The Work of Ministry

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ – Ephesians 4:11

Javen Swanson.  Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia
Javen Swanson. Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia


We celebrate first calls for Proclaim members Javen Swanson and Paul Gibson.  As they enter into Christ’s work to equip the saints for ministry in these new communities, we give thanks for their spirit and witness in building up the body of Christ.

Javen Swanson has been called to Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St Paul, MN.  His ordination and installation will be at Gloria Dei on August 10th at 3pm.

Paul Gibson has been called to Trinity Lutheran Church in St. Petersburg, Florida.  His ordination will be August 16th at 2pm at St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Clearwater FL (Paul’s home congregation).

Paul Gibson.  Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia
Paul Gibson. Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia




Supporting First Call Candidates

ELM has put together a resource for LGBTQ first call candidates.  The Mysteries of the Ages: ELM’s Unofficial Guide for LGBTQ First Call Candidates provides detailed, fresh advice about navigating the approval and assignment process from those who’ve been there.  The guide is informative, funny, and one-of-a-kind. It is currently being reviewed by those in the approval process and will be released this fall.  It was created by Proclaim members who are currently serving in their first call and members from the Accompaniment Team.

Thank You

Your gift to ELM helps us affirm, support, and walk with LGBTQ seminarians, candidates, and rostered leaders in their ministry.  This is a gift to the whole church.  Thank you!

Amy Hanson

Congratulations to Amy C. Hanson, 2014 Joel Workin Scholar!

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries announces the 2014 Joel R. Workin Scholar, Amy Christine Hanson.

Amy Hanson
Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Amy Hanson is the 2014 Joel R. Workin Scholar, an award created to honor the legacy of Joel Workin, one of the first openly gay seminarians in the Lutheran Church.

Amy recently graduated from Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. She completed her Lutheran formation classes at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN last year. She is currently serving as an intern pastor at First Lutheran Church of St. Peter. Amy has been certified as an ELCA Mission Developer/Redeveloper. During and prior to seminary, Amy worked with a number of social service agencies, including Delores Project and Denver Urban Ministries.  Amy is a member of House for All Sinners and Saints, ELCA, in Denver, CO.

In the letter notifying her of the decision,the committee wrote the following,

“We were compelled by your resume as well as your letter of recommendation, but your essay stood out to us most of all.  You have a gift for language and for weaving together personal narrative with theological exploration.   We loved the way that your writing both reflected your unique voice and engaged in lively conversation with Joel’s sermon.  Many of the members of the committee spoke appreciatively of how the warmth and openness of your essay invited us to get to know not just what you think, but who you are.

The committee was moved by the way you expanded the notion of closet to include your experience of coming out of other closets and into the light.  As you mentioned that Joel does so well in his sermon, we appreciated the way you thoughtfully ‘queered a certain theological conviction’ in your own right.”

In an email conversation about the award and Joel’s impact on her ministry, Amy wrote

“Joel was (and continues to be, through his writing), the sort of prophetic truth teller that is so needed by the church and our broken world. He tells the truth about God and the truth about what it means to be human, and that even in the midst of all this brokenness, the promise of God’s grace and overwhelming love endures. I have known this to be true in my own life, and this is my own call to ministry, to tell the truth about God’s grace in a world that needs to hear it.”

Amy had this to say about her call to ministry,

“My call to ministry is bi-vocational, I feel called to hospital chaplaincy and mission redevelopment parish ministry. Both of these vocations involve meeting the people of God wherever you find them, and accompanying them as they discover and articulate what God is doing in their lives and their communities. I hope to be the sort of brilliant preacher that Joel was, and to honor his legacy by following my call and unceasingly proclaiming the Gospel to the beautiful, broken, and beloved people of God.”

Read Amy’s reflection on Joel Workin’s sermon, “The Light of Lent.” Amy Hanson – Workin Reflection

Joel R. Workin Scholar Award

Each year ELM names a Joel R. Workin Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel Workin. Joel was one of the three gay seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after “coming out” to their candidacy committees.

