The Colorful Kingdom of God

by Jen Rude, ELM Program Director

Last Friday I had the privilege of attending a workshop on Creative Activism, hosted by Table to Action – a project of Auburn Seminary. Proclaim member Emily Ewing was also present.

colorful kingdom of GodIt was a day filled with inspiration and affirmation about the important work we all do together.  When I saw my partner Deb at the end of the day she looked at my hand with a worried look before she realized it wasn’t blood – it was magic marker!  (You can see our group’s artistic imagination in the photo – moving from the world as it is to the world as it can be – a messy, colorful, faithful, creative, communal path).

One of the activities we did as part of our introductions was to each say what we were working on and what a “win” would look like for us – the passage of a bill, a more inclusive church, funding for a community center, etc.  Participants included pastors, community organizers, youth project leaders, professors and more.  After we all shared, our facilitators used one participant as an example.  “We’re from the future,” they said.  “Congratulations! You’ve won. Now, what’s next?” and the participant named another victory, to which they replied, “Now you’ve won that!  What does the world look like?  What’s next?” and back and forth they went until the participant finally (with more than a little exasperation) said, “Then the kingdom of God would be here in Chicago!”

Now each of us were invited individually to go through the same process for our own work – imagine we’ve won (gifted and called LGBTQ rostered leaders are actively serving churches and ministries throughout our church), what does it look like (dynamic ministry, witness to the Good News), what’s next (others feel inspired to follow their callings, to re-think what church is and could be, bold proclamation to the gospel in creative new ways), and on and on.

We start to notice along the way our separate particular issues started to look and sound similar (communities are inspired, different kinds of people are working together), and as we went further along, we began to see that we were all ending up in the same place – the kingdom of God.  You could feel the energy and joy in the room.  What we are working for is not just the passage of this bill, or the end to this particular form of discrimination, or a commitment from this funder. What we are working toward is nothing less than the kingdom of God.

It’s important to keep the big picture in mind.  And sometimes we need magic markers and laughter and each other to envision what it could look like – and to believe it is possible.

In our work at ELM, we work hard to support and affirm LGBTQ pastors, candidates and seminarians, and to engage allied congregations and ministries not just because we love LGBTQ people (which, we do) and not just because LGBTQ people need jobs (which, they do).  We work hard to engage people in this bold witness to our church because ultimately our work is not just to create a better church for LGBTQ children of God; it’s to help usher in the beautiful, diverse, creative, whole, joyful, fabulous, colorful kingdom of God.

Our vision together is that big.  And we’re going to need a lot of creative coloring to get there.

Thanks for being a part of this colorful work!

Extraordinary Proclaim Seminarians

You support extraordinary leaders like Kyle Severson. Kyle is heading up a new initiative at ELM – the Proclaim Seminarians Team. Read on…

Kyle Severson is a student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, on internship this year at Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Lincolnshire, IL. He’s an ELCA Fund for Leaders in Mission Scholar, a Fund for Theological Education Fellow, and a Proclaim member.  Kyle and his partner Clyde live in Forest Park, IL.

Kyle Severson Photo

Kyle joined Proclaim in 2011 to be “part of a network of mentors, colleagues, and friends who might have gone or are going through similar joys and challenges as a part of the journey through candidacy and ministry as an openly gay person.” We currently have 41 Proclaim seminarians, with members at each of the 8 ELCA seminaries and many divinity schools.

Starting this month, Kyle is taking the lead on one of our newest ways to affirm and highlight the gifts of LGBTQ seminarians: the Proclaim Seminarians Team.  In leading this team, Kyle hopes “we can be the eyes and ears of the seminary communities and both pastorally and professionally support our seminarian peers as they move through this formative time.”

The Proclaim Seminarians Team will include representatives from each of the 8 ELCA seminaries and some divinity schools.  These students will meet via video and conference call throughout the year to:

+  plan fall welcome activities for LGBTQ seminary students

+  make Proclaim and ELM more visible in ELCA seminaries both for LGBTQ students and others

+  provide support for students within the Lutheran candidacy process, and those getting ready for internship or first call

+  invite LGBTQ seminary students to attend the annual Proclaim Retreat, as a chance to connect with other LGBTQ seminarians and rostered leaders throughout the country

+ address the specific needs of LGBTQ seminarians in an effort to support their call to ministry and affirm the unique gift they are to our church

Your support of ELM makes initiatives like the Proclaim Seminarians Team a reality instead of just another great idea. Thank you for supporting Kyle and other extraordinary leaders!



