By Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director
I am bursting to tell you about the Proclaim gathering last week. Wow. A flood of images and words are coming to me as I try to convey to you the experience of being with these 70 LGBTQ rostered leaders, seminarians and their families for four days of reflection, learning, worship and community-building.
It was marvelous.
There will be more stories and photos in the coming days. For now, I want to share that the Proclaim community is filled with gifted and committed leaders who are ready to take risks for the Gospel–to boldly proclaim God’s unwavering message of fearless welcome to all.
Pastor Aaron Decker shared these words when reflecting on the retreat: “Gathering into this community is like a second coming out. Many years ago, I began the process of accepting and loving myself for who I am. In that, I knew, mentally, that God loved me. But at the Proclaim retreat, I really felt for the first time that God’s love was for me, all of me, every part of my being. The Spirit is truly active in this community, and She is transforming lives!”
Aaron and others shared their experience of a deepened sense of call and a commitment to more boldly proclaim God’s word to all people.
You support this work through your contributions to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Every dollar makes experiences like the Proclaim retreat a reality–and in turn you are affecting ministry throughout the church. Thank you to our wonderful supporters for making this happen! We give thanks especially to the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation for their generous support of the Proclaim program. Learn more about Proclaim by visiting www.elm.org/proclaim.
Mike has been a long time supporter and leadership volunteer for ELM and its predecessor bodies. The Board and staff enthusiastically welcome him to this new role.
Mike writes, “Since 1990, my spouse Judy and I have actively supported ELM’s mission and work. By our personal experience, prayer and study we are convinced that the ministers and ministries of ELM proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ compassionately and courageously.” He previously served as a board member and co-chair of Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries and Call Process Coordinator for ELM. Mike was elected to a three-year term on the board and will share the Co-Chair role with the Rev. Jen Nagel.
Mike currently serves as senior pastor at Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill and resides in Washington, D.C. with his family. Prior to his current call, Mike served as president of Lutheran Volunteer Corps for over six years. Ordained in 1995, he also served congregations in New York and California.
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 ELM Board Member Vance Blackfox about when he first thought our ministry was worth supporting and why he’s continued to invest in our mission. In Vance’s words:
I have had the privilege of working with and for youth and young adults in the church for most of my professional career. It was my ministry and devotion to caring and advocating for youth that kept me from being more fully engaged in working with organizations that were focused on justice issues related to the welcome and inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church, the ELCA specifically. My call to youth ministry kept me too busy, so I felt. I worked very hard to stay focused on the youth groups and young leaders that I had the privilege of journeying with in ministry.
Of course, I knew there were organizations like Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project who were working on behalf of the excluded, myself included, and who were making it possible for LGBTQ voices to be represented at the table. It was not long after the merger and creation of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries that I began to realize that some of the LGBTQ youth that I had journeyed with into their adulthood and who were now discerning vocational calls as adults, might be called to ordained ministry and wouldn’t be able to be fully themselves, as God intended, and be a pastor in the ELCA at the same time.
While I am not called to ordained ministry, I had come to realize that my passion for youth justice meant that I needed to offer myself to the work that would help open the door for their journey to ordained ministry and for a greater welcome in the ELCA. I was invited soon after this epiphany to serve on the board of directors for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, and have been blessed to be a part of a ministry and movement that has changed the Church and has changed me, for the better.
“It is a privilege to serve with all of the folks who have been doing this work for many, many years. I do this work and support ELM to honor them and to prepare for those who will come after us. Wado (Thank you).
Vance Blackfox serves on the Board of Directors for ELM and is the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Vance, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, lives in Chicago and is a student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
The 2012 application for the Joel Workin Scholarship is now available. This award comes with a scholarship for LGBTQ seminarians who embody Joel’s passion for justice and faith in their lives and ministry. In addition, the Scholar may be invited throughout the year to be involved with various ELM activities. This award is open to all LGBTQ seminarians who are members of Proclaim. Click here for a Proclaim membership form. It comes with a $1,000 scholarship which may be used for tuition, educational costs, spiritual and professional development, and candidacy expenses.
The Joel R. Working Memorial Scholarship Endowment Committee includes Joel’s friends and former classmates, the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson and Greg Egertson; friend and former co-worker, Michael Nelson; first Workin recipient, the Rev. Jen Rude; and ELM Executive Director, Amalia Vagts. We warmly invite you to apply or encourage eligible persons to do so. Go here for the application.
The application deadline is Friday, May 4 and all materials must be submitted electronically this year to Director@elm.org. We will announce the recipients May 29th (on Joel’s birthday).
If you would like to make a gift designated for the Joel R. Workin Endowment Fund, please contact Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director at email@example.com or 563-382-6277. Please consider making a planned gift from your estate to this fund.
Rev. Anita Hill will join the staff of Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) as Regional Director for Minnesota and the Dakotas on May 1, 2012. LC/NA advocates and organizes for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and global partners. Anita will be working on the LC/NA effort to educate Minnesota Lutherans toward the defeat of the proposed anti-LGBT marriage amendment to the state constitution which will come before the people on November 6, 2012. She will also co-chair LC/NA’s committee working at the intersection of oppressions. Anita is a member of Proclaim, the professional community for publicly-identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians.
Anita Hill currently serves as a pastor to St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran church in Minnesota. Anita was extraordinarily ordained in 2001 and was a member of the historic Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster. Her final Sunday at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church will be April 29th.