Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries joyfully announces the 2011 Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholars, Emily Ewing and Laura Kuntz. ELM named two scholars this year thanks to a generous gift from Joel’s parents, Ray and Betty Workin, in loving memory of the late Rev. Dr. Paul Egertson.
The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship program was created to honor the life and ministry of Joel Workin. Joel was one of the three gay seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after “coming out” to their candidacy committees. Joel’s family and friends created the scholarship fund following his death from AIDS in 1995.
This award comes with a scholarship to publicly-identified LGBTQ seminarians who embody Joel’s passion for justice and faith in their lives and ministry. In addition, the scholar represents ELM throughout the year. Co-Chairs of the Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Endowment Committee are Rev. Jeff R. Johnson and Greg A. Egertson, beloved friends and classmates of Joel’s. The scholars were chosen from a pool of excellent candidates.
The scholarship is funded through the Joel R. Workin Memorial Endowment. Donors may make planned or immediate gifts to the endowment by contacting Amalia Vagts at 563-382-6277.
Jeff Johnson expressed his enthusiasm for both scholars, noting that each captured one of Joel’s key messages. Jeff writes, “While in seminary, Joel spoke passionately against a ‘church that for the most part ignores, condemns and rejects,’ us while ordaining us into lives of ‘lying and hiding, but not of truth and freedom.’ This was for him the essence of the struggle. How do we mount and sustain a persuasive critique of this bankrupt system, institution, and ideology, and at the same time urgently foster our own wholeness, and build around us a community of justice, unconditional regard, and blessing. This is the challenge.”
ELM congratulates and gives thanks for these two scholars who are skillfully facing that challenge.
Emily Ewing has long been involved in the Lutheran church and working towards social justice issues in the United States, South America and Slovakia. Emily recently finished her first year of seminary at Lutheran School of Theology Chicago. She is currently completing her Clinical Pastoral Education work with the Seafarer’s and International House in New York City. She provides pastoral care to seafarers at Port Newark and Port Elizabeth in New Jersey each week. In addition, the program provides phones, phone cards, and other basic needs so the seafarers can contact loved ones back home. In the fall Emily will return to Chicago for her second year of seminary.
Prior to starting her seminary studies, she attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa studying Religion, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Spanish. Emily was very active on campus, serving as Vice-President of the Congregation Council and a Worship Volunteer Coordinator. Emily’s Campus Pastor, Amy Zalk Larson shares: “Even when others encouraged her to keep quiet about her sexual identity with her call committee, she was clear that she needed to act with integrity and honesty for her sake and the sake of the church.”
Emily strongly feels that being an out queer person during her candidacy is essential to living a life of integrity: “I made a deal with myself that I would be out from the start of candidacy. My coming out story and my call story are, in fact, so intertwined that I can’t separate them.”
When notified she received the scholarship Emily said: “This scholarship is more meaningful than I can put words to. It is a huge affirmation of my sense of where God is leading me. I could not be any more or less excited about being named a Joel Workin scholar whether it came with a scholarship for one million dollars or one penny. Of all of the scholarships I have been applying for, this one is BY FAR the most exciting and meaningful for me.”
Emily has a wide variety of experience working with all different types of people including youth and non-English speaking immigrants; she embodies Joel Workin’s commitment to the Gospel and his commitment to the LGBTQ community.
Laura Kuntz is currently studying at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Ohio. Laura has a wide range of leadership skills and academic achievements including working as a chaplain at Ohio State University Medical Center and Staff Assistant at St. John’s U.C.C. Laura has spent much of her summer serving at Holden Village in Chelan, Washington. Laura’s professor Brad Binau shares “That Laura is choosing to invest her summer serving and learning at Holden is testimony to her hunger to make a difference in the church and the world.”
She is about to begin an internship at Lake Park Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her partner Sara will be joining her in Milwaukee and will be the intern at Advent Lutheran in Cedarburg. After the internship she will return to Trinity Lutheran Seminary to finish her degree.
During her first year in seminary Laura struggled with being an out lesbian, living out her truth and living openly. She reflects, “The Gospel calls us to live in this Truth, that we are ALL children of God. Knowing my identity in Christ has been foundational and I feel called to be who I am within the ELCA witnessing to the identity of Christ, crucified and risen.”
Laura said “It is an honor to receive the Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship in light of all that Joel has done for the LGBTQ community and the church. Joel was dedicated to the church and committed to working toward its growth. I hope that the church today can continue to be inspired by Joel’s vision.”
Similar to Joel, Laura is engaged in telling the truth to God to her family and those around her. Laura has made a commitment to living as a lesbian Christian.