All of us have been affected by the actions in Ferguson, MO these past two and 1/2 weeks. Many of you have posted thoughts on Facebook, tweeted, and have written longer reflections. Last week, Pastor Donna Simon, ELCA pastor and member of Proclaim and Pastor Jennifer Thomas (an ELM Extraordinary Friend!) went to Ferguson as part of a faith-based organizing collaborative called PICO National Network. Donna wrote about her experience on her blog, Peace Pastor, re-posted here with Donna’s permission.
There Are No Sides in Ferguson, by Rev. Donna Simon
August 22, 2014. The situation in Ferguson, Missouri this week is complicated. I read that on Facebook and Twitter and was convinced, though actually going there helped a lot with perspective. There are many competing narratives about Ferguson, and even firsthand accounts vary. Real witness is best done up close, though. We usually see what God is doing in our communities by venturing outside of our church walls and our comfort zones.
God is doing a lot of things in Ferguson, and so too are people. People are doing good things, bad things, complicated things.
What we do know is this: On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. It appears that he was shot six times. He joins an ever-expanding roster of unarmed young black men shot by police officers, and his death exposed a community’s pain over the way it is treated by the police. None of this is open to debate. It’s not a “side.” It is the truth. Mike Brown was unarmed, and he is dead. There is pain. It is being expressed.
There was also looting. And “rioting,” which is a word employed to describe a panoply of human behaviors, some of them peaceful and some more detrimental to persons and property. The looting and “rioting,” alongside details released about Brown’s behavior before and during his brief time in police custody have provided a neat opportunity to describe this situation in the language of Western modernism. There are “two sides,” to wit: the lawful side, whose primary symbol is the mostly white law enforcement community, and the side of those who believe that injustices have been perpetrated (and continue to be perpetrated) in Ferguson. Standing for the latter is a much more diverse community which includes Mike Brown, peaceful protestors, “rioters” and looters, national activists, and people who express their displeasure with the situation on social media and other outlets.
People expressing an opinion about Ferguson can expect to answer to the charge that they are “taking sides.”
I was there last night, and here is what I heard:
- Every night, police have opened fire on the protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, and possibly real bullets.
- Greater St. Mark’s Missionary Baptist Church has been functioning as sanctuary space for the protesters, clergy and activists who are witnessing in Ferguson. The handwritten sign out front says “Safe Space. No alcohol. No guns.” People have used the space for rest and respite, and to wash tear gas out of their eyes. The police learned that the church had been offered as sanctuary, so they began a series of interventions which seem to be aimed at intimidating those inside. They lined their cars right outside of the gymnasium space occupied by protesters. They entered and confiscated items, including some Maalox which was being diluted to treat tear gas injuries. They threatened to remove everyone from the church property.
- Police have chased protesters, hit them with batons and the butts of rifles, shouted at them, and practiced other forms of intimidation. People who have engaged in a lot of nonviolent civil action have been shocked by the extreme behavior of the police, especially the Ferguson PD (now relieved of duty) and the St. Louis County police.
Here is what I saw:
- A community is hurting and angry. There are still protesters walking and shouting at the police. Their behavior may not be helpful, but their frustration should be understandable.
- At least two grassroots organizations have grown out of this continued engagement between protesters and law enforcement. One is called Clergy United; that group is gathering clergy from the St. Louis Metro, and we were told last night that clergy from beyond the Metro are asking how they might become involved. The other group is made up largely of young people. They call themselves the Peacekeepers, and they are doing just that. Both groups have their names on shirts already. They are legit.
- Young people are raising their voices in Ferguson, in largely constructive and courageous ways. Many were marching peacefully last night, at times chanting, “I’m young. I’m strong. And I’ll keep marching all night long.” Their energy shows no sign of flagging.
