Briefly: Exemption allows lesbian pastor's ordination

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 18, 2008 - 5:21 PM
faith+values

You only have a few more hours to call Jen Nagel Jen. After her ordination at 2 p.m. today, you have to start calling her the Rev. Nagel -- unless you're a member of the national board of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), in which case you probably don't want to call her at all.

Nagel is being ordained despite being committed to a same-sex relationship. The national ELCA doesn't approve of the ordination of gay ministers. But an exemption in the bylaws was passed at the national convention in August allowing local synods to not object to such ordinations, which is what is happening -- or not happening, depending on how you interpret all of this -- with Nagel.

"I still won't be listed on the national ELCA roster" of ministers, she said. "Officially, I will not be accepted as a pastor by the ELCA, but the people of the local ELCA are accepting me."

And why not? She's been serving as the pastor at Salem English Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis for nearly five years doing everything other ministers do except calling herself "the Rev." Technically, she's been a pastoral minister, which means that she has done all the things required to be a minister (she has a master of divinity degree) except have an ordination ceremony.

That ceremony will be held in a sanctuary that Salem shares with Lyndale United Church of Christ, 810 W. 31st St. To provide enough parking, shuttle buses will run from Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 4100 Lyndale Av. S. The fact that shuttles are needed has made Nagel realize this is no ordinary ordination.

"It's a little bit about me, and a little bit about Salem," she said. "But it's a lot about a lot of other people. Subtly, my ministry has always been accepted. But this affirmation by a wider community makes this a bigger ordination than normal."

Long live the King

Many churches will be noting the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. this weekend, but Richfield is doing them one better: a multichurch megatribute.

A dozen churches have joined forces along with the city (in the presence of Mayor Debbie Goettel) and schools (superintendent Barbara Devlin) to host a service at noon Monday at Hope Church, 7132 Portland Av. S.

"This is far and away the biggest thing we've ever done," said Mike Welsh, who coordinates church events in Richfield.

The interfaith service is the brainchild of the Rev. Sam Nero of the Church of New Life. "He's been trying to do this since 2000," Welsh said. "He finally started gaining some momentum this year" when he linked up with the Rev. David Lenz from Hope Church.

As a team, Nero, who is black, and Lenz, who is white, embody the spirit of diversity that King talked about, Welsh said.

A really big deal

Forget about megachurches. That's so yesterday. Today, the hot topic is the "gigachurch," a word religious observers have coined for congregations with more than 10,000 members.

And Minnesota has one. Eagle Brook Church in Hugo, which for several years has held the spot as the biggest church in the state, now is ranked among the biggest and fastest-growing churches in the country, according to City Vision, a Twin Cities organization that tracks religious demographics.

In fact, it's growing so fast that it blew right past the 10,000 mark. "We've drawn 11,000 the last couple of Sundays," said the Rev. Scott Anderson, the executive pastor.

How have they done it? Three keys, he said: a weekly message that is applicable to people's lives, a top-notch music program and a friendly atmosphere "all the way from the guy supervising the parking to the one giving the sermon."

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392

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