Gold Star

It’s So Fun To Get a Gold Star!

by Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive DirectorGuideStar

Remember how fun it was to get a gold star in school?

I felt that way this week when Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries received the GuideStar Exchange Gold participation level from one of the premiere sources of nonprofit information.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is in the midst of a three year strategic plan. Goal 8 is to become an organization that meets widely accepted benchmarks for nonprofit excellence, and this helps us get closer to achieving that goal. ELM is committed to transparency and accountability as a a core organizational value.

Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “Think of us this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.” We take seriously this commitment to using our supporters’ resources wisely and carefully.

gold-starGuideStar  helps current and future supporters make informed decisions about where they are investing their charitable contributions.  We’re working hard to make ELM efficient and effective!

You can check out our listing by clicking here.

Thank you to all our wonderful supporters who are helping us grow in a sustainable manner so we can continue to assure LGBTQ ministers and their ministries that will be here for them as they live out their call to proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all.


Finding a Place in our Public Church

A guest blog by Proclaim member Rev. Cindy Crane

Rev. Cindy Crane was a member of the historic Extraordinary Roster and was reinstated to the ELCA clergy roster following the 2009 changes in ministry policy.

cindy crane with bishops
Annual ELCA advocacy event in Washington D.C. Bishops Barrows, Arends and Hoyme with Senator Baldwin. Rev. Cindy Crane at the far right.

You are not only responsible for what you say but for what you don’t say.”   Martin Luther

I am inspired by our tradition’s many quotes and writings that direct us to love our neighbor. And it makes a difference to be doing advocacy work from a faith perspective with my ordination fully recognized. I realized just how much I valued doing advocacy work as a pastor within my first few weeks working as the director of the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) beginning in January 2014.

I was very attracted to the LOPPW position and thought I could draw on my background both in parish ministry and the work I’ve had in secular nonprofits. However, I didn’t expect to feel this – a sense of wholeness and of having returned from a sort of exile, an experience I only associated with going back into parish ministry if that would ever happen. But being part of the ELCA with a team of people around the country praying and grappling with scripture, social statements and current public policies when looking at injustice feels just right at this time in my life. I am thankful.

LOPPW is one of about 14 state public policy offices that receive funding from the ELCA. Four of those offices, including Wisconsin’s, have directors that are churchwide employees. ELCA World Hunger supports us to focus on hunger issues, which create a large umbrella. Some of the offices advocate for just policies related to the environment and taxes as well as for safety net programs and laws that can move in the direction of eradicating hunger. Right now LOPPW’s priorities are youth experiencing homelessness, human sex trafficking and Wisconsin’s plan for how to use its tax excess. In the case of youth who experience homelessness with their families we also support a higher minimum wage. Kudos to Bishop Eaton for writing a letter asking for a higher minimum wage to all of the U.S. senators.

LOPPW’s advocacy is on the level of public policy. We build relationships with political leaders and expand an advocacy network of ELCA members across the state. We also join with other faith-based groups and secular organizations to deepen our impact and support the efforts of others who act as instruments of God’s peace.

Needing to be open about who I am as a lesbian and having my ordination fully recognized before taking another position in the church were both a part of my activism. I don’t judge others who take different paths; I was completely to partially closeted for 10 years in the parish. I didn’t leave the ministry and not look back at the church but I didn’t look back at contradictions that wore at my spirit. I appreciate engaging with paradox, but not confusion.

Thanks to a grant from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries a couple of years ago, I was able to start a part-time ministry 14 years after leaving the ministry. That ministry helped to crack the church door back open for me.    Now I feel graced to have returned this way to a full-time call with my activism in tact and in wonder of how God moves us to be advocates for others.

Check us out at and like us on Facebook (look for LOPPW)!

Group Photo

Faithful. Fabulous

Amalia Vagts
Amalia Vagts

by Amalia Vagts, Executive Director

I offered this reflection on opening night of the 2014 Proclaim Retreat. I’m sharing it here as a way of inviting you into a bit of “retreat” time in your day.