- Clergy are present. I went to Ferguson with my friend and colleague Jennifer Thomas, because we were invited by the PICO National Network, a faith-based community organizing collaborative. Both Jennifer and I are active with PICO and our local affiliate, Communities Creating Opportunity. It was an easy decision. We are called to stand in broken places and offer a word of grace and healing.
- People are marching because they have to. I mean that they are compelled to do so by frustration, faith, commitment to social justice. Also, they are required to do so by the police. No stopping is allowed.
- There were a lot of cops. A lot. They were clustered in groups of 5-20. At least a couple dozen clusters. There were armored vehicles. The presentation is very combative and intimidating, which would seem to be the point.
So much remains to be done. So many words of healing and hope are still to be uttered. There has been precious little dialogue between law enforcement and community leaders, and the brokenness will continue until that happens in a viable and sustainable manner. This is going to be a long process. It will be a complicated process, and will require a lot of folks to stand down and give up some of their power in order to engage in real conversation. There are no sides. Just brokenness, pain, anger. So God is there also.
Rev. Donna Simon is pastor at St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church, in the urban core of Kansas City, MO. She is married to Colleen Simon and is a member of Proclaim, an active community of LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians.
by Amalia Vagts, Executive Director
Last weekend, I headed out to Los Angeles for Brenda Bos’ ordination. It was a marvelous celebration. While in town, I had the chance to connect with four extraordinary congregations – communities of faith that are allies in our work to affirm and support ministry by LGBTQ rostered leaders. Together, LGBTQ leaders and extraordinary congregations proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all people.
The ordination was hosted by St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, Brenda’s home congregation. St. Matthew’s was the home congregation for Joel Workin and was previously served by late Bp. Paul Egertson and current Bp. R. Guy Erwin. This faith community has a long history of lifting up and supporting LGBTQ leaders and allies.
That evening, I had the great fortune of joining a group of people from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica for their annual outing to the Hollywood Bowl. A group of 25 or so gathered for a picnic meal ahead of time and then journeyed up the hill to hear the L.A. Philharmonic. It was a great time catching up with Pastor Jim Boline (Proclaim member) and members of the congregation. This wonderful group has been the host congregation for THREE Proclaim interns, including Brenda Bos, Becca Seely, and a week from now, Joel Bergeland.
The following morning, after a little “God on the beach” (see the cross I found?), I headed to Lutheran Church of the Master. This congregation played a major role in the ONE VOICE campaign back in 2009 when they worked together to raise $40,000 in support of the allied Lutheran LGBTQ organizations. They have continued their witness through support of the L.A. area Proclaim internship and through the prophetic preaching and teaching of Pastor Ioan Ittu, a strong ally to the LGBTQ community.
And while I only had time for a drop-by visit, I was able to check in on St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church where Pastor Caleb Crainer (Proclaim member) serves. St. Andrew’s has grown in their witness in the past year, becoming an RIC congregation and expanding their visible welcome by placing a rainbow flag prominently in front of the building.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries does much to highlight rostered leaders. Equally part of the story are the individuals who make up the congregations that call and support LGBTQ rostered leaders. It was fantastic to be in the company of so many engaged, committed, and faithful people this past weekend.
Was your congregation not listed? A gal can only do SO much in 48 hours in L.A. Hope to catch you next time!
Amalia Vagts is Executive Director of ELM and is thankful for chances to see extraordinary leaders and congregations in person as she travels around. She also gets to meet up with extraordinary bishops from time to time too! She is pictured here with Bp. Murray Finck of the Pacifica Synod who presided at Brenda’s ordination, along with Bp. R. Guy Erwin of the Southwest California Synod.
For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. Psalm 139: 13-14
This scripture passage is part of the Psalm that will be read at the ordination of Proclaim member, Emily E. Ewing. Emily, a recent graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, has been called to serve as pastor and mission developer of Christ the King Lutheran Church in South Jordan, Utah.
The ordination will take place this Saturday, August 23rd, at Emily’s home congregation, Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church at the Vail Interfaith Chapel in Vail, CO at 11am MT.