This award comes with a $2,500 scholarship for academic or spiritual study and is available for publicly-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Lutheran seminarians who are members of Proclaim. The increased award is the result of increased contributions to the fund. The fund is managed by InFaith Community Foundation. Anyone interested in making a planned gift to the fund may contact Amalia Vagts (director(at)

The Workin Scholar Selection committee thanks all who applied for the award.

About Joel Workin

Joel Raydon Workin (1961-1995) was born in Fargo, ND, and grew up on a farm in nearby Walcott. He received his Master of Divinity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, CA. In 1986 Joel interned at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Inglewood, CA.

In the fall of 1987, Joel came out publicly as a gay candidate for the ordained ministry and was certified for call by the American Lutheran Church (a predecessor body to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Following this courageous and faithful act, Joel’s certification was revoked by the ELCA and his name was never placed on the roster of approved candidates waiting for call.

Joel’s ministry continued in Los Angeles, however, at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and as Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice. On December 30, 1988, Joel married Paul Jenkins. Joel was a member of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, North Hollywood. He and Paul were active in Lutherans Concerned/Los Angeles and Dignity/Los Angeles. Paul died of AIDS on June 6, 1993.


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

In the last weeks of his illness, Joel gave his friends and family permission to sponsor an endowed memorial fund in his name. The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Fund was thus established upon Joel’s death on November 29, 1995. Joel’s parents, Ray and Betty Workin worked with Michael Price Nelson and other friends of Joel’s to release a collection of his essays and sermons, called “Dear God, I am Gay – thank you!” The second edition was released in 2013.

Information on receiving a copy of the book here.

Enrich and Transform

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.   Romans 12:2

Seminarian Gus Barnes Jr leading worship.  Photo by Emily Ann Garcia
Seminarian Gus Barnes Jr leading worship. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

The Ministry Engagement Team of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) has been working on a new resource to be released this fall.  This guide, Enrich and Transform: Welcoming LGBTQ Candidates into the Call Process, is for congregational call committees.

This guide is being developed in response to congregations and synods who have asked for resources to help open their doors more widely to live into this new day of welcome and celebration of the gifts of LGBTQ leaders in our church.  The synod will provide guidance on the call process in general and we don’t want to duplicate that. This guide will serve as an additional resource for call committees during this process of discernment and exploration and an encouragement to be open to the full diversity of gifted and called candidates in our church, including LGBTQ candidates.

In addition to Ministry Engagement Team members working on this, we’ve collected wisdom and insights from members of call committees that have recently called an LGBTQ pastor.  Lynn Kriser served on a call committee at St Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church in Michigan where Proclaim member Rev. Laura Kuntz was recently called.  


Rev. Laura Kuntz.  Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.
Rev. Laura Kuntz. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

It was exciting that God provided and called a wonderfully gifted, strong Lutheran pastor to minister to our children, youth and young adults.  Just 5 years ago, this call wouldn’t have been possible.  We all (congregations as well as Pastor Laura) would have lost out on so much.  Now, as the mother of daughters, I’m excited that they have Pastor Laura as an example and a spiritual leader. – Lynn Kriser

Transformation is happening, and we are excited to be a part of it.  We hope many more congregations will open their doors to the gifts of LGBTQ leaders.  As Claire Hoyum, call committee member at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St Paul, MN where Rev. Bradley Schmeling was called in 2012 says:

Many gifted LGBTQ candidates have been waiting far too long for their gospel gifts to be recognized and invited into ministry.  Congregations should not constrain their access to those gifts by artificially limiting the pool of candidates they are willing to consider.

Thanks for your partnership and support as we seek to enrich and transform the whole church through the rich diversity of gospel gifts God has given us.

If you are currently serving on a call committee and would like to be considered to be part of our review team, please contact  Jen (programdirector (at)


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.
Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.


by Jen Rude.  Jen is the program director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and is honored to work with such fine, faithful, fabulous, and fun ELM volunteers and supporters.  Read more.

Friendship Bracelets

Extraordinary Friends, how do we love thee?

Extraordinary FriendsEvery month, we receive contributions from people who have committed to support us throughout the year. We call these folks our “Extraordinary Friends.” If you are one of those Friends, we are thankful beyond words for your sustaining support.

