Rev. Anita C. Hill
“I found my voice and a place to be welcomed for who I was in the Lutheran Church. I want to make that possible for everyone.” — Rev. Anita C. Hill
Anita grew up in a Catholic family in the Deep South in the 1950s. Since coming out in her twenties and fully realizing how rampant discrimination was for many people, Anita has demonstrated a groundbreaking personal commitment to both racial justice and equality for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning) people.
Her work for LGBTQ equality began in 1976 as part of the organization Lutherans Concerned/North America (now ReconcilingWorks). Starting in 1978, Anita helped the Lutheran Human Relations Association (LHRA) – an organization founded in the early 1950s around race relations – begin understanding LGBTQ issues.
Anita completed an M.A. in religious studies from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in the 1980s and was active in the St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church. The congregation was known to be forward-thinking and willing to take risks for equality and justice. In 2001, the congregation balked at the greater ELCA by conducting two votes: one to change its own constitution and another to bring Anita on as an openly gay minister. Through a unanimous vote, Anita was called and ordained, making her the first openly lesbian, partnered ELCA minister in Minnesota.
“This wasn’t just about me. It was the hope and dream of so many people and I just got to stand up front. They risked their life as a congregation because they could have been removed from the congregational roster of the ELCA. It was absolutely amazing that people who had known me as a staff member for 17 years voted unanimously to call me as their pastor,” says Anita.
She left the parish in 2012 to help ReconcilingWorks use faith-based organizing tactics to have conversations about same-sex marriage. Faith communities were instrumental in helping Minnesota become the first state to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Anita also works toward racial and economic equity with ISAIAH, a faith-based organizing group in Minnesota. She believes Black Lives Matter in the United States and all around the globe. Currently, she serves on the steering committee of Mwendo Congo, an organization working for health, education, and peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Anita and her spouse, Janelle Bussert, live in St. Paul. They have a daughter, Patricia, and a seven-year-old grandson, Thabiso.
“Anita has traveled exhaustively, spoken tirelessly, written thoughtfully, been grilled repeatedly, and been present persistently as a guiding and inspiring force in this long march toward the day(s) when churches have begun to welcome and affirm LGBT persons and when cities, states, and whole nations have begun to claim equality on behalf of LGBT persons.” — David Weiss, Honorary Award nominator