One thing we commonly hear about LGBTQ pastors is that congregations just “aren’t ready.” As you know, we like to say – “Let us help you get ready!”
Thanks to this fabulous new short video, call committees and congregations now have a 6-minute conversation starter about “getting ready” to welcome LGBTQ people into the call process.
This video follows the story of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Conshohocken, PA and their process to call a gay man as their pastor (Proclaim member Rev. Bryan Penman!). It addresses questions including:
What do we do if we’re not sure we’re ready for an LGBTQ pastor?
How can we start this conversation in our congregation?
Why do we need to talk about it?
What are some special gifts of LGBTQ leaders?
Watch the full 6 minute video:
And we need your help! After you watch, please tell your friends about it. We’ve made this sweet 30 second trailer to make it easy for your to share on social media. Help us get the word out!
Thank you to the Philip N. Knutson Endowment in Campus Ministry and the St. Francis Lutheran Church Endowment for providing funds for this project.
+ And, exciting news! We just received word that ELM has received an additional grant from the Philip N. Knutson Endowment to help distribute Enrich & Transform resources!
Rev. Jen Rude, who has served as ELM’s program director since 2013, has received and accepted a new call.
As announced today by Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, Jen will begin serving as University Pastor in early August. Jen’s last day as program director at ELM will be June 30th.
We celebrate with Jen, who has been a significant part of this movement for the last decade. Jen was an extraordinary candidate, ordinand and pastor; the first Joel R. Workin Scholar; a key member of the Extraordinary Roster and Proclaim community, an ELM Board Member – who helped create, launch – and name – Proclaim; a volunteer Proclaim Convener, and has served as Program Director since the fall of 2013. She will continue her involvement as a member of the Proclaim Community and as a supporter of ELM.
We give abundant thanks for the work Jen has done with ELM, especially as our first program director. Jen has worked in creative and deeply thoughtful ways to expand ELM’s three programs into thriving and growing work. These programs have experienced tremendous growth under Jen’s leadership. She has been a passionate and faithful leader, and a pastoral presence for the Proclaim community, staff and ELM board. She has been an exceptional colleague who has led with purpose and unparalleled integrity. She will be deeply missed by all of us who worked with her, and a tremendous gift to her new community at Pacific Lutheran University.
In Jen’s own words:
“ELM has played a critical role in my growth and formation as a pastor and as a person. It has been an honor, a gift, and a JOY to be in partnership with you and this community. I have loved my work at ELM with the board, program teams, the Proclaim community, and with all our communities and supporters. I am also incredibly grateful to Amalia, an extraordinary supervisor, mentor, and colleague. Her grace-filled, visionary, and faithful leadership is infused into the fabric of ELM.
I was not looking for a new call, but when this opportunity came up the Spirit kept stirring in me and I felt like I needed to at least explore it. This new call is a great fit for me and my gifts, and it comes with the great sadness of leaving my position with ELM. I will continue in my role as a Proclaim member, ELM supporter, and cheerleader for the awesome work of this organization and movement. I take this next step with a heart full of gratitude, confident that ELM will move into this next phase of its work as it has always done – with boldness, grace, humor, passion, faithfulness, and an overflowing cup of fabulousness.”
We’re thankful for a healthy organization with wonderful and passionate supporters, and a strong and committed board who will help guide the organization as we move into the new possibilities that will emerge from this unexpected change.We are putting together the next steps in our plan; beginning with reviewing the position and working on both short-term staffing and long-term hiring plans. We will keep our community informed as we move forward.
Confident in the Spirit who has led us through many changes, we will faithfully and joyfully move forward together in a way that strengthens our vision and mission.
We are thankful for the Chicago Metro Synod who affirmed Jen’s specialized call to ministry with ELM and we join the community of Pacific Lutheran University in celebrating this most fabulous new call for Jen!
(Editor’s note – many in the LGBTQ+ faith movement are starting to collect and document stories. As I shared in an earlier post – there is no “ELM Story,” rather there are many – and the stories are not just those of ELM or our predecessor organizations, Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project. Our stories are linked to those of denomination partners like ReconcilingWorks (formerly Lutherans Concerned/North America) and others – even to stories being shared today by friends in the United Methodist Church. Enjoy reading Mari’s story! – Amalia)
by Mari Griffiths Irvin
As I write this, it’s been a month since I was with the Proclaim community in San Juan Bautista, California. I was one of the seven people invited by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) to participate in what was dubbed an “Instigators Gathering.” We were among those whose work led to the forming of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries (LLGM) and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (ECP) – both predecessors of ELM. Our time together, among the instigators and later with the entire Proclaim community was an experience that remains with me each day.
The weekend was a mix of old and new. In the early days of the movement toward full inclusion of LGBTQ people into the ministry of the ELCA, we were regularly meeting in one another’s living rooms. We arrived the day before the Proclaim Gathering to review some of the early organizational documents, newsletters, and records. What a reminder of those early debates and grand visions! The materials will be archived at the Center for Gay & Lesbian Studies in Religion (located at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA). We loved reading those letters aloud, sparking many stories from that time.
We also needed to prepare for the large-group plenary at the Proclaim gathering. Not an easy task as each of us could have talked for hours about the significance of this mission and its effect in our lives! Proclaim members had submitted questions like “What were the gifts and burdens of helping birth this movement?” and “What are you ‘known’ for and what would you like to be known for?” Our responses were videotaped and will be archived for future generations to learn about the beginnings of our movement.
Following our comments, each of the Proclaim members responded with one or two words about their experience of hearing from the instigators. In those moments, I saw in the Proclaim community the collective embodiment of the vision that guided our work for so many years.
With great passion – and in the abstract – we had created a way to ministry for those whose calls were being ignored, refused, or discarded by the ELCA because they were LGBT persons who wanted the option to have a partner and family. At that time, the ELCA required LGBT clergy to be celibate. We stood witness to the testimony shown in each life of each candidate for extraordinary ordination and call to active ministry.
As I listened and looked into the eyes of each Proclaim speaker, our long held vision came into sharp focus, embodied in each person. In those moments I more fully felt the Power of God, shown in the future ministries of these dedicated followers of Jesus. What is now will be continued. Their ministries and that of those who join them will truly proclaim the Gospel in ways we cannot yet imagine.
The vision that had guided me and many others for so long was now gloriously visible in the flesh before us. I see and celebrate that picture in my mind’s eye each day.
Thanks be to God!
Mari Griffiths Irvin’s long-dormant faith was rekindled by the extraordinary ordinations of Jeff, Phyllis, and Ruth in 1990 and her subsequent membership at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco. Her retirement in 2000 as professor emerita from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA allowed her more time to work passionately as a Lutheran LGBTQ activist. More recently, Mari reinvented herself as a bookstore owner in Yachats, Oregon where she, her spouse (Jeannine Janson), and her sister (Mary Wiltse) work as partners in selling “previously enjoyed and gently used books.”
Guest blog by Proclaim member Ross Murray, diaconal minister
Calling is a funny thing. It’s almost never a direct path. We can plan, but God will intervene with what God’s going to do.
For the last five years, I’ve been working at GLAAD, the world’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization. Throughout my time at GLAAD, I’ve been the lead on religious work. Even though my exact title has shifted over the years, I’ve been blessed to preach, organize pro-LGBT faith voices to rally for LGBT equality, and support LGBT people and communities of faith. I’ve worked hard to dispel the myth that LGBTQ people and religion are opposed to one another, or “God vs. gay,” as we are so often told.
Perhaps the most Lutheran, and even protestant, thing I’ve done was developed and executed a campaign around Pope Francis’ visit to the US that highlighted the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and LGBTQ people. Instead of a church door, I was connecting media with LGBT Catholics who could talk about how they continue to keep their faith, despite alienation and sometimes outright persecution from the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
But until this point, I have been doing this work as an educated, hard-working Lutheran lay person. After April 30, I am now doing my LGBTQ advocacy work at GLAAD as a called and consecrated diaconal minister in the ELCA. Diaconal ministers go through theological education, candidacy, and a call process, just like clergy. However, the role of the diaconal minister is distinct.
While clergy are ordained into “Word and sacrament” ministry, diaconal ministers are consecrated into a ministry of “Word and service.” A diaconal minister is someone whose ministry is at the border of the church and the world. Historically, diaconal ministers have assisted in worship, run the administration of the church, directed aid for those in need. Diaconal callings usually involve a focus area: chaplaincy, administration, social service, prison ministry, etc. My particular calling will be to advocate for equality and acceptance for LGBTQ people, both in the church and the world, through my job at GLAAD.
While being called and consecrated is new for me, the fundamentals of my day-to-day job are unlikely to change. However, what will change is that mutual accountability that I have with the ELCA. My job is now my calling, which means I’m representing the larger church through my actions. It also means that I can continue to help the ELCA find ways in which to use its platform and voice to continue to call for the care and protection for LGBTQ people in society.
