The Rev. Paul Abbott Tidemann, long-time pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota and strong LGBT advocate,was born on July 1, 1938 to Warner and Bernice Tidemann in Albert Lea, Minnesota. He attended high school in Bloomington, Illinois and received a bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota in 1960. He went to seminary at the Augustana Theological Seminary in Rock Island, Illinois, from which he earned a Master of Divinity degree in 1964.
In his early years of pastoral ministry, Tidemann served at All Saints Lutheran Church in Mason, Michigan; Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Niles Illinois; Redeemer Lutheran Church in Georgetown, Guyana (where he also developed an extension seminary program); and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Paul and his wife, the Rev. Janet Tidemann, had two sons, Pete and Chris.
In 1981, Tidemann became pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. In his ministry at St. Paul-Reformation, the passion for social justice and equality for all persons that had been present throughout his ministry came to fruition. He advocated strongly for people of color, the homeless and immigrants. He created after-school and summer programs that were more than just Bible school — they were a place for kids who had nowhere else to be.
Upon his arrival at St. Paul-Reformation Tidemann helped begin a ministry with LGBT persons—Wingspan. Leo Treadway was the first Wingspan staff associate in 1982 and Anita Hill joined him in 1983. Tidemann presided over his first service of blessing for a same-gender couple in 1983.
Tidemann’s passion for justice for LGBT persons had a personal edge. When he was a pastor near Chicago he was called to a bar by the police to identify the body of his brother. Paul had no ideathat his alcoholic brother was gay. This was a firsthand experience of the deep pain and anguish faced by LGBT persons.
At the time the Lutheran Church in America—which merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) in 1988—would not ordain gay and lesbian persons. In 1993, Tidemann worked with the St. Paul congregation to set a goal that by the year 2000, the ELCA would have an openly gay minister who did not need to be celibate. When the rules did not change by that time, Tidemann organized a extra ordinem service to ordain Anita Hill on April 28, 2001. Tidemann and the St. Paul-Reformation congregation received a letter of censure and admonishment for this action.
Paul received the Jim Siefkes Justice Maker Award at the 2000 ReconcilingWorks Assembly, an award given to recognize straight allies for tireless, superior efforts on behalf of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, particularly advocating in Lutheran communities of faith. Paul’s writing, preaching, synodical and churchwide advocacy and legislative guidance advanced justice and understanding for LGBT Lutherans. He was also recipient of the Saints and Reformers Award from the Twin Cities Chapter of ReconcilingWorks.
Upon his retirement from St. Paul-Reformation in 2006, Paul said: “Nothing has been more joy filled, more pain filled, and more spirit-filled than ministry with and on behalf of LGBT people.” In his final sermon at St. Paul-Reformation in 2006, Paul prophetically said, “Mark my words, the ELCA policy will change before I die!” The ELCA’s policy was changed in 2009 to allow clergy in same-gender relationships to serve on the official rosters of the church.
In his retirement, Tidemann was president, treasurer and French horn player in Northeast Orchestra, administrator of the Cammack Marshall Fund, founder and administrator of the Guyana Mission Network, and an active participant in St. Paul Interfaith Network. He also did extensive genealogical research, creating volumes of information for his family. Paul Tidemann died on July 26, 2014, at 77 years old.
(This biographical statement written by Mark Bowman from information in obituaries in the Pioneer- Press on August 4, 2014, and in the Star-Tribune on August 9, 2014 along with a memorial on the ReconcilingWorks web site.)
Biography Date: October, 2014
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) | Hill, Anita | Treadway, Leo | Wingspan Ministry (St. Paul) | Ally | Clergy Activist | Minnesota | St. Paul