Extraordinary Lutheran Ministry has released a major new resource for candidacy committees working with LGBTQ candidates in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Click here to download the resource as a PDF: Candidacy for LGBTQ Individuals- Draft. The resource is also available on the elm.org homepage.
Candidacy and LGBTQ Individuals was prepared as an offered resource for Synodical Candidacy Committees in the ELCA in their work with candidates seeking rostering in the ELCA. Although it was prepared carefully and reviewed extensively, the resource is being released in draft form to allow for feedback and modification from those working in candidacy. ELM will publish a final version in early October. Anyone is invited to submit comments and feedback that will strengthen this resource. Please send comments to email@example.com.
Some candidacy committees may have limited experience in engaging LGBTQ candidates. This guide is intended to help that engagement to be a respectful and rewarding one for both candidates and committees. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has been working with openly LGBTQ candidates for ministry for many years and has learned quite a bit in the process. This resource has developed out of that work and through extensive review and conversations with LGBTQ candidates, Candidacy Committee members, seminary staff, churchwide and synodical personnel.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (www.elm.org) is a social ministry organization that expands opportunities for LGBTQ rostered leaders and their ministries through three primary programs: Proclaim, the professional community for Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians who public identify as LGBTQ; Ministry Engagement, which connects ministries led by or open to leadership by LGBTQ leaders; and Accompaniment, which supports LGBTQ people through the candidacy and call processes. The Accompaniment Advisory Team includes the following people: Rev. Dr. Randy Nelson, Rev. Dawn Roginski, Rev. Rod Seeger, Rev. Anita Hill, Rev. Tom Taylor, Rev. Joy McDonald Coltvet, Rev. Jason Bense, Rose Beeson, and Asher O’Callaghan.
Candidacy and LGBTQ Individuals was authored and edited by the Rev. Dr. Randy Nelson, based on a previous version written by the Rev. Megan Rohrer. Reviewers and contributors included members of the LGBTQ community; rostered leaders; seminarians; former and current candidacy committee members; seminary faculty; and ELCA synodical bishops. Additional information about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is available at www.elm.org.
Last Friday at the 2013 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, I heard an excellent sermon preached on Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the Syrophoenician woman. In it, I heard good news for LGBTQ people and especially those called to places where they have not been welcomed.
In this passage, we heard a difficult truth – that Jesus didn’t always welcome everyone. When a woman from outside the Jewish faith approached him for a miracle to save her daughter, first the disciples turned her away. Then Jesus did. She persisted and in a stunningly frank exchange she made it clear that she was able to accept whatever Jesus had to offer. Her faithfulness changed Jesus. As biblical scholars note, this is a turning point for Jesus and leads to a great expansion of his ministry to people outside the Jewish faith.
The pastor didn’t mention LGBTQ people, but as I sat among a dozen or so LGBTQ pastors, candidates and seminarians as I listened to his sermon, I could only think of the faithfulness of people who have been rejected at many turns, but continue to follow a call to ministry. I sat next to a pastor who served faithfully as a pastoral associate for nearly 20 years before her congregation decided to move forward and ordain her extraordinarily. I sat near a clergy couple who were placed in separate rooms by their candidacy committee and quizzed about their relationship. I sat near someone who was selected for a full tuition scholarship from the ELCA’s Fund for Leaders several years ago, and who still awaits first call. I sat near another pastor whose candidacy committee told him that he was the one of the best candidates for ministry they’d ever seen, but that they could not approve him due to the ELCA’s (then) guidelines. Despite these barriers, each of these pastors has followed her or his call to ministry, and the church is better for it. These are just a handful of the stories that surrounded me that morning.
I was sitting among many Proclaim leaders because one of their colleagues, the Rev. Tita Valeriano, was presiding at the service. Just a few seats down was the Rev. Guy Erwin. Just four short years ago, our own church policies prevented both Tita and Guy from being recognized as ELCA clergy. And due to their faithfulness and the persistence and faithfulness of many before them and alongside them, these leaders can now do the ministry to which they were called. And I believe that the church has and will continue to change as a result.
The 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly was a powerful experience because of moments like these. I was deeply grateful to be there to show my gratitude for the leadership of Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and to recognize where he has led this denomination. And I’m thrilled to welcome Bp. Elizabeth Eaton as Presiding Bishop!
I couldn’t agree more with Presiding Bishop Elect Elizabeth Eaton’s words that she shared in a press conference following the election: “The election of the woman to the office of presiding bishop is a fulfillment of his ministry of making this church a welcoming place,” [Eaton] said.
We’re still on a journey and there is a long way to go before the diverse gifts of all are recognized. But we’re on our way. I’m thankful for the prophetic vision and witness of LGBTQ pastors, their congregations & ministries, and the ELM donors who support this work.
One of the best parts of the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly has been seeing Proclaim leaders in all kinds of settings. I’ve counted 17 Proclaim leaders in attendance.
At opening worship on Monday night, I caught a glimpse of the Rev. Jason Bense serving as a communion minister. The same night (and at all worship services since), I’ve seen the Rev. Steve Wilco busy in his capacity as a member of the ELCA Worship Team. There are a number of Proclaim leaders who are here as voting members. Proclaim members Tim Feiertag , the Rev. Anita Hill, and Rose Beeson have been VERY busy all week as members of the ReconcilingWorks staff and volunteer Legislative Team. We heard the Rev. Guy Erwin preach tonight at the ReconcilingWorks-ELM worship service and we’ll hear the Rev. Tita Valierano preside at the ELCA worship service on Friday morning. And from my vantage point in the Visitors’ Section, I’ve gotten more than a few glimpses of Assembly floor volunteers Laura Kuntz and Sara Cogsil (pictured at left).
It’s wonderful to see all of the LGBTQ leaders serving their church in different ways. I’m especially moved by the service of Laura, Sara, and Angela Nelson – all three are approved for ordination and awaiting call. They are here on their own dime and staying at host homes (traveling over a half hour each morning to arrive for their 7:30 shifts!). They’re here because they wanted to witness the Churchwide Assembly and be of service.
These are the leaders you are supporting through your investment in Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. It’s been a big week. We give thanks for the wonderful leadership of out-going Presiding Bp. Mark Hanson and welcome Bp. Elect Elizabeth Eaton. I’m thrilled that ELM and Proclaim have been here to witness and be part of all of it.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries will say a sad and thankful farewell to staff member Rachael Johnson this week.
Rachael has worked in our Chicago office since October of 2008. She began working two days a week as the Operations Coordinator, focusing mostly on administrative responsibilities for ELM. Over time, her role has grown to include managing most of our communications work, including maintaining the ELM website, blog and monthly eNewsletter. She has worked in all areas of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, from coordinating much of the Proclaim retreat logistics to fielding calls from donors and supporters. And on top of all of that, she’s kept our Chicago office humming! Many people in ELM have interacted with Rachael over the last nearly five years and she will be deeply missed.
We celebrate with Rachael as she and her partner, Johannes, begin a new life together in Oregon, where they both look forward to more opportunities to experience outdoor pursuits.
From Amalia, “I’m incredibly grateful for Rachael’s contributions to ELM during a time of great change for the organization. She’s been a steady and friendly voice and face and we will all miss her a great deal. I’ve heard from board members and donors this week expressing their sadness that she’s leaving ELM and their excitement about what lies ahead. On behalf of the whole ELM community, I say thank you, farewell, good luck & God bless!”
Anyone wishing to send a note of farewell can reach Rachael at her e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, until Friday, August 9. Messages after that will be forwarded on to Rachael.
Next week’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly will include a number of Proclaim members performing a variety of roles – from voting members to iPad tech support to the ELCA Worship Team to working with ReconcilingWorks to staffing an Assembly floor mic, these LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians have got it covered. Of particular note will be the worship on Friday, August 16, which marks the first time an openly lesbian or gay pastor will preside during an ELCA Churchwide Assembly Worship Service.
by Brenda Bos, Proclaim Communications Team
When Proclaim member Rev. Teresita “Tita” Valeriano presides at communion during the Friday worship of Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh next week, people will see her in a variety of ways. Some will see an ordained minister, some will see a woman, some will see a Filipino immigrant, some will see a Mission Developer. Some will see a partnered gay mother of a newborn. While Valeriano is all those things, she believes “first and foremost I am a child of God.” Humbled to have been asked to preside at this national church event, she considers herself “not put in a position of power, but that of servanthood, of being able to be a part of God’s feast that Christ is hosting.”
Pastor Tita’s History
Pastor Tita gives thanks for the journey. “To have been born in the Philippines, a third generation Lutheran and the youngest in a family of twelve children, to be born with all the gifts and weaknesses that I have, everything of who I am and now serving in this context of North America; those, I believe, are gifts of God to me. Of course I did not choose my gender, or my nationality, or my sexual orientation, but I have been honored to be a participant in this journey God has given me, to live out these gifts.”
