ELM’s Executive Director has gone fishin’ until July 16!

ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts begins her summer vacation today. Here are some contemplative thoughts she wrote on her way home from her recent trip to San Francisco. Amalia returns to the ELM office on Tuesday, July 16. 


summer dayThe Nourishment of Kindness

I’m sitting in the airport in San Francisco, waiting for my (delayed) flight to take off. The extra time has given me a chance to reflect on something I’ve been thinking about all day: kindness.

My work today took me from the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco to the winding hills of Berkeley and back via downtown San Francisco. I witnessed three simple kind acts: a stranger pulling over his car to alert my lunch companion that she had dropped some money on the ground; two young men catching the attention of cyclist on Market street because his BART card had fallen out of his pocket; and lastly, a woman stopping on the sidewalk as two confused looking tourists poured over a map to ask if they needed some directions. What causes us to go out of the way for others? I don’t know – I simply loved that I was witness to each of these acts.

I’ve more than witnessed some big acts of kindness in my job – I’ve been the beneficiary of them. Since I started my role with ELM in 2006, I’ve spent my share of time on the road. And thanks to some very wonderfully kind friends, we’ve been able to stretch the ELM travel budget further each year. Nearly every time I’ve visited San Francisco for ELM (and it’s been a good number of trips!), I’ve been the guest of my friend Scarlett. Scarlett is not Lutheran and her interest in ELM doesn’t go far beyond her support of me. But Scarlett is providing important support. Thanks to her, ELM has been able to send me to San Francisco numerous times for little more than the cost of my airfare. Scarlett usually welcomes me with a fine meal (this time around, her partner Vanessa baked an olive oil-rosemary-chocolate-spelt flour cake that may have changed my life!) and gladly lets me convert her living room to my space. She has truly given me a home away from home several times a year.

I’ve got a second home in Chicago as well, thanks to the generous hearts of Clare Tallon & Daniel Ruen. Clare, Dan and I all lived together at Holden Village. One of the many ways they support the work of ELM is through the hospitality they show me on my many trips to Chicago. I usually arrive to a hand-made sign from their kids welcoming me back, and the whole family has taken to calling the guest room “Amalia’s room” (other guests of theirs, please don’t burst my bubble on this!).

Work on the road can be draining and some evenings you need nothing more than to sit with old friends on their couch in your “comfy clothes.”

The kindness extends beyond these hosts I’ve mentioned. This weekend alone, I’ve been the guest of a delectable meal at the home of Jim Kowalski and Bruce Jervis; and had several tabs picked up for coffee or lunch. My cousin and her husband enthusiastically answered my last minute inquiry about getting together. Instead of meeting me out for a drink they invited me to their home. We shared some local delectable food and a bottle of wine from their recent vacation to Germany.

This kindness not only supports ELM, it nourishes me so that I can continue in this work.  In addition to kindness, I’ve been thinking a little about nourishment today too…this Friday I’ll begin a two week vacation. I’m ready to step back, dip my toes in a few Midwestern lakes, catch up on some reading and creative writing, and spend time with friends and family. ELM will keep humming along with the help of Rachael in the Chicago office and our wonderful board and supporters around the country. I wish you moments of kindness and happy summer days and will be back in touch July 16th!

Proclaim members celebrate Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage

DOMA ruling celebrationYesterday Proclaim members joined others in celebrating the Supreme Court decisions. Proclaim members were tweeting, Facebooking and posting photos of celebrations across the country.

The photo on the right was taken in San Francisco, featuring four Proclaim members: Dawn Roginski, Megan Rohrer, Beate Chun & Tita Valerierno. Also pictured: Chuck Lewis, Jo Chadwick and Rebecca Davis. Proclaim is the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.  

The court revoked part of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, putting legally married gay couples on equal federal footing with all other married Americans, allowing them to receive the same tax, health and pension benefits. The high court also cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

The historic decisions came during the same week as setbacks in other movements for justice. As ELM Supporter Heidi Neumark put it on Facebook, “No one is free until everyone is free. Rejoice in this step and keep on…”

The celebrations will continue into the last weekend of Pride month. 

Rev. Jay Wiesner

Proclaim member Rev. Jay Wiesner Op-Ed on Exodus International shutting down

Rev. Jay Wiesner

Proclaim member Rev. Jay Wiesner’s letter to Alan Chambers leader of  Exodus International, a Christian ‘reparative’ therapy group was featured on the Washington Post website.  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, the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. There are currently 133 members of Proclaim.

Jay wrote “An Open Letter to Alan Chambers” after news broke that  it plans to shut down.  For nearly four decades, the organization claimed to offer a “cure” for homosexuality, but recently its leader, Alan Chambers, offered a public apology and announced that Exodus International would be closing its doors. Like Jay, others have questions about what this announcement really means. Here is another related story from the weekend: http://sdgln.com/news/2013/06/22/ex-gay-survivors-exodus-kinpin-pulled-wool-over-eyes-tv-viewers

Please read and share Jay’s full reflection here.