Extraordinary Friends make ELM’s world go round!

There are many in the church who say they support diverse leaders. But it takes financial resources to provide the kind of accompaniment, affirmation, and advocacy that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is known for. In the last year our Friends have helped us with projects like the following…

  •  Host the Proclaim Retreat – largest dedicated gathering of LGBTQ rostered leaders and ministry candidates in any denomination.
  • Field calls and emails from over 40 Lutheran candidates for ministry looking for resources with candidacy.
  • Present at the ELCA Conference of Bishops and the ELCA seminary internship directors’ annual retreat about working with LGBTQ candidates. We were also invited to attend the ELCA Fund for Leaders’ annual dinner in recognition of our support for candidates.
  • Work on the following one-of-a-kind resources: Candidacy and LGBTQ Individuals (for ELCA candidacy committees); a handbook for first call candidates; a guide for call committees and synods wanting to extend a welcome to LGBTQ candidates; and a collection of stories from LGBTQ ministers.

Here are some words of thankfulness from LGBTQ leaders supported through by our Extraordinary Friends:

Jill Rode“If you don’t have hope about the future of the church, you need to meet a member of the Proclaim community, especially one of our seminarians.”

 “ELM provides promised and lived community.”

 “The Proclaim Retreat provides a place for renewal, collegiality, learning, and witness.”             

 “Words of gratitude seem an inadequate expression for how very important and essential ELM’s support has been and continues to be.”

At the Proclaim retreat this year, the ministers and candidates wanted to show their gratitude for our Friendship BraceletsExtraordinary Friends. So they wrote notes of thanks for current Friends and made “friendship” bracelets for new ones. 

Monthly giving provides this ministry with a steady cash flow, assurance of renewal of gifts, and allows many to provide larger gifts over the course of time.  This method of giving is crucial to our success.

You can affirm LGBTQ leaders and their ministries through your contribution. These leaders seek to be engaged in ministry year round – we can show our support by contributing to their ministry each month.

GET INVOLVED It’s very easy to become an Extraordinary Friend – you can join with a gift of $10 or more a month. You can sign up right here online and give from your checking account or with a credit card. You can also mail us a monthly check directly from your bank account (or kitchen table). Your monthly support means so much to these faithful (and fabulous) leaders and their ministries.

I give thanks for our Extraordinary Friends and for all those who support this ministry with their prayers and contributions.

Amalia Vagts

by Amalia Vagts. Amalia is executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and gets to write and talk each month with ELM’s Extraordinary Friends, which makes her very, very happy! Read more.

Amy Hanson

Called to Proclaim Belonging

Guest blog by Proclaim member, Amy Hanson.

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia
Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

As I write this post I am just a few short weeks away from finishing my internship at First Lutheran Church, in St Peter, MN. I am the first intern for this congregation. When the congregation began discerning the possibility of having an intern long before my arrival, they compiled a profile that said, “We believe that our conviction of welcome and designation as a Reconciling in Christ congregation makes us makes us an ideal site for an LGBTQ intern.”  My interview went very well, and as I walked home, I thought, “I have found my internship site.”  On that very same day, Pastor Alan stated to the congregational council, “I have found our intern.”

One of my fears prior to internship was that I would be known only as “the gay pastor.”  I was afraid that all of my work and my pastoral formation would be filtered through that part of my identity.  In a world that so often forces LGBTQ people to apologize for who they are, before they can even begin to live into their vocation, I have seen, heard, and experienced something exciting at First Lutheran Church.  This congregation’s convictions about hospitality and welcome are real, and they are living out the Gospel. In this place, I am Pastor Amy first, and a gay pastor second.

Like most LGBTQ people I have struggled with belonging.  Belonging in our families, churches, communities, and workplaces. The church is a particularly painful place for many of us. In representing my congregation as a Reconciling in Christ site at the Southwest Minnesota Synod Assembly, I had the opportunity to talk with many people about what it means to be a safe place of welcome for all people. As many lamented that their congregations might never openly welcome LGBTQ folks, and tears were shared for family members and friends who left these congregations, I was able to share some hope that there is a new day dawning in the church.

