You support extraordinary leaders like Kyle Severson. Kyle is heading up a new initiative at ELM – the Proclaim Seminarians Team. Read on…
Kyle Severson is a student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, on internship this year at Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Lincolnshire, IL. He’s an ELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission Scholar, a Fund for Theological Education Fellow, and a Proclaim member. Kyle and his partner Clyde live in Forest Park, IL.
Kyle joined Proclaim in 2011 to be “part of a network of mentors, colleagues, and friends who might have gone or are going through similar joys and challenges as a part of the journey through candidacy and ministry as an openly gay person.” We currently have 41 Proclaim seminarians, with members at each of the 8 ELCA seminaries and many divinity schools.
Starting this month, Kyle is taking the lead on one of our newest ways to affirm and highlight the gifts of LGBTQ seminarians: the Proclaim Seminarians Team. In leading this team, Kyle hopes “we can be the eyes and ears of the seminary communities and both pastorally and professionally support our seminarian peers as they move through this formative time.”
The Proclaim Seminarians Team will include representatives from each of the 8 ELCA seminaries and some divinity schools. These students will meet via video and conference call throughout the year to:
+ plan fall welcome activities for LGBTQ seminary students
+ make Proclaim and ELM more visible in ELCA seminaries both for LGBTQ students and others
+ provide support for students within the Lutheran candidacy process, and those getting ready for internship or first call
+ invite LGBTQ seminary students to attend the annual Proclaim Retreat, as a chance to connect with other LGBTQ seminarians and rostered leaders throughout the country
+ address the specific needs of LGBTQ seminarians in an effort to support their call to ministry and affirm the unique gift they are to our church
by Rev. Jen Rude
ELM Program Director
Barbara Kingsolver in a recent interview in The Sun magazine talks about raising her kids with the mantra (that she learned as part of their Montessori education), “You can do hard things.” Instead of taking over, or never allowing them to try and fail, when a task was difficult, she reminded them, “You can do hard things.” They have absorbed these words as their own and now often repeat it back to their mother when she is struggling. I am struck by how often I limit myself in the face of hard things, but also how looking back, these have often been the most meaningful and profound things. This season, I remind myself, I can do hard things.
Parker Palmer in one of my favorite books of his, Let Your Life Speak, says this about spring: “I will wax romantic about spring and its splendors in a moment, but first there is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I have walked in the early spring through fields that will suck your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice. But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created.” Although I won the award for “muddiest camper” at summer camp when I was a kid, mostly these days I’m not thrilled about being in the muck – it’s hard, and often not very pleasant. But I wonder, what new life awaits me there, here, in this muck? This season, I remind myself to enter into the muck (or not be so quick to get out of it) knowing that avoiding the muck is often avoiding the possibilities of new life.
Joel Workin, one of the early prophets in the LGBTQ movement in the Lutheran church wrote an essay called “The Cost,” now in a book of his collected writings entitled, Dear God, I am Gay… Thank you! (For those of you coming to the retreat, you’ll have an opportunity to hear more about Joel Workin and to receive his book). This essay was written about the time of “the Berkeley Three,” three seminarians who came out to their candidacy committees, whose actions fueled the LGBTQ movement in the Lutheran church.
A short excerpt from Joel’s essay: “The past months have been a time of kairos, and it seems that a great part of what angers people is a recognition of the cost, the price of being ‘out’ in the Lutheran church. The toll, both professionally and personally, is indeed very high. Careers are ended, even before they are begun. Private life vanishes. Families are exposed to public attention. No one can pretend that being out is easy, that to follow the call to honesty and discipleship in this way is without a cross. Yet, what is the cost of the closet? Over and over again, as people, many of them closeted, express their rage over the price that three seminarians and many others have to pay for being out, I want to know – what about the cost of the closet?”
This Holy Week, Joel’s words invite me once again to think about the costly way of the cross. But also, the costly way of not the cross. The choice is not between paying a price and not paying a price – but which price, and what cost, which hard thing, and for what.