Alaskan Pride parade- reflections by Proclaim member Susan Halvor

Photo by Emily Ann GarciaProclaim member Rev. Susan Halvor participated in the Alaska Pride Parade celebration this weekend.  Susan lives in Anchorage, Alaska and is the Chaplain at Providence Alaska Medical Center.  Proclaim is the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  There are currently 132 members of Proclaim.

Proclaim members live in all parts of the United States! Check the Summer issue of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries the Mission for a map of Proclaim members locations.

Susan wrote about the parade on the blog Alaska Pride in a piece entitled “Called to Be Our State of Pride.” Selections below:

But what is even more powerful to me is the number of people I don’t know, who come up to me each year, thanking me for my presence as a pastor, and as a female pastor, offering public witness. So many of us have been hurt by the church, and I long, as much as I can be, to be a sign of healing and hope. My Lutheran (and interfaith) colleagues provide that sign for me, that a new day is coming.

May we continue to grow as a community of diverse people, set apart for our courage to love the people we love, whoever they are, and to boldly be ourselves, whoever that is we’re called to be. We are signs of hope in a world that longs for it.

Read the full blog here.

ELM welcomes Ángel D. Marrero-Ayala onto Board of Directors

Photo by Emily Ann GarciaThis month Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries  welcomes Ángel D. Marrero-Ayala onto its Board of Directors, ELM’s governing body. Ángel D. Marrero-Ayala brings a wide range of skills and experiences to the Board.  Ángel is currently on internship from 2013-2014 at First Lutheran Church in Waltham, MA.  Ángel has written a short bio to share with ELM supporters.

Ángel David Marrero-Ayala

¡El Señor esté contigo!

My name is Ángel David Marrero-Ayala, I am 24 years old and member of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. I have a bachelor of arts in Secondary Education with a concentration in Spanish (literature, grammar and writing) from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and currently a student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

Born and raised in the shore town of Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, I am the first fruit of the marriage between David, a construction worker, and Evelyn, a housewife. I also have sister, Ashley, who just finished her freshman year at the UPR and is currently spending the summer working as a staff member at Bethel Horizon Lutheran Camp in Wisconsin. 

All my life I’ve been Lutheran and have enjoyed the opportunity of serving in various positions within my context such as:  Caribbean Synod Council, Lutheran Youth Ministries Board, Puerto Rico District Council, Assosiation of Hispanic Lutheran Ministries, and Parish Council Member (at San Marcos Lutheran Church and Cristo Victorioso Lutheran Church). Also I have work for various ecumenical organizations like the Latin American Council of Churches and the Council of Churches of Puerto Rico. Last year, I worked as an intern at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital Summer CPE program, an experience that helped me to approach emotions from a perspective of bringing the best of myself into pastoral care. Next fall, I will be the vicar at First Lutheran Church in Waltham, Massachusetts.

I like to spend my spare time with people, particularly close friends and family. Reading, writing, exercising are usually part of my week self-care too. Since moving to Philadelphia cooking Puerto Rican traditional food has become part of my most enjoyable activities.

 I come to ELM with a sense of responsibility and great joy, looking forward to working with the people of God and with the expectation of what God has prepared for us on the road. This is an amazing time to be the Church. God is doing something new, reconstructing our theologies and empowering our voices to proclaim freedom to a world still cries out Maranatha!  Let us walk together with faith!

Handmade Proclaim Stoles

Stole collage

Proclaim member Rev. Megan Rohrer has been busy! 

Amalia Vagts, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries executive director recently emailed a few Proclaim members about making “Proclaim” stoles.  The idea had come up at the recent Proclaim Retreat.

A few days later, Megan had already finished making several.

Pastor Megan lives in the Bay Area and is the Assistant night minister at San Francisco Night Ministry and Pastor/Executive Director at Welcome Ministry.  Megan is a member of Proclaim, the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  There are currently 130 members of Proclaim. 

Pastor Megan has made 11 stoles with help from her grandma, Darlene Audus.  Darlene had this to say: “What’s really exciting is that future families won’t have to go through the same struggle Megan did. I never expected the change to come so quickly in the church.  These stoles will help pastors who may not be able to afford $150-200 stoles know that we care about them.”

Pastor Megan will be making red stoles to send to Proclaim pastors being installed or ordained this year.  Megan was one of the 18 extraordinarily ordained Lutheran pastors and remembers the stole that was passed down from person to person at each ordination. After the policy changed, the stole was retired during the first worship service at the inaugural Proclaim retreat.  Megan writes, “I’m excited to continue the tradition of passing on stoles during this more hopeful time.”

Pastor Megan will be creating patterns and instructions for making the stoles, and this information will soon be posted on the ELM website.  Using mostly scrap fabric, Pastor Megan and her grandma will have made 10 stoles for less than $20.  The process to create the stoles takes about 2-3 hours.  For instructions on how to make a Proclaim stole go here

Proclaim members are already asking if they can use one for future ordinations, installations, or regular worship services. Thanks to Megan and Grandma Darlene for so quickly creating the stoles.  We can’t wait to see them at upcoming services!