Emily has been an active member of Proclaim since 2011 and has served in leadership with Proclaim seminarians, Proclaim retreat planning, and with our upcoming resource, Treasures in Clay Jars - sharing the stories and experiences of LGBTQ leaders in the Lutheran Church. Emily was also ELM’s 2011 Joel R. Workin Scholar.
Here’s what Emily says about her new call: “I am really excited for this new adventure. I am looking forward to engaging in ministry with the people of Christ the King Lutheran Church and together discerning where God is calling us and what God might be calling us to. I am also quite delighted to be back in the midst of mountains for this next step in my journey.“
We share our joy and prayers with Emily, Christ the King Lutheran Church, Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church, and all who will gather this weekend to celebrate the works of God – that we know very well!
Thank you for your gift that affirms and supports gifted LGBTQ leaders in their calling to serve God’s church.
This past spring ELM conducted a survey of the Proclaim community. In addition to stats, we asked for longer written responses to some questions. This info is being shared throughout our program teams to inform and shape our work.
Here is a link to Highlights of the Proclaim Member Survey 2014.
For a quick peek, here are a few Highlights of the Highlights:
+ We have a diversity of identities within our community. Here are some of the ways Proclaim members identify:
Gender Identity – male, transgender, Q, female, Emale, Queer, a-gender, transgender guy, queer woman, male-identified – most days, transgender woman, masculine/gender neutral, MtF, woman, cisgender male/man
Sexual Orientation – gay, lesbian, bi, queer, pan/bi, queer woman, homosexual, straight, bisexual
+ 64% of Proclaim members who completed the survey were raised Lutheran. And about 50% of current seminary/divinity students who completed the survey were raised Lutheran.
+ We recognize relationships in a variety of ways. 65% of Proclaim members who completed the survey currently have a partner/spouse. Some are legally married, some have had religious ceremonies, some have domestic partnerships or civil unions, and some recognize their relationship in other ways (details in survey highlights).
+ Of Proclaim members who completed the survey, only 2 out of 81 people knew an openly LGBTQ pastor growing up. Thanks to the witness of Proclaim members and supporters of ELM, we are actively working to change this statistic!
Proclaim is an active community of 164 publicly identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians. 23 new members have joined so far in 2014. We have Proclaim members in 48 of the 65 synods in the ELCA. Want to meet some of these leaders? Check out Proclaim Profiles.
Want to see more results of the survey? Highlights of the Proclaim Member Survey 2014
If you have trouble reading the document, here is the Proclaim Survey – black and white version
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries celebrates the life of pastor, advocate for justice, and LGBTQ ally Rev. Paul A. Tidemann.
Pastor Tidemann played a significant role in the early days of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, notably during the 2001 extraordinary ordination of the Rev. Anita Hill. Pastor Tidemann served for many years as lead pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church. He was involved with many levels of the movement for LGBTQ justice in the Lutheran church, including ReconcilingWorks, Wingspan, and through his leadership at St. Paul-Reformation. And he was a tireless advocate for justice for many peoples in addition to LGBTQ people, including his advocacy for racial and economic equality
ELM Board Member Jeremy Posadas, who served on the Goodsoil Legislative Team with Pastor Tidemann remembers him this way,
“Paul was truly the deep conscience within a whole community of folks trying to right the church’s moral compass. I was always awed by the wisdom he had wrought from long melding the roles of pastor, prophet, and organizer. Paul was one of the only people I know who had stared so far into the sinfulness of the institutional church but still held faith that it could yet be redeemed into the communion of grace God yearns for it to be — a faith strong enough that he endlessly agitated and advocated and organized wherever he could to hasten that redemption. I hope the LGBTQ Lutheran community will honor Paul’s memory by bravely imagining what new frontiers of justice — what new coalitions and solidarities — we will seek in coming years, as we inhabit the church in new roles.”