I want to welcome you to the 2014 Proclaim Retreat and to say a few words about three things  – community, change, and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

This is the 4th Proclaim retreat. And it’s the 20th or so gathering of openly LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians. I think three of the folks who attended that first one in the 1990’s are here. Many of them are still active in the Proclaim community.

What do we mean when we say “community?” Proclaim community, LGBTQ community. It often conjures up the idea of a fixed group with clear edges – someone is in it; someone is out of it.

I think it is more helpful to think of this word as dynamic… think of the Holden Village community. I often talk about being “part of the Holden community” in the fall of 2005. The beauty of the Holden community is that it turns over nearly every day during high season. A bus comes in, and a bus goes out. Yet the community finds values and truths that remain constant.

If you are new to this community, I urge you to not imagine that you need to do something specific to become “part” of it. You are it. If it is your first time here, I encourage you to know that you come with some of the answers to questions we’ve been asking. And if you have been coming for 25 years, I encourage you to see that you come with some of the questions we still need to ask. This community, the Proclaim community, extends back long before the word “Proclaim” was associated with it and it will continue, I hope, long into the future reflecting new shared values and truths.

The Proclaim community has experienced tremendous change in the last 5 years.  When a group grows or changes, we always lose things as we gain other things. This gathering is not what it was for those who gathered in the early 1990’s. There can be sadness in that and it’s important to name that. We need to remember always why we change and to celebrate what has come from that.

Each of you is here. Look around this room. Take a quick mental selfie. YOU are here.

And that is what we are celebrating. We are a dynamic community that continues to experience enormous change. It will be through naming this, honoring it, talking about it and moving through it together that we remain flexible and grow into new ways of being church. When you speak out about what is working or not working, you help the whole community evolve.

whole group photo 2014
Proclaim Gathering 2014

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
Why does this organization even exist? Well, all justice and social movements exist in response to some form of injustice. If sexual orientation and gender identity and expression were non-issues in our church, there would be no need for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. We  name the injustice. Our church suffers from the sins of homophobia, heterosexism, and sexism.

Later on this weekend we are going to learn from the brilliant Alexia Salvatierra. Two years ago, I did an exercise in one of her workshops that clarified my vision for this work. Alexia talks about meeting the world’s lie with God’s dream. For far too long, the world and the church have told the lie that LGBTQ people are lesser and inherently sinful.  You were faithful to God’s call through that lie. And now, some are telling a new lie – that we’re “all the same.” God’s dream is that we are wonderfully made. We are each, wonderfully made in God’s divine image and God’s dream is that we are not lesser than or inherently sinful.  God’s dream is that we are unique. And you understand that. Your are fabulous. Jesus teaches that the Body of Christ is comprised of many parts. We are not all the same – our diversity is the very thing that brings beauty and strength.  I love a simple vase of yellow tulips. It’s so pretty. But it is the dazzling bouquet that captivates and inspires me.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is here to share God’s dream about LGBTQ people called to rostered ministry. We exist to affirm and support you and your ministries. We celebrate you. Proclaim is one important part of that work – as rostered leaders, you have been set apart for distinct ministry in this church. And we proclaim God’s love and seek justice in order to affirm and support you in that calling in the face of the world’s lies about you.

The 2nd  part of ELM’s work is candidacy accompaniment. Through this program, we provide particular accompaniment – which can at times include advocacy – as you negotiate the candidacy process. In this way ELM affirms and supports those pursuing rostered leadership in this church and we proclaim God’s love and seek justice in this process.

The 3rd major part of work is Ministry Engagement – affirming and supporting those ministries who are allies in this work – those calling and those seeking to call LGBTQ rostered leaders.

Group Photo
Amy Hanson, Amalia Vagts & Scott Richards

This is what we’re trying to say with these shirts that say “Faithful. Fabulous.” You have been astonishingly faithful to a call that has not been easy for many of you. We celebrate that. And you ARE fabulous and we celebrate and encourage your fabulousness!