Jen Rude

Holy Week/Spring Devotion: Hard Things

Rev. Jen Rude
Rev. Jen Rude

by Rev. Jen Rude
ELM Program Director

Barbara Kingsolver in a recent interview in The Sun magazine talks about raising her kids with the mantra (that she learned as part of their Montessori education), “You can do hard things.” Instead of taking over, or never allowing them to try and fail, when a task was difficult, she reminded them, “You can do hard things.”  They have absorbed these words as their own and now often repeat it back to their mother when she is struggling.  I am struck by how often I limit myself in the face of hard things, but also how looking back, these have often been the most meaningful and profound things.  This season, I remind myself, I can do hard things.

Parker Palmer in one of my favorite books of his, Let Your Life Speak, says this about spring:   “I will wax romantic about spring and its splendors in a moment, but first there is a hard truth to be told: before spring becomes beautiful, it is plug ugly, nothing but mud and muck. I have walked in the early spring through fields that will suck your boots off, a world so wet and woeful it makes you yearn for the return of ice.  But in that muddy mess, the conditions for rebirth are being created.”  Although I won the award for “muddiest camper” at summer camp when I was a kid, mostly these days I’m not thrilled about being in the muck – it’s hard, and often not very pleasant.  But I wonder, what new life awaits me there, here, in this muck?  This season, I remind myself to enter into the muck (or not be so quick to get out of it) knowing that avoiding the muck is often avoiding the possibilities of new life.

Joel Workin, one of the early prophets in the LGBTQ movement in the Lutheran church wrote an essay called “The Cost,” now in a book of his collected writings entitled, Dear God, I am Gay… Thank you! (For those of you coming to the retreat, you’ll have an opportunity to hear more about Joel Workin and to receive his book).  This essay was written about the time of “the Berkeley Three,” three seminarians who came out to their candidacy committees, whose actions fueled the LGBTQ movement in the Lutheran church.

A short excerpt from Joel’s essay:  “The past months have been a time of kairos, and it seems that a great part of what angers people is a recognition of the cost, the price of being ‘out’ in the Lutheran church. The toll, both professionally and personally, is indeed very high. Careers are ended, even before they are begun. Private life vanishes.  Families are exposed to public attention.  No one can pretend that being out is easy, that to follow the call to honesty and discipleship in this way is without a cross.  Yet, what is the cost of the closet?  Over and over again, as people, many of them closeted, express their rage over the price that three seminarians and many others have to pay for being out, I want to know – what about the cost of the closet?”

This Holy Week, Joel’s words invite me once again to think about the costly way of the cross.  But also, the costly way of not the cross.  The choice is not between paying a price and not paying a price – but which price, and what cost, which hard thing, and for what.

This week I remind myself that our God can do hard things, is doing hard things, even (especially) in the muck, and that through God, by way of the cross, so can we.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” 

-Matthew 16:24-25

Dreamers & Visionaries

80 Proclaim members and family members have registered for the 2014 Proclaim Retreat, “Dreams & Visions.”  We will gather May 4-7 at the Heartwood Retreat Center in Trego, WI for 4 days of speakers, workshops, worship, small groups, late night chats, walks in the woods, Show Tunes kickball, conversation, renewal, and more.

ELCA Director for New Congregations
Workshop Presenter: Rev. Ruben Duran, ELCA Director for New Congregations

Faith-Rooted Organizing + Mission Development +Anti-Oppression
Alexia Salvatierra will lead several sessions related to faith-rooted organizing – from leadership development and motivation to prophetic liturgy and street theater.  Jessica Vasquez Torres will lead a session titled “Exploring Queer Complicity in Cultural Dominance and How to Interrupt it.”   ELCA staff member Ruben Duran will lead workshops for those interested in (and doing) mission development and re-development.  Richard and Trish Bruxvoort-Colligan will be our musicians for the retreat – leading music in worship, hosting a workshop on a musical spiritual life, playing an evening concert and sharing a few special numbers in our Open Stage Variety Show. 2013 Joel Workin Scholar Gretchen Colby Rode will be leading a workshop on lament and the Psalms entitled “How Long, O Lord?”  Proclaim members Javen Swanson and Tim Feiertag will lead a workshop on Building an Inclusive Church.

Dreams & VisionsConnection + Renewal
Being a publicly identified LGBTQ leader in the church has its blessings and challenges.  Simply being together is one of the most life-giving and ministry-sustaining parts of the retreat. One past participate remarked that the Proclaim retreat is one place where she can be herself “unapologetically and enthusiastically.” The diversity among participants makes it possible for us to create affinity groups for parish pastors; those in specialized ministry; those awaiting first call; seminarians; and other groups with specific interests and needs. Seasoned pastors and first year seminarians are able to connect and share ideas during this unique place of connection.

