This past weekend ELM was invited to participate in a panel at the Conference of Bishops to talk about placement of LGBTQ candidates for rostered ministry. The panel included Proclaim pastor, Rev. Jason Glombicki, ELM program director Rev. Jen Rude, Bishop Mark Holmerud, Bishop Ralph Jones and ReconcilingWorks Executive Director Emily Eastwood. The panel was organized and facilitated by Bishop Jon Anderson. Each panelist shared from a unique perspective to further the conversation.
Some of the things we shared from ELM’s perspective:
+ We have 150 members of Proclaim, publicly identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Lutheran rostered leaders, seminarians and candidates
+ 45 synods are represented in Proclaim
+ 39 of our members are seminarians
+ Our community has tripled in size in the past 3 years and we are continuing to grow
+ 2 weeks ago, 8 of our members received assignments. These 8 join 13 other members of our community who are still awaiting first call, some after years of waiting.
+ 15 members of Proclaim are on internship this year and will be looking toward assignment next year.
+ God has indeed blessed our church with an abundance of gifts in these leaders!
Things are shifting – the Spirit is moving in our church. During Q & A, bishops asked thoughtful and honest questions about how to best work with LGBTQ candidates. They shared stories of creative ministry, accompanying congregations becoming open to the gifts of LGBTQ leaders, and some bishops even shared parts of their own journey toward becoming more open.
Leading up the panel we shared the topic and collected thoughts from members of Proclaim, asking, “What would you like to say to a room full of bishops?”
Here are some of those thoughts we shared with the bishops:
1. Affirm our whole selves. During the assignment process, candidates want you to be talking about them as whole people, including, but not only, their sexual orientation and gender identity. In call processes, be in communication with candidates about how and when they want to come out to congregations.
2. We are qualified candidates. You are not being asked to take inferior candidates. LGBTQ candidates have fulfilled their requirements and have heard a call as strongly as their straight counterparts and have often endured a different kind of scrutiny in answering that call. LGBTQ candidates are a gift in our church, not a problem to be solved.
3. Help open possibilities. Be open and attentive to the gifts of your congregations, especially the gifts they may not have noticed themselves. We have experienced that some congregations may not have self-identified as being open to an LGBTQ candidate, but with thoughtful and open conversation with a bishop, they realized possibilities they had not imagined before.
4. Help provide access. Be sensitive to the reality that there are more limited call opportunities for LGBTQ people, and, unless there is some clear reason not to, allow a candidate’s paperwork to be seen by congregations, especially if the pastor or candidate has taken the time to review the congregation’s published info and contacted the synod office regarding that specific call.
5. Be aware of the legal landscape. State laws regarding marriage equality and protection for adopted children of gay and lesbian parents may be a factor for a candidate and their mobility. One candidate was assigned a synod where she would have no legal protection as the adoptive mother of her and her wife’s small child. They have since moved to a state that recognizes her family, but she is still awaiting first call after 3 years.
6. Help us do ministry in the waiting. Encourage your candidates to supply preach so they can be better known in the synod and so the church can receive their gifts. One member who was awaiting first call in the New England synod teamed up with a retired pastor – he offered to preside anytime she was invited to preach (and he let her keep the check!).
7. Our prayers are with you. One of our pastors who recently received a first call and will be ordained later this month shared these words for you: “Do not be afraid, but continue to walk with your clergy and candidates as the pastor to the pastors you are called to be, trusting also your call and the Spirit’s presence to guide you.”
The conversation continues. ELM continues to be a resource for synods, candidates, rostered leaders, and congregations working to celebrate the gift of LGBTQ people called to rostered ministry in the Lutheran church. Thanks for your partnership in this Spirit-filled work!