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ELCA to make groundbreaking minister official

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER
  • Star Tribune
  • September 17, 2010 - 11:50 PM

The Rev. Anita Hill will become just an ordinary minister Saturday.

Hill rose to national prominence in 2001 when she was named pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, at the time when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) banned gay and lesbian ministers.

Last year, the ELCA general assembly voted to recognize gay and lesbian preachers who are in committed relationships. Hill and two other women who bucked the system in California -- the Revs. Phyllis Zillhart and Ruth Frost -- will be officially received as members of the clergy at a 2 p.m. service Saturday at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 285 N. Dale St., St. Paul.

While she will be the focus of the ceremony, Hill, 59, said that it's going to be rite of passage for her entire congregation, which was censured by the ELCA for appointing her.

"This congregation has always had a vision of inclusiveness," she said. "I'm privileged to be a pastor here."

Although she could have applied for official designation earlier, she decided to wait in deference to associates who had gone before her.

"I had colleagues on the West Coast who proceeded me [in challenging the ELCA ban], and I felt that they deserved the honor of going first," she said.

Waiting also took some of the spotlight off her. She has said many times that she wants to be remembered as a pastor, not a protester. When it was pointed out that the news media likely will quit following her story after Saturday's ceremony, she responded -- politely -- that she isn't going to miss them.

"I never set out to become a professional lesbian Lutheran," she said.

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392

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