This week I remind myself that our God can do hard things, is doing hard things, even (especially) in the muck, and that through God, by way of the cross, so can we.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
80 Proclaim members and family members have registered for the 2014 Proclaim Retreat, “Dreams & Visions.” We will gather May 4-7 at the Heartwood Retreat Center in Trego, WI for 4 days of speakers, workshops, worship, small groups, late night chats, walks in the woods, Show Tunes kickball, conversation, renewal, and more.
Faith-Rooted Organizing + Mission Development +Anti-Oppression
Alexia Salvatierra will lead several sessions related to faith-rooted organizing – from leadership development and motivation to prophetic liturgy and street theater. Jessica Vasquez Torres will lead a session titled “Exploring Queer Complicity in Cultural Dominance and How to Interrupt it.” ELCA staff member Ruben Duran will lead workshops for those interested in (and doing) mission development and re-development. Richard and Trish Bruxvoort-Colligan will be our musicians for the retreat – leading music in worship, hosting a workshop on a musical spiritual life, playing an evening concert and sharing a few special numbers in our Open Stage Variety Show. 2013 Joel Workin Scholar Gretchen Colby Rode will be leading a workshop on lament and the Psalms entitled “How Long, O Lord?” Proclaim members Javen Swanson and Tim Feiertag will lead a workshop on Building an Inclusive Church.
Connection + Renewal
Being a publicly identified LGBTQ leader in the church has its blessings and challenges. Simply being together is one of the most life-giving and ministry-sustaining parts of the retreat. One past participate remarked that the Proclaim retreat is one place where she can be herself “unapologetically and enthusiastically.” The diversity among participants makes it possible for us to create affinity groups for parish pastors; those in specialized ministry; those awaiting first call; seminarians; and other groups with specific interests and needs. Seasoned pastors and first year seminarians are able to connect and share ideas during this unique place of connection.
How Your Support Helps
ELM is committed to making the retreat affordable to all. We are able to do this thanks to ELM supporters. This year we received special grants from the Philip N. Knutson Endowment , the St. Francis Lutheran Church Endowment and the Ebenezer Lutheran Church Endowment in support our speakers and outreach for the retreat. The bulk of support comes from friends of ELM. Attendees pay $385, which just covers the basic direct costs for the retreat. This year we have awarded 26 scholarships for seminarians and those without a call to attend this event. You can help us continue to provide these scholarships as we support and affirm these gifted and called leaders in our church. We need the extraordinary leadership of these dreamers and visionaries! You can sponsor a full scholarship for a seminarian or person awaiting call for $385. Click here to give. Please make a note that your gift is for retreat scholarships. Thank you for your support!
You hear a lot about Proclaim, the community for publicly identified LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians. Do you wonder what they are actually up to? Turns out, quite a bit!
Here’s a quick overview of topics discussed on a recent Proclaim Team web-call, as reported out by Proclaim Team Secretary Carolina Glauster:
*A Proclaim Presence at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering–overheard: the phrase “selfie photobooth”
*The Roller-Coaster that is Springtime in Seminary–1st years are hearing about Field-ed placements, 2nd years are hearing about Internship placements, and 3rd years have all heard at least some info about Assignment, so it’s a good time to reach out to and/or pray for a seminarian
*Sharing our Stories Project – we are collecting stories for a yet-unnamed anthology of our shared stories – this was inspired by the project “And So We Speak” done by the United Church of Christ – and funded by a grant from the Philip N. Knutson Endowment at St. Olaf College.
As we’d expect this time of year, a topic that resurfaced several times during our call was….the Assignment process. It’s a sometimes wonderful and also often really rough time for so many of us for so many reasons. We talked about ways we can continue to support each other.
We worked together on several ideas for new and better ways to keep connecting and supporting folks as the wheels of the first call process turn. Let’s continue to keep one another in our prayers and look for opportunities to support one another.
