By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. – Galatians 5:22-23
This last weekend, as LGBTQ Lutheran pastors, seminarians and candidates met for our annual Proclaim retreat, we talked about the words we have used throughout our history to describe our work.
Behold, I am doing a new thing! was the phrase that rang out during the first extraordinary ordinations of openly gay and lesbian people in January of 1990. When people asked by whose authority these pastors were ordained, we talked about borrowing our authority from the future. And when asked for the theological framework for the ordinations, we turned to Martin Luther’s writing about irregular ordinations in instances where bishops were acting contrary to the Gospel. As a community of LGBTQ pastors operating in an extraordinary fashion came together, this group talked about being a community of resistance that was in principled non-compliance to an unjust policy requiring celibacy for gay and lesbian pastors. As we realized that change may be a long time coming, we shifted our focus from changing the policy to making ministry happen now. As we moved into the early days following the 2009 policy change, we spoke of changing the church through the ministry of publicly-identified LGBTQ pastors and rostered leaders. We affirmed these faithful and fabulous leaders – faithful in their call and fabulous in their LGBTQ identity.
Now we find new words: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLYING. Not only are the numbers of Proclaim leaders growing, but LGBTQ-led ministries are multiplying – into new corners and wide spaces in the church and world. Those who are invested in and committed to celebrating the gifts of LGBTQ people in ministry are multiplying. When we nourish LGBTQ leaders, they bear fruit – which gives life to a world that craves it. Fruit is rich, delicious, nourishing, and colorful. And we are joyful and playful and ready to follow a God who turns the world on end.
At the end of our weekend, we invited each person to share a word, phrase, or image that they were left with after our time together: Gratitude. Possibility. Rich. Blessing. Proclaim. Friendship. Healing. Finally! Solidarity. Moved. Space. Beloved. History. Called. Family. Grace-equipped. Fruitful. Multiplying.
Next week – more stories and pictures from the 2015 Proclaim Retreat!
Guest blog by Proclaim member Robin Fero
“I picked this wedding card out for you and Jeff some time ago. It fit you just perfectly. I knew one day I would be able to give it to you”.
Sandy has been a dear friend of mine for over 10 years. She has been a supporter and a die-hard advocate for LGBTQ rights. We’ve sat together in PFLAG meetings and fundraising campaigns for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She updates me on congregations within the synod that are in the Reconciling In Christ process.
Every time we are in contact, Sandy is eager to get an update of how the candidacy process and the seminary year are going.
Sandy, like many friends and loved ones along the journey, caught a vision of the future many years ago. It was a vision that, quite frankly, often gets blurred in my own set of eyes. Sandy dreamed of a day that this gay child of God could get married and also answer a lifetime calling from God to become an ordained minister.
It struck me that morning in the coffee shop how faithful Sandy was to that dream.
“You picked the card out before we were married?”
“Yes, it was just perfect for you two.”
I wish I could tell you how many times along the way I wondered how in the world I would ever get to even stand in a pulpit one day or stand in front of a judge and exchange precious vows with the one I love.
And I wish I could tell you how many times the Sandys in my life that God has blessed me with in the journey have said “I can see you up there!”
I thank God for my husband Jeff who witnesses my patterns of “how am I going to get all these school projects done before the end of the semester?”, and encourages me to see it through.
I am encouraged by all the visionaries in life!
I am so encouraged, I believe I will go buy that ordination stole today, because as Sandy so eloquently has said, “it fits you perfectly.”
Robin Fero is a 3rd year student at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He is finishing up his last academic semester and will be doing his internship starting in July. Robin and his husband Jeff were married in October. They reside in Harrisburg, PA.
Joy and thanksgiving for the upcoming ordination of Ángel David Marrero Ayala! Ángel will be ordained on Sunday, April 26th at 7:00 p.m. at First Lutheran Church in Waltham, MA. Ángel has been called by the New England Synod of the ELCA and will be developing a new congregation in Waltham. Ángel serves on the Board of Directors of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and is a member of Proclaim, a community of 185 LGBTQ rostered leaders and candidates for ministry. Proclaim is a program of ELM.
From the invitation:
Por la gracia de Dios y conforme al uso apostólico Ángel David Marrero Ayala será ordenado al Ministerio de Palabra y Sacramento en la iglesia católica. Requerimos su presencia y oraciones para este evento. El clero está invitado a participar de la procesión. El color del día será rojo. Luego del servicio habrá una recepción en la iglesia.
