Change is afoot in the ELM office in Chicago! We are going to be moving out of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square at the end of month and we are adding a person to our team.
For the last eight years, our Chicago home has been at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square. We moved there after many years at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco. St. Luke’s Logan Square was the perfect place for our new home for so many reasons – they were the recipient of a 5-year ELM Mission Grant and they had recently called Pastor Erik Christensen, who at the time was serving as co-chair to ELM. A small group of committed donors and a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation helped establish the office and the new Operations Coordinator position (previously held by Rachael Johnson, who now works for Eco-Faith Recovery, another former ELM Mission Grant recipient!).
Earlier this year, the congregation of St. Luke’s made the difficult and courageous decision to sell their church building. Pastor Erik speaks beautifully about the decision in this interview (click to read more). While they are still in their building, we knew it was time for us to find a new home. For the time being, we are “on the move” as we look for a new landing place. However, we have found a temporary new home and team member at Grace Evanston Lutheran in Evanston, IL. Grace Evanston and Pastor Daniel Ruen have been long-time advocates for the mission of ELM. When looking for a place and person who could help with our immediate need of support with ELM’s mail and donations processing, we first turned to Grace and their parish administrator, Marie O’Brien. We are excited to welcome Marie, who will begin working four hours a week on Monday, March 30! And we are also happy to deepen our relationship with the people of Grace Evanston. For the time being, our mailing address will remain 2649 N. Francisco Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 and our mail will be forwarded to Grace.
Both St. Luke’s Logan Square and ELM wanted to make time to mark this upcoming change in our relationship, so the people of St. Luke’s will hold a festival Eucharist and service of celebration during their usual worship time at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 12. Pastor Erik Christensen will preside and ELM Program Director Pastor Jen Rude will serve as Assisting Minister. ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts will preach. All are welcome.
Our move from St. Francis happened because they wanted to turn our office into a nursery. Our move from St. Luke’s is the result of new directions for that community. Change is good! Thank you for your support and encouragement as we move through this change and growth in our own organization.
by Jen Rude, ELM program director
This past month I visited two of our ELCA seminaries – Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, IA and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC. And while it was -11 degrees in Iowa and 84 degrees in South Carolina, I received a warm welcome in both places.
At Wartburg Seminary, Proclaim students hosted a campus-wide Convocation on How and Why to be an LGBTQ Ally. Some people were already committed allies seeking to find additional ways to be supportive. Others initially wondered why we even need to have this conversation anymore. Proclaim members Becky Goche, Paul Andrew Johnson, and I spoke to students, faculty, and staff about being an LGBTQ ally in their ministries. We shared our own experiences of coming out – both about our sexual orientation and about our calls to ministry. Conversation continued in small groups and over lunch. I think hearing LGBTQ classmates talk about their experiences opened some hearts in a new way. I might even say some new allies were made that day.
At Southern Seminary I was blessed to be able to hear Proclaim member Chelsea Marsh preach in chapel, bringing a word of gospel and challenge, and ultimately of God’s faithfulness. Chelsea is one of the leaders of Walking Together, the Gay-Straight alliance on campus, and she organized a lunch with this group while I was there. Especially because there has been only 1 (and now 2!) openly LGBTQ student on campus, these allies are even more important. We had a lively and generative discussion about being a rockstar ally. I felt so grateful that future LGBTQ pastors will have these pastors as allies.
While ELM is becoming more widely known and seen as a resource and a partner, there are still folks who don’t know about us. We need to keep spreading the word. It is a really beautiful moment when someone encounters ELM for the first time and resonates with our mission and says, “oh, yes, YOU are my people” or “now I’m not alone.” Have you told someone about ELM this week?
Getting to know seminarians across the church I witness a rich diversity of gifts and experiences. And I am particularly inspired by seminarians, staff, and faculty who are not LGBTQ, but who feel passionate about justice, about celebrating diversity, and who put themselves out there in support of their LGBTQ friends and colleagues. God’s church is in good hands with these leaders.
