Imagery of church-related people and places.


ELM Reveals The Mysteries of the Ages

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director

“…the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to God’s saints.” Colossians 1:26

Our comprehensive resource The Mysteries of the Ages: A Handy Guide for LGBTQ People Exploring or Preparing for Rostered Ministry in the ELCA is now complete!

LGBTQ people have extraordinary gifts for ministry. Our church needs these leaders.  The process toward rostered ministry can be confusing and frustrating, especially for LGBTQ people. Within our Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community we have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and support to share.  There’s no need to go it alone.

Rev. Brenda Bos (left) visits with seminarian Fred Demien (right). Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

Rev. Brenda Bos (left) visits with seminarian Fred Demien. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

The Mysteries of the Ages is a 60 page resource (yeah – 60 pages!) that serves as a conversation partner for LGBTQ individuals from initial discernment, through the stages of candidacy, Clinical Pastoral Education, internship, and first call.  Through narrative, stories, humor, tips, prayers, charts and the sharing of experiences, we hope this resource will be a welcome companion for for LGBTQ people considering or pursuing rostered ministry. And in the review process, we’ve heard from a few non-LGBTQ folks that they’ve found it helpful too!

It’s hard work to walk the road alone. Part of the gift of ELM is that we are building community between experienced LGBTQ leaders and those newer to the process. We hope that you will take a look at The Mysteries of the Ages and and share it with someone you know who might be considering ministry or who is already on the path to rostered ministry in the Lutheran Church.

20150418 Proclaim 151558-2by Jen Rude. Jen is deeply grateful for the many people, too numerous to name, who contributed to this resource by filling out surveys, writing, editing, researching, asking questions, offering feedback, and keeping the whole process fantastically fun.


ELM Goes to College

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

by Jen Rude, ELM program director

ELM is headed for college.

The college years are often a time when young people start discerning a call for ministry. This can be a challenging journey for anyone – but it can be especially difficult if you are LGBTQ. And it can be particularly isolating if you don’t know any LGBTQ seminarians or rostered leaders.

ELM outreach posterThis month we are reaching out to Lutheran Campus Ministries at colleges and universities all around the country to try to connect with LGBTQ students who are in this time of discernment for rostered ministry.  We designed this colorful flyer for campus ministries (see picture) to post for students and we’re letting campus pastors know about our resources and how to connect students with ELM.

We hope to connect with LGBTQ college students who are in discernment. We also want to provide resources to campus pastors who help students explore their vocation.  ELM has resources, support, and lots of great connections to share.

For over 25 years Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has been supporting LGBTQ pastors and seminarians. Over 215 Lutheran LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians are part of Proclaim. A program of ELM, Proclaim is the professional community for publicly identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders and those preparing for rostered ministry. We’d like to meet potential seminarians as early in their process as possible, to provide guidance, mentors, support and community.

Do you know a college or high school student who identifies as LGBTQ and is considering the ministry?  Let them know about ELM!  We’d love to walk with them as they listen for their call.


Jen photo Jan 2016Jen is thankful for her campus pastor who walked alongside her as she considered a call to rostered ministry, long before being LGBTQ and a pastor even seemed like a real possibility.  And, one of Jen’s favorite books on discernment is Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak, which she reads almost yearly and highly recommends.


Hearts Full After Workin Visit

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

by Amalia Vagts
ELM Executive Director

Each year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries selects one member of Proclaim who is studying to be a rostered leader in the church to be the Joel Workin Scholar. This award recognizes a person who embodies Joel’s passion for justice and faith in their lives and ministry. The award includes $2,500 to be used for academic or spiritual study. In addition, the scholar is invited throughout the year to be involved with various ELM activities.

The 2016 application process is now open, and as I do each year in connection with the Workin Scholarship, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on Joel and the way his voice continues to guide our work.

Workins and Jen Rude

Ray and Betty Workin with the first Workin Scholar, Rev. Jen Rude.

Last summer, Rev. Jen Rude (ELM Program Director), Jim Kowalski (former ELM Board Co-Chair), and I drove to Fargo, North Dakota*. We were there to visit Ray and Betty Workin. Ray and Betty are the parents of Joel Workin. By the end of a marvelous and heart-filling visit we had heard stories we never knew about Joel and looked through the many scrapbooks that Betty has kept over the years.


Workin article

Front page article from The Forum (regional daily newspaper) in 1988.

Joel was one of the first openly gay seminarians in the Lutheran Church. When he and his classmates came out to their candidacy committees, it pushed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America into a conversation about something that had been a long reality – people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions are called to serve as pastors and rostered lay leaders. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were already serving as pastors in the Lutheran church. It was just not widely being talked about. Many know the history (and if you don’t, here’s a nice overview).  Joel stepped into the story when he came out. While the American Lutheran Church initially approved Joel’s candidacy, it was later rejected by the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Workin cover 3Despite the church’s lack of recognition, Joel continued to follow a call to ministry and launched a hospice ministry to those dying from AIDS in Los Angeles. He passed away from AIDS himself in November of 1995. In the last weeks before his death, Joel gave his family and friends permission to create a scholarship in his name. Joel’s bright and prophetic voice lives on through the Joel Raydon Workin Memorial Scholarship and through a book, Dear God, I am Gay – Thank You! (the preserved essays and sermons that Joel wrote as a seminarian and candidate for ministry).

The 2015 Workin Scholar was Justin Ferko, who shared recently in a letter to the Workins that he plans to use the remainder of his award for a course series on public church, prophetic communications and organizing. Through this scholarship and with the encouragement many of us find in Joel’s writing, LGBTQ leaders like Justin are not only free to serve, but are doing so in extraordinary ways.

To learn more about the Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar Fund or to submit an application, please visit the ELM website.

Pepe-JeffAmalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director, considers the evening she spent with the Workins to be one of the most memorable and life-giving experiences she’s had in this role. And she was quite happy the evening ended with a game of cards, which she’s since dubbed (with their blessing), “Workin Poker.” She’s become a bit of a fanatic, having taught it to most of her family and friends. This picture is of Pepe Sanchez and his husband, the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson (also one of the first openly gay Lutheran seminarians) after a rousing game of Workin Poker at the home of ELM Board member Margaret Moreland and Bennett Falk.

*Edited from a previous version to correct the author’s geographical error. :-)

Queer Stories/Sacred Witness

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

by Jen Rude, ELM program director

Registration is now open for the 2016 Proclaim Gathering.  This annual gathering is a time for LGBTQ leaders to build community, receive continuing education, worship, play, connect, and renew.  This year on April 10-13, 2016 Proclaim members and their families will gather at beautiful St. Francis Retreat in San Juan Bautista, CA.

2016 gathering logo colorI love the logo for this year’s theme, developed by Proclaim member Katy Wallace. Katy is a seminarian at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary – and a graphic designer.  I love the way all the words mingle and connect. Our stories are queer, they are sacred, and they are a witness.  What is sacred is our stories, our queerness, and our witness.  Our witness is stories, is queer, and is sacred.

This year our speaker Dr. Frank Rogers will be facilitating part of our time together as we mingle and connect with Queer Stories/Sacred Witness. We will have time for personal reflection and contemplation, small group story sharing and listening, and large group sharing and reflection.  We’ll also have time to stay up late singing and laughing with others, or get up early and take a hike through the hills alone.  We’ll worship, pray, learn and grow as individuals and as a community.

Some of the folks who received scholarships for last year's Proclaim Gathering.

Some of the members who received a scholarship for last year’s Proclaim Gathering.

LGBTQ leaders have extraordinary gifts for ministry.  And their witness proclaims the gospel now in our church and world.  The Proclaim Gathering is an opportunity to nurture these gifts and these leaders so their ministry may be grounded, fruitful, faithful, and fabulous.  Sounds like what our church needs!

You can support these leaders by contributing to Proclaim Gathering Scholarships.  We never want finances to be a reason someone can’t attend. Help us invest in our extraordinary leaders! We hope to raise $10,000 to support all who may need a scholarship – we’ve already received one gift for $1,000!


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by Rev. Jen Rude.  Jen remembers her first ELM retreat in 2004 and eating dinner with famous LGBTQ Lutherans she’d only seen in films or read about in the news before.  Eating meals and lingering over table conversation continues to be one her favorite parts about Proclaim Gatherings.  Such wise, interesting, faithful, and hilarious people.  These conversations continue to be a great source of sustenance.  

2015 – Year in Review

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

25 year logo

Thank you for being part of a remarkable year for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. As we celebrated 25+ years of ministry by publicly-identified LGBTQ people we also experienced a 25% increase in Proclaim members during 2015 alone!

While we are still compiling final numbers as the last donations of the year still arrive by mail, I am thrilled to tell you that we are beginning 2016 fully funded and ready to go. I always like to reflect on where we’ve been before moving on to where we are going – so settle as we look back at 2015. As you do, know that you make this ministry real through your prayers, encouragement, and financial support.

2015 in Review….We started the year celebrating 25+ years of ministry by publicly-identified LGBTQ people with the anniversary of the first extraordinary ordinations.

More congregations and synods received a new resource Enrich & Transform  to help open the call process to LGBTQ people.

We engaged in deep in-person work at our spring and fall board meetings, and in anti-racism and intercultural competency training at the ELM board meeting and Proclaim retreat.

We released Treasure in Clay Jars – an expansive project that shares stories of LGBTQ people in Lutheran Ministry.

We made our way all around the country to be with as many of you in person as possible, and when we could, captured some great stories from the road – like this one from Jen’s seminary visits in the spring.

We welcomed our new 4-hour/week admin support maven, Marie O’Brien of Grace Lutheran Evanston and said farewell to our home at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church as they prepared to sell their building and began a rather unwieldy and irritating move to PO Box 14317 – thank you for your patience!

We celebrated with Rev. Ángel David Marrero Ayala as he was ordained called to mission development in the New England Synod.

We had an amazing Proclaim Gathering – including a day-long media training from Macky Alston from Auburn Seminary.

We had our first very Web-Chat update for ELM volunteers and donors.

We were present at synod assemblies in Rocky Mountain Synod, Sierra Pacific Synod, Minneapolis Area Synod, and Metro Chicago Synod through our Ministry Engagement work.

We celebrated with extraordinary congregations like Augustana Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C.

We rejoiced with Nate Gruel who was received onto the ELCA roster after a 36-year journey.

The ELCA celebrated the first “ordinary” ordination of a transgender person – the Rev. Asher O’Callaghan.

Named Justin Ferko as the 2015 Joel R. Workin Scholar, with a $2,500 grant towards his education, and invited his reflections on ministry.

Led workshops and were a sponsor for Until All Our Free, the ReconcilingWorks assembly.

Highlighted some fabulous ELM supporters – like Julie and Luther Grafe – who helped lead our Faithful & Fabulous Chicago campaign.

Shared many personal stories through the ELM Blog – including Rev. Lura Groen’s thoughts on our connections with the Black Lives Matter movement, Bp. Kevin Kanouse and his coming-out journey, Emmy Kegler’s new website Queer Grace, Miriam Samuelson-Roberts reflections on bisexuality, and Rev. Mark Erson’s “Gospel Night” services at St. John’s Christopher Street.

Proclaim reached 200 members this fall – and then quickly grew to 215!

ELM received a $30,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation to develop our Proclaim program in 2016.

Celebrated progress for trans* people called to rostered ministry,including Portico Benefit Services’ actions to remove all exclusions related to trans healthcare and expand trans-inclusive coverage.

Organized a peer-to-peer outreach effort, Faithful & Fabulous Chicago, through which over 20 new individuals and couples became new donors to ELM – giving a combined total of at least $6,500!

The Board incorporated some values around sustainability and productivity that staff members Amalia and Jen learned at the Rockwood Leadership Institute and moved to a 4-day/36 hour work week for full-time staff.

Celebrated the ways that seminarians are still at the forefront of our mission.

Developed even more resources for congregations who say they “just aren’t ready” for a gay pastor. And we started asking – What are you doing to get ready?

Ended the year with this joy – After very faithfully seeking first call, the Rev. Cara Knutson and the Rev. Tim Feiertag received calls and were ordained in December.

As I shared with those attending the 2015 Proclaim Gathering – ELM is fruitful and multiplying.

I know it can be hard to understand the full scope of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ work. For me, it often comes down to words like these from Mack Patrick after attending the 2015 Proclaim Gathering:

“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.”

You have created that feeling. Thanks for an extraordinary year!

 AJV Signature NEW0001

Three Days Left to Give – Thank You!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Thank you for your wonderful work, encouragement, and support this year.

jeff johnson preachingExtraordinary Lutheran Ministries is working hard to support LGBTQ people called to ministry because we believe these leaders and ministries are renewing the church.

As we get very close to the end of our year, I wanted to let you know that we are also getting closer to reaching the numbers we need to fully fund our ministry.

But we are not quite there. You can help us!

We have reached 77% of our goal for first-time donors. You can help us reach 100% – and your gift will be matched by another ELM supporter! That means ELM gets twice the gift!

We have reached 61% of our goal for the matching gift – any first time, new, or renewed (haven’t given since 2013) will be doubled – up to $10,000!

We have reached 74% of our goal for total individual donors – you can help us reach 100%.

We have reached 88% of fully funding our ministry. You can help us reach 100% so we start 2016 off strong with a balanced budget that allows us to serve LGBTQ people in ministry.

Those who are sending prayers and encouragement – thank you.

If you’ve recently sent a gift in the mail, thank you!

For those who wish to make a financial gift and haven’t yet – just three days left to give and be counted among those giving to ELM this year.

You can visit our website – – to make a secure on-line gift. You can also mail a gift us – it must be postmarked on or by Dec 31 to count for the match and this year’s giving – ELM + PO Box 14317 + Chicago, IL 60614-8503.

Your gift supports LGBTQ people in ministry because it shows them the church is saying YES to their call and is investing in them.

Proclaim leaders say thank you and I say thank you!

Amalia Vagts
Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

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

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Don’t let “no” be the last word

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015
Proclaimer serves communion

Your gift matched today at!

by Amalia Vagts
ELM executive director

That morning, the church said no to Edward.*

Edward had been pursuing his dream of returning to the pulpit as a Lutheran pastor.

When the council recommended him for call, Edward had hope. But the congregation said no.

“We’re ready for gay people in our pew,” one person told him. “But we’re just not ready for one in our pulpit.”

Thankfully, Edward was able to turn to the Proclaim community following this painful vote. He was surrounded with words of encouragement, prayers, and support.

And thankfully – you can say YES to leaders like Edward through a year-end gift to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM). ELM is here thanks to support from people like you. The Proclaim community – the Accompaniment work, the efforts to find more congregations to call LGBTQ pastors – all of this is fueled by your support of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Your generosity says YES to LGBTQ people following a call to ministry. And today your gift can do TWICE as much good. A wonderful supporter has offered to match any new, increased or renewed gifts (up to $10,000 total).

When I asked this supporter why they were offering a match, they said,

“Seminarians and pastors who are “out” face special challenges and unique opportunities for witness. ELM nurtures, unleashes, and empowers these extraordinary leaders, and through them the communities they serve. I hope this challenge reminds the community of ELM supporters that the need continues, and that by acting together we make a real difference.”

You can make twice the difference today. Please give – and invite a friend to join you to make an even bigger impact!

If you have any questions about your giving or this match, please contact me at 563-382-6277 or

Your gift will go twice as far this Christmas to help LGBTQ pastors like Edward who want to serve.

*The name of this Proclaim member has been changed. Stories of heartbreak in our community are much harder to share openly than stories of joy.

Note – Your gift will be matched only until December 31, 2015 – we can receive up to an additional $10,000 – but we will only receive as much as we are able to raise from new, increased, and renewed gifts!

For those who have given for the year – THANK YOU! Your support helps us say yes to leaders like Edward who “face special challenges and unique opportunities for witness. Thank you!

Amalia VagtsAmalia Vagts hopes to hear fewer and fewer stories like the one above. Yet, she feels like this when she thinks about the expansive community of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Friends who say YES to LGBTQ people in ministry. 

Advent Callings: From Waiting to Looking

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director

This season of Advent has particular meaning for some Proclaim members. Ideas like hope, waiting, and expectation are turning into the reality of a new call.

Proclaim member Tim Feiertag was approved for ordination 7 years ago.  And even though it’s Advent I won’t make you wait until the end of this blog to find out that Tim Feiertag was ordained this past Sunday having received a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in Everett, Washington!  

Rev. Tim Feiertag (far right) with Proclaim members at his ordination

Read on to find out more about Tim’s story, about newly ordained Rev. Cara Knutson, and what ELM is doing to move leaders from a place of “waiting” for a call to “looking” for a call.

During these challenging years of waiting for call Tim found other ways to offer his gifts for ministry.  Members of ELM’s Proclaim community affirmed Tim’s pastoral gifts and asked him to serve as one of the community’s volunteer chaplains for the past 2 years.  He has prayed with our community, offered pastoral care, joined in celebration, and accompanied in lament.  Tim says, Serving as a chaplain to the Proclaim community is one way I have been affirmed in my vocation in this wilderness period.”   

Although things have changed within seminary and candidacy for LGBTQ seminarians, ELM noticed that LGBTQ candidates continue to struggle to receive a first call and often wait significantly longer than their straight classmates.  We realized that this growing pool of LGBTQ candidates ready to serve needed more intentional support.  Rev. Javen Swanson, who also knew this waiting time intimately says, I know from experience that once candidates have been assigned, they fall off their seminary’s radar, they fall off their candidacy committee’s radar, and they often don’t receive much support from the synod to which they’ve been assigned. The time spent awaiting first call is difficult for every candidate, but it’s especially difficult for LGBTQ candidates who often face additional challenges as they seek a call.

Javen helped create and is now the convener of ELM’s Awaiting Call Support Team.  This team provides 1-on-1 accompaniment and coaching for LGBTQ candidates who are awaiting first call – from practical things like mock interviews and paperwork, to spiritual support and encouragement.  

Marissa Sotos, a Proclaim member and first call candidate says, “Being connected to a mentor has helped me re-frame waiting for call. Before connecting with the accompaniment program, waiting felt very isolated and passive. Working with Erik has helped me see it as an active and connected part of the ordination process. I’ve realized in the last few months that when people ask what I’m doing, instead of saying that I’m waiting for a call I say I’m looking for a call. Looking feels a lot more hopeful than waiting.”

After 7 years of looking and waiting, on the occasion of his ordination Tim says, “How appropriate that I am being ordained during the season of Advent.  A season of waiting.  A season of already and not yet.  A season of preparing a way and longing for the journey’s end.  I am so grateful to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries for preparing the way for a gay man to become an out Lutheran minister, for supporting ministry by out LGBTQ folk to show the world that these ministries can thrive, for continuing to speak out against the ways the church continues to oppress/stonewall/deny/discount LGBTQ people, for faithfully waiting with me when no call was on my horizon.”  

Mary Knutson and family placing of the ordination stole around Cara Knutson’s shoulders.

Mary Knutson and family placing of the ordination stole around Cara Knutson’s shoulders.

On December 6th, another Proclaim member was ordained after her own time of Advent waiting and looking.  Cara Knutson was called to serve as chaplain to Methodist Manor Retirement Community in Storm Lake, Iowa.  ELM supporter (and her mother-in-law) Mary Knutson participated in the service by serving as a reader and helping to place the stole around Cara’s shoulders. Mary reminds us all in this season of waiting: “It’s sometimes difficult to understand what God has planned for us but when it becomes clear we can all rejoice.”

Through your support, ELM is able to provide accompaniment for LGBTQ leaders who are called to serve our church – both in the looking and waiting, and in the rejoicing.  These extraordinary and faithful ministers are signs of Advent hope in our midst.

Thank you to all of our wonderful supporters!

If you have yet to make a year-end gift to ELM, we invite you to do so today! An ELM supporter  is offering to match any first time, increased, or renewed gift until Dec. 31, 2015!

If have never given to ELM, or if you give more this year, or if you haven’t given since before 2014, ELM will receive double what you give. We’ve had a big year of growth and we need your support to finish strong. Give today – THANK YOU! 

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by Rev. Jen Rude.  This Advent season Jen is excited to be waiting and looking for your gift in the ELM mail box and sees each envelope as a sign of Advent hope and joy in our world.  Thank you! 

One great thing about St. Luke’s (and 10,000 more)

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

This photo is of the people of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square, gathered outside the sanctuary on their last day of worship there. (Read more about the story behind this photo here). There is something great about them. 

Photo by John Gress (

Photo by John Gress (

St. Luke’s recently made the difficult and courageous decision to sell this building and invest in their future ministry and presence in the Logan Square neighborhood.

Eleven years ago, in late fall of 2004, the ELCA told the pastor in the middle of the photo (Pastor Erik Christensen) that he couldn’t be ordained in the ELCA because he was gay. About that same time, the ELCA denied the congregation’s application to be a redevelopment site because they lacked the sufficient resources (human and financial). In the spring of 2005, many congregations received a postcard inviting them to consider candidates from the Extraordinary Roster. One of those folks, Erik Christensen had entered the extraordinary candidacy process after he was denied approval by the ELCA because he was gay. St. Luke’s took the extraordinary steps to call and ordain Erik Christensen outside of the ordinary process of the ELCA. Then Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (through our former Ministry Grants program) invested financially for 5 years in this congregation while they started to rebuild.

And clearly – rebuild they did! 

St. Luke's Lutheran of Logan Square in new worship space.

St. Luke’s Lutheran of Logan Square in new worship space.

From the beginning congregations and lay leaders have stepped up to affirm and support the calls of LGBTQ people. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries – thanks to the generous investment of our supporters – has provided consistent outreach to candidates and congregations to find ways to do ministry and proclaim the Gospel.

So, what is the “one” great thing about St. Luke’s? Well, of course the truth is that there are many of them. One that is present for me as I write this is exactly what you see in the photo: community.

The community of St. Luke’s trusted in God and called Erik. Erik was surrounded by the community of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. And you make up the community that is Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Which means YOU are another great thing about St. Luke’s! And you are one great thing about the other congregations looking for leaders – and the leaders looking for ways to live our their call to ministry.

You make this support a reality.

Well, what are the 10,000 other things then? If you have read this far, I know that you truly care about these leaders and this ministry. So first, thank you. Second – we need you. We are close to the end of the year and we are working very hard to make sure this ministry is fully funded as we wrap up 2015 and move into 2016.

I want to share a sneak peek with you about some very important news you’ll hear more about soon – we have received a one-time $10,000 matching gift for new, increased, and renewed gifts. If you are thinking about making your first gift to ELM – or increasing from last year – or if you haven’t given in at least a year and want to give again – NOW IS THE TIME! Between now and Dec 31 (only!), every dollar you give will be matched by an extraordinary supporter. This friend will give up to $10,000 – but only if you give. The community of Proclaim has grown by 25% in the last year – ELM needs these resources to keep up with that growth. Each dollar will help provide the kind of support to the future LGBTQ leaders of our church that we have given to present leaders like Pastor Erik.

You are the reason we are able to support LGBTQ people in ministry. Thank you for your wonderful year-end contribution.

12366305_10153682872825259_8541117067715571889_nAmalia Vagts doesn’t always burn the midnight oil to finish her blog posts. But when she does, she’s happy to do it in New York City, at the end of a few busy days of GREAT visits with wonderful ELM friends. And occasionally she finds time for other things on her trips too, like tonight’s marvelous reunion dinner in Brooklyn with her German host family from a semester abroad in 1994.

Lay People call Pastors and other Rostered Leaders. What Are You Doing to Get Ready?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

Guest blog by Margaret Moreland, ELM board member and Convener of ELM’s Ministry Engagement program

Margaret Moreland (middle) at the Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly

Margaret Moreland (middle) at the Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly

The truth is out, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) it is the lay members of each congregation who have the privilege and responsibility of deciding who to call to be their pastor, diaconal minister, or AIM!

Also, since a call is required before ordination, lay people have a say in who is ordained.  It’s a very cool thing and doesn’t happen in many other denominations.  Of course the synod bishops and staff provide advice and names for consideration, so they have an important role, but we lay people make the final decision.

Inspiring and supporting congregations in the process and deliberations of choosing a pastor is the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ (ELM) Ministry Engagement Program.  Two other ELM programs work directly with LGBTQ rostered leaders, seminarians, and candidates for ordination and commissioning.  Ministry Engagement’s work is to insure that our congregations and ministries are prepared  to welcome these leaders and their gifts into consideration during the discernment of whom to call.

How do we make this happen?

  • Enrich and Transform – This is a wonderful guide for anyone who wants to learn more about including LGBTQ candidates in a call process. While it was written especially for call committees, it can be used in congregations before a call committee is formed or even in congregations that are not yet in a leadership transition.
  • Synod Assemblies – In 2015 Ministry Engagement staffed ELM tables at four Synod Assemblies. This was a great way to meet lay people and tell them more about ELM and about Enrich and Transform. In 2016 we plan to have tables at 10 or more Synod Assemblies.  We’ll have as many as we have volunteers to help this happen in their home Synods
  • Local Synod Contacts – Ministry Engagement also has Local Synod Contacts in eight Synods to connect with Synod staff and support them in working with congregations in leadership transition. Many of these volunteers are Proclaim members, others are long-time supporters of ELM. They have made sure that the Synod staff know about Enrich and Transform, and some have done trainings with staff and with interim pastors or met with congregation call committees.

One comment we’ve heard more often than we would like is “But my congregation is just not ready for an LGBTQ pastor.”  But that can’t be the end of the conversation. Our response is “What are you doing to get ready?”

How about your congregation?  Do you already have a LGBTQ pastor or minister?  Are you ready for the next call process? (It will come!)

What can you do now to get ready?  One good step is to take a look at the Enrich and Transform guide and start some conversations in your congregation.  Another would be to host an ELM display table at your synod assembly (contact me at if you’re interested).

Your donations help us keep these projects going.  Your work in your own congregation and Synod can do even more!

*Printer-friendly version of Enrich and Transform.

Margaret pic survival suit


Margaret Moreland is ready for anything in her cold water survival suit, but it does make talking difficult.  And she really likes talking about how wonderful it is to be a member of a congregation with a Proclaim pastor.