This week, Proclaim reached an important milestone: 100 members! Proclaim is a community for Lutheran pastors, rostered leaders & seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ. Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. You can learn more about Proclaim, see the full list of those in Proclaim, and get information about joining here: www.elm.org/proclaim.
Proclaim is a living witness of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ core belief that ministry by people who publicly and joyfully identify as LGBTQ is one way to change the church and society to become a place more fully inclusive of all people. We believe God’s Great Welcome Table is open to all, and that all kinds of people, including those of all sexual orientations and gender identities, are called to receive and share God’s gifts.
This community is proclaiming the good news for all people each day, in congregations, on the street, at hospital bedsides, in the classroom, on the bus, and in all sorts of places to all kinds of people.
Proclaim includes people from the Historic ELM Roster, ELCA pastors and rostered lay leaders, ELCA candidates awaiting call, seminary and divinity school students, and retired pastors. Proclaim is open to all rostered leaders from all Lutheran denominations.
Here are a few Proclaim Voices…
Today we hear from guest blogger, Amanda Nelson. Amanda is a member of Proclaim and lives in the Saratoga, CA area.
2012 ELCA Youth Gathering: Citizens with the Saints
The first ELCA National Youth Gathering I attended as a young person was the 2003 National Gathering in Atlanta, Georgia. There are many things I remember about that week, especially the un-godly heat and humidity; but one memory that continues to stand out to me was the professional quality of the evening program at the Georgia Dome. I remember thinking: these are great musicians, these video clips look professionally done, these speakers are really impressive people, and so on. I thought to myself: “Wow, the ELCA must really care about us youth if they spent this much time and money to provide us with such an incredible experience.”
Attending that gathering was a highly influential event in my life and certainly played a part in my discernment of a call to ministry. There was something powerful about interacting with the church in the form of thousands of youth just like me. I finally felt like I saw myself reflected in the church.
Attending the 2012 National Youth Gathering this week in New Orleans has been no less of a magical experience. It’s certainly different experiencing the gathering as a seminarian and budding minister of the church. But there was another difference which was not present when I attended the gathering in 2003: the explicit welcome and intentional empowerment of young LGBT Lutherans.
I attended the National Gathering on behalf of my school, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. The eight ELCA Seminaries have sponsored a “Hot Spot” at the New Orleans Convention Center where students engage in a number of different programs and activities as a part of their “Practice Peacemaking” experience. The significance of a queer woman representing an ELCA seminary has not passed me by. But, there is also a booth sponsored by Reconciling Works where the youth can make a pledge not to bully others. After making this pledge, they are given a dog-tag necklace with a Reconciling Works logo on it. I have seen that necklace on countless young people as they’ve passed by my station.
But that’s not all.
In the evenings, at the Superdome, I’ve been able to attend three of the evening programs which feature incredible musicians, professional-quality video clips, and inspirational speakers – like the ones that made such an impression on me in Atlanta. But this time it’s different too. Every night, there has been a speaker that has spoken to the need for the inclusion and empowerment of LGBT people. Persons such as Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shane Claiborne, Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee and openly-gay, anti-bullying advocate Jamie Nabozny have spoken to this affect from the main stage of the Superdome: the one time during the week when all of the youth are in the same place at the same time. Equally amazing is the response from the young people: 35,000 young people from around our diverse nation, erupting in applause and cheers at the mere mention of LGBT inclusion.
I’ve been speechless. I’ve had tears running down my face. I’ve sat back in awe. And I’ve been so incredibly grateful that, three years after the ELCA’s decision, I have finally experienced such an explicit and enthusiastic welcome. A welcome extended to every queer-identified person in that audience, and in some ways to me. Now, not only can youth see themselves reflected in the church as I did back in 2003, but LGBT youth can see their reflections in that same church.
As I look at the youth in the Superdome and watch as they walk by my station in the Convention Center, I’m reminded of how difficult a time in one’s life adolescence is: some boys have had their growth spurts and are too tall to know what to do with their lanky limbs; some boys haven’t quite gotten their spurt yet and are doing everything they can to look bigger and older; some girls have matured physically and try to show off their physical appearance while still others try to hide what they think makes them different; pimples plague some faces while some young people seem to never have known their evil ways. This is a tough time in your life physically, which reminds me all the more of how tough it is socially and emotionally.
