Rev. R. Guy Erwin, Ph.D.

President and Ministerium of Pennsylvania Chair and Professor of Reformation Studies

Bishop Emeritus, Southwest California Synod of the ELCA

President Erwin's bio

Brittany Kinard
Executive Assistant to the President

The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin was appointed president of United Lutheran Seminary and Ministerium of Pennsylvania Chair and Professor of Reformation Studies on August 1, 2020. Prior to this appointment, he was fourth bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In June 2024, he was named "Bishop Emeritus."

From 2000 until his election as synod bishop in 2013, President Erwin held the Gerhard and Olga J. Belgum Chair in Lutheran Confessional Theology at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. At Cal Lutheran, he taught in the Religion and History departments, served as faculty chair for two years, and directed the university’s Segerhammar Center for Faith and Culture.

During the Reformation anniversary year in 2017, President Erwin was in high demand as a teacher and speaker and gave 30 lectures and presentations in the United States and Germany in addition to his normal duties as bishop. Through the Lutheran World Federation and his work with the Faith & Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, he maintains an extensive set of international connections, particularly in Germany and the Nordic countries.

President Erwin holds a bachelor’s and two master's degrees from Harvard University, a doctorate from Yale University and was a Fulbright grant recipient for two years of study at the University of Tübingen in Germany, and an IREX grant recipient for a year at the University of Leipzig. His doctoral dissertation was on the late medieval roots of Luther’s theology of the cross, and his subsequent scholarly work has focused on the religious culture of Lutheranism, particularly its worship and piety, with a special interest in the visual arts and architecture.

In 2000, after teaching church history and historical theology at the Yale Divinity School for six years, President Erwin moved to Southern California with his husband, Robert T. Flynn, a West Virginia native and Yale Divinity School alumnus, who has worked in scholarly publishing at Yale University Press, Columbia University Press and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, as well as serving two terms on the Board of Trustees of 1517 Media, the publishing house of the ELCA.

President Erwin is the ELCA’s first gay, partnered bishop and the first openly gay male to serve in that office in the churches of the Lutheran World Federation. As an enrolled member of the Osage Nation, on whose reservation he was born in Oklahoma, he is the first Native bishop in the ELCA. In the ELCA Conference of Bishops, he served on the Executive Committee and as Region 2 liaison bishop to the ELCA Church Council, and as chair of the bishops’ Theological and Ethical Concerns Committee.