Save the Date: 2014 Proclaim Retreat!


The 2014 Proclaim retreat will be at Heartwood Conference Center in Northwestern Wisconsin, May 4-7, 2014.  This is a confer-treat! What’s a confer-treat? It’s a conference and a retreat! 

Heartwood is a beautiful retreat center located in the gorgeous northwoods region of Wisconsin, about 2 hours from the Twin Cities – www.heartwoodconferencecenter.com/

Proclaim  is the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.  For the past three years the Proclaim community has gathered for a time of renewal, community building, and professional development.

Please share news about Proclaim and this retreat with anyone you think will be interested. Check https://www.elm.org/2014-proclaim-retreat/ for updated info.

We receive a substantial discount for this lovely retreat center through Thrivent because we are a Lutheran organization. The peaceful Wisconsin Northwoods should be a relaxing place for Proclaim members who need to be renewed and invigorating space for Proclaim members who need to be energized for ministry.

ELM donors support this retreat through your contributions to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.  The 2014 Retreat has received special funding from the Philip N. Knutson Endowment.


Press coverage of the Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin’s Election

Rev. Guy Erwin elected Bishop
(L-R) Current SWCA Bishop Dean Nelson, Bishop-Elect Guy Erwin and his partner, Rob Flynn (Photo by C. Crainer)

It’s still fun to write it…on Friday, May 31, 2013 the Reverend Dr. R. Guy Erwin was elected bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on the sixth ballot.  Go here to read our full blog entry on the election.

Our website had 3,655 views on Saturday June 1,2013- our most ever! In case you needed to catch up, we put together a summary of some of the news stories and reactions.

News summary of the Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin’s election to Bishop:

ELCA News Service bulletin: official release here.

Story from GLAAD: here

Coverage in the Advocate: Evangelical Lutheran Church Elects First Openly Gay Bishop

Email sent to Southwest CA synod email list: Immediate press release from the Southwest California Synod

Coverage on CNN.com: here

Coverage in L.A Times: here 

Press Release from ReconcilingWorks: here

All A-Twitter:

As with many breaking news stories these days, for many of us, the first news came via Twitter. Here are a few tweets that came out just as the election happened. The first one just prior to the vote and the following just after the vote:

Just prior to the vote, Jennifer Chrien tweeted:

I feel the Spirit moving in this place, and it’s giving me chills!

Just a moment later, Pierce Devol:

Rev. Dr. Erwin wins!

And a moment later, Ahbee Dee,

Bendito sea el nombre del Señor, bendiciones a nuestro obispo Dr. Erwin.

Additional reflections on the historic election:

Bp. Elect Erwin after being elected:

I usually prepare a speech…but I didn’t because I didn’t expect this…what I have to say is this…I love you. And God loves you. And I ask for your prayers.

Proclaim member & Proclaim chaplain Angela Nelson shared:

Stoked that R. Guy Erwin gets the Bishop spot awhile. Look out, church – with a historian around you can’t get away with saying “we’ve never done it that way before”!

Christian Scharen, Director of Contextual Learning and Assistant Professor of Worship at Luther Seminary:

I have tremendous respect for R. Guy Erwin. I’m delighted he’s been elected bishop of SW California Synod. It is true we ought to celebrate the “firsts”: first openly gay bishop; first Native bishop (Guy from the Osage tribe). Yet I think actually it is a huge step to elect a second academic to the conference of bishops (the other I know of is Craig A. Satterlee from LSTC. Craig may be a first as well: first bishop who is legally blind. I don’t know.

But for an intellectual tradition which knows its identity to be held together theologically, we have been surprisingly shy about electing faculty from colleges and seminaries to be bishop…

Now that it is not an academic question for him, he has to figure out how to embody it and we’ll all learn a lot from his leadership. For his part, Craig did his dissertation on the practice of the teaching bishop, in a sense, writing on the mystagogical preaching of Ambrose of Milan. So both Guy and Craig will offer us something, in the end, I believe the ELCA very much needs in this time of anxiety and excitement, of God’s dreams for us as church and our fumbling responses to live into the new creation we already are in Christ.

Proclaim member Rev. Erik Christensen shared these thoughts:

Tonight the Proclaim community is celebrating the election of one of our own, the Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, as the first publicly identified gay, and Native, Lutheran bishop in the ELCA (Southwest California Synod). This election is a sign that history only marches forward, and that those things once thought impossible can be achieved within a lifetime.

Freedom is coming!

Members of ELM's Proclaim community gathered for a retreat in Sonoma County, California earlier this year. Rev. Guy Erwin on the left.
Members of ELM’s Proclaim community gathered for a retreat in Sonoma County, California earlier this year. Rev. Guy Erwin on the left in black jacket. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia