Proclaim pastor and convener of the Proclaim Leadership Team, Rev. Caleb Crainer, and the congregation of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in West Los Angeles recently celebrated their Solar addition and steps towards greater environmental care at a Solar Sunday celebration. The celebration included a blessing from fellow Proclaim member and the local Lutheran bishop, R. Guy Erwin, remarks from local leaders, information from their solar provider and various environmental groups, tours of the church’s environment-friendly features, food and family fun…it was a bright day for the community!
This is just one example of the creative and innovative ministry happening in congregations led by Proclaim pastors. We give thanks for St Andrew’s and their stewardship of God’s creation and their witness to the church.
*Blog readers who don’t live in sunny Los Angeles – in the midst of winter, we thought it would be nice to share a story that involved the warm sun – soak it up!
The first class of LGBTQ seminarians to enter candidacy since the 2009 Churchwide decision to ordain openly gay pastors enters assignment this week. “Assignment” is the process where candidates for ministry in the ELCA are assigned to a specific region of the country. The country is divided into nine geographic regions. Candidates submit their geographic preferences, along with a large packet of paperwork about themselves, their gifts, and their visions for ministry. A small group of bishops and representatives from each region then gather to place each candidate. After regional placement, candidates begin the process of meeting churches and ministry sites to find the best match. We have been praying hard for all involved in this process: Holy Spirit, do your work!
Needless to say this is a time of extreme anxiety and anticipation for candidates who are wondering where they are going to live and what kind of ministry they might share. For LGBTQ candidates, there is the additional anxiety of wondering which congregations will be open to receiving the gifts of an LGBTQ candidate.
Eight members of Proclaim are in assignment this week and eleven additional Proclaim members await first call, some for several years. These candidates entered candidacy before the 2009 decision.
Proclaim offers support and accompaniment for those awaiting call. This accompaniment includes:
1) Tonight, we’ll gather via phone lines and computer screens to do a check in about how this process went for our Proclaim members.
3) Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has recently been invited to the March Conference of Bishops meeting (all of the bishops from each of the 65 synods gathered) to be part of a panel to discuss placement of LGBTQ candidates and rostered leaders. We look forward to sharing insights and stories from our community and to partner more closely with the larger church. Pastor Jason Glombicki (who is being ordained THIS Sunday!) will also be on the panel. Additional panel members include representatives from ReconcilingWorks and two bishops.
We are delighted to be part of this important discussion, which addresses ELM’s mission to create a more welcoming church and to proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all.
Blessings to those who are receiving assignments this week. We are grateful for your witness.
This month, we celebrate calls to five Proclaim leaders! Two of these are first calls and three are new calls for rostered leaders who have been serving in many different ways. We give thanks for these leaders and these congregations and ministries.
We are also excited to share the news that the Rev. Beate Chun has been called to serve at St. Francis Lutheran Church. Pastor Bea begins on March 1 and will be installed at St. Francis on Sunday, March 30 at 3:00 p.m.
And ELM’s very own Rev. Jen Rude has received a synodical call to specialized ministry in her role as Program Director at ELM! Pastor Jen’s call comes from the Metro Chicago Synod of the ELCA. Stay tuned for details about Jen’s installation.
Goal six of our strategic plan is that “Proclaim members will be actively engaged in planned strategies geared toward creating a church where all may serve according to their callings.” With each call, one more Proclaim leader is affirmed in their work to proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Responds to Thrivent Changes
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries was deeply disappointed to learn of Thrivent Financial’s recent decision to exclude our organization from their various grant programs because they consider our ministry “divisive.”
Thrivent’s recent decision excludes certain organizations from member-directed giving via the Thrivent Choice program; employee gift-matching programs; and Thrivent chapter matching grants. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has received funds through all of these programs. These funds supported Lutheran pastors, Lutheran seminarians, and Lutheran congregations and ministries. This change in policy affects not just the organizations who are now excluded, but also the Thrivent members, employees, chapters, and congregations that are part of the LGBTQ community.
While neither Thrivent nor Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries are exclusively Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bodies, many of our shared supporters are ELCA members. This action violates the spirit and the letter of the hard-wrought commitments the ELCA made in 2009 to “bear one another’s burdens, love the neighbor, and respect the bound consciences of all.” In those actions, the ELCA did not commit to a policy of neutrality, but to one of active inclusion of differing stances. In this conscience-respecting stance, the ELCA offered a model for how churches and faith-based institutions can honor both oneness and theological diversity. Thrivent’s action steps back from that bold witness and returns to a time when churches and institutions acted out of fear more than good faith.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes in a church wide enough to embrace differences of opinion.
The letter that our donors have received from Thrivent is disheartening. In the letter, Thrivent stated that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is one of a “small number of organizations and issues that are so divisive they distract, or have the potential to distract, from the common purpose of Thrivent and its membership.” The letter further states that the Thrivent Choice program reflects the “shared values of our members, advisors, and employees.” It is impossible to reconcile those words with a decision to exclude organizations such as ours that are, in fact, supported by Thrivent members, advisors, and employees.
