Angela Nelson

Guest Blogger: Angela Nelson

Guest blogger, Angela Nelson is a member of Proclaim, the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  Angela writes about what being approved for ordination and awaiting call can feel like.

Angela studied at  Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and currently lives in Massachusetts.

Angela Nelson 2013

Monday, January 21, 2013

Not sure how to name this post without it sounding cheesy or cliche’. But I know naming things is important, so I’m gonna throw some possibilities out there:

Ch-ch-ch-changes. Long and Winding Road. Love in Liminal Time. Hope After All. One Step at a Time. Peek-A-Boo.

Meh. I could probably think through some more, but blogs aren’t always the most thought out things. Come to think of it, blogs – or at least the way I blog – tend to be more the process than the finished product, up to the bitter end.  Thinking out loud for those who would like to listen in.

But I digress.

Which I’m pretty good at, actually. Digression. Which is why I’ve been posting my sermon manuscripts on my blog for the last month or so, as accountability for actually producing said manuscripts before I preach. That way, when I start rambling from the pulpit I can get back to the point by glancing down at these paragraphs which more and more serve as elaborate outlines rather than verbatim for presentation.

So on to that myriad of titles.

A year and a half ago my seminary had a minor implosion when a handful of hopeful MDiv’s-to-be asked some smattering of Bishops about potential call openings for our generation and received less than helpful responses. Granted, the Bishops were being honest about how they saw the state of the ELCA in their respective Synods. To be told that bartending is a legit outlet for ministry when you’ve sunk over $60K into a Master’s Degree and all of the psychological hoops and interviews required to be Ordained to ministry … like I said, it felt very much less than helpful. We spent weeks trying to figure out how to deal with the blow to our collective expectations that the church would find a way to get us into the callings they had painstakingly lead us through clearer discernment of. Those of us who were there for that first conversation came to refer to the day as ‘the Bishop’s Visit,’ much like folks refer to ‘Churchwide 2009′ as an indicator of one particular and thereafter controversial vote on a statement about human sexuality. There were other things discussed and voted on, other celebrations and gripes, but the one big thing which became all-consuming became the identifier for the event, and so it goes that we preserver on the negative far more easily and readily than on the good.

Again, I digress. Apologies.

But I digress in order to relay the time since passed in that light. The 14 months which have passed since that conversation and there are some fabulous new pastors who were part of that graduating class, and there are fabulous pastors-in-waiting who remain without call but not without ministry. It can really suck to prepare with such intensity and then be told to wait for an indefinite amount of time to put said training to its intended use. It can put one in a state of angst, anger, frustration, fear, grief… and all of the above at the same time plus some. Personally, I have at least landed a retail job, thanks to the generosity and trust of a dear friend who is lending me the use of a spare room rent-free while I was job hunting. But looking at this job I do not intend to remain in forever and looking at the dearth of prospects for a queer woman with over $60K in student debt (and climbing!) to find a livable wage in this economy while waiting for a call which could snatch me up at any time (yes, please, any time now!)… It has had its ups and downs. Certainly, nothing new to the experience of anyone with a call to ministry. Certainly mild to compare with the histories of those brave Lutherans and women and LGBTQIA folks whose sweat, tears, prayers and lives have opened doors to me in this process. Still, it has been enough to put into my mind how many other career options might be open to me, with a little elbow grease and some creative networking. Theater? Peace Corps? Elder care?

SO! (and this is a good move here, hang on)

Moving to a new location has had its benefits. New landscape to scope out, hiking trails to discover (which feed my soul in times of plenty and of want), libraries to explore, people to meet. And a local sermon-prep time with area preachers who have embraced me as one of their own and invited me, with their generous offer to preside for free, to supply preach when I can. (One of the retired clergy in this preacher group saw my eagerness to preach and volunteered to preside any Sunday I could supply, since practically every New England parish has weekly Eucharist and I’m not Ordained yet.)

And then!

And then one of those area preachers needed a longer-term supply preacher. Six weeks’ worth of long-term, for the season of Advent and into the first part of Epiphany. Meaning I got Sundays of Advent AND Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. With the Bishop’s blessing I have been able to join a parish community for the long-term supply, preaching and leading worship weekly, getting to know these dear people and some of their beautiful uniquenesses. Last Sunday was my final Sunday with them, and the handmade cards I got from the Sunday School, the needlepoint of Galatians 5 I received from one of the women, the card from the parish as a whole with a gift certificate, the hugs, the serenade (they sang “So Long, Farewell” as I left coffee hour), promises to let them know about where/when my Ordination/Installation would take place…

I do NOT mean to say that this Bishop is somehow a more worthy Bishop than those who visited my seminary over a year ago. Or to ‘stick it to the man’ in any way.

