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The God who made me Queer also taught me what it means to say Black Lives Matter.

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

by Rev. Lura Groen, guest blogger
with thanks to many, especially Louis Mitchell, for feedback and edits

Making me Queer has been the Spirit’s way of breaking through to me, of teaching me, of giving me a burning in my bones about issues of oppression and enabled me to notice and care about racial oppression, police brutality, and the subtle white supremacy of our churches.

Black LIves MatterBeing Queer taught me that, although personal prejudice might break my heart, systemic injustice is what steals our lives, hopes, and dreams.

Depending on the person, how close I am to them, finding out that someone thinks “homosexuality is a sin” or “doesn’t believe in gay preachers” might hurt.  If they’re family, if they’re church family, the hurt may be very deep.  If I don’t know them at all, it just might not hurt at all.

But there’s a difference between a bishop denying my call because of my sexual orientation, and a member in the church I serve questioning it.  And that difference is power, and structure.  I know that if I worship in a denomination that affirms my call to ministry, one person’s personal prejudice won’t destroy me.  And that if my call is denied, the Spirit screams within me in a way that all the sympathetic friends and family can’t silence. So when I hear that racism is more than personal prejudice, but systemic oppression, the Spirit has taught me, through my Queerness, to listen.

Because I’m Queer, I’ve learned to value disobedience in the face of injustice.

I value the ability to feel, absorb and care deeply about oppression beyond my own, to recognize that there are those who will follow and that knowledge calls for action now! I’ve felt the burning unrest of not being able to live the way one is created to live. I’ve learned how the deadening of systemic oppression can be survived with righteous anger.  I’ve heard them say to me “follow our rules, and you won’t get hurt” and I know how deep a lie it is.  I got to experience standing with one’s community in intentional disobedience (in our movement, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project) and how it can change the rules that are killing us. Through my Queerness, the Spirit taught me to love the Jesus that rioted in the temple, and riots now in the streets of Baltimore and other places where racial injustice demands it.

Being Queer has taught me that how we talk about people in church matters.  When people describe God’s holy people and use words that don’t mean me, examples that don’t include my life, and issues that are never mine, I know that the sacred dignity of my life is not being affirmed, and worse, that the lives of other people are lifted up as somehow more godly than mine.  So when I hear white churches refuse to name police brutality, act as though Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd, Yvette Smith, Pearlie Smith and Tyisha Miller never died or were somehow not respectable enough to merit safety and trial – churches that worship for weeks without even naming Ferguson or Baltimore, I hear them subtly reinforcing white supremacy, teaching without words the heresy that white lives matter more to God.

Being Queer has taught me that God speaks in voices other than mine, that I need to shut up and hear, and eat, the words of the prophets. Change couldn’t have happened in the Lutheran Church without straight pastors preaching about the created goodness of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.  But oh boy, sometimes they’re awkward and say it differently than I might!  And when a straight pastor tries to tell me about my experience as a Queer person in the church, their loving blunders can cause me pain. Their experience isn’t mine, and I do not truly know the experience of being afraid that a police officer’s judgment about the color of my skin will endanger my life. I’m sure that my speaking of racial injustice is likewise a little awkward, a little wrong.  What I know I’ve learned from people of color, who had the grace, the gift, to instruct and correct me. The Spirit is teaching me that allies need to speak to those who haven’t yet heard, but will hear the Spirit’s voice when we sit down to hear the voices of Black people in the streets, and in our churches. And the truth is, every piece of this essay that I say the Spirit taught me, She taught me in the voice of Black colleagues and friends.

Because God created me Queer, I can’t stop hearing the voice of God in the protests, the rebellions, the sermons, the songs, and the curses of Black people around me.  And because I’m a pastor, I will burn in my bones until I repeat the words of God to those who haven’t yet heard.

lura groen Pastor Lura Groen served Grace Lutheran Church in Houston, TX for more than six years. With the congregation, she founded Montrose Grace Place, a safe, welcoming environment for vulnerable, homeless youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities, which provides nourishment, healthy relationships, and hope for the future. She continues her ministry on social media and in the Montrose community, while trying her hand at blogging, and experimenting with new forms of spiritual community.  Pastor Lura is a member of Proclaim. You can find her at luragroen.blogspot.com.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

by Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director

I don’t often get to visit with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) volunteers in my living room, but we accomplished that yesterday with our first ever “web-chat” for ELM program and committee volunteers. Fantastic!

