Our work began when two San Francisco congregations –St. Francis Lutheran Church and First United Lutheran Church– extended calls to openly gay and lesbian pastors, in violation of ELCA policy. These actions led to the formation of Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries which provided financial support for calls to LGBTQ pastors. In 1993, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project was created to provide a credentialing process for publicly-identified LGBTQ people called to Lutheran ministry.
These groups worked hand in hand until 2007, when the two groups merged to form Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. ELM accomplished our mission to expand ministry opportunities for LGBTQ people called to rostered Lutheran ministry by:
providing a candidacy and credentialing process,
supporting a collegium of LGBTQ rostered leaders, and
designating direct grants to ministry by publicly-identified LGBTQ clergy
and rostered lay leaders in the Lutheran church.
The Recent Past
In the past four years, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries developed tremendous momentum. One reason for that is the success of the ONE VOICE campaign. This major donor initiative was conducted jointly with movement partners Lutherans Concerned/North America and Wingspan Ministry. ONE VOICE campaign led to full-time staff for ELM: our first development director was hired in the fall of 2006.
In January of 2008, that position was redefined as executive director, and the part-time position of operations coordinator was added. That same year the office was relocated from San Francisco to Chicago. No longer was the organization primarily identified with the San Francisco Bay Area. With the move, ELM gained a more national presence.
Momentum grew as sentiment shifted within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. When ELCA policy change did not happen in 2005, many ELCA congregations decided they were ready to extend calls to LGBTQ pastors, even if it meant risking discipline from the church.
That led to a flurry of extraordinary ordinations. There had been 8 extraordinary ordinations during the 16-year period between 1990 and 2006. There were 10 during the 3-year period of 2006-2009. The ordinations in those three years were geographically diverse, occurring in Minneapolis, Houston, Chicago, St. Paul, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Ontario.
By 2009, the ELM roster had changed from a community of resistance into an active and thriving roster, engaged in a broad range of ministry across the church.
ELM’s predecessor bodies were actively involved in ELCA Churchwide Assembly organizing. In contrast, ELM focused its attention on changing church culture by creating immediate ministry opportunities for publicly-identified LGBTQ rostered leaders. ELM also gave its full support to the efforts led by independent movement partner Lutherans Concerned/North America as they expanded their legislative and ELCA Churchwide Assembly organizing in 2007 and 2009.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries determined that its strength was to change church culture through the prophetic acts of extraordinary ordination and calls issued to publicly-identified LGBTQ rostered leaders, relying on authority from the future ELCA policy change anticipated for years.
Following the ELCA policy change, ELM leaders focused energy on implementing it for members of the ELM roster. ELM staff and roster members attended ELCA Conference of Bishops and Church Council meetings. They organized a consultation between ELM roster representatives, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, and other ELCA leaders. This work fostered a new relationship between ELM and the ELCA–and it led to a reception and reinstatement process that took into consideration the unique circumstances of the ELM roster.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries would not be where it is today without the longtime support of dedicated donors – the incredible vision and generosity of One Voice donors – and the dynamic energy of new donors.