We urge Thrivent Financial to drop their disingenuously named “neutrality” policy and restore the meaning of member-directed giving by allowing its members, employees, and chapters to truly choose which organizations they wish to support.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries affirms and supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer 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. We are thankful for the many supporters and friends of our organization and those of our movement partner, ReconcilingWorks, also affected by this decision.
Learn more about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries at www.elm.org.
What you can do:
We encourage you to contact Thrivent about this decision, especially if you are a Thrivent member or if your congregation invests in Thrivent. We remind everyone that many employees and members of Thrivent are supporters of ELM, ReconcilingWorks, and other affected organizations. This decision has been very difficult news for them too. It is important to be thoughtful, respectful, and kind in your communications. We want to encourage Thrivent to revisit this decision and to honor the meaning of “member-directed” giving. We believe that LGBTQ people are part of the church and that our lives, families, and calls are not “divisive.”
3. Contact your Thrivent Representative and set up a meeting or conversation to discuss your concerns.
4. Consider increasing your support for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, ReconcilingWorks, and other affected organizations through a direct gift from you or your congregation. We received $2,985 in funding last year through Thrivent member-directed giving. With a growing number of LGBTQ seminarians, pastors, and LGBTQ-led congregations to support, we need resources to encourage and support these ministry leaders. Contribute now.
5. Share this post with your Facebook friends, congregation, friends, and others.
Guest blog by Proclaim member and First Call Candidate Brenda Bos
The 2005 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America looked like most Churchwide Assemblies. A few thousand earnest Lutherans, ready to discuss and debate the issues which vex and motivate the church. Pastor James Boline, fresh-faced blond South Dakotan, now serving a congregation in Santa Monica, heart pounding, knew his destiny was about to be sealed.
“I incarnate the issue which is before this assembly…”
The resolution was the vote regarding the ordination of gay and lesbian pastors. Boline had tearfully told his church council and his bishop Dean Nelson just a week earlier it was time to come out at Churchwide. He had received his church’s blessing and his bishop’s prayers and had headed to Orlando to face the church he loved.
Holding the Bible he had received in his third grade Sunday School class at Trinity Lutheran Church in Vermillion, South Dakota over thirty years earlier, Boline leaned down to speak into the microphone.
“…I am a third-generation pastor of this church, a gay man, in a relationship of profound love and commitment with my beloved partner of eight years, Christopher Ma, who is also your child, named and claimed in the waters of baptism. With my beloved Christopher I share my life and my home and my soul, my meals, my body, my ministry, my joys and my sorrows, and all that the years bring…” Boline reminded the church of both his and his partner’s Christ-marked lives and asked for their prayers, for his family, his church, his bishop and himself, who “refused to be banished from this church.” A few speakers later another man who had been in the same Sunday School class decades earlier spoke against the resolution. The resolution would fail that year and two years later, finally passing
While Boline was in Orlando, Becca Seely was preparing for her senior year in college. She joined a friend at St. John St. Matthew Emanuel Lutheran church in Brooklyn, New York and liked what she saw and heard. Raised Unitarian Universalist, Becca was baptized Lutheran and slowly answered the call to ordained ministry, entering Yale Divinity School in 2009. Her coming out was much less public or dramatic than Boline’s. In fact, Seely admits her friends and family find her call to ministry much more unusual than her sexuality.
Both Boline and Seely are members of Proclaim, the professional community for publicly identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, seminarians and candidates. Both also graduated from Yale Divinity School. As part of her seminary education, Seely is serving her internship at Boline’s church, St. Paul’s Lutheran in Santa Monica, California.
St. Paul’s is proud of their story, which includes going “under sanction” while supporting their gay pastor before 2009. And yet, that moment of courage is only one piece of their eighty-eightyear history. Now the church asks the question most churches ask: what’s next? What is their mission going forward? Two years ago, they decided to become an internship site. Once they agreed to join with other congregations in the community to raise the funds for the internship, they realized they were in a unique spot to offer internships to LGBTQ seminarians.
Boline: St. Paul’s has always been ahead of curve on the LGBT issue by calling me and keeping me after my coming out. When we realized the great need for LGBTQ interns to have welcoming sites, we found ourselves saying, ‘Of course we need to be this place’. We have a great community; we have a supervisor who is a leader in the LGBTQ Lutheran community, and it just sort of all clicked.
St. Paul’s called their first intern, Brenda Bos, in 2012. Bos lived in Southern California and could waive intern housing. This allowed the church to try the internship program out for a year before making the enormous financial commitment interns require.
Boline: So there was this moment in our annual congregational meeting when we had to decide whether or not we would continue, not only with the internship, but as an intentionally welcoming site for LGBTQ interns. The congregation was confronted with the challenge of finances and housing in the second year, and that was the defining moment, when they raised their hands, literally, by the Holy Spirit of God, when calling LGBTQ interns became St. Paul’s own calling.
St. Paul’s second intern, Becca Seely, arrived in September, 2013, just days after she married her wife, Abby.
Seely: I had my own “a-ha moment”, when I was interviewing for a site where the supervisor was really supportive, but said, “You know we would really have to work through whether this would be an OK fit with you with the council. They’ve been damaged in these conversations before and I don’t think anyone would be unkind to you, but it’s something the congregation would have to work on.” It was a totally fair response. I realized this is a reality so many other interns are facing.
The supervisor said, “Do you want to be the intern who goes into a place who has those hard conversations? Maybe you will change hearts and minds and help the congregation move forward on this issue. Or do you want to go to a place where it’s a non-issue so you can work on other parts of your formation without that being a distraction? What do you feel called to in the internship process?” I realized it was important to go someplace where I could work on ministry and not be that person who was pushing that envelope. So I was really grateful for St. Paul’s, where I could have a supervisor who has walked this road of being a gay man and also a pastor, and see how you do that.
Boline: It’s been important for me to think about being a gay pastor again, in this new light. It almost feels self-aggrandizing to talk about gay inclusion because the people of St. Paul’s are on the same page of acceptance already. But we need to constantly receive those who are often not welcome by the church, and we need to continue naming the exclusion of LGBTQ people in the church, even though that means we are naming our own oppression.
Seely: On a practical level, I hope St. Paul’s can serve as a pioneering example of what other congregations can do and the collaboration between several funding congregations can happen in other communities.
St. Paul’s has received financial support from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, Lutheran Church of the Master, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Chapter of Reconciling Works and the Southwest California Synod’s Mission and Ministry Endowment,for this LGBTQ internship.
Boline: And for the record, I can’t wait for our first transgender seminarian.
Seely: And I bet there’s a transgender seminarian who can’t wait for an internship site that can’t wait for them!
Boline: We don’t remark on this very often, but we have a unique combination of being internship site with a gay pastor and a gay intern with a transgender person on the internship committee. Actually, the reason I asked Suzanne to be on your committee is because she’s a lifelong Lutheran and works in Hollywood.
Seely: She gives great sermon notes!
Boline: The fact that she’s transgender is certainly interesting, but it was not the reason I put her on your committee. Gay supervisor and intern, gay and transgender people on your committee: it all happened in one place. All that, AND a gay bishop too!Like I said, we don’t remark on it often. Maybe we forget how remarkable it is.
I often pinch myself that I get to be involved with the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Not only am I awed by the past courage and faithfulness of our founders, I’m daily inspired by the new vision of people with long-time and recent involvement in our mission.
I got a big dose of that this past weekend as the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ Board met for their first in-person meeting of 2014. This group of volunteer leaders provides the strategic vision and overall governance for the work of ELM. They are all closely involved with our programs (Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement) and our committees (Development, Inclusions, Board Recruitment, and Finance).
We gathered Jan 30 – Feb 2 in Washington, D.C. for a three day meeting and retreat. We are always looking for the most economical, yet satisfying way to spend time together. This year we tried something new and found a home through the rental site AirBnB that would accommodate our whole group and cost less than a retreat center. Yes, it was a little bit like the Real World House! We loved having a place to ourselves in the heart of the city. Board member Rose Beeson coordinated fantastic, nutritious, and simple meals – and our total food bill was about a third of what we usually spend at a retreat center.
We spent time discussing the next steps in our strategic plan and recent development in our three programs. We celebrated that the Proclaim community has reached 148 members! We prayed about and discussed new ways to support the 11 people in the Proclaim community still awaiting first call, and those awaiting a new call. We heard from several experts – Steve Hitchcock, who inspired us with ideas about raising the funds we need to support our mission; John Beck, who will be working with our board on the Intercultural Development Inventory in the coming year; and YK Hong, who led us through a conversation about gender identity and expression and how to expand our understanding and work in areas affecting the transgender members of our community. We had thoughtful conversation about the changes in civil marriage laws and how this impacts our community. We reviewed our fundraising achievements in 2013 and examined the work ahead as we seek to bring new supporters in to learn about and engage in our ever-growing work. We had many moments of energy around the results and greatly expanding work of our three programs Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement, led by our new program director, the Rev. Jen Rude.
Our current Board includes: Rev. Julie Boleyn (Co-Chair), Rev. Mike Wilker (Co-Chair), Dr. Jeremy Posadas (Secretary), Charlie Horn (Treasurer); Asher O’Callaghan, Rose Beeson, Rev. Dr. Elise Brown; Carolyne Schultz, M.S.W., Angel Marrero, Jim Kowalski, and the Rev. Dr. Randy Nelson. This is a hardworking and committed group of leaders. Please join me in praying for them, thanking them, and supporting the work they do to lead Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.