Erik Christensen: Why I support ELM

Each month we are inviting people who support Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to share how and why they are involved with our ministry. This month we hear from Rev. Erik Christensen about when he first thought our ministry was worth supporting and why he’s continued to invest in our mission. In Erik’s words:

As I prepare to leave the ELM Board of Directors after six years serving as its Co-Chair, I’ve been asked to reflect on the first time I thought ELM’s ministry was worth supporting. What an odd question– considering it was ELM (and its predecessor bodies, Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project) that first thought my ministry was worth supporting. I entered the ELCA’s candidacy process in 1998 and was removed from that same process in 2004 for being openly gay and unwilling to endorse the denomination’s former policies of exclusion. In spite of all my training and preparation, the ELCA wasn’t able to support my ministry. ELM was.

I was first rostered for ordained ministry by the Extraordinary Candidacy Project in 2005. This community, the ELM community, was the first to step out and publicly support my ministry – and I have been publicly, and financially, supporting the work of ELM ever since. Even now, having been received onto the ELCA’s roster of ordained clergy in 2010, I continue to give my time and my treasures to support the work of ELM because I know that publicly-identified LGBTQ seminarians, rostered lay leaders and clergy need a well-funded and organized network to support and sustain them in their ministries as they change hearts and minds across this church, one person at a time.

Erik Christensen serves on the Board of Directors for ELM and is finishing his term as Co-Chair later this month.  He lives in Chicago, IL and is pastor at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square.  

Speakers & workshop leaders at the 2012 Proclaim retreat

Keynote Speaker:BishopRobinson__042
The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, IX Bishop of New Hampshire
(Photo credit to BProud Photography, Philadelphia)

V. Gene Robinson was elected Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire on June 7,
2003, having served as Canon to the Ordinary (Assistant to the Bishop) for nearly 18 years. He
was consecrated a Bishop on All Saints Sunday, November 2, 2003, and was invested as the
Ninth Bishop of New Hampshire on March 7, 2004.

A 1969 graduate of the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, he has a B.A. in American
Studies/History. In 1973, he completed the M.Div. degree at the General Theological Seminary
in New York, was ordained deacon, and then priest, serving as Curate at Christ Church,
Ridgewood, New Jersey. Upon moving to New Hampshire in 1975, Gene co-owned and directed
an ACA accredited horseback riding summer camp for girls. As Founding Director of Sign of
the Dove Retreat Center, in Temple, New Hampshire, he led retreat programs for vestries,
diocesan committees, intergenerational groups, and all kinds of parish groups.

From 1978 to 1985, Gene was Youth Ministries Coordinator for the seven dioceses of New
England, serving two years on the National Youth Ministries Development Team, where he
helped originate the national Episcopal Youth Event. From 1983 until his election as bishop,
Gene also served as Executive Secretary of Province I, coordinating all cooperative programs
between the seven dioceses of New England.

Clergy wellness has long been a focus of Gene=s ministry, and in the nineties he developed the
ABeing Well in Christ@ conference model for The Cornerstone Project, and led clergy conferences
in over 20 dioceses in the U.S. and Canada. He initiated “Fresh Start,” a two-year mentoring
program for all clergy in new positions in New Hampshire, and co-authored the Fresh Start
curriculum, now in use in nearly half of the dioceses of the Episcopal Church. Much of his
ministry has focused on helping congregations and clergy, especially in times of conflict,
utilizing his skills in congregational dynamics, conflict resolution and mediation.

Co-author of three AIDS education curricula for youth and adults, Gene has done AIDS work in
the United States and in Africa (Uganda and South Africa). He has been an advocate for antiracism
training in the diocese and wider Church. He helped build the Diocese of New
Hampshire=s close working partnership with the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund,
advocated for debt relief for the world’s most impoverished nations, and lobbied for socially responsible
investment within and beyond the Church. He is a past member of the Board of the
New Hampshire Endowment for Health, which works for access to health care for the uninsured.
Bishop Robinson currently serves as a Trustee of the Church Pension Fund and a board member
of the NH Children’s Alliance. He holds two honorary doctorates and has received numerous
awards from national civil rights organizations. His story is featured in the 2007 feature-length
documentary, “For the Bible Tells Me So.” In 2008 Gene’s book “In the Eye of the Storm: Swept
to the Center by God” (Seabury Books, New York) was released.

