by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director
Last week the Proclaim Seminarian Team hosted a Proclaim Seminarian Meet Up – a chance to get to know each other a bit and share some experiences. Some have been members of Proclaim throughout seminary and are graduating in a few months. Others joined Proclaim a week ago and start seminary in the fall. We gathered via computers and phones from the west coast, east coast, midwest, and southeast.
I wish you could have been on that call.
After praying together and offering brief introductions, including sharing about a unique talent or skill (it is a pretty talented bunch!), we spent the majority of our time together storytelling. People were involved in cool things like starting a Gay-Straight Alliance and booking theologians and speakers on campus. There were also difficult things they faced like not always being able to be fully themselves and being “the only one.” People shared stories about candidacy – the hard moments, the surprising moments, and the awkward or hilarious moments. We finished the conversation by sharing how our ministry calls and LGBTQ identities have influenced and shaped each other.
I left our conversation thinking to myself: I can’t wait for one of these people to be my pastor. It is good news for our whole church that these faithful and fabulous people have followed God’s call to ministry and that ELM is here to support them.
I realized again what impact supporters to ELM have on these future leaders of our church. You are helping ELM create resources for these seminarians and candidates. You are creating better pastors. Your support also helps congregations so that more are ready to say: I can’t wait for YOU to be my pastor!
by Jen Rude. One of Jen’s unique skills is doing handstands and cartwheels. She was a gymnast as a kid and these two skills are the remnants of that life. And they make great party tricks.
The Board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries gathered Feb 5-8 at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia for our first in-person meeting of the year. It was an enriching, enlightening and fruitful four days. Here are some highlights from our work together:
We welcomed trainers Sheila Radford-Hill and John Beck to lead us through work about intercultural competency. We focused on cultural differences in communication styles and approaching conflict. All ELM Board members took the Intercultural Development Inventory assessment prior to the meeting and are working on their individual Intercultural Development Plan. We loved our time with Sheila and John!
- Staff members Jen Rude and Amalia Vagts shared some insights and techniques from the Rockwood Institute Art of Leadership training both attended in January. Central to our work together was the concept of conocimiento, a Spanish word that translates generally as “connection talk” or “sharing knowledge of each other to truly know one another.” The concept of conocimiento reminds us to put relationship before task – and we saw the value of this in action during our time together.
- We learned that approximately 5% of all current ELCA seminarians are members of Proclaim!
- We assessed our current strategic plan, celebrating all the good work that has been accomplished and started thinking about our next dreams for our work.
- We heard about the diverse and exciting work in our three program areas – Proclaim, Candidacy Accompaniment and Ministry Engagement and took time for some big picture strategic conversation about this work.
- We were richly fed through the locally sourced and lovingly prepared food of Pendle Hill.
- We talked about our commitment to 100% intentional Board Member Giving and celebrated Jim Kowalski’s one on one in person meetings with each ELM Board Member last year.
- We wrote letters to our Extraordinary Friends (those who give monthly) and some Proclaim members who might appreciate a note. And we had fun noting how familiar and known many of these names are – while celebrating the new ones!
- We gave thanks for the rich leadership of Rev. Julie Boleyn, who has finished her service as Co-Chair of the ELM Board and we welcomed the new leadership of Jim Kowalski.
- We celebrated meeting our 2014 fundraising goals and voted to create an ELM Reserves Fund – this is board directed giving that can be used for ELM’s long-term stability and growth.
And last, but definitely not least, we laughed – a lot – and we gave thanks to God and to you for the honor of working to fulfill ELM’s mission.
ELM Board of Directors is: Jeremy Posadas, Randy Nelson, Jim Kowalski, Asher O’Callaghan, Elise Brown, Rose Beeson, Charlie Horn, Julie Boleyn, Margaret Moreland, Mike Wilker, Gordon Straw, and Angel Marrero-Roe.
Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word…So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:4, 8
There is great joy in the cities of Green Bay, St Paul, Inver Grove Heights and in places around the country as we celebrate the first calls of three Proclaim members.
Rachel Knoke has been called to serve as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.
Jill Rode has been called to serve as Associate Pastor of St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN.
Julie Wright has been called to serve as Associate Pastor at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, MN.
Is your congregation ready to welcome the gifts of an LGBTQ pastor? More faithful and fabulous LGBTQ candidates are ready to serve. Begin the conversation in your congregation now using ELM’s resource Enrich & Transform: Welcoming LGBTQ Candidates into the Call Process.
ELM also knows that many LGBTQ candidates continue to wait for first call. We created a resource specifically for LGBTQ first call candidates, The Mysteries of the Ages.
Together let’s create great joy in more cities!
by Margaret Moreland, ELM Board Member
On January 20, 1990 my husband, Bennett Falk, and I attended the service of ordination for Phyllis Zillhart, Ruth Frost, and Jeff Johnson.
This was a life changing day for me. I had gay and lesbian friends and relatives, but it had never occurred to me that I could or should take a public part in opposing the discrimination that they faced. Listening to the prayers offered by the congregation at that service woke me up to the pain that the church caused so many gay and lesbian people and their families. I decided right then that I could not remain part of a church that turned away so many people for being themselves unless I worked for change.
I did not know Jeff, Ruth, or Phyllis at the time they were ordained. Over the next year or so, I got to know Jeff a bit. When he and some others had the idea of setting up an alternative candidacy process for gay and lesbian seminarians, they asked me to participate. I was not sure just what a chemist could offer to this project, but I enthusiastically said yes.
Since that time I have been on the boards of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries for all except about 4 years. Ruth, Jeff, and Phyllis were the first of 18 pastors who were extraordinarily ordained. Bennett and I attended every one of the extraordinary ordinations, bursting with joy, laughing and crying.
Now I’m again on the board of ELM, and working on the new Ministry Engagement program. We are connecting with congregations in the ELCA to help them enrich and transform themselves by calling an LGBTQ pastor. I can speak to this personally since Pastor Jeff Johnson has been my pastor since 1999 at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley. Although ELCA policy now allows people in same sex relationships to be pastors, many congregations have trouble imagining having an LGBTQ person in a called position. Ministry Engagement has prepared a guide for call committees to help them plan for including LGBTQ candidates. We are making plans to have an information table at several Lutheran synod assemblies this spring. We are gathering stories from congregations that have LGBTQ rostered leaders so others can learn from them.
Working as part of ELM is such a great part of my life, maybe I’ll keep doing it for another 25 years.
Guest Blogger Margaret Moreland serves on the ELM Board of Directors and is Convener of the Ministry Engagement Program. She (and Bennett) attended every extraordinary ordination and she has vowed to never eat sushi served by a squid.
Guest blog by Proclaim member, Rev. Brenda Bos.
I was among the first class of seminarians to go on internship after the 2009 ELCA decision to ordain LGBTQ clergy. Like my fellow Proclaim members, I don’t know how different my call process would have been if I was straight. I know straight pastors who got calls five seconds after assignment, and I know straight pastors who waited as long as some of the queer candidates.
Like most gay first call candidates I know, I waited. Then the call came. A congregation in San Clemente was looking for a pastor. They were not Reconciling in Christ, but had a long history of welcome, including gay clergy who were out, gay clergy who were not out. My call committee was very comfortable talking about my wife and was eager to show her how much they wanted to call me. My conference, made up of a smaller cluster of churches in a geographic region of the synod, lost four out of fifteen churches after 2009. Understandably, my colleagues in this conference have been cautious to welcome me. The worst part about being a queer pastor is wondering, am I overly sensitive, or am I being slighted because of who I am?
My church has a service every Sunday on the beach. Even in 45 degree weather in January, about fifty brave souls gather. We have tourists, athletes using the bike path, homeless people. Few visitors know exactly who we are or what we are doing, but they are intrigued by church on the sand. But because of this large influx of visitors, I never know how people will react when they find out we have a lesbian pastor.