The Proclaim Retreat is coming so soon and the news from the retreat team is exciting! We heard that there are already lots o’ registrations–and they’re still coming in! It’s gonna be a hoot!
ELM was invited to both the Conference of Bishops meeting and the ELCA Internship Directors meeting in March. It’s very exciting to be invited and to know our voices are being sought out by both of these groups!
Ongoing ways to be involved:
A brand-new, full-fledged, Seminarian Team is convening this year, with new ways for seminarians to connect. Look for more info on this at the retreat and coming to you from your seminarian reps: Emily Ewing and Paul Gibson.
Chaplain selection process will happen at the retreat as usual–be thinking about who might serve (maybe you?) and look for more info on that soon from Chaplain Laura Kuntz.
ELM Friends – your contributions and prayers keep this work going. Without you, we couldn’t do any of this.
Proclaim, a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, is a professional community of Lutheran rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ. There are 154 members in Proclaim, living and doing ministry in 45 of the 65 ELCA synods. Proclaim photos by Emily Ann Garcia. Learn more.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
On Tuesday, April 1, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries announced their new name, Extraordinary Lutheran Federation (ELF), to reflect their expanding mission. ELF also revealed a new logo, an adorable woodland creature.
“Once we started discussing new name options, we quickly settled on ELF,” said executive director Amalia Vagts. “We wanted to keep consistency in our name. It was just pure luck that in our research, we learned that the elf has long been recognized as the LGBTQ one among all magical creatures. I live in Decorah, Iowa, so I was hoping there was a way for it to be a nisse, but they really don’t have the same connection to our work as elves do.” Vagts added that she still recommends putting a nisse in your window and treating it kindly.
ELF Program Director Jen Rude shared her enthusiasm about the change by announcing that ELF will be distributing pointed shoes and little hats for all members of Proclaim. “Elves are cute, outspoken and just a little bit mischievous,” said Pastor Rude. “I say, if the pointed shoe fits…wear it!”
Vagts and Rude added in unison, “APRIL FOOL’S!”
(This April Fool’s Day post written in the spirit of one of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ core values to have fun while doing important work. We thank ELM friend Bennett Falk for helping us to remember to have fun! You can learn more about our work at www.elm.org).
ELM announces a new monthly giving program, Extraordinary Friends.
You can make concrete differences in the lives of LGBTQ people called to Lutheran ministry through your support of the programs & projects of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. One ELM program is Proclaim, a community of 150 LGBTQ seminarians & rostered leaders. Another is Accompaniment, supporting over 40 LGBTQ candidates for ministry through their candidacy process. A third is Ministry Engagement, which connects & highlights LGBTQ led congregations & ministries. We’re a growing, thriving organization and we need your support. Read on to see how you can support leaders like Pastor Sara Cogsil:
“I have relied on ELM for the logistical support and monies that helped to fund my internship and provide scholarships for the annual retreat…
I have turned to Proclaim for the many relationships that have been formed…
I have established colleagues that have been with me every step of the journey offering prayer, love and grace. For that I am truly grateful and I give thanks that the support hasn’t stopped once I was ordained, but continues to be life-giving in my first-call.”
The best way you can affirm Sara and other LGBTQ people called to ministry is through our new monthly giving community, Extraordinary Friends. You can affirm Sara’s ministry with as little as $10 a month. Your support is a powerful show of support for leaders who continue to be told “No” or “Not yet” by the church they long to serve. Our faithful and fabulous leaders are engaged in ministry year round - we can show our support by contributing to their ministry each month.
* Easy and efficient way to support leaders and their ministries.
* You can give directly from your bank account or credit card.
* You are being a good steward of ELM’s resources – which means we can spend more time helping ministry leaders.
* Invitations to special webinars and conversations with ELM leaders and Proclaim members.
* It’s green!
* Anyone can do it – just $10 a month to be Extraordinary!
Thank you. Click here to join.