Bishop Robinson has been active particularly in the area of full civil rights for gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgender people. Working at the state, national and international levels, he has
spoken and lobbied for equal protection under the law and full civil marriage rights. He has been
honored by many LGBT organizations for this work, including the Human Rights Campaign, the
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, GLAD, NH
Civil Liberties Union, GLAAD, and the Equality Forum.

Bishop Robinson was invited by Barack Obama to give the invocation at the opening inaugural
ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18, 2009. He is the subject of a new
documentary film “Love Free or Die: How the Bishop of New Hampshire is Changing the
World” which will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, 2012. The Bishop’s next
book, God Believes in Love: Straight Talk about Gay Marriage, will be published by Alfred
Knopf in the fall of 2012.

Gene enjoys entertaining and cooking, gardening, music and theatre. He is the father of two
grown daughters and the proud grandfather of two granddaughters. He lives with his husband,
Mark Andrew, who is employed by the State of New Hampshire’s Department Health & Human


The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, professor at California Lutheran University, “Queering Lutheran Theology”

guy erwin headshotDr. Guy Erwin, who joined the CLU faculty in the summer of 2000, is the first full-time holder of CLU’s first endowed chair, the Gerhard and Olga J. Belgum Chair of Lutheran Confessional Theology. He also serves as Director of the Segerhammar Center for Faith and Culture. In the 2004-05 and 2005-06 academic years he served as CLU faculty chair. As holder of the Belgum Chair, he serves as a member of the CLU Office of University Ministries, coordinating the work of the Chair, the Segerhammar Center, Campus Ministry, and Church Relations. At present he also serves as an elected member of the University’s Appointment, Rank, and Tenure committee.

In addition to a survey course in the history of Christianity, Prof. Erwin teaches seminar courses on topics in medieval, Reformation, and early modern history and theology, including very popular seminars on the life and thought of Martin Luther and St. Augustine’s City of God. Almost all of his courses are cross-listed in both Religion and History, and he occasionally teaches courses in the History department on modern German history and Scandinavian history. He also offers instruction on liturgy and worship in cooperation with the Music Department and occasionally teaches ecclesiastical Latin as a tutorial.

Erwin is a native of Oklahoma and an active member of the Osage Tribe of Indians. He is a member of a number of scholarly societies, a loyal alumni volunteer of his various alma maters, and enjoys book collecting, the study of genealogy, opera, letterpress printing, and his Jardine’s parrot. Dr. Erwin is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; he and his partner Rob Flynn are members of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in North Hollywood, CA, and are very active in Lutheran circles locally, nationally, and internationally.

Emily Ewing, Joel R. Workin Scholar, seminary student at LSTC, “Nonviolent Peacemaking in a Culture of Violence”Emily Ewing

Emily Ewing is in her second year of seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Originally from Vail, Colorado she graduated from Luther College in 2009 and spent a year living in eastern Slovakia working with Roma through the ELCA’s Young Adults in Global Mission program. Emily is also very excited and proud to be one of this year’s Joel R. Workin Scholars.

Laura Kuntz, Joel R. Workin Scholar, seminary student at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, “Rituals for Renewal and Self-Care”

Laura KuntzLaura 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. She is completing an internship at Lake Park Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After the internship she will return to Trinity Lutheran Seminary to finish her degree.

Ross Murray, Director of Religion, Faith & Values at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), “GLBTQ Voices of Faith in the Media”

Ross Murray is the Director of Religion, Faith & Values at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Ross MurrayDefamation (GLAAD). In his work at GLAAD, he amplifies pro-LGBT voices of faith. Ross holds a BA in Youth & Family Ministry from Augsburg College and a MA in Outreach & Discipleship from Luther Seminary. He has worked with youth and families in rural parishes, camps, multicultural urban congregations, college campuses, and has presented models of youth & family ministry all over the country. Additionally, Ross is the Program Director of The Naming Project, a faith-based LGBT youth group in Minnesota. Ross is especially interested in helping people cultivate a holistic identity that includes sexuality and spirituality.

The Rev. Heidi Neumark, pastor Trinity Lutheran Church, New York, New York, “Living Beloved Community”

h.neumarkPastor Heidi Neumark currently serves Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan (ELCA). Trinity is a multicultural community with ministries that include: Mujeres en Progreso, a Latina support group, the Creative Learning Center after school program and Trinity Place, a shelter for homeless queer youth. Heidi also enjoys writing.

