PITTSBURGH – The nation’s largest Lutheran group elected its first woman as presiding bishop on Wednesday.
The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton was chosen as head of the liberal-leaning Evangelical Lutheran Church in America during its national legislative meeting in Pittsburgh. Eaton won on the fifth ballot, defeating the incumbent, the Rev. Mark Hanson, who is finishing his second six-year term.
Eaton, a bishop from Ohio, is taking over leadership of the more than 4 million-member denomination at a time of major transition. In 2009, the denomination cleared the way for openly gay and lesbian ordination.
Eaton, at a news conference after she was elected, urged Lutherans to be welcoming to newcomers in their churches. She insisted the denomination could stay unified despite differences over what the Bible says about same-sex relationships.
“We’re not defined by that single issue,” Eaton said. “We don’t agree on everything in this church, but we do agree on the cross of Christ, and we do agree we’re going to stick together to have that conversation.”