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Evangelical Lutheran Church Elects First Woman Bishop

June 13, 1992

LA CRESCENT, Minn. (AP) _ The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Friday elected its first woman bishop, choosing the Rev. April Ulring Larson to lead the La Crosse (Wis.) Area Synod.

Ms. Larson, 42, won election on the fifth ballot to lead the 40,175-member synod in western Wisconsin and Houston County in southeastern Minnesota.

″I’m just numb,″ she said. ″I’m not ready for this. I thought they’d have three more ballots tomorrow.″

Ms. Larson, assistant to the bishop in the Southeastern Minnesota Synod in Rochester, fought back tears as she accepted hugs and handshakes from a throng of well-wishers.

Church officials said her election makes her the first woman in the United States to be selected a bishop in the denomination.

The Lutheran Church in Germany elected its first woman bishop earlier this year.

Ms. Larson will succeed Bishop Stefan Guttormsson who plans to retire Aug. 31.

The Rev. Elizabeth Druckrey-Stempinski, pastor of Olivet Lutheran Church of La Crosse and a supporter of Larson, was elated. ″Oh, this is a great day,″ she said. ″I prayed so hard for this.″

Ms. Larson, a Decorah, Iowa, native, was one of the first 10 women pastors to graduate from Wartburg Theolotical Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, finishing her studies in 1977.

Her husband, Judd, also is a Lutheran pastor. They have 13-year-old twin daughters, Katie and Amy, and a son, Benjamin, 8.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was founded in 1988 by a merger of three Lutheran bodies, and, through its forerunners, has been ordaining women for about 20 years. The 5.3-million member denomination has its headquarters in Chicago.

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