Holiday tableAs I sat down for Christmas dinner with my partner, his three kids, their mom and their stepdad, I asked everyone to take a moment to share some words of gratitude for the year.

“But this isn’t Thanksgiving!” objected our 14-year-old.

“You’re right,” agreed his stepdad, smiling. “But Amalia didn’t say, ‘Give thanks.’  She said, ‘Gratitude,’ and that’s what this day is for.”

During this continuing season of Christmas and into the New Year celebration, many of us take time to slow down and reflect.  For me, this kind of reflection leads to a sense of abundance, grace, and gratitude.  And ever the optimist, I’m always ready to leave the difficulties of one year behind and start looking forward to the yet unknown joys of the year to come.

Part of the reason for this heightened sense of gratitude and abundance is that this is also the time of year when many people choose to write checks in support of ministries and nonprofits they care about. While last week was filled with some relaxing time with friends and family, this week is busy for many of us as we process your contributions and send a note to you sharing our thanks. In fact, I’m taking a short break from those notes to write this post. I’m overwhelmed by the generosity and commitment of the supporters of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, and by their gratitude for this ministry.

“Thanks for your continued ministry!” one person wrote with their contribution.

“Thanks for the great work you do.” wrote another.

One member of Proclaim sent us an updated email address and included this note, “ELM really is an amazing organization that makes a huge difference in the lives of people, congregations and the world.”

Your contributions mean so much to us.  We couldn’t do the work you care about without them. ELM is funded almost entirely by contributions from individuals, congregations and ministries. Your contributions also mean more–they mean that you care about this mission. They mean that you also believe that by supporting LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians we can continue to change the church, to make it more fully inclusive to all people.

And so, today, on this second to last day of 2011, I give thanks for you, and for all that you do.

And in the coming year, I look forward to finding new and expanding ways for this community to work together for this common vision of an inclusive and welcoming church and society.


Margaret and Bennett’s Christmas Gift

Donate to ELMLong-time Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries friends Margaret Moreland and Bennett Falk have a special gift for ELM this Christmas. They’ve agreed to donate an extra $5,000  to match all new, increased and renewed gifts to ELM before the end of the year!

Please, while this post  is open, click on this link and make your first-time, renewed, or increased gift to ELM.

Margaret and Bennett know it will take more resources to do our ministry next year. That’s why they’re giving more generously than ever before, and asking you to do the same.

If you’ve been inspired by ELM’s ministry, but haven’t given, there’s no better time than right now.  If you donate $50, ELM will have $100 for ministry. If you donate $100, we’ll have $200 for ministry!

The financial support of individuals like you have helped ELM launch two new programs this year.  One is Proclaim, the new professional community for Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  There are 80 members of Proclaim, and we continue to grow.  The second is our Candidacy Accompaniment program.  Thanks to your support, ELM is currently working with NINETEEN leaders who are seeking rostered leadership in the Lutheran church. In addition, ELM supporters will invest $62,000 in congregations and ministries led by LGBTQ leaders in 2012.

This ministry is growing! We want you to be part of it.

Again, please, while this post  is open, click on this link and make your first-time, renewed, or increased gift to ELM.

We need your support. THANK YOU, Margaret and Bennett for this marvelous gift!

Margaret Moreland: Why I Support ELM

Starting this month, we are inviting people who support Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) to share how and why they are involved with our ministry. This month we hear from Margaret Moreland about when she first thought our ministry was worth supporting and why she’s continued to invest in our mission.

Margaret Mooreland
Margaret Moreland. Photo by Jay Wilson

“I first realized the need for the ministry that ELM does at the January 20, 1990 ordination service for Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart, and Jeff Johnson. At the time of that service, I had not been thinking about LGBT issues in the church; I attended because I knew it was a controversial and interesting thing that was happening. During the service I heard the prayers of people who felt profoundly changed by what was happening in that service: people who had not felt welcome in any church in years, people whose gay or lesbian children had left the church, people who were afraid to follow a call to ordained ministry. At the end of the service I felt that I had only two options: leave the church that was causing so much pain or work to change the church.

