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A low-key Lutheran welcome for minister who fought ban

  • Article by: JEFF STRICKLER
  • Star Tribune
  • September 24, 2010 - 7:47 PM

In her seven years at Salem English Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis, the Rev. Jen Nagel has never made a big deal of the fact that she was bucking the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) ban on gay and lesbian preachers.

Now that the ban has been dropped, she's treating her official acceptance by the ELCA the same way: low-key. She is among the handful of gay and lesbian ministers in Minnesota whom the ELCA officially recognized this year.

What: Nagel will participate in a rite of reception, opening the door to full ELCA ministry, as part of her church's regular service at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. Prior to this, she was not officially recognized as an ELCA minister, even though she headed a congregation for years.

Why: While some of her compatriots have conducted higher-profile ceremonies -- including last weekend's service in St. Paul for the Rev. Anita Hill, which Nagel attended -- it's not her style.

"I'm intentionally keeping it small," she said. "While this [ELCA acceptance] is extremely important to me, I want it to be a celebration for the congregation, not just me. They took a risk in ordaining me, and they deserve to celebrate."

Background: In a vote at last year's General Assembly, the ELCA opened its pulpits to gay and lesbian ministers who are in committed relationships. But the final steps in the process -- approval and implementation of the new rules by the ELCA's general counsel -- weren't completed until April. The official reception of the ministers started in May.

One more wrinkle: Nagel's church, on the corner of 28th Street and Lyndale Avenue S., is being renovated, so the congregation is meeting at Intermedia Arts a half block away.

"The service is being held in their auditorium, which has graffiti on the walls," she said. "It will be different."

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392

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