Oregon Lutherans elect first woman to lead flock
The state's Lutherans have elected their first female bishop to lead the Oregon Synod.
Laurie Ann Larson Caesar will oversee more than 30,000 Lutherans in 111 statewide congregations during her six-year term as bishop of the Oregon Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"The word synod means walking together," Bishop Larson Caesar said after a packed installation ceremony Saturday, Dec. 14 at Northwest Portland's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. "We stand on good strong shoulders of leaders in the past, and we want to walk even more, together, toward courageous love. I think God can use all of us for good."
Before her elevation, Larson Caesar spent more than 20 years as pastor of Beaverton's Spirit of Grace church, perhaps the only house of worship in the world dedicated to serving both Lutherans and Roman Catholics.
Packed crowd at the Trinity Cathedral in Portland today as Laurie Ann Larson Caesar is installed as first female Lutheran Bishop in the Oregon Synod pic.twitter.com/8xA5LWqetq— Zane Sparling (@PDXzane) December 14, 2019
She was born in Libby, Montana, studied human biology and trained as a chaplain at Stanford University. She also earned a master's at Harvard Divinity School. Her husband, Drew, serves as a Presbyterian pastor.
Oregon Lutherans have a reputation for breaking new ground. The Oregon Synod was the first of the Lutheran collectives to declare itself a "sanctuary synod" three years ago. In 2005, it was the first synod to announce that worshippers of all sexual orientations and identities were welcome.
Women have been ordained in the Lutheran church for 50 years. But this year, gatherings of Lutherans appointed 13 new bishops, including eight women. Larson Caesar was the final appointment this year.
"I'd say they saved the best for last, but they're all pretty remarkable," noted Rev. Elizabeth Eaton. In a sermon, Eaton, presiding bishop for all Evangelical Lutherans nationwide, highlighted the interfaith nature of the rite of installation in Portland. "Having some sort of united witness gives us greater strength, and maybe even integrity, in our message of Jesus Christ."
Ecumenical partners from the local Episcopal diocese, Yakama Nation, and Sikh, Jewish and Muslim faith communities provided blessings during the two-hour event. An offering was also raised for Immigrant and Refugee Services at Lutheran Community Services Northwest and Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice.
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