What I DO mean to say is that I have been blessed by God through this church in so many ways, embraced and welcomed (even with blue bangs for the duration of Advent), and in this waiting time I have received the gift of a place and a community to continue in my call of storytelling – sorry, Story-telling – that finding myself looking back on ‘the Bishops Visit’ I almost have to laugh and shake my head that our expectations of Grace are so small.

Is that what I mean to say? Yeah, I think so. On the other side of ‘cheap Grace,’ I think, is the expectation that Grace is smaller than it is.

It reminds me of Luther’s explanation on the Lord’s Prayer where he says that we ask too little of God. Not that asking for a ‘typical’ first call is too little, but… but maybe it is. Maybe what we receive from the God who loved us into existence is so far out of our expectations that we can only handle asking for something considered ‘ordinary.’ Though I’ll bet those of my classmates whose call processes went as typically planned are finding nothing ‘ordinary’ about their ministry, either.

So: Ch-ch-ch-changes… I’m still waiting, still in ups and downs with my timeline, but it’s God’s timeline anyway so I’m learning to ride the (Baptismal) wave.

Long and Winding Road… Another Assignment is coming, in about a month. What will happen? I have no idea. I sure hope I’ve been clear enough on my paperwork this time that they don’t get me somewhere they don’t want to deal with me.

Love in Liminal Time… The only down side to all of this supply work is falling in love with a congregation and having such a short time with them.

Hope After All… Well, duh. No single person can speak for the whole of the church, the whole of the future, except Jesus. And I’m pretty sure the details are wide open on that one, apart from the “Kingdom of God is here” and “Death is NOT the last word” bit.

One Step at a Time… Yup. Even when those steps catch me off guard. Who was it who said faith is taking a step when you can’t see the staircase?

Peek-A-Boo… I’ve been having a blast with the kids at these churches, and it’s made Storytelling much more fun (and been a good excuse to dramatize the Gospel whenever possible – which the kids thanked me for!). Getting a peek at weekly preaching and recognizing faces at the Table has me excited to see what God sends along next. I definitely want more than just Sundays, though. Got to get a parish with some mid-week prayer and Bible Study. Heck, at this point I’d even look forward to council meetings! Let’s talk together about mission, people of God!

But, yes, I’m learning that what I envision might not be anything close to what I get, and that’s gonna have to be okay as long as there’s a way to be healthy in it. Probably it will be more than just okay once I let my guard down enough to live into it. More importantly, the right now is more than okay. That’s the kicker. We’re never idle and wasting time while we wait.

Because between graduation from seminary with that almighty MDiv and waiting for first call is also the continuation of our first and most powerful call: “Child of God, you have been marked with the sign of the cross, and sealed by the Holy Spirit forever.”

Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

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Proclaim Chaplains & January Devotion

Proclaim, the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ has three chaplains.  The chaplains welcome new Proclaim members and offer support to Proclaim members in need. The chaplains are selected by the Proclaim community at the retreat.  The current 3 chaplains are: Jeanne Reardon, Austin Newberry and Laura Kuntz.

Each month Austin writes a devotional for the Proclaim community.  Austin lives in Tallahassee, FL and is awaiting his first call.  We wanted to share this month’s devotional with you.

January Devotion by Austin Newberry

Austin NewberryJanuary 21, 2013 was a red letter day on my calendar, a trifecta of sorts. Two of the events that came together this past Monday are widely known, the observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and the second inaugural of Barak Obama. I want to start my reflection with the third, far less known, event.

On January 21st every year, a relative handful of Benedictine monasteries around the world who can trace their foundation back to the ancient Swiss Abbey of Einsiedeln, keep the memory of Meinrad, martyr of hospitality. A 10th century monk, Meinrad left his monastic community and lived as a hermit in what is now central Switzerland. His life was committed both to solitary prayer and the offering of hospitality in the name of Christ to travelers. Believing that he was hoarding a great treasure (gifts from pilgrims and travelers) in his hut, two robbers showed up, took advantage of his generous hospitality and then killed him in an act of senseless violence. Meinrad’s dying words were of forgiveness for his murderers. Like Christian martyrs before and sense, the hermit was a witness to Christ in his dying. The story of his death, first recounted by the very men who killed him, has been retold annually on January 21 for over a thousand years.

By coincidence, the annual U.S. “Monday holiday” observing the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fell on January 21st this year. We are all aware of the story of Dr. King’s life and the act of senseless violence that ended it. Dr. King, though a family man, also lived a somewhat solitary life as he traveled the land speaking out against injustice, pricking the consciences of his fellow Christians and advocating non-violent responses to oppression. Dr. King is also called a martyr, not simply a political martyr, but a Christian martyr in the fullest sense of the word – a witness of Christ by his death.

January 21st’s inauguration of President Obama’s second term was a momentous occasion in our nation’s history. A black man has been elected and then reelected as president of a nation still deeply wounded by racial strife a century and a half after the emancipation proclamation. No matter your political beliefs, the import of this event cannot be minimized. (I suspect that is why those who oppose Obama are so angry.) And, for those of us who are LGBTQ and our friends, families and allies, the president’s inclusion of some of us in his address was a momentous breakthrough, no matter how incomplete. We rejoice at how far we come even as we struggle to move forward.

In the face of the current political realities in our country and the many challenges faced by our nation and our world, the martyrs Meinrad and Martin speak a specifically Christian word of gospel to our situation. Forgive me for being so bold as to suggest some of the components of this message:

1. Christian life is a blend of community and solitude, contemplation and action.
2. Hospitality and justice are two sides of the same coin.
3. Intentional non-violence is a frightening but viable Christian and Christ-like response to the violence of our time.
4. Forgiveness of enemies is the path to genuine freedom.
5. Jesus Christ nowhere promised safety to those who take up the path of discipleship.

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Guest Blogger: Rev. Jenny Mason

Today we hear from  guest blogger Rev. Jenny Mason.  Jenny is a Proclaim member and is serving in a call from the Minneapolis Synod for specialized ministry.  Jenny served as a missionary in Chile for 10 years.  She currently lives in St. Paul with her partner Rev. Jodi Barry.

“Open to everyone that has a heart open enough to serve.”

This is the way that my dear friend Karen Anderson talked about the change in the ELCA policy in 2009 as she explained it to parishioners in Chile when I recently returned there for a visit with my partner Jodi. As many of you might know, I served as a missionary in Chile through the Division for Global Mission from 1991-2001, when I was unexpectedly removed from the roster by my bishop in the ELCA.  That action really didn’t make any sense to my parishioners in Chile, nor to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile which I served.  In Chile we didn’t talk about my sexual orientation, but it wasn’t a real shock to anyone when it was revealed in this way either.  I served happily and faithfully for ten years, and these sorts of policies are the kinds of things that the global church, at least the Latin American church, has little interest in.

When I was removed, one colleague said, “I didn’t know the ELCA was that backward.”  But that was then, and this is now.  In 2011 I was reinstated to the roster through a call from the Minneapolis Synod to specialized ministry, and in this way, when I returned to Chile, I was once again, an ordained pastor on the active roster of the ELCA.

Jenny and JodiJodi (on the left) and I traveled to Chile to celebrate the 30th anniversary of an amazing health education organization in Chile called EPES (Educacion Popular en Salud, or Popular Education in Health).  This organization, started under the auspices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile by my Global Mission colleague Karen Anderson, is committed to the promotion of the right to health and life with dignity.  Life with dignity includes honesty and transparency, and for that reason, when I returned to Chile and was invited to preside at the church’s celebration of the EPES’ anniversary, Karen wanted to be explicit about what it meant to have me there in that role.  I’ll include a few words from her introduction below:

“There are many reasons to celebrate today, but there is one reason which perhaps not all people know, and we want to be very explicit about this:  Ten years ago when we celebrated the 20th anniversary of EPES (Educación Popular en Salud—Popular Education in Health), we were also very affected by an extremely painful situation.  One of our pastors who had accompanied our staff and health groups and was really loved by our community, who had accompanied us both in difficult times and joyful ones for more than 10 years, was violently and suddenly removed from her ministry in Chile because of her sexual orientation.  She was a missionary of the ELCA.  We were all very touched by this because EPES, the health groups and the IELCH (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en Chile—Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile) had worked for many years for inclusion and just communities where no one was marginalized and where the gifts and treasures of all God’s creation could be celebrated.  So now 10 years later we are celebrating, we feel very proud and happy because in 2009 the same church in the US, the ELCA, voted to change this policy and open the pastors’ positions to all who have a heart open to serve!”

