by Chris Wogaman
Proclaim Member, Awaiting Call
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” –Genesis 32:26
I’ve never been a wrestler, of the literal type, at least. But I think we all know something about hanging on for our blessing.
The story from which the above quotation comes has both captivated and guided me through seven long years of wilderness wandering in waiting for a first call. And like Jacob, I’m going to hang on for my blessing.
Jacob’s brother, Esau, is threatening his life and the lives of those whom he loves. Who knows who this nocturnal wrestler could be? One of Esau’s men, perhaps. But here, in the darkness of night, in the wilderness, Jacob meets the one who has created and sustained him, in the form of a wily fighter who won’t let a fair fight get in his way of showing the upper hand.
The sensual element of physical wrestling, flesh-on-flesh and bone-against-bone, lights up these millennia-old pages with physical fire. I can almost see the sparks flying between them, like a buzz saw cutting a copper pipe. And I’m pulling for the underdog, for how many pipes make it through a saw without being cut into pieces?
Hanging on for the blessing, particularly in a religion that has devalued us, denied our relationships, and even put us to death in literal flames, can wear out the mightiest faith warrior. Among our Proclaim community are several such warriors, for whom that blessing didn’t come easy. But each fight, each struggle, each persistent battle for our blessing, strengthens us and those who come after us, and those who see and know the struggle in their own lives. Supportive community, such as this one, can inspire and support us in our darkest hours.
And we will have our blessing.
May you be strengthened with the supernatural strength of Jacob through the darkest nights of your soul, which will yield your richest blessing: a true heart of strong faith, which this world desperately needs.
Strengthen us, O God, for the struggle is long and the night is filled with challenges from outside our bodies and inside our souls. With your strong hand, guide us into that place of blessing that you have prepared for us, through your son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has been busy! We’ve adopted updated mission and vision statements and affirmed our plan for 2013 – 2015. Yes, this involved some serious butcher block paper & post-it notes…
We began by identifying people who are closely connected to the work of ELM. Next, we agreed upon 9 goals for the next 2-3 years. Then we agreed on the strategies to achieve these goals. Lastly, we adopted a new mission and statement to more accurately describe and guide our work. A big shout-out to the fabulous Jessica Vazquez Torres who facilitated this process for us.
In short: Who? What? Why?
WHO: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is focused on the following 8 constituencies: LGBTQ people called to ministry, congregations and ministries, ELM donors and supporters, ELM’s growing edge, ELCA decision-makers, theological and ministry educators, movement partners, and ELM leadership.
WHAT: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is committing to the following 9 goals:
1. Expand our role as a leader in extraordinary and innovative ministries.
2. Identify 90 congregations open to calling rostered leaders in Proclaim.
3. Identify and/or create at least 12 viable internship sites that would make excellent settings for LGBTQ candidates.
4. Distribute candidacy resources to every synodical candidacy committee.
5. Increase our intercultural competency and our capacity to raise up ministry candidates connected with underrepresented communities.
6. Proclaim members will be actively engaged in planned strategies geared toward creating a church where all may serve according to their callings.
7. Develop new relationships with key leaders whose work directly impacts ELM’s constituencies.
8. Become an organization that meets widely accepted benchmarks for nonprofit excellence.
9. Expand organizational capacity through increased giving from existing and new supporters.
WHY: This is best summed up in our newly adopted vision statement:
Freed and compelled by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries envisions a church where all may serve God according to their callings.
Our whole plan is summed up in our newly adopted mission statement:
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries affirms and supports LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders and those pursuing a call to rostered leadership while engaging allied congregations and ministries to proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all.
This festival Gala Dinner will honor The Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin, Bishop, Southwest California Synod. Please join us to celebrate the election of the first publicly identified LGBTQ ELCA bishop, who is a member of Proclaim!
ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts and ELM Program Director Rev. Jen Rude are attending. This event is a benefit for St. Francis and ELM. Get more information or RSVP by visiting here.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.Romans 1:8
We have 139 members of Proclaim, the professional community for publicly identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders and those pursuing a call to rostered leadership. Thanks be to God for each of them and for the ways they are proclaiming their faith throughout the world! But, who are all these people? How can I learn more about them, what they are passionate about, how they are called, and what they like to eat? Drumroll……Proclaim Profiles!
Thanks to Brenda Bos we now have an online page dedicated to sharing parts of the lives of Proclaim members. These are stories that need to be told – stories of faithful LGBTQ leaders in our church.
Erik Christensen came up with the idea of Proclaim Trading Cards and started sharing one profile a day on his Facebook page. There is no gum included with these trading cards, but if you’d like to open a pack of Juicy Fruit or Double Bubble while you read Proclaim Profiles, go for it!
Just to get you started, here are a few to check out:
Ángel D. Marrero-Roe recently joined the ELM board and is currently on internship in Boston, MA. He’s got a great call story in the “Did you always want to be clergy?” section – check it out!
Find out about the first marriage John Brett was asked to perform and read the best description of a peach you’ll ever experience.
In addition to ministry type things (she just started her internship in Santa Monica, CA), Becca Seely likes to plan themed parties, write young adult fiction, and has some very interesting food tastes.
Barbara Lundblad is a pastor, preacher and teacher. Her list of who has inspired her is itself quite inspiring!
David De Block likes to describe his ministry at Central Lutheran in Seattle as being an “information kiosk” and his photo includes some cute and cuddly friends.
Congratulations on the new job. It’s exciting to see Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries expand our staff!
Thanks. Knowing when to expand is a tricky thing. The ELM board had been having a serious conversation for over a year about adding a staff position dedicated to our programs. Our three main programs are all about three times the size they were just a few years ago! We’d started feeling like we were just maintaining rather than growing. By having someone around to focus on the programs, Amalia can spend more time getting the word about ELM out to more and more people. The timing worked out to be right for ELM and me this fall. I’m really excited to be connecting back with the Lutheran church and I love that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is largely a grassroots organization with committed volunteer leaders.
You were working in The Night Ministry in Chicago. For those who don’t know what The Night Ministry is, it’s working mostly with the homeless in urban areas, right?
Yes. I served at The Night Ministry for eight years (during part of that time also serving a local church). I was working with teenagers and young adults who are experiencing homelessness, I was outside two nights a week on the streets doing outreach. There is a huge overlap with LGBTQ youth and homeless youth. I worked a lot on relationship building, talking to people in crisis, and being a constant presence both in challenging times and joyful times. One of the parts of the work I loved the most was getting young people involved in leadership development, peer to peer outreach and support and the watching them be amazed at what they are capable of.
Interesting that ELM does a lot of that same relationship building, but in the LGBTQ pastor and seminarian world, rather than youth on the streets.
Exactly. I’m excited to really get to know more deeply all of the folks who are involved with ELM. One of the things I love to do is help people figure out what their gifts are, what their skills are, and what brings them joy. In this new role at ELM, I can support our pastors and seminarians behind the scenes so they can go live into their call to serve God and serve the church. Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”At Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, I want to partner with people to discern what makes them come alive – and then work together to make it happen!
How did you end up in ordained ministry?
Well, I grew up in the Lutheran church and I’d thought about being a pastor. My dad, grandpa and uncle are all pastors. Two weeks into freshman year I fell for a girl and came out as queer. I had this moment where I realized being a pastor was no longer possible for me. So I told myself I was going to be an academic – like, a religion professor. Yah, I’m not smart enough for that! But, I thought about going to seminary and visited Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, where I met (historic ELM rostered) Pastor Jeff Johnson. It was one of the first moments that I recognized there were people who lived both as openly LGBTQ people and as pastors doing ministry. It was the first time that I realized that this could be possible for me, too.
I admire those early pastors who came out, but there were many LGBTQ pastors who stayed in the closet. How do we make sense of all those different stories now?
I think the first thing is just to honor that we all chose a path and we all took different ways, and that that’s OK. I think in the past there was a lot of judgment about you didn’t do it this way, or you didn’t do it that way. We all did the best we could. Now it’s all about building connections together. I would have not gone through candidacy as openly as I did if I didn’t have mentors from the historic ELM roster along the way who gave me advice about how to do it with integrity for me. It is a pretty scary process to go through candidacy and I had people to support me and help me find language and even to help me feel empowered to say to candidacy committees “That’s not an appropriate question.”
There are people who are the only openly LGBTQ pastor in their state and they need to be connected with people who are in places where there is a lot of support. I think we give each other strength. We also need to honor the differences between being queer in South Carolina and being queer in Chicago. Hopefully the community as a whole has moved past judgments about the past and we are more concerned with how to live into God’s future together. Today we stand in a long line with those who risked a lot, and at times, suffered a lot. Part of the reason there is so much exciting LGBTQ stuff happening in the Lutheran church today is because of the work people of faith have been doing for decades.
And Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is thinking about its prophetic role to strengthen the entire ELCA. What have you got in mind?
I think one of these new gifts is the Ministry Engagement Program. How do we connect with allied congregations, not just pastors and seminarians, but congregations and ministries doing radical public work? It can also be isolating to be the only radical congregation in your neighborhood. There are incredible congregations and ministries who have been way ahead of church policy. How do we pull those churches together and what is the work of justice and compassion that is now before us now?
What do you think the LGBTQ community has to offer the ELCA?
Lutherans are all about living in the paradox. Not black and white, not one thing or another, but “both/and” and “now and not yet.” ELM seeks to live in this gray area. We have a diverse community. By definition, LGBTQ is not one single identity and we are finding ways to live as faithful people in the beauty and challenges of such diversity. I think of the communion table. We’re all invited, everyone sits at the same table, there is food enough for everyone, and Christ is our host. Our job is to see and engage all who are at the table and to think about who is not at that table. Who am I missing out on sharing a meal with? Who is going hungry? And then we realize that actually there is plenty of room and the food keeps multiplying, and God’s table grows – and we grow.
Yesterday afternoon, Elizabeth A. Eaton was installed as the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It was as joyous and momentous occasion. I was honored to be among those gathered for the service, and especially glad to be sitting with Emily Ewing, an LSTC student,member of Proclaim and former Joel R. Workin Scholar. I was also glad to be sitting next to ELM’s new program director, the Rev. Jen Rude (also a Proclaim member & former Joel R. Workin Scholar!). I met two Proclaim members for the first time in person that day. I also loved seeing many Proclaim members active in the worship service. At one point, Jen and I elbowed each other when Proclaim members Rev. Erik Christensen, Kyle Severson, Rev. Steve Wilco, and Rev. Michael Fick all passed by us within minutes as members of the procession.
This great day came just two weeks after many of us gathered in Thousand Oaks to celebrate the installation of the Rev. Dr. R. Guy Erwin as Bishop of the Southwest California Synod of the ELCA. It was a powerful day for many and we were fortunate especially that day to hear a fierce sermon from Bishop Mark Hanson.
Bp. Hanson began his sermon at Bp. Erwin’s installation with a long series of thank yous. He ended his introduction with these words:
“On behalf of this whole church, I want to say a deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone here and everyone who’s watching the live stream, and those that have gone on to glory that have worked so tirelessly, fervently, prayerfully, prophetically, agitationally so that we could come to this day as a church when Rev. Dr. Guy Erwin, in the presence of his husband Rob, could be installed in the office of bishop in Christ’s church. Thank you.”
One of the ways Proclaim supports leaders is through a monthly devotional written by one of the Proclaim chaplains. Here is the September devotional from Angela Nelson.
by Angela Nelson, Proclaim Chaplain & Guest Blogger
I have officially lived in New England for a whole entire year. Weird. Super weird. I came out east to live with my best friend while looking for work and waiting for a call, and I have no idea how an entire twelve months have gone by. More than that, really, since I spent the first month looking for work and am next week marking a year of working at Target (10% employee discount!).
It has also been a year since I drove four days in a row to and from my seminary roommate’s Ordination in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Good ol’ U.P. that always gets left off the Michigan maps. GORGEOUS drive at the end of September. Absolutely stunning, just like New England in the fall.
Which is where this devotion starts, really. Fall is my all-time favorite season. I don’t know if it’s the excuse to wear sweaters and drink hot cider, or the newness of every school year and excitement of learning that comes with the season. But the best part, in my opinion, is the smell. The smell, and the trees ablaze with color. Except, as I think about it, the smell is really the smell of death, isn’t it? Leaves dying in a blaze of glory and crunching under foot, giving off the smell of their own break-downs.
And at the same time, those leaves all red and yellow and gold (maybe not so much in Texas or in the Pacific NorthWest or in Alaska, I know) also bring to mind the story of the call of Moses after he ran away from his foster family and had made himself a new family. A call to his own kind of death and resurrection into a new ministry, and a new life, and a lot more bickering in a family lost in the wilderness for a generation.
In the middle of all of that, with Moses stuttering that he doesn’t know how to speak (and then, as one Rabbi lately said, he doesn’t stop speaking for something like 40 chapters!), in the middle of all of that is God’s NAME. The Name so holy some still refuse to pronounce it, or even to write it in it’s entirety. The Name so much alive that it is in the present tense. The Name at the crossroads, when everything around Moses is about to turn into plagues and argument and wandering and bickering and hungering and thirsting. The Name which shades the people with cloud in the wilderness and leads them with fire until they come to the home God promised them.
Whatever Autumn looks like where you are. Whatever is changing, whatever is challenging, whatever is celebrating, whatever is dying and being reborn, the Name is still I AM. Are you staring at a burning bush? Remembering one from long ago? Still waiting to be captured by one out of the corner of your eye on a seemingly ‘normal’ day? Remember Who it is setting you ablaze, Who it is calling to you, Who it is Who IS, and was, and will be, world without end.
It’s Jen’s first day in the office as the new ELM Program Director and I would love for you to join me in welcoming her!
This is a major step for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and one we couldn’t take without our committed and visionary supporters. Our organization began as a grassroots effort twenty-three years ago. The efforts of those first leaders and congregations led to a wider movement in the Lutheran church to support LGBTQ people called to rostered ministry. Grassroots and volunteer leadership have been central to keeping this work going over the years. In 2006, thanks to the One Voice campaign, ELM was able to hire its first full-time staff person. I was honored to take on that role of Development Director to help (then) Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries expand our base of supporters and outreach.
In 2008, we added the position of Operations Coordinator and changed my position to Executive Director. Rachael Johnson served as Operations Coordinator until this past August, when she moved to Portland, OR. At that time, the ELM Board assessed our current staffing needs and capacity and decided our programs were at a place where we need dedicated program staff. Rather than fill the Operations Coordinator position, we created the full-time Program Director role and were lucky enough to hire the Rev. Jen Rude for the job.
Even though we’ve been able to move to two full-time staff positions, Jen and I could not (and don’t want!) to do this work alone. It is only thanks to the devoted board members, volunteers and supporters that we can pursue our vision of a church where all people can serve God according to their callings.
Thanks for doing your part. Please join me in welcoming Jen!