Gretchen Colby

Gretchen Colby named 2013 Joel R. Workin Scholar

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Gretchen Colby
Gretchen Colby

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has named Gretchen Colby as the 2013 Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar.  Read more about Gretchen below.

Today would have been Joel’s 52nd birthday, had he not passed away from AIDS in 1995. We don’t remember Joel just because he was one of the first Lutheran seminarians to come out (though he was). We remember Joel because of his vibrant, prophetic and relevant voice, collected in the book, “Dear God, I Am Gay – thank you!”  Joel understood things years ago that some in our church still can’t see today. In a personal essay that was cited as one of the reasons the church deemed him “unfit” for ministry, Joel wrote,

“My story, others’ stories, the story of the world are all, in the last analysis, in faith’s analysis, stories of grace. These are stories of a relentless, loving God who will not take ‘no’ for an answer, not my ‘no,’ nor your ‘no,’ nor the church’s ‘no,’ nor the world’s ‘no.’ God keeps right on justifying, reconciling, liberating, feeding, ushering in the kingdom, saying ‘yes.’ Even if it kills God (and it did, the cross), even if it kills us (it does, baptism), somehow God is going to get everyone to that big banquet feast (resurrection, the kingdom, new life). I want to continue to be a messenger and means of God’s invitation, to share the good news of God’s ‘yes,’ to live a courageous and comforting life of faith, to incarnate Christ for the kingdom and my neighbor, to die and rise daily. This is my ‘mission.'”

The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship program was created to honor Joel’s life and ministry. Joel’s family and friends created the scholarship fund following his death from AIDS in 1995.  The scholarship is managed by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins
Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins

The Joel R. Workin Scholar is a publicly-identified LGBTQ seminarian who embodies Joel’s passion for justice and faith in their lives and ministry. This award comes with a financial gift to support the Scholar’s study. In addition, the Scholar represents ELM throughout the year.

Gretchen was chosen from a pool of excellent candidates. The Joel R. Workin Scholarship Committee includes three friends of Joel’s: the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, Greg Egertson, and Michael Nelson; former Scholar the Rev. Jen Rude; and ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts.

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.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries gives thanks for all LGBTQ seminarians who are bringing their voices to this church. We are especially thankful for those who took time to honor Joel by applying for this scholarship.

About Gretchen Colby

Gretchen has served as intern at Trinity Lutheran Church in Manhattan, NY since last August. She is studying at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkley, CA and is expected to graduate in May 2014.  Gretchen received her bachelor degree at Vassar with a major in Biology and a minor in Latin American Studies.  In addition to her ministry work, Gretchen has long been involved with teaching in California and abroad in Chile.  In August, Gretchen will marry Jill Rode, an MDiv student at Luther Seminary and fellow member of Proclaim.

In her essay for the Workin Scholar program, Gretchen wrote:

“Allowing myself to be called into a space of vulnerability has let me connect with pastors on my candidacy committee, who share their own stories of love and relationship; it has allowed me to show my internship congregation what a queer intern is like (in fact very much like all interns, but mostly like me); and it has allowed me to discuss the mystery of love and the politics of homosexuality with my family.  Not all conversations have been positive; not all prisons want to be opened.  Yet, these new beginnings for growth and life are continually offered to me and to the people around me by God in grace and love.”

In finding out she was chosen for the scholarship, Gretchen wrote:

“I am very honored to be receiving the Joel R. Working scholarship this year.  As a new member of Proclaim, it is affirming to be chosen in this way as a representative of the group.  Looking towards the challenge of my final year of seminary full of final courses, approval essays and interviews, and the challenge of the first call process, I feel reassured knowing that I will have a whole community behind me to support me in this journey.  I am privileged to be a part of Proclaim.”

Here is what members of the Committee had to say of Gretchen:

“As a committee we found Gretchen’s resume impressive in the way it reflected her focus on service to others through her work with youth,  volunteer work in Chile, and ability to preach in both English and Spanish.  In her essay and resume – but mostly in the essay – we strongly sensed Gretchen’s call to justice through the obstacles she had to overcome not only with her church, but her personal life.”