For all the conversations and speeches that have been made about bullying and for all the pledges that have been made: I’m no fool, and I know that there is bullying happening here at this gathering. Afterall, we’re saints and sinners. But a seed has been planted here in New Orleans. As a city that is full of hope, rebirth, and restoration, I can’t help but think that the youth of the ELCA are walking away with a little bit of all of that. And, I couldn’t be more excited.
Amanda Nelson is a student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and will be starting her internship this fall at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Saratoga, CA. Amanda is a Candidate for Ordained Ministry through the New England Synod of the ELCA.
Today we hear from guest blogger, Rev. Jay Wiesner a member of the Proclaim community currently living in the Philadelphia area.
Guarding Against Illusory Hope
Eight years ago, on July 25, the Feast Day of St. James, I was ordained into the Ministry of Word & Sacrament. Sometimes it feels to me like it was just yesterday and other times it feels like it was twenty years ago. I never know what to make of the day, because my ordination was filled with so many strange sights and happenings. There are precious few ordinations that witness news cameras, picket signs, and the like. Very few pastors get the chance to be condemned by religious fanatics and zealots on the day that they officially enter into this vocation. I remember walking into our worship space we were utilizing that morning with picket signs on one side to the entrance. As I was walking in I heard someone shout out: “Bring out that faggot Wiesner!” My humor protected me from what I was feeling: “At least they pronounced my name correctly.” And Pastor Anita Hill held onto me and told me to go inside; that I didn’t need to hear these words on this day.
Truth be told, I don’t remember much from the day. After so many cameras in your face and questions raised by news reporters, it is hard to. Every once in a while, I have to go back and look at the worship folder for my ordination and remind myself what I have promised to do.
The final charge that is given right before those gathered are asked whether or not they will support the newly ordained is powerful and daunting: “Care for God’s people, bear their burdens and do not betray their confidence. So discipline yourself in life and teaching that you preserve the truth, giving no occasion for false security or illusory hope. Witness faithfully in word and deed to all people. Give and receive comfort as you serve within the Church. And be of good courage, for God has called you, and your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
Illusory hope seems to be all the world can give these days. Hope in the weapons that will “protect” us. Hope in the latest technological device that will make our lives “simpler” and “more complete”. Hope in money earned that will keep our lives “secure”.
Pastors are not supposed to be in that business of illusory hope, even though we find ourselves in the same atmosphere that breathes these “hopes” as everyone else. I don’t think that there is a pastor alive who doesn’t succumb at times to these false dreams of “security” and “blessing”. What makes it even more vexing is that Jesus has been warped by many to reflect these illusory hopes that we are to guard against.
I think that there are times in my life when I have created an illusory hope of my own. I can’t speak for my fellow LGBT sisters and brothers who have walked in similar shoes; I can only speak for myself. There are times when I have held onto a hope (without fully admitting it, mind you) that I have the power to be able to communicate to the Church and world that LGBT pastors are just as good as our heterosexual, cisgender pastors. Yes, little old me. Trying to hold onto this hope that I have what it takes to make all the wrongs become rights within this “issue” can be exhausting and damaging to my soul. It is the reason that I hear a voice inside of my soul say: “You’re the reason why the Church is at war. You’re the reason why so many people are angry.”
Nowhere in the liturgy of my ordination service did it say: “Spend hours, days, months, and years of your life proving to the world that you are just as good as other pastors and people within the body of Christ who claim that you have no business here today. Bend over backwards to legitimize your standing in the Church.” Instead, it said things like: Pray. Study, read, and live the Scriptures. Nourish the Church with the Word and Sacraments. Let God’s love be known in all that you do. There’s no illusory hope in any of that. Instead, there’s a whole lot of real hope grounded in Christ, whose foolish message of the kingdom of God is the wisdom that changes everything this world builds up and proclaims.
