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.
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.
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).