We are at a time when faith voices are critical to the LGBQ movement. That “God vs. gay” myth persists. Statewide “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRAs) attempt to reinforce it. Anti-LGBTQ advocates and public examples like Kim Davis want that myth to stay in place in order to protect their position in the world. My calling is about making sure that there continues to be a public witness that can use sound theology and a firm belief in the power of grace to spread the message that God has created us, knows us, and loves us, just as we are.
Ross Murray and Abby Ferjak were consecrated as ELCA diaconal ministers in a service on Saturday, April 30, 2016 at Advent Lutheran Church on Broadway in Manhattan, NY. Abby will continue her work as a hospital chaplain at Valley Health System in Ridgewood, NJ. Both Ross and Abby are members of Proclaim, a community of 220+ LGBTQ rostered leaders, seminarians, and candidates for ministry. Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
by Ross Murray. Ross is a Lutheran Diaconal Minister and member of Proclaim. He is GLAAD’s Director of Programs, focusing on global and the US South. He has written and appeared on numerous media outlets, including CNN, Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Religion News Service. Ross is also a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBT youth and their allies. If you’ve been thinking of jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, but don’t know where to start – check Ross out: @inlayterms – in 2014, he was named one of Mashable’s “10 LGBT-Rights Activists to Follow on Twitter.”
By Amalia Vagts
ELM Executive Director
As you read in last week’s blog past, our recent Proclaim Gathering for LGBTQ leaders focused on stories. The theme was “Queer stories/Sacred Witness.” One of the “a-ha” moments for me is that there is no “story” of this movement. No story is alike, no two people have had the same journey. There are countless individual stories – told together, these stories create a tapestry of a movement and an organization.
At the end of our time together, we spent some time in group conversation and reflection. We hung three sheets of paper on the walls, asking individuals to share their responses to the following prompts; “The queer stories/sacred witness of ELM was/is/will be…”
Words and phrases leap off these three pages – “holy & prophetic,” “life-saving,” “truth-telling,” and “expansive.”
One person wrote this on the “Will Be…” sheet:
“Something we don’t have words for yet.”
As we move deeper into the process of identifying the next strategic steps for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and the Proclaim Community, our individual stories must be realized, shared, and heard.
As one person wrote, we are called to “remember the past, live in the present, and proclaim the future.”
Amalia Vagts has served with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries since 2006. Part of her story includes meeting John Brett at a Reconciling in Christ training in Portland, OR in 2005, and having her life changed as he shared some of his own story. Pictured together at the recent Proclaim Gathering (John Brett, part of the Proclaim Community and a seminarian who serves with the San Francisco Night Ministry is currently on street retreat with the Faithful Fools in San Francisco).
Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director
Something powerful happened last week at the Proclaim Gathering.
Proclaim member John Brett shared these words, “Never underestimate the power of a Proclaim Gathering worship to transform our perspective on the possible, our liberation, to kindle joy & deep gladness.”
Others shared these words and phrases:
Deepened connections and support
Engaging storytelling and story listening
Hilarity and laughter
Connecting with our roots
We gathered under the theme of Queer Stories/Sacred Witness. We began the gathering hearing from Instigators – people who were part of the catalyst for this movement for LGBTQ leaders in the Lutheran church (more on that in another blog soon!). In the evening ELM board member and Instigator Margaret Moreland led the board game “Beat the Eschaton – Full Inclusion Version” – a game designed by ELM supporter Bennett Falk to tell the history of our movement.
We spent time tracing our history with red yarn linking us together as part of worship. We were drawn in by the stories of our speaker Frank Rogers and then invited to draw on the stories within ourselves and to share those with each other. We took hikes in the beautiful hills of the St Francis Retreat Center in San Juan Bautista, CA.
We participated in creative workshops led by members of our Proclaim community. We stayed up late jamming with tubas, guitars, hand bells, and our voices. We had quiet conversations over a cup of coffee on the patio. We prayed while walking by the lake.
Many were inspired to go out and share more of their story. Several Proclaim members shared that in the Sunday following the gathering, they felt more compelled to witness about being an LGBTQ person in ministry. Others had open conversation with airplane seatmates and family members. In short – they were proclaiming.
We hope these words and these pictures by our fantastic photographer Emily Ann Garcia give you a few glimpses into what we experienced.
Your support to ELM helps make renewing and sustaining gatherings like this possible for LGBTQ leaders in our church. You help make queer stories and sacred witness possible every day. Thank you!
By Jen Rude. The Proclaim Gathering is one of the highlights of Jen’s year. She especially enjoys real life connections with people she’s had email relationships with, lingering over meals and great conversation, a ridiculous amount of laughing, being moved to tears by people’s stories, feeling the Spirit’s presence, and being renewed and energized for this work to which we are called.
Guest blog by Margaret Moreland, ELM board member and Ministry Engagement program convener
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has a new way for congregations to come out about their support of LGBTQ people in ministry. This vibrant new poster will be available for all congregations whose pastors or other rostered leaders are members of Proclaim or who support the mission of ELM in other ways. It was given out at the Proclaim Gathering this week and will be available at ELM display tables at seven synod assemblies this spring (see below for how you can get one, too!).
Seeing the poster at a church will encourage members of congregations that have Proclaim leaders to remember their connection to ELM and learn more about our ministry. It can also be an evangelical witness to visitors who will see the values important to the church they visit. It might inspire an LGBTQ person to consider ministry and find the support to follow that calling. And we hope it may also get congregations thinking about calling an LGBTQ pastor in their next call process.
If your congregation wants to come out in support of LGBTQ leaders and the ministry of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries by hanging this new poster, please contact email@example.com to request a poster be mailed to you.
Thank you to University Lutheran Chapel Endowment Fund for a grant to print and distribute these posters along with other materials at Synod Assemblies.
By Margaret Moreland. Margaret’s bio this week is brought to you by her spouse Bennett Falk: Margaret Moreland has practiced Tai Chi for more than twenty years, and she has worked for full inclusion of LBGTQ clergy for even longer than that. She is extraordinary every day. We agree, Bennett!
By Andrew Steele
I hung out in a lot of church basements. I found interesting ways to play hide and seek in big church buildings. And when there was a portable communion kit in the backseat of the mini-van and I was hungry, communion wafers did the trick. (I know, this is sacrilegious but I was a young kid who had a craving for some tasteless snacks!)
Needless to say, I kind of went through the motions of being a rambunctious, trouble-making pastor’s kid. Church was part of weekly and daily life, and the people in our church community were as well. That’s what I knew and that’s how it was for most of my childhood and young adulthood.
But over the years, I have grown in ways that I never quite anticipated.
After college, I served as an ELCA Young Adult in Global Mission volunteer in South Africa where I was challenged in many ways. I was challenged by the cultural differences. I was challenged by my own privilege. And I was challenged by the radical hospitality bestowed upon me by my host community. I began living into what it means to be community, and I quickly adopted the South African way of life known as Ubuntu, or ‘I am because we are.’ This continued as I moved to Chicago after my time in South Africa to start working for United Way. I began attending St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Logan Square, where Pastor Erik Christensen serves as pastor. I quickly learned about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and Erik’s incredible journey to where is called today. Knowing what Erik’s leadership has meant not just to the Logan Square community but also to me has cemented my passion and belief in ELM’s mission.
So today I attempt to continue living out Ubuntu in a variety of ways. One of those ways is being an ally and advocate for LGBTQ folks in church and society. However, I really don’t see the term ‘ally’ being one that best describes how I wish to live this out. My hosts in South Africa taught me a lot about family. They taught me that being a child of God is all that matters, no matter the color of your skin, language you speak, etc. And so I will continue being the brother in Christ that I already am with my LGBTQ family members, more than an ally.
The body of Christ is all of us. We are all one body. And some of the body has cancer. Some of the body is HIV positive. Some of the body is LGBTQ. The body of Christ cannot be full while some are missing.
As the struggle continues for equality and recognition in the church for our LGBTQ family, (and increasingly in society,) it’s important to remember that South African word, Ubuntu, that we are only who we are because of the people in our lives. That we are all children of a loving God whose love for us is unconditional, and that each member of this family belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:1-8.)
Andrew Steele, Director of Global Church Sponsorship for the ELCA, writes most of his reflections on one of his devices while awaiting a flight. He has become quite the expert in airport codes and expedited security lines.
Joyous Easter to you!
I’m so thankful for the signs of Easter I see every day in the ministry leaders you support through your giving to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
This year, the Proclaim Gathering falls in the season of Easter – and for many it is truly a new morning where they can step out from the time of Lent and into the transforming light of the risen Christ.
They experience the joy of hearing the word “gay” alongside words like “fabulous, beloved, joyous, and called.”
Right now, we’re raising funds to support our upcoming Proclaim Gathering – especially to provide scholarships to those who need them.
The critical need for these scholarships became very clear when I was reading a note from one scholarship applicant.
I stopped short at this sentence: “I grew up in a church where the word gay was not used.”
That comment caught my eye because for so long, many LGBT Christians experienced hurt because of the way gay and lesbian people were spoken about in church.
Now there is a new pain caused by silence. Many in the ELCA want to move quickly from a past of exclusion. Yet a growing number of people continue to experience the pain caused when the church doesn’t mention our identities or our families.
ELM is working to change that. You can join us. You can remind this future pastor that the darkness of silence during Lent leads to the bursting joyfulness of Easter. You can remind them they do not walk alone.
I invite you to make a special gift in support of this Gathering – I’d love to add your name to the list of those who will receive thank you notes from the ministry leaders at the Proclaim Gathering this year.
And I invite you this Easter Season to come out about your support for LGBTQ ministry leaders. Tell your own story of transformation and resurrection.
Thank you for all you do for LGBTQ ministry leaders.
Amalia Vagts is thankful for the gift of being part of the National Proclaim Gathering to hear the stories of LGBTQ people called to rostered ministry so she can share them with all of you.
Guest blog by Rev. Marvin Havard, Proclaim member
“Why? Because I’m gay?”
I heard myself say those words to a friend in a conversation in January of 2014 and couldn’t believe I was saying it out loud. All the shame, guilt, and repression from my childhood in a fundamentalist Baptist church and school came roaring up from the depths of my psyche and I collapsed into a weeping mess for the next few hours. My friend was amazing and simply held me and let me cry it out. When I got through the initial emotional meltdown, I knew I needed some help for the next part of the journey.
After finding the website for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) and an agonizing three hours of writing, deleting, and rewriting, I finally sent an email. The response was amazingly quick with a wonderful offer to talk on the phone.
I called and in our conversation ELM program director Jen Rude explained to me that ELM had recently started a project of offering conversation partners for rostered leaders and seminarians in the coming out process. She shared that Proclaim is made up of people who have had a variety of coming out experiences and that it can often help to talk with someone who has been there. (Here’s some more information about pastors and seminarians getting support while coming out). Jen offered to connect me to Donn Rosenauer, a retired Lutheran pastor and Proclaim member, who happened to live in the Dallas metro area where I live.
From our first meeting, Donn’s words of affirmation have continued to uphold me during this process: reminding me that I am a Child of God, created in God’s image, as I was intended to be from the very beginning; encouraging me to write about my experience and to spend time reviewing the journey to this point; but most importantly, helping me to see where God is at work in my life and in the life of the people around me.
Donn Rosenauer says this about ELM’s project to support those coming out: “The ministry in which I am engaged is a needed resource for many on this journey. I have accompanied several pastors coming out. I’ve been doing this ministry as a volunteer with ELM for a little more than two years. I have grown in this service to others and hope this ministry can be an ongoing gift to those we serve.”
Then began the process of coming out – to my wife of 28 years, my family, my friends, and my congregation. As each of these events occurred, Donn encouraged me to not give into my fear but to allow for the work of the Holy Spirit in the response of each person and group. My wife and I are determined to remain friends even as we proceed with a divorce. My family, though struggling deeply to accept the truth, has continued to remain connected and to profess their love for me. The congregation I was serving, though fairly conservative, was much more accepting than I could ever have imagined. I still felt the need to leave and find another call where I can better live into this part of my identity. I am currently serving as an interim pastor while looking for a new call.
In December I officially became a member of the Proclaim community and am looking forward to attending the Proclaim Gathering in April. Through it all, Donn has continued to point me back to God’s work within me and within this process. He has been an incredibly supportive mentor, spiritual director, and friend who understands, who encourages, and who even provides the needed joy and laughter when I get too anxious and self-absorbed.
I say “Thank You!” to Donn, to ELM, to Proclaim and to all who have helped to provide this support and encouragement. I can’t imagine going through this without such amazing people. God is definitely at work within this community and its amazing members!
by Marvin Havard. Marvin (he/him/his) is serving as interim pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Carrollton, TX. After 15 years working as a church musician, he defected to the other side of the bench and was ordained in 2009 as a graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary. Marvin is an avid reader and has been known to quote Tolkien, Asimov, and other sci-fi/fantasy writers in sermons.