Although the focus of ELM’s work is with LGBTQ rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians, we also rely on relationships with current and future leaders in our church who are not LGBTQ. Because these allies are our people. Today I offer a special prayer of gratitude that we are walking together.
By Rev. Jen Rude. Jen is grateful for many allies in her life. In sharing her coming out story and call story with the Gay-Straight Alliance at Southern, she gave particular thanks for her campus pastor, Rev. Maribeth McGoven, who was one of the first people she came out to as an 18 year old college student. Pastor Maribeth was kind, loving, and a fierce advocate and ally. She is one of the reasons Jen continued on the path to ministry.
A huge thank you to the Revs. Timothy Weisman, Brenda Bos, and Emily Ewing for their work in visioning, compiling, and editing this resource.
Guest blog by Rev. Timothy Weisman.
Nearly four years ago, I began a call process with a congregation who needed a pastor. I had just received my assignment, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I spent hours (days!) poring over the congregation’s Ministry Site Profile, Annual Report, website, and Facebook page… while, of course, compulsively checking my email for another email from the synod office or call committee chair.
“So, how are you going to come out to them?” asked an Assistant to the Bishop shortly before my first interview. “Will you come out right away?” “Or at the end?”
“When will you come out to the rest of the congregation? During a sermon? Which sermon? Will you use the lectionary text? Or another? Or what if you did it during announcements time?”
“What will you say?” “Will you tell a story?” “What story?” “Will you talk about God?” “How?”
“Since your process will inevitably take longer than most, what will you do in the meantime?” “If you don’t complete this process, then what?” “Are you prepared to wait?” “How long?”
Yikes. It’s not like I hadn’t thought of these questions, but the reality was that I didn’t have solid answers—or, really, any answers. I was nervous enough as a young seminary graduate—and now I have to figure out when and how to come out to who and where. To be sure, I worked with an Assistant to the Bishop who is a veritable rock star, but I still felt very alone.
Fast forward one year. A friend introduced me to a 1998 resource from the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns called “And So We Speak.” Throughout that book, seminarians and clergy told stories—stories of their candidacy and call processes, stories of serving congregations as an LGBTQ leader, and more.
I immediately recognized this as the book I desperately needed back in 2011. I needed to hear how others journeyed through the call process. I needed to hear how others made sense of their fabulousness in the midst of their call. I didn’t need answers; I needed stories. I needed to know that I wasn’t alone.
I’m writing this blog to introduce a new ELM resource titled Treasure in Clay Jars – Stories of LGBTQ Leaders in the Lutheran Church. Modeled after “And So We Speak,” this book shares current stories and insights from LGBTQ leaders in the Lutheran church as they honor their identity while working their way through a long and lonely process.
“What do you think God thinks about you being LGBTQ?” “How did you come out to [fill in the blank]?” “What did you do ‘in the meantime’ or while waiting for a call?” Members of Proclaim responded to these prompts and several others as we assembled this resource. (Thanks to all the contributors!)
Whether you’re a member or prospective member of Proclaim, you’re on synodical or churchwide staff, or you’re an ally and supporter of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, I hope you’ll not only read these stories but also treasure them—there’s extraordinary power contained herein—as God, who is active in each narrative, tells the story of raising up a courageous people for ministry in Christ’s church.
The Rev. Timothy Weisman serves as pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Tim and his partner, Howie, are the proud parents of the most adorable puppy on the planet. (No, really.)