I invite you to be faithful – and fabulous.

(Edited from a previous version for clarity).

Named and Proclaimed

In their own words, hear what some of the 80 Proclaim members and families who gathered last week for the 2014 Proclaim Retreat had to say after 4 days of Faith Rooted Organizing Training, worship at the lake, dynamic workshops, conversations with new and old friends and colleagues, laughter, and community with faithful and fabulous people of God.

retreat photo 1

“The 2014 Proclaim retreat was among the finest professional conferences I have attended as a pastor.” – Rev. Anita Hill

“More than any other group of clergy with whom I gather, this is the one that most reflects and shines with the new life of the Risen Christ.” – Rev. Mark Erson

“This was my first Proclaim Retreat and it was amazing!” – Becky Goche, Wartburg Seminary

video chat
Members of the Proclaim Team who’ve been meeting via Video Chat all year – finally in person!

“Our speakers reminded us that the spirit is calling us to work against remaining injustice both against us and others throughout out church.” Gretchen Rode, First Call Candidate

“The retreat affords me the the opportunity to uplift and be uplifted by others in this ministry that can be so isolating at times.” Paul Johnson, Wartburg Seminary

The retreat and connections “have had an invigorating effect on me.” Jay Berry, Lutheran School of Theology at Philadelphia

“Proclaim fills me with the patience, the vision, and the love to continue working for my place and for the places for all those who are still on an exile’s journey.” Tim Feiertag, First Call Candidate

“I have a new awareness of the gifts we have to offer the church to help heal that which is broken.” Diana Linden-Johnson

I really feel named and proclaimed.” Gus Barnes, Jr. Wartburg Seminary


Next Year’s Proclaim Gathering:  April 17-20, 2015, Stony Point, NY

Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins

Applicants Sought for 2014 Joel R. Workin Award

Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins
Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) invites Lutheran seminarians who publicly identify as LGBTQ to apply to be the 2014 Joel R. Workin Scholar.

Applications are due Friday, June 20.

ELM affirms and supports LGBTQ rostered leaders and those pursuing a call to rostered leadership while engaging allied congregations and ministries. ELM is the custodian of an endowment fund established in 1995 to honor the memory of Joel Raydon Workin.  Joel was one of the three gay seminarians who came out to their Lutheran candidacy committees in 1989 (and were subsequently refused ordination). This act of faithfulness was the spark that ignited our movement of resistance within the ELCA and part of what led to the August 2009 change in ELCA ministry policies.

Each year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar. This award comes with a financial scholarship to a LGBTQ seminarian who embodies Joel’s passion for justice and faith in his or her life and ministry. In addition, the Scholar will be invited throughout the year to be involved with various ELM activities.

2014 marks the 19th anniversary of Joel’s passing from AIDS.  This year, ELM will award a $2,500 grant to a seminary student who meets the eligibility criteria and submits a qualifying application. The increased award is the result of increased contributions to the fund. Thank you to all Workin Fund donors! Previous recipients include the Rev. Jen Rude, the Rev. Matt James, the Rev. Julie Boleyn, Laura Kuntz, Emily Ewing, Rebecca Seely, Asher O’Callahan, and Gretchen Colby Rode.

Past Workin Scholars
Past Workin Scholars

Eligibility – The eligible student must be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer seminary or divinity school student who has demonstrated gifts for ordained or rostered lay ministry and seeks to fulfill their vocation as a publicly identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leader. The student must be a member of Proclaim, the professional community of publicly-identified LGBTQ Lutheran pastors, seminary students and rostered lay leaders. Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Learn more and download the application here.

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Month in Review

Are you just learning about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries? Or Proclaim? Or perhaps you haven’t been keeping up lately with all that’s been happening. Either way, you can easily catch up on the latest news by taking a look at our monthly eNewsletter, the interMISSION.

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