Guest blog by Proclaim member Amanda Nelson, 4th year student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, CA
Bay Area members of Proclaim recently gathered for food and conversation at a local pizza joint in the Berkeley neighborhood known as “Holy Hill,” which is so named due to the nine seminaries in the area which make up the Graduate Theological Union (of which Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary is a member) and it was indeed a holy experience.
I’m not saying we were singing hymns or turning our pizza crusts into the host; but rather, for those of us who were able to gather, this time together was a great reminder of the powerful presence of God made manifest in the lives and ministries of our fellow Proclaim members. Holy indeed!
As seminarians, we had a chance to share where we were in our journeys and to receive wisdom and support from the ministers “in the field.” Around the table, stories were shared and we were able to lend support to those with new calls, those seeking calls, and those exploring new ways of making their ministries vibrant. It seemed to me that we, at this gathering, were able to experience a small taste, a sound bite, of what is experienced when we are gathered with our greater community at the annual Proclaim retreats – and it was awesome!
Pastor Jeff Johnson reminded all of us that “there is no greater professional association that you will be a part of than Proclaim.” I know this may seem like a strong bias at first, but Jeff is right: there is something invaluable to the association we share. The benefits of being a member of Proclaim are certainly the gifts of friendship and camaraderie, but there are also the gifts of advocacy, collective voice, prayerful support, empathy, innovation, education, and…I suppose I could keep going, but suffice it to say, the value runs deep.
It was great for us who live close by each other to get together and remind each other that this gift that is Proclaim is accessible all year – through the wonderful Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries staff and volunteers, but also through our fellow Proclaim members. I walked away feeling refreshed and reconnected. It makes me look forward to see everyone again in May at the Proclaim retreat!
This past weekend ELM was invited to participate in a panel at the Conference of Bishops to talk about placement of LGBTQ candidates for rostered ministry. The panel included Proclaim pastor, Rev. Jason Glombicki, ELM program director Rev. Jen Rude, Bishop Mark Holmerud, Bishop Ralph Jones and ReconcilingWorks Executive Director Emily Eastwood. The panel was organized and facilitated by Bishop Jon Anderson. Each panelist shared from a unique perspective to further the conversation.
Some of the things we shared from ELM’s perspective:
+ We have 150 members of Proclaim, publicly identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Lutheran rostered leaders, seminarians and candidates
+ 45 synods are represented in Proclaim
+ 39 of our members are seminarians
+ Our community has tripled in size in the past 3 years and we are continuing to grow
+ 2 weeks ago, 8 of our members received assignments. These 8 join 13 other members of our community who are still awaiting first call, some after years of waiting.
+ 15 members of Proclaim are on internship this year and will be looking toward assignment next year.
+ God has indeed blessed our church with an abundance of gifts in these leaders!
Things are shifting – the Spirit is moving in our church. During Q & A, bishops asked thoughtful and honest questions about how to best work with LGBTQ candidates. They shared stories of creative ministry, accompanying congregations becoming open to the gifts of LGBTQ leaders, and some bishops even shared parts of their own journey toward becoming more open.
Leading up the panel we shared the topic and collected thoughts from members of Proclaim, asking, “What would you like to say to a room full of bishops?”
Here are some of those thoughts we shared with the bishops:
1. Affirm our whole selves. During the assignment process, candidates want you to be talking about them as whole people, including, but not only, their sexual orientation and gender identity. In call processes, be in communication with candidates about how and when they want to come out to congregations.
2. We are qualified candidates. You are not being asked to take inferior candidates. LGBTQ candidates have fulfilled their requirements and have heard a call as strongly as their straight counterparts and have often endured a different kind of scrutiny in answering that call. LGBTQ candidates are a gift in our church, not a problem to be solved.
3. Help open possibilities. Be open and attentive to the gifts of your congregations, especially the gifts they may not have noticed themselves. We have experienced that some congregations may not have self-identified as being open to an LGBTQ candidate, but with thoughtful and open conversation with a bishop, they realized possibilities they had not imagined before.