This post was updated on 3/23/15 to correct an error in the name of the group that produced And So We Speak. The correct name is the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is blessed by extraordinary friends like Jim Kowalski. Jim and his husband Bruce Jervis have been faithful supporters of this movement for many years. Their connection began in 1992 when they moved to San Francisco and found their way to St. Francis Lutheran Church. They experienced the transformative impact of having an LGBTQ pastor when they met Pastors Phyllis Zillhart and Ruth Frost. Jim soon became involved with Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries, serving on the board. In his professional life, Jim worked with major giving for Golden Gate University. Jim and Bruce deepened their passion and involvement in the movement as they learned more about other pastors like Jen Nagel, Erik Christensen and others who were changing hearts and lives and proclaiming God’s love for all people. Over the years, Jim and Bruce have demonstrated their passion for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries through generous personal giving, by caring about the Proclaim community and attending many ordinations, installations and making Sunday morning visits to Proclaim-led congregations and through volunteer leadership. Jim joined the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Board of Directors in 2011 and has served in several roles, most recently as convener of the Fund Development Committee. At the February meeting, the Board of Directors unanimously elected Jim to the position of co-chair. Jim’s two-year term began March 1, 2015. We welcome Jim, giving thanks for his passion and faithful commitment to ELM and LGBTQ ministry leaders! Jim writes,
“ELM’s support of LGBTQ Lutheran pastors, chaplains, candidates and seminarians makes a huge difference in their ministries – I’ve seen and heard it myself many times. I feel called to help ensure our Proclaim members have every possible resource they need to follow their call.”
Rev. Julie Boleyn first connected with the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries movement through a friendship with Jane Ralph at Holden Village. Years later, Julie followed a call to ministry and entered candidacy through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project. Julie was approved for ordination by both the ELCA and ECP. Julie and her partner, Rev. Jeanie Reardon, became involved with Proclaim when it launched in 2010. Julie took on a leadership role as Proclaim Retreat Convener, leading the planning and implementation work for three Proclaim retreats. Julie was ordained in 2012 and serves as pastor of Unity Lutheran Church of Berwyn in Berwyn, IL. She joined the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Board of Directors in 2012 and was elected Co-Chair in 2013. Julie was a key voice in moving the board towards the strategic planning work we undertook in 2013. She also was the first person to clearly articulate the need for program staff – leading eventually to the creation of the new position of program director. Most recently, Julie shepherded the Intercultural Development Inventory work that the Board did at its February meeting. As Julie concludes her leadership service on the Board of Directors and as Co-Chair, we give thanks for her leadership, vision, and passion.
“For 25 years, we have been working to make it possible for LGBTQ folks to do the ministry we are called to do. It has been a joy and a privilege to help lead this organization in a time when the strategies around that work needed to shift. I am thrilled by the new leadership rising up in ELM, and the creative imagination at work. I cannot wait to see what’s next.”
Jim joins the Rev. Mike Wilker as co-chair of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Board. Mike will serve one more year as co-chair. The Board spent a good amount of time discussing and discerning the decision to appoint another male identified leader, as well as not having a Proclaim member as co-chair. After a rich conversation about the depth of diversity on the board and the gifts Mike and Jim offer – as well as their calling to serve in this role – the board felt clearly that this was the right decision for leadership at this time. The Board has made a commitment to gender balance and Proclaim representation in our next co-chair.
We are thankful to all the wonderful leaders who bring their diverse experience and many gifts to carry out the mission of ELM!
by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director
Last week the Proclaim Seminarian Team hosted a Proclaim Seminarian Meet Up – a chance to get to know each other a bit and share some experiences. Some have been members of Proclaim throughout seminary and are graduating in a few months. Others joined Proclaim a week ago and start seminary in the fall. We gathered via computers and phones from the west coast, east coast, midwest, and southeast.
I wish you could have been on that call.
After praying together and offering brief introductions, including sharing about a unique talent or skill (it is a pretty talented bunch!), we spent the majority of our time together storytelling. People were involved in cool things like starting a Gay-Straight Alliance and booking theologians and speakers on campus. There were also difficult things they faced like not always being able to be fully themselves and being “the only one.” People shared stories about candidacy – the hard moments, the surprising moments, and the awkward or hilarious moments. We finished the conversation by sharing how our ministry calls and LGBTQ identities have influenced and shaped each other.
I left our conversation thinking to myself: I can’t wait for one of these people to be my pastor. It is good news for our whole church that these faithful and fabulous people have followed God’s call to ministry and that ELM is here to support them.
I realized again what impact supporters to ELM have on these future leaders of our church. You are helping ELM create resources for these seminarians and candidates. You are creating better pastors. Your support also helps congregations so that more are ready to say: I can’t wait for YOU to be my pastor!
by Jen Rude. One of Jen’s unique skills is doing handstands and cartwheels. She was a gymnast as a kid and these two skills are the remnants of that life. And they make great party tricks.
The Board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries gathered Feb 5-8 at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia for our first in-person meeting of the year. It was an enriching, enlightening and fruitful four days. Here are some highlights from our work together:
We welcomed trainers Sheila Radford-Hill and John Beck to lead us through work about intercultural competency. We focused on cultural differences in communication styles and approaching conflict. All ELM Board members took the Intercultural Development Inventory assessment prior to the meeting and are working on their individual Intercultural Development Plan. We loved our time with Sheila and John!
- Staff members Jen Rude and Amalia Vagts shared some insights and techniques from the Rockwood Institute Art of Leadership training both attended in January. Central to our work together was the concept of conocimiento, a Spanish word that translates generally as “connection talk” or “sharing knowledge of each other to truly know one another.” The concept of conocimiento reminds us to put relationship before task – and we saw the value of this in action during our time together.
- We learned that approximately 5% of all current ELCA seminarians are members of Proclaim!
- We assessed our current strategic plan, celebrating all the good work that has been accomplished and started thinking about our next dreams for our work.
- We heard about the diverse and exciting work in our three program areas – Proclaim, Candidacy Accompaniment and Ministry Engagement and took time for some big picture strategic conversation about this work.
- We were richly fed through the locally sourced and lovingly prepared food of Pendle Hill.
- We talked about our commitment to 100% intentional Board Member Giving and celebrated Jim Kowalski’s one on one in person meetings with each ELM Board Member last year.
- We wrote letters to our Extraordinary Friends (those who give monthly) and some Proclaim members who might appreciate a note. And we had fun noting how familiar and known many of these names are – while celebrating the new ones!
- We gave thanks for the rich leadership of Rev. Julie Boleyn, who has finished her service as Co-Chair of the ELM Board and we welcomed the new leadership of Jim Kowalski.
- We celebrated meeting our 2014 fundraising goals and voted to create an ELM Reserves Fund – this is board directed giving that can be used for ELM’s long-term stability and growth.
And last, but definitely not least, we laughed – a lot – and we gave thanks to God and to you for the honor of working to fulfill ELM’s mission.
ELM Board of Directors is: Jeremy Posadas, Randy Nelson, Jim Kowalski, Asher O’Callaghan, Elise Brown, Rose Beeson, Charlie Horn, Julie Boleyn, Margaret Moreland, Mike Wilker, Gordon Straw, and Angel Marrero-Roe.
Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word…So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:4, 8
There is great joy in the cities of Green Bay, St Paul, Inver Grove Heights and in places around the country as we celebrate the first calls of three Proclaim members.
Rachel Knoke has been called to serve as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.
Jill Rode has been called to serve as Associate Pastor of St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN.
Julie Wright has been called to serve as Associate Pastor at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, MN.
Is your congregation ready to welcome the gifts of an LGBTQ pastor? More faithful and fabulous LGBTQ candidates are ready to serve. Begin the conversation in your congregation now using ELM’s resource Enrich & Transform: Welcoming LGBTQ Candidates into the Call Process.
ELM also knows that many LGBTQ candidates continue to wait for first call. We created a resource specifically for LGBTQ first call candidates, The Mysteries of the Ages.
Together let’s create great joy in more cities!
by Margaret Moreland, ELM Board Member
On January 20, 1990 my husband, Bennett Falk, and I attended the service of ordination for Phyllis Zillhart, Ruth Frost, and Jeff Johnson.
