Bishop Mark W. Holmerud presiding at Eucharist at the Proclaim Retreat

BishopMarkBishop Mark W. Holmerud will join us at the opening night of the Proclaim Retreat to welcome LGBTQ leaders on behalf of the Sierra Pacific Synod.  Bp. Holmerud will also preside at the opening Eucharist of the 2013 Proclaim Retreat that evening. The Proclaim Retreat is a gathering of publicly identified LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians for a time of renewal, community building, and professional development.  The 2013 Proclaim Retreat is April 12-15 at Bishop’s Ranch in Sonoma County, CA.

Bp. Holmerud is the 4th Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod and has served there since 2008.  Bp. Holmerud has been a supporter of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries for many years and we are looking forward to having him at the retreat.

ELM Ministry Grant update: Spirit of Hope in Detroit, MI

Spirit of Hope Logo

One of the six ministry grant programs Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is supporting this year is Spirit of Hope. Proclaim member the Rev. Matthew Bode will be expanding his duties from being the sole pastor at Spirit of Hope to being part of a team supporting five Detroit Lutheran churches.  

This will be a new multi-congregation parish.  Spirit of Hope and its new partner congregations serve a diverse community across Detroit.  The funds provided by ELM will help Spirit of Hope maintain its ability to support a full time pastor in a lower income community.

Spirit of Hope

Who We Are

Spirit of Hope, born in 2006 at the coming together of two congregations, one Episcopal and one ELCA, is a fully affirming congregation in the heart of Detroit.  Our faith leads us to visions of justice based on charity, education and advocacy.  Located in a diverse community in race, income level and sexual expression, we are leading lives of hope and love in our city and world as followers of Jesus Christ.

What We Do

Spirit of Hope 2

As one of very few fully affirming, majority African American congregations of any denomination in our city, we have become a well-known spiritual home for those who identify as transgender, lesbian, gay bisexual and allies.  Justice opportunities cross lines of race, income level, gender, sexual orientation and gender expression.  By speaking openly and honestly about places of oppression, we are able to move to places of power and healing.

Today, important ministries include our Pray and Play Youth Basketball Ministry, Spirit Spit Open Mic, Spirit Farm Urban Farm Project, an HIV prevention and support ministry, food pantry, community kitchen and more. We are currently the lead church working with neighbors to rehabilitate a local park dedicated to Rosa Parks and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In addition, we are helping to facilitate the renovation of a neighborhood apartment building and build a local community land trust. We are a regular participant in Motor City Pride, Michigan’s largest Pride festival held just a mile from our location.

The Future

Spirit of Hope is blessed to have four partner ELCA congregations in the city working toward further cooperation.  Soon to have one shared staff, we will be able to learn and grow from one another’s strengths and partner strategically.  As an affirming congregation with an openly gay pastor, Spirit of Hope is able to teach our partner congregations about moving from being welcoming congregations to fully affirming.

The influence has already been dramatic and uplifting as ELM supports our pastoral staff in providing LGBT leadership in five ELCA, majority African American congregations.  God is good and the Spirit is at work!

For more on ELM’s Ministry Grants go to:

Matthew James Called as Associate Pastor by Trinity Lutheran in Worcester, MA

Matt JamesJoyous news! Proclaim member, Matthew James has received a first call.  Matt will be the Associate Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Worcester, MA.  Matt shared these words about his first call:

I am humbled to have been called as Associate Pastor by the wonderful people of Trinity Lutheran Church here in Worcester.  I am especially thankful for the amazing support and prayers from all over.  I am overwhelmed.  God is good indeed!

Matt  was approved for ordination by ELM in 2008.  Following the 2009 ELCA ministry policy changes, he was quickly recognized and approved by the ELCA New England Synod candidacy committee. 

Thanks to all our supporters who have been thinking & praying for Matt over the last four years.

Thrivent Choice Banner

Thrivent Choice: A New Way to Support ELM!

Thrivent Choice Banner

We have great news for Thrivent members who participate in the Thrivent Choice Dollars program:  you can now designate funds to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries!  We are now officially in the catalog.  Your support is greatly needed and will be put to use to support ministry by LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders & seminarians.

If you still have 2012 funds to designate you have until Friday, March 28 to do so by phone (1-800-847-4836) and Sunday, March 31 online (  Your 2012 dollars expire at the end of this month if you don’t designate them.

Click here to download a PDF & follow 6 easy steps to designate your support for ELM.

If you have any questions, you can contact your Thrivent representative or Amalia Vagts, ELM’s Executive Director at 563-382-6277.

ELM Board & Staff Updates

Board without AVThe ELM Board of Directors met for their Spring meeting February 21-24 in St. Paul, MN.  In addition to beginning work on a 3 year strategic plan, the board elected a new co-chair, two new members, and said farewell to outgoing Co-Chair, the Rev. Jen Nagel.  Staff member Rachael Johnson was promoted to Operations & Communications Coordinator as of January 1, 2013.

Rev. Julie Boleyn appointed Co-Chair

Julie Boleyn cropped correctly

Rev. Julie Boleyn has been serving on the ELM Board of Directors since 2011. We welcome her into the role of Co-Chair.  Originally from Oregon, Julie is the pastor of Unity Lutheran Church in Berwyn, IL.  Julie has served as Proclaim retreat planner for the current Proclaim retreat and past the two retreats.  She lives in Berwyn with her wife, Jeanine Reardon and their young daughter.

