CLU religion professor Paul Egertson dies

ELCA bishop emeritus pushed for full inclusion of gays

The Rev. Paul Egertson was a compassionate man well known in the church as an excellent theologian and great teacher.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Jan. 6, 2011) The Rev. Paul Egertson, bishop emeritus of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southwest California Synod and a longtime member of the California Lutheran University religion faculty, died Wednesday of a massive heart attack in Thousand Oaks. He was 75.

Egertson, a senior lecturer at the Thousand Oaks university, was a compassionate man well known in the church as an excellent theologian and great teacher. He garnered widespread national attention, though, as an advocate for full inclusion of gays in the life of the church and the ordination of gay and lesbian candidates for ministry. The issue was personal for him, as his eldest son is gay and graduated from a seminary but could not be ordained without taking a vow of celibacy.

Because of his views, Egertson was surprised when he was elected bishop of the large synod, one of the church's most powerful positions, in 1994. In 2001, he became the first active bishop in the denomination to join in the ordination of a noncelibate gay or lesbian. In response, ELCA leaders asked him to resign. He resigned one month before his term expired, saying that he wanted to keep his promise to resign if his convictions led him to act against church law and because he could no longer be party "to a policy that is so hurtful to people and to this church."

The policy change he tirelessly advocated for finally occurred as a result of the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Egertson, a native of Litchville, N.D., who had lived in Thousand Oaks since 1979, had been a member of the CLU faculty in a part time or full time capacity since 1984. He served as director of the Center for Theological Study, a continuing education program for Lutheran pastors at CLU, from 1979 to 1992.

He served as an ELCA pastor for 21 years, leading congregations in Hollydale, Calif., Las Vegas, Nevada, Lakewood, Calif., and North Hollywood, Calif. A graduate of Pepperdine University, he received his master's in divinity from Luther Seminary and his doctorate from the Claremont School of Theology.

Egertson is survived by his wife, Shirley, a former teacher at CLU's Early Childhood Center, and their sons Gregory, Scot, Steven, Glen, Jon and Jordan.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, in CLU's Samuelson Chapel, which is located south of Olsen Road between Campus Drive and Mountclef Boulevard. Clergy are invited not to vest. Additional parking is available in the lots on Mountclef Boulevard north and south of Olsen Road. For a campus map, click here.

Donations to the Paul Wennes Egertson Memorial Fund can be sent to the CLU Office of Advancement, 60 W. Olsen Road #1600, Thousand Oaks, CA 91360.

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