ELM Program Director Pastor Jen Rude pitched this idea earlier this year, calling it a “state of the state” for the people committing a great deal of time and energy into ELM. Since our volunteers are located all over the country and often working on very specific areas, we wanted to give them a glimpse into what else is happening with ELM. We were able to use video chat technology (which we get through a wonderful donation from Citrix GoTo Meeting via the fabulous nonprofit tech site, Tech Soup) to bring us a bit closer together than the phone allows.

ELM Board Co-Chairs, Jim Kowalski  (left) and Pastor Mike Wilker.

ELM Board Co-Chairs, Jim Kowalski (left) and Pastor Mike Wilker on the ELM Volunteer Web-chat.

Jen invited ELM Board Chairs, Jim Kowalski and Pastor Mike Wilker; along with our three program conveners, Pastor Caleb Crainer (Proclaim); Margaret Moreland (Ministry Engagement); and Pastor Randy Nelson (Candidacy Accompaniment) to give an overview of the last year of our three core programs. She also invited Kyle Severson, who has served as the convener of the Proclaim Seminarians Team (created because of the growing number of LGBTQ seminarians joining Proclaim). Jen and I were also on hand to give some general overviews of the last year for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Here is a highlight from each presentation:

  • A new Proclaim project is “First Friday Faithful & Fabulous Forums” – a chance for Proclaim folks to gather regularly throughout the year. Caleb also said his thanks (and we said ours!) as he is ending two years in this role and welcoming Pastor Emily Ewing as the new Proclaim convener.
  • Candidacy Accompaniment is continuing to focus on the needs of candidates, with a growing focus on support for those awaiting first call – as well as those who are in the first few years of a new call.
  • This month, Ministry Engagement launched one of their new projects – an ELM presence at synod assemblies. Margaret Moreland had a great visit at the Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly. ELM will also be at the upcoming Minneapolis Area, Metro Chicago, and Sierra Pacific Synod Assemblies.
  • The Proclaim Seminarians Team has helped create a growing presence for Proclaim at our ELCA seminaries (and a few other divinity schools).

We use web-chats for our board, program, and committee work, and Proclaim regularly uses web-chats to gather for conversations and meetings. Yesterday was a fun chance to connect across the miles and we plan to host more of these for volunteers and other ELM friends in the future. I hope to see you on one!

 

100% at Home

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

“This is the first time since discerning my call that I have felt 100% at home. For the first time since seminary I am not having to teach anyone about who I am, and I am finally not alone and it is an extraordinary feeling.”        – Mack Patrick, Seminarian

In pictures and a few words, here are some of the highlights of this year’s Proclaim Retreat for LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians, held April 17-20, 2015:

Macky Alson, Media Training from Auburn Seminary. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Macky Alson, Media Training from Auburn Seminary.       Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

 

Media Training with Macky Alston from Auburn Seminary.  A powerful training equipping us as progressive people of faith to more effectively proclaim our messages. And seeing each other on camera was pretty fun, too!

 

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Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

 

 

A variety of workshops including: Prayer Practices, Greening Your Church, Redeveloping Congregations, Living Well, and more.

I’m grateful for a community that can help me process the unique joys and challenges I face as an LGBTQ-identified pastor.” – Rev. Javen Swanson

Rev. Brenda Bos preaching. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

 

 

Worshiping together, prophetic preaching, sharing communion, praying in multiple languages, praying through drawing, clay, music, and silence.

“You are beloved. These are words that, historically, those who identify as LGBTQ have not heard often, or even at all. However, as a member of Proclaim, I am reminded that I am extraordinary and beloved without qualification.” – Rev. Jill Rode

campfire pic

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

 

Walks around the labyrinth, conversations over meals, campfire singing, late night card games and theological discussions.

 “It means so much to me to be part of a community not only where I am accepted for who I am, but that is so dedicated to serving God in spite of all the difficulties and obstacles we have faced to do so.” – Brian Hornbecker, Seminarian

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Thank you to all of our ELM supporters for making this gathering possible. And an extra special thank you to our retreat sponsors:

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and Portico.

A big Thank You from many of the people who received a scholarship to attend the Proclaim Retreat.  Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

A big Thank You from many of the people who received a scholarship to attend the Proclaim Retreat.
Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Fruitful & Multiplying

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. – Galatians 5:22-23

This last weekend, as LGBTQ Lutheran pastors, seminarians and candidates met for our annual Proclaim retreat, we talked about the words we have used throughout our history to describe our work.

