul.

An act of official recognition

The Revs. Anita Hill, Ruth Frost, and Phyllis Zillhart, all of St. Paul, similarly were ordained under the auspices of ELM. Hill was serving as pastoral associate at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church at the time of her ordination, which was held in 2001 at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, also in St. Paul.

Frost and Zillhart, along with the Rev. Jeff Johnson, were ordained in 1990, the first individuals ordained under the extraordinary process. (Their ordinations led to the expulsion of two San Francisco-area churches from the ELCA in 1995).

Hill is still pastor at St. Paul-Reformation. Zillhart and Frost are both hospice chaplains, Zillhart with Hospice of the Twin Cities and Frost with Fairview Home Care and Hospice.

The Rev. Peter Rogness, Bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod, ELCA, explains to the press what adding individuals to the clergy roster means in the ELCA.

“[The decisions leading to this Rite of Reception] represent a fresh breeze and open door, a recognition of the gifts of persons dedicated to the ministry of this church and the entire body of Christ.”

The Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod, ELCA, said of the Rite of Reception in the synod newsletter: “I often remind people that as difficult as these decisions have been in some quarters, in other quarters they represent a fresh breeze and open door, a recognition of the gifts of persons dedicated to the ministry of this church and the entire body of Christ.”

“Receiving Anita, Ruth, and Phyllis, into the ministerium of the ELCA is, to some extent, simply recognizing what has already been evident to many people,” said Randy Nelson, convener of the ELM Midwest Regional Panel, “that they have been faithful and effective ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ for a long time.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,