Meet the First Trans Pastor Officially Ordained by the Evangelical Lutheran Church
July 06 2015 4:59 PM ET
Though a liberal-leaning Protestant sect, the ELCA had previously only ordained openly trans ministers outside of the regular process, according the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Web site.
O'Callaghan, 28, who has been named pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Idaho Springs, Colo., told the site that he was "thrilled to be getting ordained to be a pastor and leader within the church I love."
"The Church is changing," O'Callaghan added. "There's no need to choose between living life as your fullest self and belonging to a community of faith. For transgender people, this means that there are congregations who will affirm, respect, and celebrate our faith and our gender identities."O'Callaghan's new congregation, Zion Lutheran, is representative of some of the "revitalization" the ELCA has been going through, and has been an intentionally LGBT-friendly "Reconciling in Christ" congregation for several years, notes Extraodinary Lutheran Ministries.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, like many other denominations, has faced shrinking membership rolls for over a decade, and has tried more recently to cast a wider net to draw in younger congregants, single people, and families. In 2009, the ELCA voted to allow ordination of pastors in same-sex relationships, and in 2013 the church named its first openly gay bishop, Guy Erwin.
ELCA churches have benefited from practicing love for all of their congregants, says Extraodinary Lutheran Ministries executive director Amalia Vagts. "Asher is exactly the kind of person that our church needs. His gifts for ministry and his witness as a transgender person continue to proclaim a message that God welcomes, loves, and calls all people," she explained.
O'Callaghan himself has shared touching stories of being accepted by the ELCA as a trans man, including having his gender transition "formally blessed" in a 2012 church naming ceremony, in stark contrast to the "other"-ing fundamentalist church he says he grew up in.
O'Callaghan's ordination was performed Sunday at the House of All Saints and Sinners in Denver, an actively LGBT-welcoming church helmed by Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber. While O'Callaghan is the first out trans pastor to be ordained through the ECLA's standard process, he was welcomed into the fold by other pastors who came before him, including Rev. Megan Rohrer, the faith's first ordained trans pastor, who is also an author and award-winning filmmaker.