How Your Support Helps
ELM is committed to making the retreat affordable to all.  We are able to do this thanks to ELM supporters. This year we received special grants from the Philip N. Knutson Endowment , the St. Francis Lutheran Church Endowment and the Ebenezer Lutheran Church Endowment in support our speakers and outreach for the retreat. The bulk of support comes from friends of ELM. Attendees pay $385, which just covers the basic direct costs for the retreat. This year we have awarded 26 scholarships for seminarians and those without a call to attend this event. You can help us continue to provide these scholarships as we support and affirm these gifted and called leaders in our church.  We need the extraordinary leadership of these dreamers and visionaries!  You can sponsor a full scholarship for a seminarian or person awaiting call for $385.  
Click here to give.  Please make a note that your gift is for retreat scholarships.  Thank you for your support! 


Proclaim Worship

Proclaim Leaders Are Energized & Busy

You hear a lot about Proclaim, the community for publicly identified LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians. Do you wonder what they are actually up to? Turns out, quite a bit! 

 Proclaim Team Meeting

Here’s a quick overview of topics discussed on a recent Proclaim Team web-call, as reported out by Proclaim Team Secretary Carolina Glauster:

*A Proclaim Presence at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering–overheard: the phrase “selfie photobooth”

*The Roller-Coaster that is Springtime in Seminary–1st years are hearing about Field-ed placements, 2nd years are hearing about Internship placements, and 3rd years have all heard at least some info about Assignment, so it’s a good time to reach out to and/or pray for a seminarian

Tim Weisman*Proclaim Survey – we’re gathering some great demographic and personal information about LGBTQ leaders to help the church understand more about our gifts and needs!

*Sharing our Stories Project – we are collecting stories for a yet-unnamed anthology of our shared stories – this was inspired by the project “And So We Speak” done by the United Church of Christ – and funded by a grant from the Philip N. Knutson Endowment at St. Olaf College.

As we’d expect this time of year, a topic that resurfaced several times during our call was….the Assignment process.  It’s a sometimes wonderful and also often really rough time for so many of us for so many reasons.  We talked about ways we can continue to support each other.

We worked together on several ideas for new and better ways to keep connecting and supporting folks as the wheels of the first call process turn. Let’s continue to keep one another in our prayers and look for opportunities to support one another.

The Proclaim Retreat is coming so soon and the news from the retreat team is exciting!  We heard that there are already lots o’ registrations–and they’re still coming in!  It’s gonna be a hoot!

ELM was invited to both the Conference of Bishops meeting and the ELCA Internship Directors meeting in March.  It’s Proclaim Worshipvery exciting to be invited and to know our voices are being sought out by both of these groups!

Ongoing ways to be involved:

A brand-new, full-fledged, Seminarian Team is convening this year, with new ways for seminarians to connect. Look for more info on this at the retreat and coming to you from your seminarian reps: Emily Ewing and Paul Gibson.

Chaplain selection process will happen at the retreat as usual–be thinking about who might serve (maybe you?) and look for more info on that soon from Chaplain Laura Kuntz.

ELM Friends – your contributions and prayers keep this work going. Without you, we couldn’t do any of this.

Proclaim, a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, is a professional community of Lutheran rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ. There are 154 members in Proclaim, living and doing ministry in 45 of the 65 ELCA synods. Proclaim photos by Emily Ann Garcia. Learn more.


ELM Announces New Name and Logo

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ELF - cropped

On Tuesday, April 1, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries announced their new name, Extraordinary Lutheran Federation (ELF), to reflect their expanding mission.  ELF also revealed a new logo, an adorable woodland creature.

“Once we started discussing new name options, we quickly settled on ELF,” said executive director Amalia Vagts. “We wanted to keep consistency in our name. It was just pure luck that in our research, we learned that the elf has long been recognized as the LGBTQ one among all magical creatures.  I live in Decorah, Iowa, so I was hoping there was a way for it to be a nisse, but they really don’t have the same connection to our work as elves do.” Vagts added that she still recommends putting a nisse in your window and treating it kindly.

ELF Program Director Jen Rude shared her enthusiasm about the change by announcing that ELF will be distributing pointed shoes and little hats for all members of Proclaim. “Elves are cute, outspoken and just a little bit mischievous,” said Pastor Rude. “I say, if the pointed shoe fits…wear it!”

Vagts and Rude added in unison, “APRIL FOOL’S!”

(This April Fool’s Day post written in the spirit of one of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ core values to have fun while doing important work. We thank ELM friend Bennett Falk for helping us to remember to have fun! You can learn more about our work at