I began to donate money to Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries (LLGM) which had just been formed, but that was not enough. Happily about two years later, Pr. Jeff Johnson invited me to meet with a group of people to plan starting a candidacy program for gay and lesbian seminarians. I joined them and we started working on what became the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (ECP). Since then I have served on the board of one of ECP, LLGM, or ELM almost continuously. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without this wonderful ministry. I’ve met amazing, talented, wonderful people: the pastors and candidates who have been able to be called and ordained; the members of the congregations and ministries that called these pastors. Ministry happens because of the work of ELM.

The change of policy in the ELCA has not changed my commitment to the work of ELM.  LGBTQ clergy, rostered lay leaders, and seminarians still will have a difficult time being accepted in many parts of the church.  I will continue to support this work which has changed so many lives, including mine.”

Margaret Moreland serves on the board of directors for ELM and is currently chair of the Ministry Grants program. She lives in Berkeley, CA with her spouse, Bennett Falk.

2012 Grant Recipient: Rev. Robyn Hartwig

EcoFaith RecoveryPortland, OR: Rev. Robyn Hartwig, $12,000    

Young girl and Rev. Robyn Hartwig
Rev. Robyn Hartwig

This grant will fund the continued development of EcoFaith Recovery as a ministry of Lutherans and ecumenical partners based out of the metropolitan Portland area. EcoFaith Recovery develops and supports spiritual recovery from the addictive patterns of human life that contribute to the climate crisis, heighten social injustice, deprive people of spiritual meaning, and threaten life on earth. The grant will expand the Mission Developer position to ensure the goals of the program are met.

2012 Grant Recipient: Rev. Cindy Crane

Anti-bullying ministry, Wisconsin: Rev. Cindy Crane,$6,000 

Cindy Crane
Rev. Cindy Crane

Pastor Cindy Crane is starting a new ministry project that addresses bullying, and how people of faith can prevent and take action effectively against bullying. The ministry will work with the South Central Synod of Wisconsin’s parishes. The team will create action plans and resources on how to engage their congregations on preventing bullying. This ministry partnership will explore how to assist youth and adults who are targets of bullying. The team aims to create a model for how to address bullying issues that parishes can use in the South Central Synod of Wisconsin and beyond.

Pastor Cindy writes that this grant will, “make this new ministry possible as well as assist me in seeking re-rostering with a specialized ministry after 12 years of being off the ELCA roster because of my sexual orientation.” Cindy was one of the founding volunteers of Extraordinary Candidacy in the Midwest.

2012 Grant Recipients: Charles Edwin Weber, Internship grant

St Stephen’s Lutheran ChurchFlorida: Edwin Weber intern, $3,000  

Edwin Weber
Charles Edwin Weber with Rev. Marda Messick

Because of recent increased demand for support to LGBTQ seminarians, ELM is launching a new grant category: ELM Internship Grants. Charles Edwin Weber received a grant for his internship at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Tallahassee, Florida. To the left is Charles  being introduced to the congregation by Pastor Marda Messick on July 31, 2011. Charles is attending Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina and is a member of Proclaim.

Pastor Jay on Trans Day of Remembrance

We are taking a short break today from honoring our 2012 Grant Recipients in order to share this reflection from Pastor Jay Wilson about Trans Day of Remembrance.

Trans Day of Remembrance
by Pastor Jay Wilson

Photo of Jay Wilson
Rev. Jay Wilson

I’m talking about communities today, and I want anyone reading or hearing this to know that I mean you. When I say Trans Community, I mean specifically people who identify as transgender or get perceived as gender-nonconforming, but also all people who support us and work together with us against gender-based oppression.

Potential trauma trigger warning – Many who read this will have experienced some of the violence that I am naming. I will be naming some types of violence in a general way.
–Pastor Jay
Trans Day of Remembrance has always made me feel more Lutheran – there’s the Law of gender-based oppression, impossible to separate from the layers of racism and classism and imperialism…and yet, there’s the grace of the community gathering, remembering, and sending us to go forth and change the world together. The hope is hope in our power together, cautious and tempered by the reality of the overwhelming brokenness in the world and the limits of our energy and funding.

Often, taking care of ourselves as creatures of God means we shut out the realities of this broken world.  In trans communities, we struggle with these hard conversations of not feeling welcomed, where people who have sought safe space around gender or sexuality, and found that it’s only safe if you’re white, economically stable, or homed.

While many in the larger GLBT movements often strive to be “just like everyone else,” many of us in trans community know that we are not just like everyone else, that our bodies and identities are unique and important for challenging sexism. When we seek to be welcomed into the privilege of being called “normal,” we denigrate the people who are least likely to be accepted. “We’re just trans, we’re not crazy like people with mental illness.” “Trans people aren’t sex workers – we work regular white collar jobs.” And every time we do this, we push out of community the trans people who are psychiatric consumer/survivors, people marginalized into sex work, and we lose the strength that we could have gained in working together against the oppressions that tie us together. That trans people are stereotyped as having psych disabilities and being unemployable is not the real issue here – the real issue is that we live in a world where we don’t even question that it is accepted to marginalize people due to disability, race, and gender. We contribute to violence whenever we try to distance ourselves, personally or as a movement, from it by claiming that our status should be defined by our privilege, rather than standing with those who the world calls “the least of these.”

Trans Day of Remembrance is one place of coming together to remember how closely we are all tied to one another’s oppression. The names and faces remind us that racism, poverty, classism, violence against women and children, are inextricably tied to gender violence. Make no mistake – we see that none of us are safe, no matter how much gender and socio-economic privilege we have, because this gender violence is so pervasive. But the names and faces witness to the brokenness that vulnerability to violence is not equal because we are not treated as equal.

We have so many names and faces to remember on this day, and for reasons of not losing hope and focusing on this particular form of violence, we hear specifically the people who were murdered for perceived gender/sexual identity. But we lose so many more people to violence in our communities – to suicide, to isolation, to bullying, to unsafe communities, to abuse inside and outside of families, to decisions to delay or never transition for safety. We lose people to the internalized violence of substance abuse, healthcare inequalities, to AIDS, to self-hatred, to fear. To poverty-inflicted illness, to job and home and shelter and government discrimination, to being disowned from families and to homelessness, to hunger and war. But we gather, and name some who we have lost, remembering all who we have lost. And in the gathering itself, we become the community that can become justice-creating.

To me, today is also when the cross-sections of trans communities gather in one place. This brings a hope in itself that we can gather and work together to bring gender justice along with new ways of being community together. Many communities are struggling hard with the work of building these community ties, working towards justice and accountability to the most oppressed among us. In many of our communities, we are overwhelmed by our lives and the task of gathering, and we unintentionally or intentionally fall short of welcome. We find ourselves on this day at the foot of the cross, with so much of our own suffering and the weight of the world, and we confess our inaction to change things and our own inflicting of oppression on others and ourselves. We confess the brokenness of our communities and our own privilege and oppressing of others. We confess our hopelessness, and our resignation that we will be back next year with a new longer list of names.

And then we sing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, awkwardly at first, wondering how to harmonize when our voices feel too high or low for our identities, and our neighbor is weeping, while the squirmy are ready for bed and our hunger rumbles for the potluck…and despite our insecurities and divisions and the limitations of world bodies and minds, we get swept away over the rainbow in the power of forgiveness, grace, hope, community.

Trans Day of Remembrance was my first introduction to Trans Communities in Minnesota while I was struggling with gender oppression in my chaplaincy internship – it introduced me to a trans community that was welcoming and accessible to me as a genderqueer Lutheran disabled person. Later, another Day of Remembrance was a powerful experience processing in an interfaith service on my ELM internship. The next year, my partner and I had our covenant service reception in the same space that the Trans Day of Remembrance would be held the next evening, and we were happy to share food with the community that had brought us together as a family.

I believe the God of grace and love can and does come through loud and clear on this Day of Remembrance, as we gather around death. We are empowered today by the gospel to be a community that is safe and healing for all of our communities, not just the easy friends we see other days of the year. We are empowered to take on the burdens of our neighbors traumas, in knowledge that we are not alone in this community. And we are supported to share our trauma and grief with each other, while we all struggle to not be so overwhelmed by our own experiences.

In Lutheran community, we can name that the wrestling God of Jacob, the empowering community God of the Exodus, and the whispering Holy Spirit naming and renaming us as in relationship with God. The Genderqueer Spirit, sometimes named as female and sometimes male, is with us, whispering words of freedom from these oppressions that is an Already/Not Yet that we want to become now. And Jesus has promised to meet us precisely when we are the oppressed, when our brokenness and the brokenness of the world is too much to take.

This sharing of our burdens and forgiveness frees and prods us to move in unexpected ways, to bring hope to a roomful of people remembering how many we have lost this year. Our remembrances may be interfaith or secular, or we may simply remember in a line of the Prayers of the People in our congregations or newsletter. But don’t forget this day – the day when we say that we choose to be tied together in community so that we can create justice and freedom for us all.

Want to act toward inclusive trans and queer communities?

Start locally, or start here:
-ELM former and current Ministry Grant recipients working at the intersections of oppression and justice:
Welcome: A Communal Response to Poverty, St. Luke’s Social Justice Ministries, Inclusive and Affirming Ministries in South Africa, Hollywood Lutheran‘s prison and homeless outreach, Grace Place youth shelter
-Other groups:
Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), Southerners on New Ground (SONG), Trans Youth Support Network (TYSN), National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), or the anti-oppression groups near you!

2012 Grant Recipients: Rev. Megan Rohrer and Rev. Dawn Roginski

Each year, ELM supports ministry by publicly identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rostered leaders through the Grants program. We have provided over $850,000 in funding for ministry by LGBTQ leaders since 1990. This year we received $133,000 in grant requests but had only $62,000 to give. Go here to make a gift today to support our ministry. The grant recipients are selected by the Grants program, led by Margaret Moreland.

Today’s features recipient is Welcome and the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies Bay Area, CA: Rev. Megan Rohrer and Rev. Dawn Roginski, $9,000   

ELM’s grant will fund a ministry that serves LGBTQ homeless youth through empowerment and fostering leadership. This ministry will also bring attention to their issues and bring in people of faith to provide support to LGBTQ youth.  Specifically, the grant will allow Pastors Megan and Dawn to serve this vulnerable population and to encourage those with gifts for ministry to pursue seminary.


2012 Grant Recipient: Rev. Erik Christensen

St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan SquareChicago, IL: Rev. Erik Christensen,  $3,000  

St. Luke’s is a congregation in redevelopment on the northwest side of Chicago in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. This support grant assists St. Luke’s continued redevelopment, expansion and a path to self-sustainability. St. Luke’s continues to offer a food pantry, early childhood music education, yoga classes and host alcohol & drug recovery groups. This is the 5th grant ELM has given St. Luke’s as part of our commitment to this redeveloping congregation. In cooperation with St. Luke’s, ELM has decreased the grant amount each year as St. Luke’s has worked to increase their own sustainability.


2012 Grant Recipient: Rev. Lura Groen at Grace Lutheran Church

Grace Lutheran ChurchHouston, TX: Rev. Lura Groen, $9,000    

Grace Lutheran Church in Houston continues to grow and minister to the Montrose neighborhood they have called home since 1922. This fall the church launched a new campaign centered on the idea that Grace is “A Place to Come Home To.” Since the campaign began in September they have seen a significant increase in attendance. The campaign has encouraged members to get out and engage the community. They have started a monthly “pub theology” group at a local bistro, and the annual Blessing of the Pets at a park near the church was better attended than ever!  This is ELM’s third year of funding for Grace Lutheran Church.

Pastor Lura shares:

“Perhaps most exciting for our small urban congregation has been the influx of young people in the last few months, many of whom come from religious traditions that have rejected them because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. For the first time in years we have a young adult Bible study, started because our new members asked for it.

Of course Grace continues to minister to those most vulnerable in our community. Our weekly outreach to homeless youth regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, Montrose Grace Place, continues to challenge and bless the congregation. We’ve recently expanded the program in response to the incredible need in our community. We ask for your prayers as we continue to search for the resources and patience needed to maintain this vital ministry.”

Next year Grace will celebrate its 90 anniversary!