Recently I mentioned my wife in a sermon. A visiting family was sitting in front of some members. The members overheard the woman lean over and ask, “Did she just say ‘wife’?” and he nodded. They didn’t stay for communion. I convinced myself it was because they were Catholic and didn’t want to commune in a Protestant church. Or maybe they had brunch reservations.
A couple wanted to join our church. I sat with them and talked about our welcome to the LGBTQ community. They nodded and smiled… and never came back again. A few members of the congregation left before I started this call. Some were shocked we would consider calling an openly gay candidate. As my congregational president said, “They accidentally joined the wrong church,” and we bid them farewell. Well, other members bid them farewell. They split before I hit the scene.
One of the benefits of serving a smaller congregation is the pastor sees every face, every reaction to the sermon. Last Sunday I thought I saw a visitor cringe when I mentioned my wife. It actually threw me off. I started to think, “Has she been here before? Of course she has. Does she not know my story? Is this a problem?” I finally pushed that miserable line of thinking out of my head and kept preaching. I thought I saw her cringe at a few more things I said, and convinced myself that was just how she held her face while listening. After the service (she stayed for communion!) I re-introduced myself, not sure I remembered her name, etc. She was enthusiastic, loves this service, splits her Sundays between this church and a Catholic church up north. I had read her reactions incorrectly, and had made myself pretty uncomfortable while freaking out.
But I am sad that I wonder what people think. My council has told me in no uncertain terms to stop wondering what people think. But there is still a moment as I come out where I wonder what the ramifications will be. It’s not a good thing. Of course, there are people who feel liberated knowing their pastor is lesbian. Some are in same-sex relationships, but the majority of my congregation is just happy to be a part of an inclusive community. This is a time of great joy in my community, and I am so happy to be a part of their celebration of welcome. Still. It needs to be named: our shame, even when we’ve “worked through it”, is deep and insidious and throws us for curves at times and places we do not anticipate. I am loud and proud and most of the time am met with open arms. I am so grateful for the Proclaim community who shares in the joys and struggles of this calling. Perhaps someday I won’t worry what reactions I receive from coming out. I have been called to love Jesus and to love a woman. I long for the day when the gospel of Jesus Christ is my only scandal.
Brenda Bos is six months in to her first call and is relieved and delighted to report she loves the work. Before becoming a pastor, Brenda was a production manager for network television sitcoms. The similarities between her two careers are myriad.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries 2014 Year in Review!
We have finished another wonderful and full year – I invite you to take a moment to join me in looking back at some highlights. (You can check out all of these stories in our ELM Blog archive!)
January – We launched Proclaim Pulpit Supply – a new way for LGBTQ leaders to proclaim God’s love for all and for congregations looking to support Proclaim leaders – especially those seeking call.
February – We celebrated 5 calls to Proclaim leaders, celebrated new solar panels on a congregation, interviewed an intern and internship supervisor and shared new ways to support LGBTQ leaders awaiting call.
April – We launched the Proclaim Seminarian Team, finalized things for the 2014 Proclaim Retreat, Dreams & Visions, took a glance at the work of the Proclaim Team, and got creative. Oh, and then there was that new logo…
May – we got a Gold Star! We also went to Washington, D.C., got Faithful & Fabulous and held the RETREAT! We also invited applications for the 2014 Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Award, with an increased award of $2,500 thanks to generous donors who have helped grow the fund.
June – We celebrated more calls, attended Pride, rejoiced in generous supporters raising funds for ELM, and heard some great stories from an intern in Proclaim.
July – We gave a first glance at some forthcoming ELM resources; highlighted ministry in South Africa; remembered the life and work of Bp. Stanley E. Olson, and named Amy C. Hanson as our 2014 Joel R. Workin scholar.
August – Guest blogger Donna Simon wrote about Ferguson, MO; Amalia toured LA, we released some new statistics about LGBTQ leaders, and celebrated some life passages, including a couple more calls to LGBTQ leaders.
September – Amid all the calls, we released a vital new resource for those who are first call candidates; highlighted some guest bloggers, congregations, and leaders, and announced our new One Minute to Proclaim videos.
October – We rolled out the brand new Enrich & Transform, a resource for call committees & congregations who wish to be open to LGBTQ candidates; learned about Bi Visibility Day; got together with Proclaim folks in Chicago; and we told supporters how they can “come out” about their support for LGBTQ-led ministry.
November – We visited ELCA seminaries in Gettysburg and Philadelphia; advocated for LGBTQ leaders at the ELCA Church Council and Conference of Bishops; and reflected on Transgender Day of Remembrance.
December – We got a glimpse of the upcoming Proclaim retreat, highlighted a generous and faithful giver, and wished all of you a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and New Year!
And really, those are JUST the highlights. You made this entire year possible through your prayers, work, and financial support. We’re moving right into 2015 as we celebrate 25+ years of extraordinary ministry by LGBTQ leaders! We are so thankful you are with us.
“When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.” – Luke 2:17
by Amalia Vagts, Executive Director
Sometimes when I tell people about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, they are amazed.
Some are amazed there is such a ministry. Some are amazed there is a need for it.
Those who support and walk with LGBTQ ministers and their ministries know the true amazement is in the Gospel story – told time and time again, sometimes in the most unlikely places, by the most unexpected of messengers, with the most surprising of words.
Seminarian John Brett offers this reflection on the Gospel text:
“We’ve seen God now, and he stinks to high heaven. Of course, so do we; thankfully, God understands a little manure around our edges.”
Nancy Wichmann, also in seminary, will share these words this Christmas morning in her sermon:
“When I was growing up, Christmas was not terribly joyous for me. I kept asking Santa for a pretty dress or a doll. I got tube socks and a package of “tighty whiteys” when white tights would have been preferable.”
Unlikely places, unexpected messengers, and surprising words.
May the wonder of the Christmas story amaze you.
(Pastor Brenda Bos, John Brett, Nancy Wichmann, and Pastor Steve Wilco are members of Proclaim, an active community of 175+ LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, seminarians, and candidates. Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.)
Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director, finds amazement in the passion and commitment of those who have sustained the ministry of LGBTQ people for nearly twenty-five years, and by LGBTQ people who proclaim God’s love for all so beautifully and wildly.
by Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director
It is easy to have fun when you’re spending time with Dick Tribble.
We met when I was just starting out with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, in the midst of the ONE VOICE campaign. I was immediately at ease thanks to Dick’s warm and open smile, and easy-going manner. He eagerly committed to becoming a major contributor to the ONE VOICE campaign and shared his own passion for faithful and generous support for the church.
Dick has continued to be a faithful supporter of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. In 2008, he led the effort to help us open our office in Chicago by providing a seed gift for the rent and office expenses.
This year, I met with Dick to tell him about the way our programs are growing thanks to our new program director, Jen Rude. Dick responded by making his most generous gift yet to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries in support of our new programs. He shared with me his excitement for ELM’s mission and the importance of giving generously to support causes that you care about.
Last month, I had the chance to visit Anderson-Shumaker, an open-die forging company started in 1902 by Dick’s great-grandfather. Dick gave Clyde Walter (ELM Development Committee member) and me a tour of the company – there were several moments where we thought we’d been transported back to the early 20th century as we watched the ancient art of pounding metal into forms. As Dick put it, “There’s only ever really been one way to form steel – you heat it up and pound it into the shape you want.”
Next year, Dick has agreed to be part of Faithful & Fabulous Chicago – a way for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to connect one-on-one with supporters who want to invest in the ministries of LGBTQ leaders. Dick is already leading the way by becoming one of the founding members of “Extraordinarily Faithful & Fabulous Friends,” those generous folks who give $2,500 or more annually in support of the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
A life-long Lutheran, Dick learned to be generous from his parents. Dick writes, “When we give of ourselves, our time, talents, and treasures, God is with us, and there is no darkness at all, and through those gifts, God completes our joy! That is always in my heart.”
