The Norman Transcript

State/Region

November 24, 2012

Black pastor a new sight at Lutheran church

TULSA — The new pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church does not fit the mold.

The Rev. Marilyn Robinson is an African-descent woman in an all-white congregation in an era when 11 a.m. Sunday is called the nation’s most segregated hour.

She was raised Catholic, spent years in independent Pentecostal churches, and now, in her late 50s, is a pastor in one of Christendom’s most formal denominations.

She once was blind, but now she sees — literally.

And she has been homeless.

Robinson will be formally installed at 3 p.m. Dec. 2 as pastor of Ascension Lutheran, 4803 S. Lewis Ave.

She is the only black woman pastoring one of the 53 churches in the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“My identity is in Christ, not in race or gender,” Robinson said.

“We’re really excited about having her,” said Bishop Mike Girlinghouse, who recommended her to the Tulsa church. “She’ll be a great asset to the community.”

Girlinghouse told The Oklahoman that Robinson is a good fit for Ascension Lutheran.

“When we look at a person’s gifts and skills, gender and race are not part of the equation,” he said. “Rev. Robinson has a very deep understanding of God’s grace,” and is “both a strong leader and a compassionate leader.”

He said the ELCA is less diverse than the U.S. population but is working hard to address that.

“That’s very important to us. And I think that Ascension calling Pastor Robinson is a sign of what we’re working toward.

“We’ve got a long way to go to create an inclusive community where everybody truly is welcome, but that’s what we strive for.”

Lutherans are not the only faith community that does not reflect the diversity of the society at large.

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