We share our thankfulness and sadness with Paul’s family, friends, all those who were impacted by his ministry.
The ELM Board of Directors met for their August meeting yesterday evening, welcoming the newest member of the Board, Rev. Gordon Straw.
Gordon brings years of experience in organizational development, development of lay ministry leaders, and experience and commitment to intercultural competency. Gordon is an enrolled member of the Brothertown Indian Nation. He currently serves as the program director for Lay Schools for Ministry in the ELCA and is a former director for American Indian/Alaska Native ministries in the ELCA. Gordon is married to Evelyn Soto and they have a daughter, Amanda, who will begin her second year at DePauw University, Greencastle, IN in the fall.
“I am joining the ELM board because I want to make more public my personal commitment to the full inclusion and participation of LGBTQI leaders in the ELCA. While in Lutheran Student Movement, I began to make connections between my own personal struggle with acceptance of my “mixed blood” identity by others and the struggles of LGBTQI people with acceptance of their sexual and gender identities by the Lutheran church. This journey began in 1978; I like to say that I had been living with a bound conscience in the church, until 2009. I hope to bring together my passion for developing leaders for the church and my commitment to full inclusion and participation of LGBTQI persons in the church.”
The ELM Board of Directors consists of twelve individuals with diverse experiences and talents. These leaders are: Dr. Margaret Moreland (Berkeley, CA); Rose Beeson (Washington, DC); Asher O’Callaghan (Minneapolis, MN); Rev. Dr. J. Elise Brown (New York, NY); Jim Kowalski (San Francisco, CA); Ángel David Marrero-Roe (Boston, MA); Dr. Jeremy Posadas (Sherman, TX); Rev. Julie Boleyn (Chicago, IL); Charlie Horn (Pitman, NJ); Rev. Mike Wilker (Washington, DC); and Rev. Gordon Straw (Chicago, IL).
GET INVOLVED: Are you interested in serving on the ELM Board of Directors? We are always interested in talking more with potential board members who have passion for and commitment to ELM’s vision and mission. Board terms are three years long and run from March 1 – March 1. Please reach out to Amalia Vagts, Executive Director, if you would like to learn more.
Amalia Vagts, Executive Director, gives thanks daily for the passion, dedication, wit, and wisdom of the ELM Board of Directors.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:11
We celebrate first calls for Proclaim members Javen Swanson and Paul Gibson. As they enter into Christ’s work to equip the saints for ministry in these new communities, we give thanks for their spirit and witness in building up the body of Christ.
Supporting First Call Candidates
ELM has put together a resource for LGBTQ first call candidates. The Mysteries of the Ages: ELM’s Unofficial Guide for LGBTQ First Call Candidates provides detailed, fresh advice about navigating the approval and assignment process from those who’ve been there. The guide is informative, funny, and one-of-a-kind. It is currently being reviewed by those in the approval process and will be released this fall. It was created by Proclaim members who are currently serving in their first call and members from the Accompaniment Team.
Your gift to ELM helps us affirm, support, and walk with LGBTQ seminarians, candidates, and rostered leaders in their ministry. This is a gift to the whole church. Thank you!
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries announces the 2014 Joel R. Workin Scholar, Amy Christine Hanson.
Amy Hanson is the 2014 Joel R. Workin Scholar, an award created to honor the legacy of Joel Workin, one of the first openly gay seminarians in the Lutheran Church.
Amy recently graduated from Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. She completed her Lutheran formation classes at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN last year. She is currently serving as an intern pastor at First Lutheran Church of St. Peter. Amy has been certified as an ELCA Mission Developer/Redeveloper. During and prior to seminary, Amy worked with a number of social service agencies, including Delores Project and Denver Urban Ministries. Amy is a member of House for All Sinners and Saints, ELCA, in Denver, CO.
