Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries joyfully announces the 2012 Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholars, Rebecca Seely and Asher O’Callaghan. ELM named two scholars this year thanks to a generous gift.
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.
ELM congratulates and gives thanks for these two scholars.
Becca has been involved with social justice issues for many years. She recently graduated from Yale Divinity School in New Haven, Connecticut. She will be fulfilling her Lutheran Year at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary next year. Last year, Becca completed an internship as a chaplain at the Christian Hospital in St. Louis, MO. Becca received her undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, with a focus on European literature, history and philosophy and a minor in Jewish and Israel Studies.
While attending Wesleyan University Becca had her “own Damascus experience” while reading the Bible and classic Christian theology. She realized she was called to ministry. In her essay for the Workin Scholar program, Becca wrote,
“Reading about Jesus, I thought to myself, I believe this. I believe this crazy, amazing story. Everything I thought I knew about Christianity, about God, began to change, to become clearer. And Jesus Christ wasn’t opposed to justice—he is the one bearing the light. The dichotomy fell apart. The prison bars around my heart were opened. More fully myself than ever, I began anew in faith.”
Pastor Jeff Johnson serves on the scholarship committee and was a close friend of Joel Workin’s. Jeff said, “Becca has a way with words and images which for those privileged to have known Joel remind us a bit of him, who so loved language.”
Becca feels strongly that her coming out story and conversion story are forever linked as they are stories of new beginnings. Becca is passionate about creating open, diverse and safe spaces for all. When notified she received the scholarship Becca said:
“I feel incredibly blessed and honored to be named a Joel R. Workin Scholar and I am incredibly excited to learn, grow and serve with the ELM and Proclaim communities in this role over the next year.”
The scholarship committee felt that through her voice and unique experience they have discovered one who proudly gives voice to Joel’s memory and legacy for this coming year.
Asher came to the Lutheran church via House For All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. In 2011 he finished his graduate coursework at Iliff School of Theology in Denver and begins at Luther Seminary this fall. Asher has a focus on service to others through mission work, caring for those with mental health concerns, and making personal witness as a person who found Christ anew in Lutheran liturgy and theology.
“I can’t help but take off my shoes and commend my feet to go and do likewise for the sake of others receiving what was offered to me at the queer-friendly church I incredulously stumbled into a couple years ago. There I saw bread being broken and heard words that shattered my heart and transformed my life: Beloved child of God: Behold who you are. Become what you have received.”
Asher brings an international perspective into his ministry work since he spent the summer of 2007 in South Africa and Swaziland. He collaborated with local mission partners and the 11 other members of his team to design and implement day programs, HIV/AIDS educational presentations, events, and activities for youth. Additionally, he worked to empower individuals recovering from mental illness by accompanying, supervising, and working alongside of them while volunteering at Boulder Mental Health Center for 2 years in college.
When asked how it feels to be named a Workin scholar Asher replied,
It is such an honor to receive this scholarship. I use the word “honor” because it’s not something I feel I get to deserve or earn but rather something that I simply get to receive. Joel’s prophetic yet pastoral voice was a blessing to the church and a hopeful blessed witness for LGBTQ individuals. The opportunity I have to be pursuing a path in ministry is a direct result of the work that’s already been done by Joel and other LGBTQ folks who have lived as God’s witnesses, prophets, and servants to the church. I feel profoundly humbled, convicted, honored, and blessed to continue in this heritage of proclamation—with every aspect of my calling, ministry, and identity.
The scholarship committee recognized in Asher a voice that is, like Joel’s, fearless and prophetic in its Gospel proclamation.
Save the date for the 2013 Proclaim Retreat at Bishop’s Ranch in Sonoma, CA from April 12-15, 2013.
This is a beautiful retreat center about 90 minutes north of San Francisco. The center includes a spacious pavilion for our plenary sessions and break out groups. It also has a chapel space that Proclaim can use exclusively for worship. There will be a variety of housing options. Children are welcome, and kids 2 and under are free.
Go to elm.org/retreat for information over the coming months. On that page you are able to sign up for email and text alerts about the retreat.
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 and the Advent Lutheran (New York City) Mission Fund for their generous support of the Proclaim program. Learn more about Proclaim by visiting www.elm.org/proclaim.
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 Carolyne Schultz about when she first thought our ministry was worth supporting and why she’s continued to invest in our mission. In Carolyne’s words:
I like to jokingly refer to myself as an ELCA “lifer.” Growing up a pastor’s kid, I was surrounded by opportunities to be involved in church both within my congregation and at the national level. These led me to an active role in Youth Ministries. Often, my attention was drawn to the realities of dual oppressions as the interconnectedness of individual struggles within the dominant structures of the ELCA. While I often felt comfortable and safe within my church community a part of me also felt the tensions of being a multiracial, lesbian young woman.
What initially drew me to ELM is the organization’s commitment to anti-oppression work and social justice on all levels of the church body—a call to not leave behind our brothers and sisters in Christ after policy change—a recognition that our church, just like each of us, remains imperfect.
As a social worker at a non-profit in Denver, CO I often dialogue with colleagues and clients who believe that “the church”, that religion, is hostile toward LGBTQ identified people. There are too many examples of “the church” not exemplifying the everlasting and enduring love of Christ but instead embodying shame, guilt and judgment. Sometimes, many of the times, they are right. We talk about the church, the ELCA, needing to change—needing to be more open, more accepting, needing to be more inclusive. But change is difficult, especially when you don’t know where to start. I support and I give to ELM because the organization emboldens the work of publicly identified LGBTQ seminarians, pastors and rostered lay leaders who are changing the church from the inside, one heart, one congregation and one community at a time. ELM is an investment in change and an investment in a better ELCA that welcomes and accepts us all.
Carolyne Schultz serves on the Board of Directors for ELM. She lives in Denver and recently completed a Masters in Social Work with the University of Michigan.
IAM advocates that South African religious communities become more welcoming and affirming towards LGBTQ people. IAM works as a catalyst, interacting both with the religious faith communities and the gay community, building bridges through its programming and projects. IAM was an Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries grant recipient for a number of years and has strong ties to the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community as an ally in the United States.
The evening will include a status update of the movement for inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ people in Christian churches and general society in South Africa and elsewhere in southern Africa. The video “Created In the Image of God” will also be shown. For more information contact: office(at)stlukesLS.org.