That was a great gift to me, and really, to all those in attendance.  When we can live openly and honestly about who we are, speak to our pain, and recognize that change is possible, hope grows within us and within our communities.  This is what keeps us working for change.  Throughout the service, many tears were shed, as former parishioners of mine came forward to receive the communion from their once-again pastor.  And for some, this was the first time they had worshiped and received communion since I was removed as their pastor in 2001.

Watch a video of the full service in Chile here.

Jenny Mason

Later in the service, we experienced another unexpected moment of grace, when the Pastor President of the church, similar to our title of bishop, Luis Rodriguez spoke:  “Friends, my first contact with EPES took place while I was still living in exile in Argentina….Upon returning to Chile, returning from exile, I was impacted by the work of EPES and worked with them.  And today as president of the Lutheran church, and representative of it, it is true what our colleague Lisandro (preacher for this worship service) said, that EPES is the lens through which we read the teachings of the church.  The IELCH (Iglesia Evangélica Luterana en Chile—Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile) presents itself as a very open church, but it is not always like that.  We are in a process.  In this process there are debts and pains.  Our own pains and the pains of others. EPES is our diaconal arm.  It is that for others too.  Happily, EPES doesn’t have to put on the Lutheran flag, but the human flag of dignity and value of every person for all persons and humbly we want to support all that work.

Also as pastor president of the church, I take on the silences of the church in the past.  (At this point, he called me forward and lifted my arm.)  We hope that all this pain gives fruit to more inclusion, and the expulsion of all hate and intolerance and arrogance that we can also as a church be welcoming of everyone with wide arms.  It is a challenge for all churches.  For all this, we ask for forgiveness to all who have been caused pain, when our rhetoric, our discourse is more open than our practice.”

Wow.  I wasn’t expecting that one.  The church actually apologizing to me?  It was powerful.  I was removed from the roster by a long-distance phone call, followed by a letter.  I was reinstated to the roster by another letter after the filling out of many papers, and a conversation with the bishop.  But, here, in a humble church service in Chile, a pastor who didn’t even live in Chile at the time I was removed, spoke in an official capacity as President of the church, and asked for forgiveness of all who had been caused pain when the church’s walk did not reflect its talk.  What a lesson.

Next month, at the RIC service in my home congregation, Grace University Lutheran, Minneapolis, I have been invited to preach.  And at that time, my pastors have asked to have a formal public rite to celebrate my reinstatement to the roster of ordained pastors.  I’m so pleased to say yes to this, because I hadn’t realized how necessary it was for me, and for the people of God.

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For a comprehensive list of resources for LGBTQIA+ candidates, as well as candidacy committees, call committees, internship sites, and more, please see our Resource Page.

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Listing of Proclaim members.

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Thinking About Coming Out?

Connect with people in Proclaim as you go through the coming out process as a rostered leader or seminarian.


BOOK:  “Dear God, I am Gay — thank you!”

Second Edition collection of essays and sermons by Joel Workin.  Amazing stuff!

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

VIDEO: A 3 minute video slideshow of the 2017 Proclaim Gathering. Watch here!



Mark Allred

Rev. Mark Allred new Program Director for American Indian & Alaska Native Ministries at ELCA

Mark AllredRev. Mark Allred, Proclaim member, has been named the new Program Director for American Indian and Alaska Native Ministries for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  Mark will begin the position this month in the Chicago ELCA office.

Mark is uniquely positioned to assist the churchwide organization in the advancement of the American Indian and Alaska Native Ministries program; with a focus in the areas of proclamation of the Gospel, Christian ministry in a holistic manner, and strengthening stewardship within the community.

Mark was ordained in July of 2011 at Alaska Native Lutheran Church  in Anchorage, Alaska.  He has served as the Director for Evangelical Mission in the Alaska Synod, pastor of the Alaska Native Lutheran Church in Anchorage and Economic Development Program Manager with the Alaska Native Regional Corporation.

We are extend our congratulations to Mark and look forward to hearing more about his work.

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2013 Proclaim Retreat Registration Open

Proclaim group photo 2012
ELM donors have helped build Proclaim, a vibrant community of nearly 120 publicly identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians.

Early registration is now open for the 2013 Proclaim Retreat!

