LOS ANGELES -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has elected its first openly gay bishop.
In a press release, church officials say Rev. R. Guy Erwin was selected for a six-year term Friday at a church annual assembly.
The church's rules changed in 2009 to allow gays and lesbians to be ordained in the nation's largest Lutheran denomination.
Erwin currently serves as a pastor at Faith Lutheran Church and a professor of Lutheran Confessional Theology at California Lutheran University.
Officials say the "partnered gay man" is also the first Native American to be elected. Erwin is part Osage Indian.
In a historic move, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has elected its first-ever openly gay bishop. The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin has been elected to a six-year term to the Southwest California Synod, which encompasses the greater Los Angeles area. GLAAD is working with Dr. Erwin and LGBT advocacy organizations within the Lutheran Church to bring media attention to this historic election for the denomination.
This is a significant step for the ELCA, who, until 2009, had banned clergy in same-gender relationships. Prior to 2009, hundreds of gay and lesbian clergy were forced out of congregations or served under secrecy. Hundreds of seminary students were not granted ordination, simply for being gay. Many left the denomination to more welcoming denominations or to join a roster of Lutheran pastors who refused to comply with the policy.