In 1978, Ralph Carl Wushke became an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Years later, after coming out as gay, he left his position assuming there was no path forward. Even when he hoped he could lead a church again, the ELCIC told him his only option was to take a vow of celibacy. He refused to do that. By 1988, there was a formal policy blocking openly gay people (who weren’t celibate) from leading a church. Wushke decided to leave the denomination altogether, taking up a post with the far-more-inclusive United Church of Canada.
The ELCIC’s anti-gay policy didn’t get rescinded until 2011. And this week, Wushke was officially reinstated.
Think of it as a religious “pardon” for someone who didn’t do anything wrong.
“It was really the culmination of a lifelong dream for me,” Wushke told As It Happens host Carol Off. “I was received back with great joy.”
Wushke is the first pastor to be welcomed back to the church since it changed its rules to allow for LGBTQ clergy in 2011, the ELCIC says.
“I see it as an important step in our commitment to full inclusion of the LGBTQ2SIA+ community within our church and for equal rights and justice within the whole of society,” Rev. Susan C. Johnson, the ELCIC’s national bishop, said in an emailed statement.
The symbolic acceptance of Wushke is long overdue. Better late than never, in Wushke’s mind, though it could be argued that the reinstatement of priests hardly makes up for the decades of suffering the church put them through.
(Screenshot via YouTube)