Yesterday hundreds of clergy and faith leaders, including about fifteen Lutherans, went to Capitol Hill as a part of the Human Right’s Campaign’s (HRC) Clergy Call. Their goal was to remind their elected leaders that progressive faith leaders who preach and teach that equality is a right for all people stand with the majority of Americans. In fact, a new poll from HRC shows that 86% of Americans of faith reported that their faith leads them to believe that all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals, deserve equal protections under the law.
These faith leaders represented millions of parishioners, members of denominations and individuals whom they’d prayed with and for. Some of the most moving pleas at the press conference were calls to end the funerals that pastors had been doing for gay youth who falsely believed they had no other options. Leaders urged congress to pass the Safe Schools and Anti-bullying Acts that could provide nationwide support for these youth.
Leaders also told stories of the many marriages they had performed that were not supported by civil laws and urged the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). If passed faith leaders would not be forced to perform marriage ceremonies, but as the law stands many argued that their freedom of faith was infringed because they are prevented from legally marrying couples.
But, as a pastor to the homeless I always remember that life, dignity and equality don’t simply come from the ability to get married. I also know that if we are going to be a community that seeks family values as our platform, we need to care about housing, health care and jobs that support and keep safe people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. And though leaders have been lobbying for it for years, we must still encourage our political leaders to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
I think this bill is particularly important given the startling fact that only 12% of transgender individuals in my home town of San Francisco are employed. This statistic comes from one of the most open and supportive cities in the country. The low employment rate of trans individuals, along with the discriminatory way trans bodies are hypersexualized, leaves few options for many members of the San Francisco trans community besides sex work.
Just as Jesus ate with and advocated for the sex workers, who because of unjust laws pertaining to the status of women and widows, we must advocate mightily for equal employment opportunities for all types of bodies and cultures.
The laws and acts outlined here are the legislative priorities that HRC lifted up today. Please read my previous blog post to learn more about legislation pertaining to Homeless LGBT youth.
You may be wondering, what does all this political stuff have to do with me? Well, if we are to be biblical people, we must be political people. Why? The title of the Bible is “good news” which in Greek (the language the parts about Jesus are written in) is the title of the political newspaper put out by the Caesar (fancy name for a presidential guy). Thus, when the gospels say “the good news of Jesus Christ,” it really means “the politics of Jesus Christ.”
So whether you lobby political leaders, write letters, talk with your friends or just read the paper asking yourself how it jives or conflicts with the gospel, follow Jesus’ political lead. But, be warned Easter people that, like Christ, being political can get you into trouble. But I guess that’s what the Lutheran commandment, “sin boldly,” really calls us to do.
Rev. Megan M. Rohrer is a nationally recognized leader on issues of homelessness, gender, sexuality and faith. Executive Director of WELCOME – a communal response to poverty in San Francisco, CA, Pastor Rohrer is an activist, advocate and educator who speaks and preaches nationally. Megan is a member of Proclaim, was on the historic ELM roster, and is on the clergy roster of the ELCA.
I shared that in San Francisco, there are estimated to be 5,300 homeless youth, 40% of which have diverse sexual and gender expressions. Last Saturday, at an event called the Great San Francisco Sleep-In, in partnership with the National Operation Shine America event that drew attention to queer homelessness across the country. I marched, listened to, sang with and slept on the streets with more than 300 homeless youth in San Francisco’s Castro district. You can read more about the event here.
This event was part of my Doctorate of Ministry work, supported by funds from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, studying the Vanguard youth from the ’60’s and the methods the pastors who supported them used to empower the young adults. Over the past two years, I’ve not only been studying the past, but also listening, working with and being a pastor to the queer youth who live in San Francisco.
These young adults inspire me with their ability to survive. They remind me that my call to work with individuals in poverty and to be a moment of hope in lives that usually only hear “no” and experience darkness is exactly the work that I am called to do. They broke open my heart and made it impossible for me to not advocate for them.
One of the most powerful moments for me was when a member of First United Lutheran dropped off some leftovers from a fancy dinner in the midst of the pouring rain. The young adults, some as young as 12, called the bags of prime rib and gnocchi “rich people food” and consumed it with the typical hunger of a teenager. But when offered plates and silverware, the youth looked with confused eyes and remarked that they hadn’t eaten with plates for years because all their food came from garbage cans. So, we all ate together without plates, with our bare hands that were washed clean from the rain.
This moment made me thankful for ELM and all the support I’ve had over the years, to do what I do best; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and to listen to those who are lonely. Your support has enabled me to live a life that inspires others and helps me to preach stories that unveil the humanness, fragility and heart of poverty, faith and community.
Tomorrow, hundreds of people of faith will join me in telling their stories about the things that move their hearts and drive their passions. If you follow ELM’s work, I trust that you value the ways that integrity and honesty can change culture, politics and the church. You may not have it in you to sleep on the streets or to make the trip out to Capital Hill, but you can talk to those in your congregation, family and join email lists (like HRC‘s) that will make it easy to email or fax your politicians during key time periods or for important votes.
If you’re shy like me, and not the kind of person who is likely to speak out or become active on your own, or if you get overwhelmed by the number of causes that need a voice, I remind you that, we as Lutherans’ owe our faith and culture to a man who was a loud mouth. He shouted his ideas from rooftops, posted them on doorways and printed volume upon volume of his thoughts – they weren’t all good, unbiased and sometimes they’re not even nice. Yet, without Luther speaking out what would we believe? What kind of faith would we have?
So today, I encourage you to speak out for LGBTQ issues, homeless youth and for the other issues that move your heart. Speak as if your voice is the one that will shape the faith of future generations for centuries to come.
We follow a loud mouth God whose voice booms from clouds, burning bushes and from the still small voice inside of us. May we be people who go and do likewise.”
Rev. Megan M. Rohrer is a nationally recognized leader on issues of homelessness, gender, sexuality and faith. Executive Director of WELCOME – a communal response to poverty in San Francisco, CA, Pastor Rohrer is an activist, advocate and educator who speaks and preaches nationally. She is a member of Proclaim and a long time member of the ELM community. She will be writing about Clergy Call throughout the week, so check back.
ELM welcomes Rose Beeson and Carolyne Schultz to the ELM Board of Directors. Board members are recruited by a board recruitment committee and elected by the full board.
Rose Beeson served on the ELM Board from 2009-2010 as the Congregation and Ministries chair. She will serve as Secretary of ELM. Rose is currently completing a Master of Divinity program at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, CA.
Carolyne lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her partner Brittanie and her dog Sparrow. She is currently working towards a Masters in Social Work with the University of Michigan.
Carolyne is interested in ELM because she is “passionate about making the ELCA an increasingly inclusive faith-filled place for all people and is “empowered in knowing that ELM is committed to supporting LGBTQ individuals as they continue to do God’s work through a message of inclusion and love.” Carolyne brings a wide array of experience with social justice issues to the board.
The ELM Board of Directors includes 12 volunteer members. We thank these great volunteers for their continued service.
On May 10th the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted that it will allow ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender faithful Christians as elders, deacons and ministers in the church communities that wish for these candidates to become ordained.ï»¿ We give thanks for all individuals and groups that have worked so long to make this change to happen.
We are especially glad for the good news this brings to Lisa Larges, who was the recent guest speaker at the ELM/Proclaim retreat and who has been awaiting ordination in the Presbyterian Church for 22 years. Lisa works for That All May Freely Serve, here is their blog.
Read more about this historical decision and reflections at Rev. Janet Edwards’ blog: A Time to Embrace
Rev. Robert Goldstein is retiring from St. Francis Lutheran Church, San Francisco. All are welcome as we celebrate the wonderful ministry of Pastor Bob Goldstein! We thank him for many years of service.
The retirement luncheon party is Sunday, May 29th 12:30-2pm at St. Francis Lutheran Church- 152 Church St. San Francisco, CA. RSVP to 415-621-2635. Cards, letters & photo Tributes are welcome, please send them to the church. The event is hosted by The Lydia Circle.
ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts is profiled on Rev. Janet Edwards blog- ‘A Time to Embrace’. Janet works with ‘More Light‘: “A network of people seeking the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
Proclaim member Rev. Megan Rohrer has long been involved in her local Bay area community and ELM. She recently joined Proclaim, the professional community for publicly-identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians. Megan is a finalist (1 of 5) for the Bay Area Citizen’s, Citizen of Tomorrow Award. The contest is based on: “Which of these inspirational local leaders is creatively solving a significant Bay Area community challenge?” The winner gets $5,000 for their project. The winner is decided by the public voting for their project of choice.
Megan’s project: SF Refresh, created and coordinated by Megan, provides free whole body health care in community gardens throughout San Francisco where individuals receive free massage, acupuncture, listen to live music, participate in art projects and learn about mindfulness and meditation.
You can vote once per day until May 16 at 5pm, please vote here to support Megan’s project, she is #5 on the list: