Gay, married pastor makes history at Orillia church

David Virtue david at
Fri Dec 12 13:27:24 EST 2014

Gay, married pastor makes history at Orillia church
Lori Pilatzke is the first gay, married pastor to be called to serve an
Anglican/Lutheran congregation in Canada. Pilatzke was recently welcomed
to St. David's Anglican/Lutheran Church in Orillia

By Frank Matys
December 8, 2014

Lori Pilatzke is one of a kind.

A straight-talking 50-year-old who is more comfortable in street clothes
than clergy apparel, Pilatzke is the first gay, married pastor to be
called to serve an Anglican/Lutheran congregation in Canada.

The church, St. David's, resides not in a large urban municipality but
in a modest neighborhood in Orillia's south end.

"There is no other congregation in either of our national churches that
is doing what St. David's is doing," Pilatzke says. "In church world, we
are a training centre."

Her recent arrival was recognized with a celebration of new ministry,
her wife Jen Macklin at her side for the memorable event.

Fittingly, the choir marked the occasion with the song 'A Church Without
Walls', an anthem reflective of Pilatzke's approach to ministry.

"We are called to be just a place of welcoming and of acceptance, and
whatever we get we have to deal with," she says.

While word of her hiring was greeted largely with open arms, it also
proved divisive, causing a split between some of the church's most
established members.

Sixteen parishioners opted to leave after learning Pilatzke would be
their pastor.

"Good for them," she says. "At least they know where they stand. I
respect people who have a stand. But if they ever want to come back, or
ever want to discuss further, I'm open."

While Pilatzke has found a congregation she can call home, her journey
to the pulpit has not been without its challenges.

Ordained in 2002, she held postings in the Niagara Falls area and then

It was in the latter community that she was forced to resign in January
2011 after church officials learned she had been secretly married the
previous November.

The marriage happened in advance of a decision by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Canada to officially allow gay ministers to be
ordained and married.

While individual congregations would be given the leeway to decide
whether a pastor can marry someone of the same sex, Pilatzke says that,
in her case, the matter was decided by the hierarchy without the
congregation's input.

"I lost my income, I lost my house, I lost my community," she says, her
eyes tearing up. "I could have sued for all kinds of things, but I

Pilatzke was thrown into unemployment.

When her benefits ran out she participated in a training program for
home-based businesses with a focus on life coaching.

Opportunities for that sort of work were scant in the Ottawa Valley and
she floated between jobs, including stints at a convenience store and a

She received a settlement as compensation for the forced resignation,
"but it wasn't enough to retire on."

All the while her connection to the church was damaged.

"I had a lot of healing to do," she says. "The church broke me. It was
my colleagues who didn't know what to do with me. I was shunned.
Churches passed motions where I wouldn't be allowed in their pulpits."

Three years after being ejected from her job in Brockville, Pilatzke
received word that she was being recommended for a position at St.
David's in Orillia.

"There is nothing but love and warmth," she says of the reception from
those who remained with the church. "When I came here they said, 'We
don't' like using labels, we just love everybody.'"

Those who chose to leave "were all hand-held, they were all prayed with,
they were all loved, they were all reminded that they are family,"
Pilatzke adds.

If ever they decide to return, "we are always family and you are always
welcome here," she says.

Pilatzke is encouraged by changing attitudes in the church community,
not only within Anglican/Lutheran circles but elsewhere.

"Look at the pope, he is tearing down all kinds of walls," she adds.


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