Proclaim Retreat

2015 Proclaim Retreat

Behold, I am doing a new thing! was the phrase that rang out during the first extraordinary ordinations of openly gay and lesbian people in January of 1990. When people asked by whose authority these pastors were ordained, we talked about borrowing our authority from the future. And when asked for the theological framework for the ordinations, we turned to Martin Luther’s writing about irregular ordinations in instances where bishops were acting contrary to the Gospel. As a community of LGBTQ pastors operating in an extraordinary fashion came together, this group talked about being a community of resistance that was in principled non-compliance to an unjust policy requiring celibacy for gay and lesbian pastors. As we realized that change may be a long time coming, we shifted our focus from changing the policy to making ministry happen now. As we moved into the early days following the 2009 policy change, we spoke of changing the church through the ministry of publicly-identified LGBTQ pastors and rostered leaders. We affirmed these faithful and fabulous leaders – faithful in their call and fabulous in their LGBTQ identity.

Cary photo

Proclaim member Cary Bass-Deschenes and his husband, Michael. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

 

Now we find new words: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLYING. Not only are the numbers of Proclaim leaders growing, but LGBTQ-led ministries are multiplying – into new corners and wide spaces in the church and world. Those who are invested in and committed to celebrating the gifts of LGBTQ people in ministry are multiplying. When we nourish LGBTQ leaders, they bear fruit – which gives life to a world that craves it. Fruit is rich, delicious, nourishing, and colorful. And we are joyful and playful and ready to follow a God who turns the world on end.

At the end of our weekend, we invited each person to share a word, phrase, or image that they were left with after our time together: Gratitude. Possibility. Rich. Blessing. Proclaim. Friendship. Healing. Finally! Solidarity. Moved. Space. Beloved. History. Called. Family. Grace-equipped. Fruitful. Multiplying.

Next week  – more stories and pictures from the 2015 Proclaim Retreat!

 

 

It Fits You Perfectly

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Guest blog by Proclaim member Robin Fero

“I picked this wedding card out for you and Jeff some time ago. It fit you just perfectly. I knew one day I would be able to give it to you”.

Those were the words our dear friend Sandy spoke to us at the coffee shop one Monday morning after our civil wedding, as she watched my husband Jeff and I open the rainbow themed wedding card.

Sandy has been a dear friend of mine for over 10 years. She has been a supporter and a die-hard advocate for LGBTQ rights. We’ve sat together in PFLAG meetings and fundraising campaigns for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She updates me on congregations within the synod that are in the Reconciling In Christ process.

Every time we are in contact, Sandy is eager to get an update of how the candidacy process and the seminary year are going.

Sandy, like many friends and loved ones along the journey, caught a vision of the future many years ago. It was a vision that, quite frankly, often gets blurred in my own set of eyes. Sandy dreamed of a day that this gay child of God could get married and also answer a lifetime calling from God to become an ordained minister.

It struck me that morning in the coffee shop how faithful Sandy was to that dream.

“You picked the card out before we were married?”

“Yes, it was just perfect for you two.”

I wish I could tell you how many times along the way I wondered how in the world I would ever get to even stand in a pulpit one day or stand in front of a judge and exchange precious vows with the one I love.

And I wish I could tell you how many times the Sandys in my life that God has blessed me with in the journey have said “I can see you up there!”

I thank God for my husband Jeff who witnesses my patterns of “how am I going to get all these school projects done before the end of the semester?”, and encourages me to see it through.

I am encouraged by all the visionaries in life!

I am so encouraged, I believe I will go buy that ordination stole today, because as Sandy so eloquently has said, “it fits you perfectly.”

Robin Fero is a 3rd year student at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He is finishing up his last academic semester and will be doing his internship starting in July. Robin and his husband Jeff were married in October. They reside in Harrisburg, PA.

Ordination of Ángel David Marrero Ayala!

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Marrero_Angel Joy and thanksgiving for the upcoming ordination of Ángel David Marrero Ayala! Ángel will be ordained on Sunday, April 26th at 7:00 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in Waltham, MA. Ángel has been called by the New England Synod of the ELCA and will be developing a new congregation in Waltham. Ángel serves on the Board of Directors of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and is a member of Proclaim, a community of 185 LGBTQ rostered leaders and candidates for ministry. Proclaim is a program of ELM.