Her experiences in congregational and community ministry in the South Bronx led to her book, Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx. Presently, Heidi is working on a book about her discovery of Jewish roots and her grandfather’s death in a concentration camp. Heidi is married to Gregorio Orellano and they are the parents of Ana and Hans. Heidi is excited to share how the multicultural/class nature of Trinity lent itself to the launching of Trinity Place Shelter.

Rick Ufford-Chase, co-director Stony Point Retreat Center, “Ministry on the Borders”

Rick Ufford-Chase has served as the Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, an organization that has a Rick Ufford-Chasesixty year history of supporting Presbyterians who take bold action for the cause of peace. Rick has worked on the US/Mexico border for twenty years where he founded and directed BorderLinks and worked in a variety of efforts to support migrants and refugees in the borderlands. He and his wife, Kitty, are reservists with Christian Peacemaker Teams, and they continue to work to create humane border and migration policy.

Rick served the Presbyterian Church as the Moderator of the 216th General Assembly, the church’s highest elected office, from 2004 -2006. As a result, he continues to work with Presbyterian congregations to support their efforts to engage in mission with partners around the world, to become effective multi-cultural communities of faith, to move their members into active peacemaking efforts, and to develop leadership for the next generation of church.

Rick and Kitty have a son, Teo, born in 1995 and have now made their home at Stony Point, New York.

Friday Evening Entertainment:

Peter Donnelly

pdonnelly02_lrgPeter Donnelly’s music does not easily fit into any particular genre: a pinch of folk, a dash of pop, an occasional sprinkling of rock, and a whole lot of heart. Perhaps the one consistent thing about Peter’s music is that he sings about life, life as others see it, life as he sees it, and life as he would like to see it.

Peter is strongly influenced by the music of Greg Brown, Shawn Colvin, and Leonard Cohen, just to mention a few. With a distinct vocal quality, which cannot be overstated, he weaves lyric and melody with dexterity and artistry. Warm, intimate ballads and courageous, unapologetic and often humorous songs reflecting a myriad of contemporary topics are expertly melded with life’s little anecdotes into a very personal and thoroughly memorable performance.

Among his many projects, Peter is very proud to have been one of the originators (and still the current host) of Provincetown’s “Coffeehouse at the Mews.” For over a decade, this weekly ‘open mic’ (which runs from November through May) has been providing an open stage for budding and established musicians, writers, poets and other performance artists to practice their craft in front of a live audience.  Peter was also part of the trio Comfortable Shoes which performed across the country.

Peter and his partner live in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

ELM Ministry Grant in Action: East Bay Lutheran Youth Program (Oakland)

Praying at the Altar at Hope Lutheran Church of the Sierras on the Annual Snow Retreat Jan 27, 2012

This year ELM donors are supporting the East Bay Lutheran Youth Program, a  joint youth ministry program led by Proclaim member Rev. Craig Minich.

The EBLYP had a busy holiday season and is kicking off 2012 with a flurry of activity. The EBLYP is made up of youth from grades 3 to 12 and their families. December was full of bowling, ice skating and Christmas events. The senior high youth (SNL) held two fundraisers in preparations for their journey to New Orleans in July for the National Youth Gathering and the Multi-Cultural Youth Leadership Event. One fundraiser was a Parent’s Night Out baby-sitting fundraiser organized by the high school aged group SNL, Pastor Craig shares:

“We set up a Christmas tree with the kids, and made home-made decorations to hang on it. We played games, prayed, baked Christmas cookies for Christmas Eve family service with chefs Mitchell and Tim, and settled down to watch a movie. On December 10th (the very next morning) SNLers hosted an all EBLYP church Breakfast with Santa! Our youth made bacon and pancakes and served fruit for breakfast, made ornaments at the craft table with the kids, and we were visited by Santa himself promptly at 10 am (this time of season he is a busy guy!). It was really endearing to see all the kids get their pictures with Santa and raise some money in the process!! ”

In both December and January youth served meals for elderly homeless  folks at St. Mary’s Place. 2012 looks to be a very busy year for this ministry and your support helps makes ministry like this happen.