Lutherans elect Svennungsen 1st female bishop in Minnesotaby Rupa Shenoy, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — A woman has been elected for the first time as bishop of one of the six Minnesota synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Rupa Shenoy reports.
The Rev. Ann Svennungsen will officially become bishop of Minneapolis ON May 6. She's currently interim pastor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, where she and her husband have three children.
Svenningsen says she was 15 in 1970 when the ELCA decided women could be ordained. She was ordained in 1982 and served congregations in Iowa and Minnesota until 2003, when she became president of The Fund for Theological Education in Atlanta.
"I've been the first woman leader in many of the positions I've held. So it's hard not to think about it because it's been a significant part of my experience. In an important way, I am so grateful for the synod's courage to have as two finalist representatives from under-represented communities."
The other finalist for bishop was the Rev. Kelly Chatman, an African American who is senior pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.
Svennungsen will replace the Rev. Glenn Nycklemoe, who's been interim Minneapolis bishop since July 2011. She says that since she's coming in from outside the synod, her first task will be to listen to members of the ELCA in Minneapolis and get to know them better.
"My basic philosophy is you build from strength to strength," she said. "You look at the incredible assets of the ministry you serve and you strengthen and build on those."
Svennungsen's election follows a decision from church leaders Friday to oppose a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
Synod members say no money will be spent as a result of the decision, and no organized campaign will be launched. They say the main point was to send a simple message of tolerance.
Made up of 155 congregations from Anoka, Carver, Hennepin, Isanti, Scott, and parts of Sherburne and Wright counties, the synod represents nearly 190,000 baptized members.