- Associated Press - Monday, June 23, 2014

WYOMISSING, Pa. (AP) - The congregation of one of the largest Lutheran churches in an eastern Pennsylvania county has voted to name a woman who is in a same-sex marriage to serve as its associate pastor.

Julie Recher, 27, received more than the required two-thirds majority Sunday from members of Atonement Lutheran Church in Wyomissing, The Reading Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1pafHnu ).

The Rev. Richard Summy called her “a qualified, outstanding person.” Recher said she was excited by the opportunity to serve at the church.

“I feel like this is where God was calling me the whole time,” she said. “It’s a good fit and I’m excited and hopeful.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America decided in 2009 to allow the ordination of men and women in committed same-sex relationships. The Rev. Dr. Samuel R. Zeiser, bishop of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, one of seven in the commonwealth, said he didn’t know how many other gay members of the clergy there were in Pennsylvania.

“It’s still a relatively new thing, because of decision having been made in 2009,” he said. “Slowly but surely, it is happening across the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.”

Stephen Longenecker, a 20-year member of the Wyomissing church, called Recher’s appointment “a new beginning.”

“It’s exciting and it’s right for the times that we live in,” he said. “I’m excited to have a young, talented pastor at our church.”

Recher graduated from Roanoke College with a psychology degree and finished her master of divinity at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. She and her wife, Johanna Ray, married in August in Baltimore.

Her new role will include working with the youth ministries and small groups.

Dr. David Aurentz, Congregation Council president, said Recher will fit well into the church’s mission of ministry. He said he wasn’t sure whether the decision might prompt some members to leave but said he hopes all will stay.

Recher also said she hopes the church “can still be a place where people feel welcome.”

Atonement Lutheran Church is 104 years old and has about 1,700 members.

A representative in the office of the secretary at the denomination’s Chicago headquarters said officials don’t keep track of the number of gay clergy members.

A year after the 2009 decision to allow the ordination of gay clergy, a number of congregations nationwide decided to split off and form another denomination.


Information from: Reading Eagle, https://www.readingeagle.com/

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