In the letter notifying her of the decision,the committee wrote the following,
“We were compelled by your resume as well as your letter of recommendation, but your essay stood out to us most of all. You have a gift for language and for weaving together personal narrative with theological exploration. We loved the way that your writing both reflected your unique voice and engaged in lively conversation with Joel’s sermon. Many of the members of the committee spoke appreciatively of how the warmth and openness of your essay invited us to get to know not just what you think, but who you are.
The committee was moved by the way you expanded the notion of closet to include your experience of coming out of other closets and into the light. As you mentioned that Joel does so well in his sermon, we appreciated the way you thoughtfully ‘queered a certain theological conviction’ in your own right.”
In an email conversation about the award and Joel’s impact on her ministry, Amy wrote
“Joel was (and continues to be, through his writing), the sort of prophetic truth teller that is so needed by the church and our broken world. He tells the truth about God and the truth about what it means to be human, and that even in the midst of all this brokenness, the promise of God’s grace and overwhelming love endures. I have known this to be true in my own life, and this is my own call to ministry, to tell the truth about God’s grace in a world that needs to hear it.”
Amy had this to say about her call to ministry,
“My call to ministry is bi-vocational, I feel called to hospital chaplaincy and mission redevelopment parish ministry. Both of these vocations involve meeting the people of God wherever you find them, and accompanying them as they discover and articulate what God is doing in their lives and their communities. I hope to be the sort of brilliant preacher that Joel was, and to honor his legacy by following my call and unceasingly proclaiming the Gospel to the beautiful, broken, and beloved people of God.”
Read Amy’s reflection on Joel Workin’s sermon, “The Light of Lent.” Amy Hanson – Workin Reflection
Joel R. Workin Scholar Award
Each year ELM names a Joel R. Workin Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel Workin. Joel was one of the three gay seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after “coming out” to their candidacy committees.
This award comes with a $2,500 scholarship for academic or spiritual study and is available for publicly-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Lutheran seminarians who are members of Proclaim. The increased award is the result of increased contributions to the fund. The fund is managed by InFaith Community Foundation. Anyone interested in making a planned gift to the fund may contact Amalia Vagts (director(at)elm.org).
The Workin Scholar Selection committee thanks all who applied for the award.
About Joel Workin
Joel Raydon Workin (1961-1995) was born in Fargo, ND, and grew up on a farm in nearby Walcott. He received his Master of Divinity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, CA. In 1986 Joel interned at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Inglewood, CA.
In the fall of 1987, Joel came out publicly as a gay candidate for the ordained ministry and was certified for call by the American Lutheran Church (a predecessor body to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Following this courageous and faithful act, Joel’s certification was revoked by the ELCA and his name was never placed on the roster of approved candidates waiting for call.
Joel’s ministry continued in Los Angeles, however, at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and as Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice. On December 30, 1988, Joel married Paul Jenkins. Joel was a member of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, North Hollywood. He and Paul were active in Lutherans Concerned/Los Angeles and Dignity/Los Angeles. Paul died of AIDS on June 6, 1993.
In the last weeks of his illness, Joel gave his friends and family permission to sponsor an endowed memorial fund in his name. The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Fund was thus established upon Joel’s death on November 29, 1995. Joel’s parents, Ray and Betty Workin worked with Michael Price Nelson and other friends of Joel’s to release a collection of his essays and sermons, called “Dear God, I am Gay – thank you!” The second edition was released in 2013.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
The Ministry Engagement Team of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) has been working on a new resource to be released this fall. This guide, Enrich and Transform: Welcoming LGBTQ Candidates into the Call Process, is for congregational call committees.
This guide is being developed in response to congregations and synods who have asked for resources to help open their doors more widely to live into this new day of welcome and celebration of the gifts of LGBTQ leaders in our church. The synod will provide guidance on the call process in general and we don’t want to duplicate that. This guide will serve as an additional resource for call committees during this process of discernment and exploration and an encouragement to be open to the full diversity of gifted and called candidates in our church, including LGBTQ candidates.