From the invitation:

Por la gracia de Dios y conforme al uso apostólico Ángel David Marrero Ayala será ordenado al Ministerio de Palabra y Sacramento en la iglesia católica. Requerimos su presencia y oraciones para este evento. El clero está invitado a participar de la procesión. El color del día será rojo. Luego del servicio habrá una recepción en la iglesia.

By the grace of God and according to apostolic usage Ángel David Marrero Ayala will be ordained into the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the one holy catholic church. Your prayers and your presence are requested. Rostered Leaders are invited to process. The color of the day is red. There will be a reception after the service at the church.

As we celebrate the wonderful news of Ángel’s new call and ministry, we remember that 28 members of Proclaim continue to await first call. Barriers to ministry continue to exist as a reality for LGBTQ people – thank you for helping to change that through your support of ELM. And you also help tell the good news of new leaders like Ángel!

2015 Unnamed Covert Sympathizer Nominees To Be Announced

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Guest Post by Dr. Norman Glaubenleben, Ph.D.
April 1, 2015

Earlier today, the selection committee for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ annual Unnamed Covert Sympathizer (UCS) Award announced that it will soon release the list of nominees for this year’s award.

PhotoThe Unnamed Covert Sympathizer Award, established through a generous gift from an anonymous donor (rumored to be Bishop [Name withheld] of the  Central Great Lakes Synod), honors those who have helped to further ELM’s mission without appearing to support either the organization or its goals. The award is something of a paradox: no recipients of the award have ever been announced, and in spite of the selection committee’s stated intentions, the list of nominees has never been published.

Each year after a date is set for announcing the year’s nominees, the selection committee is inundated with anxious requests from putative covert supporters who are concerned that public recognition might compromise their effectiveness.

Before the list of nominees is made public, a covert sympathizer may (for a modest fee to cover administrative costs) inquire if they’ve been nominated. For a slightly less modest fee, the sympathizer may request to be omitted from consideration.  Inevitably, all the nominees will have withdrawn before the list is released.

Among people who should know, it is commonly supposed that administrative fees related to the Unnamed Convert Sympathizer Award have become a significant source of income for ELM, far outweighing, for example, the income lost from the Thrivent Choice Program.

In 2014, Thrivent invoked its new “Neutrality Policy” to rule ELM ineligible for Thrivent Choice funding, asserting that ELM is “among those organizations whose primary purpose is to advocate for or against an issue where there is significant disagreement within our [Thrivent’s] membership.”

ELM’s secret supporters could easily dispel the illusion of “significant disagreement” over whatever the issue is that Thrivent believes to be ELM’s primary purpose. Were the sympathizers to declare themselves openly in support of ELM, they would reduce to insignificance the perceived level of disagreement. Doing so, however, would both deprive ELM of a reliable revenue stream and undermine the sympathizers’ clandestine efforts on ELM’s behalf.

There have been repeated suggestions (by unnamed Thrivent spokespeople) that Thrivent Choice funds destined for ELM be laundered through safe, “neutral” intermediary recipients. Some observers have taken this to be an indication that the Thrivent “Neutrality Policy” itself is, in fact, the work of ELM’s covert sympathizers.

Nothing could be further from the truth. However, such speculation is completely consistent with the counterintuitive logic of secret supporter covert operations.

In 2012,  following weeks of tense, closed-door negotiations and a reportedly frantic bidding war (said to include three mainline denominations, a Rocky Mountain megachurch, the political action committee of a Beltway evangelical think tank, and a Christian ashram), a deal was reached between a covert sympathizer and an undisclosed purchaser to transfer the trademark “Making Ministry Happen” to the purchaser for a cash settlement rumored to be in the low 7-figure range.  The transaction fell apart when it was discovered that “Making Ministry Happen” is not in fact a registered trademark of ELM.

PLTSIn February of this year, representatives of California Lutheran University (CLU) did nothing to address the rumor that an “unnamed” intermediary had floated an offer to buy Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary from CLU for ELM’s “Proclaim” business unit. When outright purchase proved too costly, the intermediary is said to have bid for naming rights, proposing that the seminary be renamed “Proclaim Lutheran Theological Seminary”. CLU has yet to comment.

Any of these projects, had they come to fruition, would certainly be award-worthy. But the covert sympathizers, still embarrassed over their 2009 failure to bolster ELM’s prospects by preventing policy change in the ELCA, have set an even higher standard for future achievements.  No one who is aware of the covert sympathizers’ relentless behind-the-scenes work should be surprised in 2016 when ELM is reorganized as a Wisconsin nonprofit to pave the way for an offering of shares not unlike that made by the Green Bay Packers in 2012. For obvious reasons, the covert sympathizers will be unable to take advantage of the opportunity when the shares are available for purchase.

glaubenleben

Dr. Norman Glaubenleben (glaubenleben@lutheranconfessions.com) is chief business analyst for the now-defunct Lutheran True Confessions. Opinions expressed by Dr.Glaubenleben are entirely his own (except where plagiarized) and do not reflect the opinions of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), its staff, or board. Dr. Glaubenleben wishes you a very reflective Lenten season and a very enjoyable APRIL FOOL’S!

A move for the ELM Chicago office & welcome to Marie!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Change is afoot in the ELM office in Chicago! We are going to be moving out of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square at the end of month and we are adding a person to our team.

St. Luke's

Sunday morning worship at St. Luke’s Logan Square. Photo: Jason Creps Photography.

For the last eight years, our Chicago home has been at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square. We moved there after many years at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco. St. Luke’s Logan Square was the perfect place for our new home for so many reasons – they were the recipient of a 5-year ELM Mission Grant and they had recently called Pastor Erik Christensen, who at the time was serving as co-chair to ELM. A small group of committed donors and a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation helped establish the office and the new Operations Coordinator position (previously held by Rachael Johnson, who now works for Eco-Faith Recovery, another former ELM Mission Grant recipient!).

Earlier this year, the congregation of St. Luke’s made the difficult and courageous decision to sell their church building. Pastor Erik speaks beautifully about the decision in this interview (click to read more). While they are still in their building, we knew it was time for us to find a new home. For the time being, we are “on the move” as we look for a new landing place. However, we have found a temporary new home and team member at Grace Evanston Lutheran in Evanston, IL. Grace Evanston and Grace Logo Pastor Daniel Ruen have been long-time advocates for the mission of ELM. When looking for a place and person who could help with our immediate need of support with ELM’s mail and donations processing, we first turned to Grace and their parish administrator, Marie O’Brien. We are excited to welcome Marie, who will begin working four hours a week on Monday, March 30! And we are also happy to deepen our relationship with the people of Grace Evanston. For the time being, our mailing address will remain 2649 N. Francisco Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 and our mail will be forwarded to Grace.

Both St. Luke’s Logan Square and ELM wanted to make time to mark this upcoming change in our relationship, so the people of St. Luke’s will hold a festival Eucharist and service of celebration during their usual worship time at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 12. Pastor Erik Christensen will preside and ELM Program Director Pastor Jen Rude will serve as Assisting Minister. ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts will preach. All are welcome.

Our move from St. Francis happened because they wanted to turn our office into a nursery. Our move from St. Luke’s is the result of new directions for that community. Change is good! Thank you for your support and encouragement as we move through this change and growth in our own organization.

You Are My People/Thank God for Allies

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

by Jen Rude, ELM program director

Members of Proclaim at Wartburg Seminary.

Proclaim students at Wartburg Seminary.

This past month I visited two of our ELCA seminaries – Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, IA and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC.  And while it was -11 degrees in Iowa and 84 degrees in South Carolina, I received a warm welcome in both places.

At Wartburg Seminary, Proclaim students hosted a campus-wide Convocation on How and Why to be an LGBTQ Ally.  Some people were already committed allies seeking to find additional ways to be supportive. Others initially wondered why we even need to have this conversation anymore.  Proclaim members Becky Goche, Paul Andrew Johnson, and I spoke to students, faculty, and staff about being an LGBTQ ally in their ministries. We shared our own experiences of coming out – both about our sexual orientation and about our calls to ministry. Conversation continued in small groups and over lunch.   I think hearing LGBTQ classmates talk about their experiences opened some hearts in a new way.  I might even say some new allies were made that day.

chelsea preaching

I love that the preacher is called the Proclaimer!

At Southern Seminary I was blessed to be able to hear Proclaim member Chelsea Marsh preach in chapel, bringing a word of gospel and challenge, and ultimately of God’s faithfulness. Chelsea is one of the leaders of Walking Together, the Gay-Straight alliance on campus, and she organized a lunch with this group while I was there.  Especially because there has been only 1 (and now 2!) openly LGBTQ student on campus, these allies are even more important.  We had a lively and generative discussion about being a rockstar ally.  I felt so grateful that future LGBTQ pastors will have these pastors as allies.

While ELM is becoming more widely known and seen as a resource and a partner, there are still folks who don’t know about us.  We need to keep spreading the word.  It is a really beautiful moment when someone encounters ELM for the first time and resonates with our mission and says, “oh, yes, YOU are my people” or “now I’m not alone.”  Have you told someone about ELM this week?

Getting to know seminarians across the church I witness a rich diversity of gifts and experiences. And I am particularly inspired by seminarians, staff, and faculty who are not LGBTQ, but who feel passionate about justice, about celebrating diversity, and who put themselves out there in support of their LGBTQ friends and colleagues.  God’s church is in good hands with these leaders.

Although the focus of ELM’s work is with LGBTQ rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians, we also rely on relationships with current and future leaders in our church who are not LGBTQ. Because these allies are our people.  Today I offer a special prayer of gratitude that we are walking together.

 

jen 2013 retreatBy Rev. Jen Rude.  Jen is grateful for many allies in her life.  In sharing her coming out story and call story with the Gay-Straight Alliance at Southern, she gave particular thanks for her campus pastor, Rev. Maribeth McGoven, who was one of the first people she came out to as an 18 year old college student. Pastor Maribeth was kind, loving, and a fierce advocate and ally.  She is one of the reasons Jen continued on the path to ministry.

 

Treasure in Clay Jars: Introducing a New Resource from ELM

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

A huge thank you to the Revs. Timothy Weisman, Brenda Bos, and Emily Ewing for their work in visioning, compiling, and editing this resource.

Guest blog by Rev. Timothy Weisman.

Treasure in Clay Jars: A New Resource from ELM

Nearly four years ago, I began a call process with a congregation who needed a pastor. I had just received my assignment, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I spent hours (days!) poring over the congregation’s Ministry Site Profile, Annual Report, website, and Facebook page… while, of course, compulsively checking my email for another email from the synod office or call committee chair.

“So, how are you going to come out to them?” asked an Assistant to the Bishop shortly before my first interview. “Will you come out right away?” “Or at the end?”

“When will you come out to the rest of the congregation? During a sermon? Which sermon? Will you use the lectionary text? Or another? Or what if you did it during announcements time?”

“What will you say?” “Will you tell a story?” “What story?” “Will you talk about God?” “How?”

“Since your process will inevitably take longer than most, what will you do in the meantime?” “If you don’t complete this process, then what?” “Are you prepared to wait?” “How long?”

Yikes. It’s not like I hadn’t thought of these questions, but the reality was that I didn’t have solid answers—or, really, any answers. I was nervous enough as a young seminary graduate—and now I have to figure out when and how to come out to who and where. To be sure, I worked with an Assistant to the Bishop who is a veritable rock star, but I still felt very alone.

Fast forward one year. A friend introduced me to a 1998 resource from the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns called “And So We Speak.” Throughout that book, seminarians and clergy told stories—stories of their candidacy and call processes, stories of serving congregations as an LGBTQ leader, and more.

I immediately recognized this as the book I desperately needed back in 2011. I needed to hear how others journeyed through the call process. I needed to hear how others made sense of their fabulousness in the midst of their call. I didn’t need answers; I needed stories. I needed to know that I wasn’t alone.

I’m writing this blog to introduce a new ELM resource titled Treasure in Clay Jars – Stories of LGBTQ Leaders in the Lutheran Church. Modeled after “And So We Speak,” this book shares current stories and insights from LGBTQ leaders in the Lutheran church as they honor their identity while working their way through a long and lonely process.

“What do you think God thinks about you being LGBTQ?” “How did you come out to [fill in the blank]?” “What did you do ‘in the meantime’ or while waiting for a call?” Members of Proclaim responded to these prompts and several others as we assembled this resource. (Thanks to all the contributors!)

Whether you’re a member or prospective member of Proclaim, you’re on synodical or churchwide staff, or you’re an ally and supporter of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, I hope you’ll not only read these stories but also treasure themthere’s extraordinary power contained herein—as God, who is active in each narrative, tells the story of raising up a courageous people for ministry in Christ’s church.

Weisman_Tim

The Rev. Timothy Weisman serves as pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Tim and his partner, Howie, are the proud parents of the most adorable puppy on the planet. (No, really.)

This post was updated on 3/23/15 to correct an error in the name of the group that produced And So We Speak. The correct name is the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns.