At a beautiful of Reception Liturgy of ordained clergy as Priests into the Episcopal Church, The Rt. Rev. James L. Jelinek of the Diocese of Minnesota received two openly gay men of two different anti-gay traditions. The Eucharistic Liturgy of transfer took place at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral on January 7th at 7:00pm. Rev. Timothy Hodapp a former Roman Catholic Priest and Rev. Jeffrey S.F. Nelson a former Minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are two openly gay men who have received the blessing of the Episcopal Bishop of Minnesota to exercise the ministry of ordained Priesthood. They have been empowered to proclaim the Gospel and celebrate the Sacraments in the Episcopal Church.
Fr. Hodapp was an ordained Roman Catholic Priest for twelve years from 1985 until he took a leave of absence in 1997, to face the issue of what his sexual orientation would mean for him as a man and Priest. Fr. Hodapp realized he was gay at an early age and while in high school, really struggled. It wasn’t until Easter of 2006 when he realized how lonely he was—that he wanted to love and be loved and that his needs were not being met by being a busy Priest. When Fr. Hodapp recognized that he was loved by God as a gay man it was then that he began to breathe new air. Within two years he met his partner Gerard who was also a cradle Catholic. When Pope John Paul II proclaimed that homosexuals are “inherently disordered” Fr. Hodapp and his partner sought a new Christian community where they would b welcomed. They found that at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, an open community full of life with beautiful traditional Liturgy, but acceptance, affirmation and celebration of LGBT people.
Now as an Episcopal Priest, Fr. Hodapp intends to walk with other LGBT individuals to help them know of God’s unconditional and all inclusive love. Fr. Hodapp wants to assist LGBT individuals to see that they are equal to all other children of God and are called to love their neighbors as are all who believe in the Christian Faith
Fr. Jeffrey S. F. Nelson was raised in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, but served as a faithful Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for 20 years. Fr. Nelson was steeped in conservative Lutheranism though this changed once he attended college. He attended Valparaiso University where he was opened to more progressive theology. Fr. Nelson studied under influences such as Rabbi Joseph Edelheit, as well as studied in the University’s International Study Center in Cambridge England. He later studied at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis , Missouri . Though Fr. Nelson was aware of his homosexual orientation early on, it was not until he attended The Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago that he began to confront his gay sexuality. Yet, because of his conservative theological heritage he began living a life of strained heterosexuality. Though he still experienced loneliness and isolation, he wanted to live out that unwritten rule that the Lutheran Pastor was to be married to a woman.
Fr. Nelson continued to struggle with being a gay Christian man. During his time at LSTC Fr. Nelson began studying subjects such as feminist and liberation theology. Fr. Nelson continued to struggle with his calling to ministry and being his true self.
It wasn’t until he was ordained and served in his first church as an Associate Pastor in Kearney, Nebraska a conservative mid-western city, that he met and married a woman. Fr. Nelson continued to try to live as a Lutheran minister in a heterosexual marriage. Yet, the reality of his being attracted to men never quite let him alone. It wasn’t until he worked at Augsburg Fortress, Publishers when his homosexuality finally caught up with him. Fr. Nelson finally came out and needed to face the reality that he could be a happy gay man and a Christian, but his marriage could not continue.
After coming out and facing the reality of who he is, Fr. Nelson after searching many houses of worship found a home at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. He was joyfully received into the Episcopal Church surrounded by loving friends on May 12, 2007.
Fr. Timothy Hodapp and Fr. Jeffrey S. F. Nelson now find themselves fully accepted and ordained Episcopal Priests. They both look forward to many years of successful ministry as they will use their experiences and their Faith to inspire others to see their sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression as opportunities to serve others in wonderful ways.