Rev. Elise Brown & Asher O’Callaghan join the Board of Directors

Elise BrownRev. Elise Brown is currently pastor at Advent Lutheran Church in New York City.  Elise is originally from Iowa.  She has served on the ELCA Urban Team and has worked as part of a small group of consultants who advise regional synods and church groups on how to focus on outreach, revitalization and growth in urban churches.  Elise is currently working towards a PhD in Sociology with core concentrations in race & ethnicity and poverty & social stratification.  Elise enjoys reading, and, if time and resource allows, throwing clay on a potter’s wheel. Most of all, she enjoys travel with trips to Peru, Ecuador and India.

Asher 2013

Asher O’Callaghan came to the Lutheran church via House For All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado.  He began his graduate coursework at Iliff School of Theology in Denver before transferring to Luther Seminary where he is now studying.  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.  Asher is a member of Proclaim, the the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.

Rachael Johnson promoted to Operations & Communications Coordinator

Rachael JohnsonRachael Johnson has been with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries since October 2008, serving as Operations Coordinator.  Beginning January 1, 2013, her position was expanded to include coordination of ELM’s communications work.  She coordinates the day-to-day running of the Chicago office; ELM’s online and print communications,  Board meeting and Proclaim retreat logistics, as well as many additional projects in between!  The ELM Board of Directors and Amalia Vagts give thanks to Rachael for her continued commitment and work for ELM.

Rachael is in the Chicago office on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.  Rachael is a graduate of American University and has a passion for social justice.


Amalia and Jerry Vagts

Great News about Thrivent Choice Dollars! (And what my Dad had to do with it…)

Amalia and Jerry Vagts
Amalia Vagts and Jerry Vagts

We received official notification today that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is now eligible for Thrivent Choice®  dollars!   This is GREAT news!

So, what does my dad have to do with it?

Not only has my dad been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ justice and change in the Lutheran church, but about a year ago he took up the cause of getting Thrivent to accept ELM as an eligible organization.

We had applied to Thrivent several years ago and were rejected.  We appealed, and we were rejected again.  But Dad persisted, and when he found out they were changing some of their requirements, he and fellow ELM supporter Michael Nelson nudged us to apply again.  Dad submitted the nomination materials to his regional Thrivent chapter.

AND THIS TIME we were approved!  This is great news for all Thrivent members who support ELM.  If you have not used your 2012 Thrivent Choice Dollars for 2012, please consider contributing them to ELM.  It will be about 5 more days until we are officially listed in the catalog, and you cannot designate ELM until then. We’ll send out a notice as soon as you can make your contribution.  And of course, once March 31 passes, you’ll have 2013 Choice Dollars to designate.

Our next post on this will include all the links and information you need to make your contribution.  Stay tuned!


2013 Proclaim Retreat: Sampling of Workshops & Speakers

The 2013 Proclaim retreat is just over a month away.  The Proclaim retreat is a gathering of publicly identified LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians for a time of renewal, community building, and professional development.  The retreat planning team is made up of dedicated volunteers who plan the program.

Registration for the retreat ends on Wednesday, March 13th. Know someone you think should attend? Send them here. 

 Sampling of Speakers and Workshops

Bishop Yvette FlunderBishop Yvette Flunder: Keynote Address

Bishop Flunder is the founder and pastor of The City of Refuge UCC in San Francisco, CA.  City of Refuge is a thriving inner-city congregation that celebrates the radically inclusive love of Jesus Christ.  In June 2003 Bishop Flunder was consecrated Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship, a multi-denominational fellowship of 110 primarily African American Christian leaders and laity representing 56 churches and faith-based organizations from all parts of the United States Mexico and Africa. For more on Bishop Flunder go here.


Asher O’Callaghan, Joel Workin scholar: LGBTQ Genders in Public MinistryAsher 2013

Asher came to the Lutheran church via House For All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado.  He began his graduate coursework at Iliff School of Theology in Denver before transferring to Luther Seminary where he is now studying.  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.


Rebbeca SeelyBecca Seely, Joel Workin scholar: Workshop on Prayer and Poetry—Times for Renewal and Reflection

Becca is currently  fulfilling her Lutheran Year at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. 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.


Rev. Robyn Hartwig: Workshop on EcoFaith Recovery, a new ministry supported by ELMRobyn Hartwig 2012

EcoFaith Recovery is based in Portland, OR.  EcoFaith Recovery nurtures faith-based recovery groups and relational leadership networks to help individuals, communities and institutions emerge from our intoxication with consumerism to recover our relatedness to God, ourselves, one another, and the entire Earth community.  EcoFaith Recovery engages in theological reform, incites action to reduce the climate crisis, fosters the renewal of community life in the Pacific Northwest, and offers a practical model for people of faith throughout the country.


Lura GroenRev. Lura Groen: Workshop on re-rooting a congregation in the neighborhood & community

Rev. Groen has been the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas since 2008.  Grace works on a number of justice ministries such as micro financing, AIDS walks, and supporting the local food pantry.  Grace Lutheran serves its neighborhood through Montrose Grace Place, a separately incorporated non-profit, created to provide food, friends and hope to homeless youth of all sexual orientations and gender identities.  This workshop will explore how the creation of Montrose Grace Place re-rooted Grace Lutheran in the Montrose community.

MMMM-Logo-Cross-03Presentation from 4M Ministries: Creating a space of inclusiveness specifically to those on the margins

The vision of 4M Ministries is to create intentionally innovative spaces that embrace the diversity of gender, gender expression, and the spiritual exploration of God’s creation in the spirit of faith, love, peace, and liberation.


 Proclaim is funded in part by a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries donors.