This journey has had many twists and turns. Pastor Tita received a degree in accounting and a second degree in church music before coming to the United States in 1994 to pursue her masters of divinity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. Her first congregational call was in central California, followed by a four-year stint in Geneva, Switzerland, as the Secretary for Youth in Church and Society for the Lutheran World Federation.
Those years in Europe and North America brought hard lessons about race and gender. Pastor Tita notes that until she arrived in the United States, she did not think of herself in racial terms; she had to learn to be a “minority” in the new culture. “No one in the Southern Hemisphere ever asked me how I got my job, as though I didn’t deserve my position. That only happened in North America and Europe,” Pastor Tita explained. She came back to California to serve as the Lutheran campus pastor at USC in 2004, where she met her partner, Jennifer Snow. She then returned to the Lutheran World Federation in 2008 as the Regional Officer, relocating to the churchwide offices in Chicago.
Pastor Tita had applied for her permanent residency (green card) in 2004, leading to an eight year quest for a green card. The couple ran into the injustices so many bi-cultural same-sex couples face;. Until the recent Supreme Court decision, United States citizens could not sponsor their same-sex partners for green cards, and Tita’s original employment-based petition for a green card was denied in 2009. Pastor Tita was in Canada for work when Jennifer received notification of the denial. Jennifer packed their apartment and came to Canada while the two of them tried to figure out what to do next. During this time, the ELCA assisted in Pastor Tita’s legal battles, including the expense of requesting a new visa and she was able to return and receive a green card two and a half years later, just before Christmas 2012. And recently, she and Jennifer welcomed their son Taal Charles into the world, on July 15, 2013. Pastor Tita notes, “I am grateful for the help I received when so many other immigrants continue to struggle for their rights to be a family.” She continues to do extensive work and organizing among the immigrant community in the Bay Area while she completes an assessment of a potential new mission start.
Leading At The Table
Now she will lead the church she loves at the table. “Hopefully this is a sign that we are telling God’s story, no matter what it will cost us. It is important to me that this is really a statement of the gospel, and that we are taking it seriously. This not just a matter of selecting those who are the most oppressed among us on this perfect occasion and then letting ordinary life and ordinary oppression run our lives together when the event is over. We need to hold ourselves accountable as a church to the statement that we are making when someone like me is at the table.”
Pastor Tita’s witness and proclamation to the whole ELCA is part of Proclaim’s mission. Proclaim is a ministry of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, providing affirmation and support to Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ. Members of Proclaim serve in a variety of ministry contexts in North America and beyond, spreading the gospel and loving the neighbor. We look forward to celebrating more of our Proclaim members’ stories in future months.
See you at Churchwide!
Brenda Bos conversed on the phone and over email last week with Tita before writing this profile about her. Brenda recently completed her internship at St. Paul Lutheran in Santa Monica, CA and is approved for ordination in the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA. Both Bos and Valeriano are members of Proclaim, the professional community for Lutheran rostered leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ. Proclaim is a ministry of ELM.
Will you be at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly August 12-17 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? ELM’s Executive Director Amalia Vagts and many Proclaim members will be attending the Assembly. If you would like to meet up with Amalia or other ELM supporters, send her an email: Director@elm.org.
Additionally, our movement partner ReconcilingWorks has a full schedule of activities and programs lined up- check their website here. ReconcilingWorks advocates for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Lutherans in all aspects of the life of their Church and congregations. You can get involved with their efforts through their website.
Festival Eucharist (Hosted by ReconcilingWorks and ELM)
Wednesday, August 14, 8:00 pm
Omni William Penn Hotel, Grand Ballroom
Join in festive worship and celebration of LGBTQ church leaders and allies with the Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, bishop-elect of the Southwest California Synod, preaching, and the Rev. Dean Nelson, bishop of the Southwest California Synod, presiding.
Reception with Bishop-Elect Guy Erwin (Hosted by ReconcilingWorks)
Tuesday, August 13, 8:00 pm
Convention Center, Room 408
The election of the Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin marks two historic firsts: the first openly gay and first Native American bishop of the ELCA. Guy is a member of Proclaim, the professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ.
Rev. Tita Valeriano Presiding on Friday, August 8th.
We are very excited and joyful that the Rev. Teresita Valeriano will preside at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly worship on Friday morning! Tita is a member of Proclaim. ELM will be posting and in-depth interview with Tita next week!