Giving thanks today for Dick Tribble, and for all the dear people who give of themselves, their time, talents, and treasures to support LGBTQ ministers and their ministries.
Meeting with faithful & fabulous friends of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries like Dick Tribble is one of Executive Director Amalia Vagts’ greatest joys. She also enjoys reasons to wear a hardhat and safety goggles, which remind her of her favorite role at Holden Village – feeding the wood chipper.
Maybe winds will blow
Maybe seeds will fall
Who knows what love can grow
When those seeds are cracking open
-from “Wild Acre” by Trish Bruxvoort-Colligan
Check out this 2 minute video from the 2014 Proclaim Retreat! Be inspired by the pictures and words of LGBTQ leaders while listening to the fabulous song “Wild Acre” written and performed by Trish Bruxvoort-Colligan, who along with Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan, served as musicians at the 2014 Proclaim Retreat.
“Who knows what love can grow when those seeds are cracking open” – planting, nourishing, and cracking open seeds of love, justice, vocation, collegial support, and renewal is part of what happens at the annual Proclaim retreat for LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians. This yearly gathering is part of the sustenance of ministry for so many. As Rev. Mark Erson says, “It is so nourishing to spend time with hope-filled, excited colleagues who are on fire about the ministry to which they have been called.” This year Mark is helping to fuel the fire by serving on the 2015 retreat planning team.
Our 2015 Proclaim Retreat theme is Building Up the Body - to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). Through training, workshops, worship, small groups, spiritual renewal, and recreation, we’ll seek to build up our tools and skills as we are equipped and seek to equip others to live as the body of Christ. Our church needs strong, grounded, faithful leaders. The Proclaim retreat strives to offer that life-giving nourishment for these LGBTQ leaders in service of our whole church and the body of Christ.
Registration for this event opens in January. ELM has just received a generous grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation which will provide retreat scholarships for at least 25 attendees who are in seminary or without call! Your gift of $385 ensures a full scholarship for a seminarian, candidate awaiting call, or another member of our community who would otherwise be unable to attend. Your gift of any amount makes this event possible. Thank you for your support!
By Rev. Jen Rude, ELM Program Director. Jen recently began brewing her own Kombucha, an ancient fermented tea dubbed “the elixer of life” which contains vitamins, enzymes and probiotics. Jen’s spiritual body is well nourished through her home congregation of Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston, IL.
Today we hear from guest blogger, Diaconal Minister Lauren Morse-Wendt. On the eve of Thanksgiving, we wanted to highlight and share a wonderful idea from the extraordinary congregation Edina Community Lutheran Church.
by Lauren Morse-Wendt, D.M.
At Edina Community Lutheran Church we are always seeking new and active ways to engage in justice, so during this season of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share this as a simple and powerful activity for other congregations to try as well.
Our congregation is committed to mission and justice, and we often hear from parents and grandparents that they seek more opportunities to connect their children to these values.
But, most volunteer organizations are have a minimum age limit, so we’ve stretched ourselves to come up with opportunities accessible to all ages. Throughout the month of November, we reminded the congregation to donate food and hygiene items to our regular food shelf partner. By Christ the King Sunday, we had a hallway overflowing.
It took only twenty minutes to transform the sanctuary into a labyrinth, turn on some meditative music, and invite babies to crawl, toddlers to toddle, and children and adults to prayerfully walk through the labyrinth praying about hunger and our part in both creating and ending it.
Our faith, our worship, our call to seek justice are intertwined…but sometimes we need a tangible reminder. Physically moving the altar following worship, building a prayer labyrinth out of donated food, and prayerfully walking through the food itself was a physical reminder for what we as Children of God are called to do in this world.
Proclaim member Lauren Morse-Wendt is a Diaconal Minister serving as the Mission and Ministry Developer at Edina Community-Lutheran in Edina, Minnesota. When she’s not joining her faith community in advocacy acts…she’s at home with her wife advocating for their 2 year old to go to bed before 9 p.m.