This was a life changing day for me. I had gay and lesbian friends and relatives, but it had never occurred to me that I could or should take a public part in opposing the discrimination that they faced. Listening to the prayers offered by the congregation at that service woke me up to the pain that the church caused so many gay and lesbian people and their families. I decided right then that I could not remain part of a church that turned away so many people for being themselves unless I worked for change.
I did not know Jeff, Ruth, or Phyllis at the time they were ordained. Over the next year or so, I got to know Jeff a bit. When he and some others had the idea of setting up an alternative candidacy process for gay and lesbian seminarians, they asked me to participate. I was not sure just what a chemist could offer to this project, but I enthusiastically said yes.
Since that time I have been on the boards of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries for all except about 4 years. Ruth, Jeff, and Phyllis were the first of 18 pastors who were extraordinarily ordained. Bennett and I attended every one of the extraordinary ordinations, bursting with joy, laughing and crying.
Now I’m again on the board of ELM, and working on the new Ministry Engagement program. We are connecting with congregations in the ELCA to help them enrich and transform themselves by calling an LGBTQ pastor. I can speak to this personally since Pastor Jeff Johnson has been my pastor since 1999 at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley. Although ELCA policy now allows people in same sex relationships to be pastors, many congregations have trouble imagining having an LGBTQ person in a called position. Ministry Engagement has prepared a guide for call committees to help them plan for including LGBTQ candidates. We are making plans to have an information table at several Lutheran synod assemblies this spring. We are gathering stories from congregations that have LGBTQ rostered leaders so others can learn from them.
Working as part of ELM is such a great part of my life, maybe I’ll keep doing it for another 25 years.
Guest Blogger Margaret Moreland serves on the ELM Board of Directors and is Convener of the Ministry Engagement Program. She (and Bennett) attended every extraordinary ordination and she has vowed to never eat sushi served by a squid.
Guest blog by Proclaim member, Rev. Brenda Bos.
I was among the first class of seminarians to go on internship after the 2009 ELCA decision to ordain LGBTQ clergy. Like my fellow Proclaim members, I don’t know how different my call process would have been if I was straight. I know straight pastors who got calls five seconds after assignment, and I know straight pastors who waited as long as some of the queer candidates.
Like most gay first call candidates I know, I waited. Then the call came. A congregation in San Clemente was looking for a pastor. They were not Reconciling in Christ, but had a long history of welcome, including gay clergy who were out, gay clergy who were not out. My call committee was very comfortable talking about my wife and was eager to show her how much they wanted to call me. My conference, made up of a smaller cluster of churches in a geographic region of the synod, lost four out of fifteen churches after 2009. Understandably, my colleagues in this conference have been cautious to welcome me. The worst part about being a queer pastor is wondering, am I overly sensitive, or am I being slighted because of who I am?
My church has a service every Sunday on the beach. Even in 45 degree weather in January, about fifty brave souls gather. We have tourists, athletes using the bike path, homeless people. Few visitors know exactly who we are or what we are doing, but they are intrigued by church on the sand. But because of this large influx of visitors, I never know how people will react when they find out we have a lesbian pastor.
Recently I mentioned my wife in a sermon. A visiting family was sitting in front of some members. The members overheard the woman lean over and ask, “Did she just say ‘wife’?” and he nodded. They didn’t stay for communion. I convinced myself it was because they were Catholic and didn’t want to commune in a Protestant church. Or maybe they had brunch reservations.
A couple wanted to join our church. I sat with them and talked about our welcome to the LGBTQ community. They nodded and smiled… and never came back again. A few members of the congregation left before I started this call. Some were shocked we would consider calling an openly gay candidate. As my congregational president said, “They accidentally joined the wrong church,” and we bid them farewell. Well, other members bid them farewell. They split before I hit the scene.
One of the benefits of serving a smaller congregation is the pastor sees every face, every reaction to the sermon. Last Sunday I thought I saw a visitor cringe when I mentioned my wife. It actually threw me off. I started to think, “Has she been here before? Of course she has. Does she not know my story? Is this a problem?” I finally pushed that miserable line of thinking out of my head and kept preaching. I thought I saw her cringe at a few more things I said, and convinced myself that was just how she held her face while listening. After the service (she stayed for communion!) I re-introduced myself, not sure I remembered her name, etc. She was enthusiastic, loves this service, splits her Sundays between this church and a Catholic church up north. I had read her reactions incorrectly, and had made myself pretty uncomfortable while freaking out.
But I am sad that I wonder what people think. My council has told me in no uncertain terms to stop wondering what people think. But there is still a moment as I come out where I wonder what the ramifications will be. It’s not a good thing. Of course, there are people who feel liberated knowing their pastor is lesbian. Some are in same-sex relationships, but the majority of my congregation is just happy to be a part of an inclusive community. This is a time of great joy in my community, and I am so happy to be a part of their celebration of welcome. Still. It needs to be named: our shame, even when we’ve “worked through it”, is deep and insidious and throws us for curves at times and places we do not anticipate. I am loud and proud and most of the time am met with open arms. I am so grateful for the Proclaim community who shares in the joys and struggles of this calling. Perhaps someday I won’t worry what reactions I receive from coming out. I have been called to love Jesus and to love a woman. I long for the day when the gospel of Jesus Christ is my only scandal.
Brenda Bos is six months in to her first call and is relieved and delighted to report she loves the work. Before becoming a pastor, Brenda was a production manager for network television sitcoms. The similarities between her two careers are myriad.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries 2014 Year in Review!
We have finished another wonderful and full year – I invite you to take a moment to join me in looking back at some highlights. (You can check out all of these stories in our ELM Blog archive!)
January – We launched Proclaim Pulpit Supply – a new way for LGBTQ leaders to proclaim God’s love for all and for congregations looking to support Proclaim leaders – especially those seeking call.
February – We celebrated 5 calls to Proclaim leaders, celebrated new solar panels on a congregation, interviewed an intern and internship supervisor and shared new ways to support LGBTQ leaders awaiting call.
April – We launched the Proclaim Seminarian Team, finalized things for the 2014 Proclaim Retreat, Dreams & Visions, took a glance at the work of the Proclaim Team, and got creative. Oh, and then there was that new logo…
May – we got a Gold Star! We also went to Washington, D.C., got Faithful & Fabulous and held the RETREAT! We also invited applications for the 2014 Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Award, with an increased award of $2,500 thanks to generous donors who have helped grow the fund.
June – We celebrated more calls, attended Pride, rejoiced in generous supporters raising funds for ELM, and heard some great stories from an intern in Proclaim.
July – We gave a first glance at some forthcoming ELM resources; highlighted ministry in South Africa; remembered the life and work of Bp. Stanley E. Olson, and named Amy C. Hanson as our 2014 Joel R. Workin scholar.
August – Guest blogger Donna Simon wrote about Ferguson, MO; Amalia toured LA, we released some new statistics about LGBTQ leaders, and celebrated some life passages, including a couple more calls to LGBTQ leaders.
September – Amid all the calls, we released a vital new resource for those who are first call candidates; highlighted some guest bloggers, congregations, and leaders, and announced our new One Minute to Proclaim videos.
October – We rolled out the brand new Enrich & Transform, a resource for call committees & congregations who wish to be open to LGBTQ candidates; learned about Bi Visibility Day; got together with Proclaim folks in Chicago; and we told supporters how they can “come out” about their support for LGBTQ-led ministry.
November – We visited ELCA seminaries in Gettysburg and Philadelphia; advocated for LGBTQ leaders at the ELCA Church Council and Conference of Bishops; and reflected on Transgender Day of Remembrance.
December – We got a glimpse of the upcoming Proclaim retreat, highlighted a generous and faithful giver, and wished all of you a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and New Year!
And really, those are JUST the highlights. You made this entire year possible through your prayers, work, and financial support. We’re moving right into 2015 as we celebrate 25+ years of extraordinary ministry by LGBTQ leaders! We are so thankful you are with us.