The retreat will be held at Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, CA.  This retreat is open to members of Proclaim, significant others, and children.   There are 117 people in Proclaim.  This is the third annual Proclaim retreat.   For information on joining Proclaim go here.

Anyone who would like to learn more about Proclaim or attending the retreat can email ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts (

This year’s retreat, Wade in the Water, will feature keynote speaker, Bishop Yvette Flunder.

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  support of the Proclaim program.

ELM provides a scholarships to help defray the cost of registration for seminarians and those without call.   If you are interested in supporting a scholarship, please contact Amalia Vagts (

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2012 Year in Review: THANK YOU!


Join us in remembering the people, ministries and places our work impacted in 2012.  You can skim the list, or make some hot chocolate and catch up on stories you missed from the year.

Read what YOU helped achieve in 2012.


Proclaim, a professional community of Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ. has grown to 117 members in a year and a half.

We had a number of Proclaim members guest blog.  Below is a sample of their stories:

Sara Cogsil: Home in the Body of Christ

Brenda Bos: Why Our Message Matters

Rebecca Seely: LGBTQ student alliance groups on seminary campus

Cindy Crane: Spirit Day 2012 & bullying


Craig Minich: Reflections from New Orleans ELCA Youth Gathering

Cary Bass: A reflection on my wedding and marriage equality

The 2012 Proclaim Retreat: ¡Vamos Tod@s! was an important gathering of  over 70 LGBTQ rostered leaders, seminarians and their families.  The group met  for reflection, learning, worship and community-building. Read more about that gathering here. 

Registration opens Monday, January 7 for the 2013 Proclaim Retreat: Wade in the Water.  The keynote speaker for this year is Bishop Yvette Flunder.

For more on Proclaim go here.


2012 Mission Support:

With your help ELM donors have given away over $912,000 to ministry since the program began.

Some highlights from the Mission Support you provided this year:

East Bay Lutheran Youth Program, Pastor Craig Minich

EcoFaith Recovery; Portland, OR; Innovative environmental ministry; Pastor Robyn Hartwig

Grace Lutheran Church; Houston, TX; Pastor Lura Groen

Welcome and Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies; San Francisco Bay Area; National program for LGBTQ homeless teens; Pastor Megan Rohrer and Pastor Dawn Roginski

St. Luke’s Lutheran of Logan Square; Pastor Erik Christensen

Pastor Cindy Crane, Anti-bullying ministry in South Central Synod of Wisconsin

Set-Aside for 2012 Seminarian Internships– Brenda Bos, Cary Bass & Charles Edwin Weber.

For more about our Ministry Grants program go here.


Candidacy Accompaniment:

This year the program leaders made connections with all ELCA seminarians and a growing number of partner theological and divinity schools.  They area working with nearly 40 future leaders in the Lutheran church.

Because of your support we will be able to help some of the 20-30 seminarians looking for an internship congregation in Fall 2013.

We’re glad to announce the ELCA has provided us with a grant to develop resources materials for ELCA synodical and Churchwide staff and volunteers. Based on our history of working with LGBTQ candidates for ministry and the direct experiences of the Proclaim community.

For more about our Candidacy Accompaniment program go here. 


2012 Workin Scholars:

Each year ELM names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar 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.

Because of a special gift we named two Scholars this year: Rebecca Seely and Asher O’Callaghan read more here.

This year a new, updated 2nd edition of “Dear God, I am Gay — thank you!” by Joel Workin was released.

Noteworthy Highlights:

First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco rejoined the ELCA. 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.

Joe Graumann, member of Proclaim, was named an ELCA Fund for Leaders recipient.  He wrote about his experience on Living Lutheran and the ELM Blog.

Bradley Schmeling began his call at Gloria Dei in St. Paul.  Gloria Dei is now the largest Lutheran church in the nation with a pastor who is openly gay.

When Proclaim reached 109 members, Brenda Bos of the Proclaim Communications Duo wrote about the journey to become a Proclaim member.

Ordinations of Julie Boleyn, Tyler Rasmussen and Caleb Crainer took place in 2012.  Jen Rude was received by the ELCA roster and John Roberts was reinstated.

We celebrated our 5th year as Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries! Amalia Vagts, Executive Director reflects on the organization’s history and looks to the future here.

All this good work and good news could not have been possible without your support.  Thank you!

We have a great deal of work to do in the coming year – we look forward to your involvement.