By the grace of God and according to apostolic usage Ángel David Marrero Ayala will be ordained into the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the one holy catholic church. Your prayers and your presence are requested. Rostered Leaders are invited to process. The color of the day is red. There will be a reception after the service at the church.
As we celebrate the wonderful news of Ángel’s new call and ministry, we remember that 28 members of Proclaim continue to await first call. Barriers to ministry continue to exist as a reality for LGBTQ people – thank you for helping to change that through your support of ELM. And you also help tell the good news of new leaders like Ángel!
Guest Post by Dr. Norman Glaubenleben, Ph.D.
April 1, 2015
Earlier today, the selection committee for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ annual Unnamed Covert Sympathizer (UCS) Award announced that it will soon release the list of nominees for this year’s award.
The Unnamed Covert Sympathizer Award, established through a generous gift from an anonymous donor (rumored to be Bishop [Name withheld] of the Central Great Lakes Synod), honors those who have helped to further ELM’s mission without appearing to support either the organization or its goals. The award is something of a paradox: no recipients of the award have ever been announced, and in spite of the selection committee’s stated intentions, the list of nominees has never been published.
Each year after a date is set for announcing the year’s nominees, the selection committee is inundated with anxious requests from putative covert supporters who are concerned that public recognition might compromise their effectiveness.
Before the list of nominees is made public, a covert sympathizer may (for a modest fee to cover administrative costs) inquire if they’ve been nominated. For a slightly less modest fee, the sympathizer may request to be omitted from consideration. Inevitably, all the nominees will have withdrawn before the list is released.
Among people who should know, it is commonly supposed that administrative fees related to the Unnamed Convert Sympathizer Award have become a significant source of income for ELM, far outweighing, for example, the income lost from the Thrivent Choice Program.
In 2014, Thrivent invoked its new “Neutrality Policy” to rule ELM ineligible for Thrivent Choice funding, asserting that ELM is “among those organizations whose primary purpose is to advocate for or against an issue where there is significant disagreement within our [Thrivent’s] membership.”
ELM’s secret supporters could easily dispel the illusion of “significant disagreement” over whatever the issue is that Thrivent believes to be ELM’s primary purpose. Were the sympathizers to declare themselves openly in support of ELM, they would reduce to insignificance the perceived level of disagreement. Doing so, however, would both deprive ELM of a reliable revenue stream and undermine the sympathizers’ clandestine efforts on ELM’s behalf.
There have been repeated suggestions (by unnamed Thrivent spokespeople) that Thrivent Choice funds destined for ELM be laundered through safe, “neutral” intermediary recipients. Some observers have taken this to be an indication that the Thrivent “Neutrality Policy” itself is, in fact, the work of ELM’s covert sympathizers.
Nothing could be further from the truth. However, such speculation is completely consistent with the counterintuitive logic of secret supporter covert operations.
In 2012, following weeks of tense, closed-door negotiations and a reportedly frantic bidding war (said to include three mainline denominations, a Rocky Mountain megachurch, the political action committee of a Beltway evangelical think tank, and a Christian ashram), a deal was reached between a covert sympathizer and an undisclosed purchaser to transfer the trademark “Making Ministry Happen” to the purchaser for a cash settlement rumored to be in the low 7-figure range. The transaction fell apart when it was discovered that “Making Ministry Happen” is not in fact a registered trademark of ELM.
In February of this year, representatives of California Lutheran University (CLU) did nothing to address the rumor that an “unnamed” intermediary had floated an offer to buy Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary from CLU for ELM’s “Proclaim” business unit. When outright purchase proved too costly, the intermediary is said to have bid for naming rights, proposing that the seminary be renamed “Proclaim Lutheran Theological Seminary”. CLU has yet to comment.
Any of these projects, had they come to fruition, would certainly be award-worthy. But the covert sympathizers, still embarrassed over their 2009 failure to bolster ELM’s prospects by preventing policy change in the ELCA, have set an even higher standard for future achievements. No one who is aware of the covert sympathizers’ relentless behind-the-scenes work should be surprised in 2016 when ELM is reorganized as a Wisconsin nonprofit to pave the way for an offering of shares not unlike that made by the Green Bay Packers in 2012. For obvious reasons, the covert sympathizers will be unable to take advantage of the opportunity when the shares are available for purchase.
Dr. Norman Glaubenleben (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chief business analyst for the now-defunct Lutheran True Confessions. Opinions expressed by Dr.Glaubenleben are entirely his own (except where plagiarized) and do not reflect the opinions of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), its staff, or board. Dr. Glaubenleben wishes you a very reflective Lenten season and a very enjoyable APRIL FOOL’S!
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.