Susan Elizabeth Wolfe-Devol, the first woman to become a Lutheran pastor in Orange County and a strong voice for LGBTQ inclusion in the church and its ministry, died Friday, Dec. 16, in Ventura after a short illness. She was 61.
From 2000 to 2003, Susan was a pastor at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, that church's longest-serving pastor. She helped the congregation grow an inclusive ministry that forcefully advocated for church policies that helped lead to the landmark 2009 vote by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to allow gay and lesbian clergy to openly marry and continue to serve.
Previously, she was an associate pastor at Angelica Lutheran Church in the Pico-Union District of Los Angeles from 1993 to 2000, serving several ethnic communities. She was associate pastor at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Santa Ana from 1985 to 1990. Her first call into the ministry was as interim pastor at St. John's Lutheran Church in Los Banos, Calif.
Pastoral care and preaching were Susan's greatest gifts as a minister. With a style both empathetic and direct, she comforted countless parishioners, both young and old, in the midst health and other crises, especially during the height of the AIDS epidemic. She challenged and uplifted congregations with engaging and scholarly sermons infused with humor and examples from her own life.
Susan was born May 30, 1955, in Los Angeles to Ben Wolfe Jr. and Elizabeth Wolfe. She grew up in Ventura, graduating from Ventura High School in 1973. She earned a bachelor's degree in sociology at UC Berkeley, and a master of divinity degree at Wartburg Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. She served her internship at an all-black congregation in Detroit, which helped to shape her ministry and sense of social justice.
She was ordained a minister in the American Lutheran Church at her home church, Trinity Lutheran in Ventura, in 1984.
In 1987 she married Steven Devol, with whom she attended elementary, junior high and high school in Ventura. They have one son, Pierce, of Oakland.
Susan is also survived by her mother, Elizabeth of Ventura; brother Ben III of Santa Barbara; sister Connie Wolfe of Huntington Beach; and three nieces and nephews.
There will be memorial service for Susan at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 7, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 196 N. Ashwood Ave., Ventura.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Sue's memory may be made to Lutheran Retreats Camps and Conferences in Frazier Park, Calif. (lrcchome.com