In addition to Ministry Engagement Team members working on this, we’ve collected wisdom and insights from members of call committees that have recently called an LGBTQ pastor. Lynn Kriser served on a call committee at St Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church in Michigan where Proclaim member Rev. Laura Kuntz was recently called.
It was exciting that God provided and called a wonderfully gifted, strong Lutheran pastor to minister to our children, youth and young adults. Just 5 years ago, this call wouldn’t have been possible. We all (congregations as well as Pastor Laura) would have lost out on so much. Now, as the mother of daughters, I’m excited that they have Pastor Laura as an example and a spiritual leader. – Lynn Kriser
Transformation is happening, and we are excited to be a part of it. We hope many more congregations will open their doors to the gifts of LGBTQ leaders. As Claire Hoyum, call committee member at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St Paul, MN where Rev. Bradley Schmeling was called in 2012 says:
Many gifted LGBTQ candidates have been waiting far too long for their gospel gifts to be recognized and invited into ministry. Congregations should not constrain their access to those gifts by artificially limiting the pool of candidates they are willing to consider.
Thanks for your partnership and support as we seek to enrich and transform the whole church through the rich diversity of gospel gifts God has given us.
If you are currently serving on a call committee and would like to be considered to be part of our review team, please contact Jen (programdirector (at) elm.org).
by Jen Rude. Jen is the program director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and is honored to work with such fine, faithful, fabulous, and fun ELM volunteers and supporters. Read more.
Every month, we receive contributions from people who have committed to support us throughout the year. We call these folks our “Extraordinary Friends.” If you are one of those Friends, we are thankful beyond words for your sustaining support.
Extraordinary Friends make ELM’s world go round!
There are many in the church who say they support diverse leaders. But it takes financial resources to provide the kind of accompaniment, affirmation, and advocacy that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is known for. In the last year our Friends have helped us with projects like the following…
- Host the Proclaim Retreat – largest dedicated gathering of LGBTQ rostered leaders and ministry candidates in any denomination.
- Field calls and emails from over 40 Lutheran candidates for ministry looking for resources with candidacy.
- Present at the ELCA Conference of Bishops and the ELCA seminary internship directors’ annual retreat about working with LGBTQ candidates. We were also invited to attend the ELCA Fund for Leaders’ annual dinner in recognition of our support for candidates.
- Work on the following one-of-a-kind resources: Candidacy and LGBTQ Individuals (for ELCA candidacy committees); a handbook for first call candidates; a guide for call committees and synods wanting to extend a welcome to LGBTQ candidates; and a collection of stories from LGBTQ ministers.
Here are some words of thankfulness from LGBTQ leaders supported through by our Extraordinary Friends:
“ELM provides promised and lived community.”
“The Proclaim Retreat provides a place for renewal, collegiality, learning, and witness.”
“Words of gratitude seem an inadequate expression for how very important and essential ELM’s support has been and continues to be.”
At the Proclaim retreat this year, the ministers and candidates wanted to show their gratitude for our Extraordinary Friends. So they wrote notes of thanks for current Friends and made “friendship” bracelets for new ones.
Monthly giving provides this ministry with a steady cash flow, assurance of renewal of gifts, and allows many to provide larger gifts over the course of time. This method of giving is crucial to our success.
You can affirm LGBTQ leaders and their ministries through your contribution. These leaders seek to be engaged in ministry year round – we can show our support by contributing to their ministry each month.
GET INVOLVED It’s very easy to become an Extraordinary Friend - you can join with a gift of $10 or more a month. You can sign up right here online and give from your checking account or with a credit card. You can also mail us a monthly check directly from your bank account (or kitchen table). Your monthly support means so much to these faithful (and fabulous) leaders and their ministries.
I give thanks for our Extraordinary Friends and for all those who support this ministry with their prayers and contributions.
by Amalia Vagts. Amalia is executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and gets to write and talk each month with ELM’s Extraordinary Friends, which makes her very, very happy! Read more.