by Amalia Vagts
ELM Executive Director
With Transgender Day of Remembrance just behind us and as Thanksgiving Day approaches, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries gives thanks for the many ways that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is widening its welcome to people who are transgender.
When the ELCA changed its ministry rostering policies in 2009 to allow partnered gay and lesbian persons to serve as rostered leaders, some wondered if this welcome would include those identifying as transgender. Actions taken by the ELCA in the past year have demonstrated that it is a church seeking to welcome the gifts of transgender people and ministry leaders.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is committed to providing more support and advocacy for transgender people who are following calls to ministry. In addition to work through our Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement programs, ELM engages in specific efforts, such our advocacy with Portico (detailed below). Additionally, one of Proclaim’s affinity groups is Sparkle* – a group of trans* identified Proclaim members, which provides confidential support and enables individuals in vulnerable situations or who are publicly low or non disclosing to have their issues raised without compromising their privacy. The “*” in the group’s name helps to remind people of the diversity of the trans* community and is an intentional invitation for those who are a part of the diverse transgender umbrella or questioning to join the group.
This past summer, Proclaim member Asher O’Callaghan was the first openly transgender person to be ordained through the regular process of the ELCA. (Other openly transgender pastors were ordained prior to 2009 and outside the regular process of the ELCA). On the day of his ordination, Rev. O’Callaghan stated, “The Church is changing: There’s no need to choose between living life as your fullest self and belonging to a community of faith. For transgender people, this means that there are congregations who will affirm, respect, and celebrate our faith and our gender identities.”
Also this summer, a Religion News Service interview with Lutheran seminarian Nicole Garcia, who is transgender and Latina, (and a Proclaim member) went viral after being posted on Huffington Post.
The Rev. Megan Rohrer, Proclaim member, who identifies as transgender, was featured in an article in the September 2015 Lutheran magazine. In response to all the news recently, Rev. Rohrer stated, “Each step that the ELCA takes to support the health and ministries of transgender pastors, is the direct result of many prophets, saints, volunteers and donors who have persistently worked towards the day when people of all sexual orientations and gender identities would be welcomed on both sides of the communion table.”
This month, Portico Benefits Services, a ministry of the ELCA, announced changes removing exclusions to transgender healthcare and adding benefits based on recommendations from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. These changes will provide greater health care access to Portico plan members who are transgender, allowing them to make their own informed choices regarding their health in consultation with their health care providers. We’re thankful to Portico for their responsiveness and openness to our input. In addition to ELM’s advocacy, ELCA congregations contacted Portico about concern for the lack of trans-inclusive health coverage.
One of those congregations, Ebenezer Lutheran Church, shared the following remarks, “We are proud and grateful the ELCA will now offer transgender-inclusive health benefits through Portico. This step empowers the Church’s commitment to fully support the leaders God is raising up, and its mission to be a place where all are welcome.”
At their November 2015 meeting, the ELCA Church Council passed a social message on gender-based violence, which includes messages related to transgender people and raises awareness about transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
For these and many other wonderful steps towards a church that is a place of welcome and belonging for all, we give thanks. And for you, the supporters of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, we also give thanks – through you, so much of this is made possible.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes that LGBTQ people have extraordinary gifts for ministry. Through their public witness LGBTQ rostered leaders proclaim the Gospel now. We live out this belief through three programs: Accompaniment, Ministry Engagement, and Proclaim, a community of LGBTQ+ rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians. Learn more at www.elm.org.
by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director
A movement of out seminarians began in the late 1980’s when four seminarians came out to their candidacy committees. These and other acts broke open the movement for full inclusion in the Lutheran church.
In 2009, when the policy barring LGBTQ candidates and rostered leaders in same sex relationships ended, ELM was working with 2 or 3 LGBTQ seminarians each year.
Now, just six years later, there are 58 publicly identified LGBTQ seminarians connected with Proclaim. Seminarians make up more than 25% of the Proclaim community. The future looks very bright!
More and more LGBTQ people who are called to ministry are now able to follow this call into our seminaries, our congregations, and into the whole church. Some are born and raised Lutheran and others are drawn into the Lutheran church through our theology, engagement in the world, and faithful witness.
Who are today’s LGBTQ seminarians?
They are scholars. Seven current Proclaim seminarians are recipients of a merit-based full tuition ELCA Fund for Leaders Scholarship and several others were awarded partial Fund for Leaders scholarships.
They are community leaders. Both on and off campus these leaders are involved in the work of being church in the world. Proclaim seminarians are taking the lead on four separate campuses to work with our movement partner ReconcilingWorks toward becoming a Reconciling in Christ seminary. They are leading Gay-Straight Alliances and are involved in LGBTQ groups in the community leading conversations about faith. But don’t expect to find them exclusively in LGBTQ ministries. Proclaim seminarians are active in Public Church Fellows, Interfaith Supper Club, and the Lutheran Office of Public Policy Council. They care about and are active in many aspects of the wider church.
They are servants. Proclaim seminarians are serving on synod council. Several members are serving as student body President and members of the student association at their seminary. As part of their seminary worship life they are serving as school sacristan and leading a liturgical dance group.
And that’s just a sampling.
While these seminarians are amazing leaders in so many ways, being LGBTQ is part of what makes them extraordinary – wonderfully “out of the ordinary.” This experience of being an LGBTQ person of faith has shaped their call and their gifts for ministry. They are faithful – following a call to ministry in a church that still has a lot of room to grow in LGBTQ affirmation, and being unsure of where this call may lead them. They are justice-seekers – having a particular eye for those on the margins and others who may have felt excluded. They are evangelical – sharing about the transformative power of God in their own lives as a way to share with others the Good News. And they are fabulous – bringing their unique and beautiful selves in service to God and God’s people.
Proclaim seminarians continue to lead the way in proclaiming the gospel with justice and grace. The road is not always easy, but these leaders have listened to their call, developed and shared their gifts, and are seizing the opportunity to be good stewards of their education, their ministries and the wider community.
Your gift to ELM helps support these extraordinary seminarians so that one day soon they will be ready to be called to serve your congregation. Lucky you!
By Rev. Jen Rude, who is inspired and humbled both by the witness of those early LGBTQ seminarians of the 1980s and the 58+ seminarians who continue the movement across our church today.
This blog originally was posted on “We Talk. We Listen,” a blog project of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago’s Diversity Committee, edited by Dr. Linda Thomas, Professor of Theology and Anthropology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Re-posted with permission.
The Rev. Megan Rohrer
Every Sunday during communion, pastors around the world invite angels and archangels, saints and mentors from other times and spaces to join with us in the Eucharistic feast. For the mystically minded, this moment invites a Transfiguration into our sacrament, syncs us to the rhythms of the faithful who have come before us and allows us to acknowledge our ancestors.
For those living on the margins, with few opportunities to hear about how people “like them” are a part of God’s sacred stories, this is an opportunity for us to imagine those with similar skin tone, disabilities, backgrounds, classes and struggles to be present at the altar and expand our imagined representation of who is worthy to not only receive communion, but to serve it.
My first book, Queerly Lutheran, is a collection of essays published by Wilgefortis Press in 2009 (a few months before the ELCA changed its policies to allow openly LGBT clergy stand on both sides of the communion altar). Queerly Lutheran’s appendix includes a 42 page prayer calendar of extraordinary LGBT faith leaders, bible characters, officially recognized saints and contemporary saint/sinner Lutherans who worked within the church to ensure a full inclusion of LGBTQ pastors and worshipers.
Within the prayer calendar are the stories of brave congregations and 18 openly LGBTQ pastors who ritualized the Medieval accounting of disobedient ordinations held by Martin Luther and recorded in the Smalcald Articles.
Before the rebellious ordination of a gay man and two lesbians in 1990, the late Bishop of Stockholm Krister Stendahl, sent his blessings and dubbed the ordinations “extraordinem” or extraordinary. During the following two decades it would take for the ELCA to change its policies, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries supported and credentialed the pastors serving in Exodus.
In 2010, when I was one of the first seven openly LGBTQ pastors (five extraordinarily ordained, one transferred from the Missouri Synod and one expelled from the ELCA by trial), we and all the clergy assembled wore green stoles, embodying the shift in our ministries to Ordinary Time.
Five years have passed since that Service of Reconciliation was held in San Francisco. Since then, countless Lutheran sinner/saint pastors have been able to live into their full fabulousness, come out and a new generation of pastors have been ordained Ordinarily.
Click here to read the full post and brief profiles of LGBTQ rostered leaders including Rev. Tita Valeriano, Rev. Bea Chun, Rev. Matthew James, Rev. Angel D. Marrero-Roe, Rev. Andrew Nelson, Rev. Asher O’Callaghan, Bishop Kevin Kanouse, Rev. Bill Kenezovich, Bishop Guy Erwin, and Bishop-Elect Daniel Harms.
Pastor Megan Rohrer is the first openly transgender pastor ordained in the Lutheran Church, is currently pastor of Grace Evangelical Lutheran in San Francisco, and is a contributing blogger of the ELCA’s Living Lutheran. Pastor Megan is a member of Proclaim. Pastor Megan was a 2014 honorable mention as an Unsung Hero of Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, received an Honorary Doctorate from Palo Alto University, a Distinguished Alum award from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in transgender nonfiction is an award winning filmmaker and historian. You can learn more about Pastor Megan’s online “Bible Study that Doesn’t Suck”* and other creative ministry projects at www.progressivelutheran.com.
*Bible Study that Doesn’t Suck – is the name of a personal Bible study that Rev. Rohrer leads online.
Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. – Genesis 18:4
by Amalia Vagts,
It seems like everyone is busy these days. I’m guilty of it myself. When someone asks how I am, I usually have to stop myself from replying, “Busy.”
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries IS busy. You’ve heard me say it often this year – we are fruitful and multiplying! And – in the midst of that, we are also embracing a culture of balance over the allure of “busyness.” After about six months of conversation and exploration and then a two-month trial, ELM is moving forward with a four-day, 36-hour work week for our full-time staff (myself and Program Director, Rev. Jen Rude).
The concept was introduced to us at Rockwood Leadership Institute, which Jen and I attended earlier this year. We’ve since talked with others who have successfully moved to similar schedules. The purpose is to create a healthy, sustainable, and well-managed work environment that sustains leaders over a lifetime of activism. Those who have done this successfully have found that their employees are happier, healthier, more efficient, better at time management, more alive in their work and more renewed following the weekend.
Jen and I are using techniques from Rockwood (and other places) to get the most out of our workweek. Here are some key points from Rockwood we are using: keep a clear task list, include personal to-dos, plan for each new day and week, keep portions of the work week meeting-free, know the POP (purpose, outcome, process) of each project & meeting, answer email in batches, turn off email/social media alerts, be clear with everyone about our schedule, and create efficient systems for team planning, accountability, and communication. (You can get more details in this article “You can take care of yourself and still change the world“).
Jen and I both travel extensively for ELM, typically over weekends, with very full days. As a balance, when we are in the office, Jen and I will work Monday-Thursday, generally 9 – 6 (and some evenings for meetings). Fridays are for the following kinds of activities: personal tasks such as medical appointments, household chores, volunteering, congregational work, time with friends, workout classes, and general renewal. For the most part, we will be away from email and our phones Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Jen and I tried this schedule during August and September and we both felt renewed, supported, more effective, and able to give our most and best selves to the work of ELM. At the September in-person meeting, the ELM Board of Directors unanimously endorsed this plan.
We know that many people do not have the choice of this kind of schedule for their employment. We know that pastors and deacons are among the most overworked people in our culture. It is my hope that ELM can model a healthy personal ecology for others and find ways to sustain ourselves and our colleagues for the long haul in their work.
I welcome your questions and feedback.
Guest blog by Proclaim member, Rev. Mark Erson, pastor of St John’s Lutheran in New York City.
“We are a small congregation with a big mission.” That is my stock line for introducing people to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – a 160 year old congregation in the West Village of Manhattan (literally across the street from the Stonewall Inn) that was coming out of a challenging decade when I accepted a call to serve as its pastor in 2011. Accepting this call meant redeveloping a congregation that was close to death and had had little connection with the neighborhood of the West Village. Neighbors that I spoke with actually were surprised to hear that there was still an active congregation in the building.
Eager to connect with the neighborhood in new ways, and especially eager to proclaim the good news of God’s love to the many in our community who think they are not welcome in God’s church, I jumped at chances to collaborate with folks who came looking for space and support. The needs of the neighborhood were so great and immediate, I did not want to wait for us to grow to a size that could take on issues like LGBTQ homeless young adults or too many people thinking that they were outside the reach of God’s mercy, love, and grace.
Like an answer to a prayer I wasn’t wise enough to utter, Miss Simone (a transgender performer and promoter) came to me and asked if she could host a fashion show in the sanctuary. I was game. The night was filled with women of transgender experience, showing their style and fabulousness, along with a couple doing lip-sync performances. As one of the young women was leaving, she thanked me deeply for allowing this to happen in the church.
I reflected on that short exchange for quite a while. These folks had grown up in faith communities that had either shown them the door or caused them to run out the door before they were found out. They had grown up in communities where music was important and style was honored. On that night, they could bring all those valued parts of their culture and themselves and be in the sacred space of a church as their authentic self.
We had a couple more similar events. We also became known as the church for memorials of noted drag performers and transgender people. In most cases, the family did not want to acknowledge the individual’s true self and/or did not want friends to be present for the “official” funeral. So friends and colleagues would come to St. John’s and ask to provide a memorial event that truly celebrated the life of this child of God. These have been some very moving events.
After one of these events of style and song, I asked the performers if someone would work with me to create a similar event in which presenters would perform gospel music. I got a taker, and we were off.
But what was this thing that we were creating? Where did it fit into the church culture? In LGBTQ culture? We could not call it a drag event, because most of the performers were transgender. So, we started calling it Gospel Divas. But then some guys wanted to join in, who would perform lip-syncing to the tracks of male singers. So we started calling it Gospel Night. Sometimes we even add in a live singer and instrumentalists.
It continues to evolve. When we first started, one of the performers would MC. But now, I am doing the hosting. I use the time in between songs to bring the good news, to highlight lyrics of songs just performed for the sake of teaching of God’s amazing love. I also see that we are starting to borrow more and more from the revival culture of American Christianity.
True confession: I am only starting to speak (and write) about this ministry. I have been shy to even talk to colleagues about it for fear that they will be shocked and judge me crazy. But I think of Boniface transforming pagan tree symbols into Christian symbols that pointed to the God that the missionary was bringing. I think of the Wycliffe Bible Translators in the South Pacific who engaged a culture that had no concept of sheep and so they had to translate the image of Lamb of God into Pig of God, because pigs were cherished and valued most. But mostly I think of that woman of Bethany who anointed Jesus’ feet much to the dismay and shock of those watching. But Jesus welcomes the shocking behavior of sincere and heart-felt devotion. And, transformed by the one who makes all things new, we have been anointing one another in Jesus’ name ever since.
So it continues to evolve. What to call it continues to be the question of the hour. The newest name: Magnify: An Evening of Music and Mercy. Whatever we call it, whatever it evolves into, it is exciting to see the number of people drawn to this expression of faith and praise, to witness and hear of people being moved by this unique “church” experience. As we continue to sing a new song, may God’s name be praised and may the good news of God’s mercy and grace be heard.
*Editor’s note: A note about “drag” and “transgender.” Within the LGBTQ community there is a wide diversity of expressions of self and identity. We don’t always agree or have the same experience, but it is a value of ELM to create spaces of belonging and naming for diverse identities and expressions. In this article, Mark references both communities – drag and transgender.
By Rev. Mark Erson. Mark – a New York City native, Lutheran PK, and avid traveler – is ridiculously happily married to his high school sweetheart, Scott Jordan. They are blessed with a feisty pit bull-rottweiler mix named Brooklyn. After adventures in the world of theatre and teaching, Mark finally was pinned by the Holy Spirit and led to say “yes” to a lifelong-avoided call to ordained ministry. He was ordained in April of 2009 and currently serves St. John’s, Manhattan.
Guest blog by Proclaim Program Convener and ELM Board Member, Rev. Emily E. Ewing
I recently attended my first in-person ELM Board Meeting since becoming the Proclaim Program Convener. It was wonderful to spend time with the extraordinary folks on our board, including people who have been a part of the movement since the beginning and shared incredible stories from the early days and newer folks and fellow Proclaim-ers who are also on the board. I was blown away by the commitment and care of the folks who make up the Board as well as the amazing work they, and now we, are doing to support LGBTQ people in ministry! We did a lot of great work together over the course of 3 days.
One of my favorite conversations was about the “why?” of ELM. We did an exercise to get down to a basic “why” statement as a way of describing ELM’s purpose. Before the 2009 policy change, this was generally understood as “ELM believes LGBTQ people should be able to be pastors and is making that possible.” Since 2009, it’s been a little harder to describe. We began the exercise by sharing our own personal “whys” we have for doing this work. Mine ranged from doing this because LGBTQ leaders have huge gifts for the church and still face unnecessary obstacles when encountering the institution of the ELCA to the reality that my being as a queer pastor is Good News for some and makes it ok for others to also claim their faith.
After sharing our personal “whys”, we started picking out commonalities, words and phrases that resonated deeply, then combined them into a simple statement that we all felt connected to. That statement is “ELM believes that LGBTQ people have extraordinary gifts for ministry – through their public witness they proclaim the Gospel now.” The statement is not set in stone – for example we used “Gospel” knowing that depending on the context, it could make more sense to say “God’s love for all” or “God’s mercy,” etc., but the statement is helpful for me in talking about ELM and the work we’re doing together. We also talked about our various programs and why they exist and why we are part of them, which was fun to think through. Needless to say, there was some overlap between ELM’s organization-wide “why” and my “why” as Proclaim convener as well as the “why” of the Proclaim program.
We also talked about the new proposal for our Proclaim Gatherings, which adds more focus and resources toward regional/local gatherings while still continuing to offer an annual national gathering. The Board affirmed the proposal and I’m excited for the opportunities we’ll have to not only gather together April 10-13, 2016 in San Juan Bautista, California, but also gather regionally for an evening or even an overnight for those of us that are more spread out. We also will be starting to look at smaller, more specifically focused gatherings beginning in 2017! This is so exciting!
I also got to hear about the Ministry Engagement program’s presence at Synod Assemblies, focusing on congregations to continue to expand the congregations that would potentially call Proclaim rostered leaders. They are working to expand ELM’s presence at future Synod Assemblies, so if someone in your congregation might be interested in hosting an ELM table at your assembly next year, keep that in mind as Margaret Moreland, the Ministry Engagement Convener would probably love to talk to them! (email@example.com)
Accompaniment continues to do amazing work from connecting those awaiting first call with coaches to journey with them through the process to the amazing work of our Proclaim Seminarian Team and the 60 seminarians in Proclaim!!
We began talking about our 2016 budget and staffing for the organization, especially as we are growing so much (with 210+ Proclaim members)!! As part of our conversation around staffing we decided to make Amalia and Jen’s shift to a 36-hour, 4-day (Monday-Thursday) workweek permanent, recognizing the benefit it gives them in both their work and their personal life, which also means it benefits us.
This was a great time and so affirming in the work that we are all doing together to support and encourage each other and all LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, seminarians, and those awaiting calls.
As Proclaim continues to grow, I am excited for the ways that we are engaging each other as a community virtually and locally. It is always a gift for me when I get to see fellow Proclaimers and ELM supporters, both through my computer screen and in person. This is only possible because of the commitment of the work of ELM and the fierce support and affirmation of folks throughout ELM’s larger community. So thank you, for your support: your prayers and your donations, which make it possible for us to continue to be fruitful and multiplying.
Rev. Emily E. Ewing graduated in 2014 with an M Div from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Emily is thoroughly enjoying the role of Proclaim Program Convener. Emily is currently living in West Jordan, Utah, enjoys live Facebooking conferences and is surprisingly fond of running half marathons.
by Amalia Vagts
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is all over the place – alleluia!
Our Program Director, Rev. Jen Rude, is in the Bay Area this week. She spent some time yesterday doing a site visit in preparation for the 2016 Proclaim Gathering (a 4-day gathering for LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians). Then she headed back north to spend time with staff at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Proclaim members, and ELM friends. Many folks, including Proclaim member Leslie Walton, were happy to see (or meet) Jen in person!
And I’m wrapping up a quick visit to Chicago, where we are launching our Faithful & Fabulous Chicago effort – a friend-to-friend outreach campaign to connect more people to the ministry of ELM. I am so thankful for a very committed and passionate team of volunteers who have been learning about faith and giving this fall and will be inviting others to join them in supporting our ministry.
Meanwhile through phone and web chat – the Proclaim chaplains met for their monthly meeting and the ELM Diversity Committee gathered to focus their work for the coming months. Also meeting this week – the Proclaim Team and the ELM Board Development Committee. And our new ELM Development & Communications Intern started on Monday! All told, about 30 volunteers will be busy at some point this week working to support LGBTQ people in ministry.
And YOU are supporting this work by staying informed – thank you – hope you are feeling extraordinary today! Thank you for all you do for LGBTQ people in ministry.
by Amalia Vagts, Executive Director
It has been nothing short of a whirlwind for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries these past few weeks. When I tell people that our work is “fruitful & multiplying,” some days I’m tempted to add, “maybe a little too much all at once!”
It is a glorious thing to see all the ways in which our belief in the extraordinary gifts of LGBTQ people in ministry is taking root and flourishing. Last week, the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ Board met to discuss and plan the ministry we are doing through our Proclaim, Accompaniment and Ministry Engagement programs. Over the last few days, ELM Program Director Rev. Jen Rude and I each spent time at the ELCA Conference of Bishops meeting as they engaged in conversation about many matters related to our work (including candidacy, theological education, documents related to LGBTQ relationships and families, among other things). There are 211+ Proclaim leaders engaged in the most inviting and fabulous of ministries. There are an additional 68 volunteers actively engaged in ELM’s ministry across the church right now.
Yesterday, I offered the chapel talk at Luther College as part of their fall chapel series, “With Good Courage.” The opportunity presented a great chance for me to connect and make sense of the many directions we feel pulled in these days – and the purpose of why so many of us continue in this work.
“How many people hear something inviting and captivating about God, or the Lutheran church, or grace, or communion and come check things out only to get completely fed up with the reality of what they find in our churches, and like Gallio finally say – “I can’t be bothered with this nonsense!”
How many? Too many. And more and more all the time.
But, thank God, some have heard the call from God, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you,”
Speak – and do not be silent.
Because there is so much good here in the church and in the Gospel.”
May you be renewed and clear in your purpose, your sense of self, and your voice these days.
Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director, is thankful for a Board, staff, and volunteers who are passionately committed to ministry by LGBTQ people. She is also thankful for a supportive partner who reminds her when it’s time to come home and go for a walk.
One of the great joys I feel in the call to rostered ministry is the expectation that we work to create community among Christians and neighbors.
In the gospel stories of Jesus, we hear of the ways in which Christ’s ministry focused on gathering people together for teaching, meals, and healing. In the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul, we hear of the many ways that the early followers of Jesus built communities and the struggles these early communities faced. These communities were not always permanent structures – sometimes a community gathered once for a meal and left transformed. These communities often were separated geographically, but connected through Christ.
Although Proclaim Seminarians are scattered around the country and Canada, we are connected in community through Christ, too. This time of year many of our students are returning back to their communities on campus. As leaders on campus, the members of the Proclaim Seminarian Team (PST) are immediately involved in the work of creating connections with new people in the community as well as re-connecting with people returning to campus.
PST members had a robust and active presence in the orientations at each of our 8 Lutheran seminaries and at a couple ecumenical divinity schools with Proclaim students. Many new students had never heard of Proclaim before and this was the first time they had been connected with other LGBTQ seminarians – what a gift to know that as you follow this exciting and sometimes scary call as an LGBTQ person that you are not alone!
Kristian Kohler, who represents Lutheran students at non-Lutheran seminaries on the PST and attends Yale Divinity School, hosted a Proclaim table during Yale Divinity’s School’s Orientation. Kristian connected with a couple of students on exchange at Yale from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. These two students come from theologically conservative dioceses in the UK and were surprised, but excited to hear about the work of Proclaim and ELM. They even took Proclaim and ELM brochures so they could learn more about the work of ELM and use the resources we provide for pastors and congregations on our website!
Beyond orientation, our representatives are planning ways to connect and build community throughout the first semester. Dug Swank, a first-year student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and the PST representative for LTSP, plans to organize a social for Proclaim members at LTSP as well as Proclaim members who live and work in the Philadelphia area. For students who attend seminaries in areas where many Proclaim members live, a gathering like this is a great opportunity to expand their community outside of the seminary. This community can provide encouragement, mentoring, and professional connections for students as they move through seminary and internship.
The PST will also build community beyond campus this semester – hosting video and phone chats, sending care packages and notes to members on internship or being assigned for first call, and praying for members of the group each month. Like many of the early Christian communities, this group of seminarians is geographically scattered, but through Proclaim we will support and care for each other, and stay connected through Christ.
Peter Carlson Schattauer received his Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School last May and serves as the pastoral intern at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Seattle. He is busy learning about his new home in Seattle, both the natural beauty and ways in which the housing crisis is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable Seattleites. If you email him and he doesn’t respond, you should assume that he’s watching a show imported from the BBC or listening to the Indigo Girls.
by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director
Facebook went a little “Proclaim” wild for many of us last week! We were celebrating our 200th member. That’s more than FOUR TIMES the size our community was just six years ago. And just a week after welcoming our 200th member, we said hello to our 210th! The energy is contagious.
Proclaim is a group committed to a public witness that LGBTQ people have extraordinary gifts for ministry, that our church is blessed by diversity, that God’s beloved community is expanding, and that God’s grace is abounding.
The week was dubbed “#Proclaim200” and each day members of Proclaim posted a thought or question to generate conversation. These topics included sharing about extraordinary gifts of LGBTQ leaders, honoring the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, prayers for a messy and beautiful community of God, barriers faced by LGBTQ people in the church and ways people are overcoming them, and an invitation to tell others about ELM and Proclaim.
Thousands of people who have likely never heard about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries or our Proclaim program saw a Facebook post from their colleague, friend, acquaintance, family member, classmate or pastor about the public witness of LGBTQ leaders in our church. Here are some of the comments people made:
How do I become a member of Proclaim?
I think LGBTQ leaders bring an understanding of what it means to have to claim your sacredness against all odds, and therefore, can reach out to others who are struggling to claim their sacred core with deeper passion and compassion.
A profound understanding of what it means to lead from the margins, and to cling to grace even in the face of hardship and evil. I’m grateful for the lessons they teach me every day.
Thank you for inspiring me — for reminding me of the Gospel Promise!!
My Facebook feed is starting to fill up with all these #Proclaim200 Clergy. It makes me hopeful and grateful.
We are so grateful to you, our ELM supporters, for all the ways you proclaim the love of God, celebrate the diversity in our church, and faithfully and fabulously live the Good News.
by Jen Rude. Jen posted more to Facebook during #Proclaim200 than she usually does in a month. And she gives thanks for the the people of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (a predecessor to ELM) who first taught and showed her the value of public witness as an LGBTQ person in the church.