A lesbian became the first homosexual minister to be ordained since the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gave leeway to churches in disciplining pastors who violate a celibacy vow requirement.
Jen Rude, 27, was ordained on Saturday at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Chicago despite her refusal to take a vow of celibacy. She was installed on Sunday.
Under church policy, homosexual – and not heterosexual – ministers are required to make a vow of celibacy before they can be ordained. Although not currently in a relationship, Rude called the policy discriminatory.
Rude is the first homosexual pastor to test a resolution that urges ELCA bishops to refrain from disciplining pastors who are in "faithful committed same-gender relationships." The resolution was passed at a national assembly in August when members also rejected measures that would have allowed the ordination of non-celibate homosexual clergy.
More than 100 congregants witnessed Rude's ordination and showed support for the lesbian pastor, whose father and grandfather are both Lutheran ministers.
"This is who we are and this is what we do," said Kathy Young, a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church, as reported by The Chicago Tribune. The congregation welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, according to its website.
"It's meaningful to me in the sense that my call is being affirmed not only by God but the people of God," Rude said.
Chicago bishop Wayne Miller did not try to block Rude's ordination but also did not attend the weekend ceremony. He met with the congregation last month to inform of the potential consequences of the ordination, such as expulsion, should the denomination choose to enforce the policy in the future, according to The Chicago Tribune.
"This does not imply any bitterness or any hostility. It's simply where we are right now," Miller told the local Tribune. "My goal is to keep people in the conversation, and I do not see this as an issue that should be dividing the church. I think it's one of the many places where difference of opinion can make the church stronger and healthier, as long as people stay at the table and keep talking."
Miller said he believes the celibacy policy should be lifted but also believes bishops should follow the church rule.
Despite the ordination, Rude's name will not be listed on the official rolls of ELCA clergy.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the largest Lutheran denomination, claiming 4.8 million members across the country.