4. Help provide access. Be sensitive to the reality that there are more limited call opportunities for LGBTQ people, and, unless there is some clear reason not to, allow a candidate’s paperwork to be seen by congregations, especially if the pastor or candidate has taken the time to review the congregation’s published info and contacted the synod office regarding that specific call.
5. Be aware of the legal landscape. State laws regarding marriage equality and protection for adopted children of gay and lesbian parents may be a factor for a candidate and their mobility. One candidate was assigned a synod where she would have no legal protection as the adoptive mother of her and her wife’s small child. They have since moved to a state that recognizes her family, but she is still awaiting first call after 3 years.
6. Help us do ministry in the waiting. Encourage your candidates to supply preach so they can be better known in the synod and so the church can receive their gifts. One member who was awaiting first call in the New England synod teamed up with a retired pastor – he offered to preside anytime she was invited to preach (and he let her keep the check!).
7. Our prayers are with you. One of our pastors who recently received a first call and will be ordained later this month shared these words for you: “Do not be afraid, but continue to walk with your clergy and candidates as the pastor to the pastors you are called to be, trusting also your call and the Spirit’s presence to guide you.”
The conversation continues. ELM continues to be a resource for synods, candidates, rostered leaders, and congregations working to celebrate the gift of LGBTQ people called to rostered ministry in the Lutheran church. Thanks for your partnership in this Spirit-filled work!
Proclaim pastor and convener of the Proclaim Leadership Team, Rev. Caleb Crainer, and the congregation of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in West Los Angeles recently celebrated their Solar addition and steps towards greater environmental care at a Solar Sunday celebration. The celebration included a blessing from fellow Proclaim member and the local Lutheran bishop, R. Guy Erwin, remarks from local leaders, information from their solar provider and various environmental groups, tours of the church’s environment-friendly features, food and family fun…it was a bright day for the community!
This is just one example of the creative and innovative ministry happening in congregations led by Proclaim pastors. We give thanks for St Andrew’s and their stewardship of God’s creation and their witness to the church.
*Blog readers who don’t live in sunny Los Angeles – in the midst of winter, we thought it would be nice to share a story that involved the warm sun – soak it up!
The first class of LGBTQ seminarians to enter candidacy since the 2009 Churchwide decision to ordain openly gay pastors enters assignment this week. “Assignment” is the process where candidates for ministry in the ELCA are assigned to a specific region of the country. The country is divided into nine geographic regions. Candidates submit their geographic preferences, along with a large packet of paperwork about themselves, their gifts, and their visions for ministry. A small group of bishops and representatives from each region then gather to place each candidate. After regional placement, candidates begin the process of meeting churches and ministry sites to find the best match. We have been praying hard for all involved in this process: Holy Spirit, do your work!
Needless to say this is a time of extreme anxiety and anticipation for candidates who are wondering where they are going to live and what kind of ministry they might share. For LGBTQ candidates, there is the additional anxiety of wondering which congregations will be open to receiving the gifts of an LGBTQ candidate.
Eight members of Proclaim are in assignment this week and eleven additional Proclaim members await first call, some for several years. These candidates entered candidacy before the 2009 decision.
Proclaim offers support and accompaniment for those awaiting call. This accompaniment includes:
1) Tonight, we’ll gather via phone lines and computer screens to do a check in about how this process went for our Proclaim members.
2) We are also proud of our resource Candidacy and LGBTQ Individuals, which we hope is helpful to candidacy committees working with LGBTQ candidates.
3) Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has recently been invited to the March Conference of Bishops meeting (all of the bishops from each of the 65 synods gathered) to be part of a panel to discuss placement of LGBTQ candidates and rostered leaders. We look forward to sharing insights and stories from our community and to partner more closely with the larger church. Pastor Jason Glombicki (who is being ordained THIS Sunday!) will also be on the panel. Additional panel members include representatives from ReconcilingWorks and two bishops.
We are delighted to be part of this important discussion, which addresses ELM’s mission to create a more welcoming church and to proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all.
Blessings to those who are receiving assignments this week. We are grateful for your witness.