On this eighth anniversary marking the day when I was set apart to the office of Word and Sacrament, I give thanks and I let go. I give thanks for all of those wise and broken saints and sinners that have nurtured the faith I have received from the Holy Spirit in Jesus. I give thanks for their love, words, and deeds. And I let go of any hare-brained idea that I have what it takes to make all of the misunderstanding and discrimination be wiped away, because I don’t. No one does, save for one. That is the one who equips all of us:
“The God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of eternal covenant, equip you with everything good so that you may do God’s will, working in you that which is pleasing in God’s sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
The Rev. Jay Wiesner was extraordinarily ordained on July 25, 2004. He served as pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis from 2004-2008. Jay was a member of the ELM Roster until he was received onto the ELCA Clergy Roster in 2010. Jay is a co-founder of The Naming Project, a faith-based youth group serving youth of all sexual and gender identities. Jay is a member of Proclaim and has served as pastor of University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation in Philadelphia since 2008.
ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation cordially invites you:
Saturday, August 11, 2012; 2:00 pm
Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church
1669 Arcade St N St Paul MN 55106-1041
Preaching: The Rev. Bradley Schmeling
Presiding: The Rev. Bonnie Wilcox
Installing: The Rev. Paul Erickson
All are welcome, without exception! Reception to follow.
Anita is known through the region and the U.S. for her integrity, compassion and pastoral identity as she has worked to advocate for the full inclusion of marginalized peoples into the mainstream of our society. Anita has an M.A. degree in Religious Studies and M. Div. Degree from United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
Anita was extraordinarily ordained in 2001. She was a member of the ELM Roster until she was received onto the ELCA Clergy Roster in a special “Rite of Reception” in the Saint Paul Area Synod on September 18, 2010, in a special celebration with ELM roster colleagues Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart. Anita is a member of the Proclaim community. Proclaim, a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, is a community for Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.
On Sunday, July 15 First United Lutheran in San Francisco took a historic vote to rejoin the ELCA. First United unanimously voted for the reunion. After calling openly gay pastor Jeff Johnson, First United was suspended in 1990, then expelled in 1995. Their actions, along with those of St. Francis Lutheran Church began the movement that became Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries, then the Extraordinary Candidacy Project and eventually to the formation of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. First United has been a voice for inclusion and expansive outreach and has been an active independent Lutheran congregation.
Rev. Susan M. Strouse is pastor of First United Lutheran Church. Pastor Susan was on the ELM Roster for a period of time when her call was in jeopardy because she was serving First United. You can read her blog here.
2012 ELM Grant recipient Grace Lutheran Church of Houston, TX ministry was profiled in The Lutheran Magazine. Grace Lutheran Church runs the ministry Grace Place, an organization that serves homeless youth in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston. Grace Place “provides a safe, welcoming environment for vulnerable homeless youth of all sexualities and gender identities, providing nourishment, healthy relationships and hope for the future. ” Grace Lutheran Church has been an ELM Grant recipient for three years.
Rev. Lura Groen, the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church asked to share this with ELM supporters:
“Thanks, ELM! You provided grant money that made ministry at Grace Lutheran possible, and it is more fun than I ever could have expected! Not only that, through Proclaim I was connected to other pastors doing tranformative homeless ministry. They inspired me, held me accountable, and were always on the other end of the phone when I needed advice. What a wonderful community ELM is for empowering God’s work in the world!”
Read more about Grace Lutheran Church here. Information about ELM’s 2013 Grant Cycle will be posted on our website at the end of July.
Huffington Post ran the article “How LGBT Summer Camps Shaped My Faith” written by Nicole Greer, a young LGBT advoacte about her experince at LGBT summer camps. The article features Wonderfully Made Camp and The Naming Project. Wonderfully Made Camp was created by University Lutheran in Philadelphia. The congregation is served by Proclaim member, the Rev. Jay Wiesner. One of the founding members of the camp was former ELM board member Fred Wolfe. The Naming Project is staffed and directed by Rev. Brad Froslee, Rev. Jay Wiesner and Ross Murray. Both Froslee and Wiesner are part of the Proclaim community.
The Naming Project and Wonderfully Made both strengthened my faith. Although the dynamics were different, both religious camps provided spaces for LGBT Christians. Not only did the camps allow attendees to feel safe being themselves, I found the environment to be a reaffirming sanctuary. I think that it is so important for LGBT Christian youth to have places in which they can be themselves and explore their faith and identity.