Part of my sense of call is to unceasingly proclaim to all the beautiful, broken, and beloved people of God who feel pushed aside by our culture or the church itself, “You already belong.  You may feel like you are on the margins, but you are part of the Body of Christ.”  My call is also to baptize and serve Holy Communion to equip this Body for their own work for justice, peace, and mercy in the world.

My experience as an intern this year, as well as my participation in Proclaim, has given me the confidence to live boldly into my calling to ministry.  I no longer apologize for being who God created me to be, but instead give thanks that I am who I am, that I have this call and have this sacred task before me.

Amy Hanson is a graduate of the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO.  After she completes her internship, she will be embarking upon an adventure as a chaplain at St Anthony Trauma Center, also in Denver.  Her future hope is to be a Mission Redeveloper in the ELCA and she is an active blogger at:

Bishop Stanley E. Olson, a “beautiful force.”

Jeff Johnson, Margaret Moreland, and Stan Olson.
Jeff Johnson, Margaret Moreland, and Stan Olson.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries celebrates the life of the Rev. Bishop Stanley E. Olson. Bishop Olson was born September 4, 1926 in Omaha, Nebraska and died on July 2, 2014 in Sacramento, CA.

Bishop Olson was a champion for justice and played a formative role in the early days of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. In the early 1990’s, he was part of the founding board of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (ECP), which launched a pathway to certification for LGBTQ people called to ordained ministry in the Lutheran Church.

In his retirement, he continued to make a public witness in support of LGBTQ clergy. He and his spouse Mary Lou were active members of Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Sacramento, traveling a distance each week for worship. He was an avid supporter of Rev. Robyn Hartwig (ELM Historic Roster) and was instrumental in securing an internship for then-ECP candidate Jay Wilson (ELM Historic Roster). Bishop Olson participated in the extraordinary ordinations of the Rev. Anita Hill, the Rev. Megan Rohrer, and the Rev. Jay Wilson. In these and other numerous ways, he was a visible witness for justice.

Founding members of Extraordinary Candidacy Project.
Founding members of Extraordinary Candidacy Project.

He is loved and remembered by many in this movement.  ELM Co-Chair Mike Wilker remembers him as a “beautiful force.”

While Bishop Olson was known for preaching primarily from notes and memory, his daughter Sara found this snippet from a sermon he preached in 1968, speaking to the church and the civil rights movement.

“…….I am called by God to a ministry of Word AND action … a ministry that will inevitably cause the calm waters of congregational life to be whipped into the waves of a major storm. And to be less, or to do less, or to do nothing out of a fear of causing controversy in the house of God, is to be trapped by the devil. It is to be disowned by God. It is to fail His cause of love and of justice. It is to be silent when called to speak. ….. Our inoffensiveness has been offensive….. We have kept millions bound in their suffering and poverty…..”

His daughter Sara also shared this anecdote and glimpse into the depth of commitment Bishop Olson had for LGBTQ issues with the following story:

“My dad had an oversized file box (plastic, twice the size of a banker’s box) that was FULL of files that were all related to LGBT and the church, each file carefully labeled.   The funniest thing to me was that there was one lone file at the very back that was titled ‘Not Gay Stuff’ which was empty.”

We give thanks for the life of Stan Olson and for the beautiful force he was in the life of this church and in the lives of so many. We offer our prayers to his wife, Mary Lou, to his children and grandchildren, and to all who mourn this loss.

At the request of the family, donations in his memory can be made to Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Sacramento; ReconcilingWorks, or the ELCA Foundation.

Memorial Service: Saturday, July 19 at 11 a.m., St. John’s Lutheran Church, Sacramento (1701 L St, Sacramento, CA 95811)

Condolences can be sent to his wife Mary Lou at 4307 Garden Oak Ct., Sacramento CA 95841 or by email care of daughter Sara (

“If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – Romans 14:8

We Also Believe and So We Speak

But just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture—‘I believed, and so I spoke’—we also believe, and so we speak…                                               2 Corinthians 4:13

This is a teaser blog. An experience of both instant and delayed gratification. Or, to put it in more spiritual terms – both now and not yet.

Asher O'Callaghan. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.
Asher O’Callaghan. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

A small group of Proclaim members has been working on collecting stories of LGBTQ leaders within the Lutheran church – rostered leaders, seminarians, and those awaiting call. We were inspired by a similar resource from the United Church of Christ that came out (!) about 20 years ago. We received permission from those who created the UCC resource, And So We Speak, to create a Lutheran version.

But like any good story, putting together a collection of amazing stories takes time. So…. we’re still working on it. It’s “not yet.” But it will be worth the wait.

This resource will include interwoven stories about being called to ministry and coming out, the joy of queer faith, gender identity and images of God, and more.  But, it’s just too good not to share parts of it with you now. Much of the final collection will be longer stories about individuals in our community, but here are a few short nuggets:

What do you think God thinks about you being LGBTQ?

In giving me, a gay man, a call to ministry, God affirms my sexuality as a gift given and not a defect to hide. I know at the very core of my being, that God loves me, that God has gifted me, and that God wants to make use of me.
– Austin Newberry, First Call Candidate, Columbus, IN

How and why do you publicly identify as LGBTQ?

For me it’s about wholeness. It’s about living with integrity–as in the word “integral” meaning “necessary to make the whole complete”. My gender identity and sexuality cannot be separated from who I am in the world. When ministry is done well, people are inspired to live as the people that God has created them to be. I can’t do this kind of ministry if I myself am not living into the fullness of life that God has called me to.
– Asher O’Callaghan, Seminarian

I don’t know that it’s a conscious choice for me – I use all of who I am in my ministry, and being Queer is one part of how God created me, one piece of what I naturally use. But I’m glad for being Queer- it’s how God liberated me from a rules-based religion, and taught me grace. It’s how I learned about discrimination, and can now work for justice for all kinds of other people. And it helps me connect with folks who are scared of the church for all kinds of reasons- showing them that I can be my full self in church invites them to think that maybe then can be too.
– Rev. Lura Groen

How did you come out to the congregation?

In a meet and greet with the congregation, I was asked to share my story, and so in
sharing my call story, I chose to leave in my coming out rather than editing it out of the story. This not only gave me an easy way to come out, but it also couched it in the context of God’s call in my life, which I think was accurate and beneficial.
– Emily Ewing, First Call Candiate

How have you experienced being “The First”?

I am the first intern at my congregation (and also the first LGBTQ intern). Our congregation is also the first (and only) RIC congregation in our Synod. My experience has been wonderful and positive, as the congregation really lives into what it means to be welcoming. It has taught them that their convictions about welcome and hospitality are real and that they are living out the Gospel. I am Pastor Amy first, and a gay pastor second.
– Amy Hanson, seminarian

Your gift to ELM not only helps shape these stories of LGBTQ leaders in the Lutheran church, but also helps support the collection, publication, and distribution of this resource as a gift and resource for the whole church. Thank you!

A Local Witness to the Global Church

Guest blog by Proclaim member, the Rev. Erik Christensen.

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia
Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

This past weekend was Pride weekend here in Chicago and in many other cities around the country. In recent years I’ve heard, and eagerly jumped into, plenty of conversations questioning the value of these large-scale gatherings filled with giant floats with corporate sponsors conveying scantily clad dancers from a host of bars and other venues. “Is this what we spent the last half century fighting for?” I’d wearily ask.

This year I’m less inclined to diminish or dismiss the gains our movements have made, or the celebrations that mark them. That is due, in no small part, to a recent visit by representatives of South Africa’s Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM) to Chicago June 12-16, 2014.

The congregation I serve, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square, has hosted folks from IAM (including Proclaim member Pieter Oberholzer) many times over the last eight years, each visit deepening our commitment to walking together toward liberation for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities around the globe. This year St. Luke’s partnered with a blend of ecumenical and secular communities and organizations to present a weekend of activities for people of faith and activists from across Chicago as an expression of solidarity with LGBTI people across the continent of Africa suffering under increasingly violent conditions (learn more here).

Conscious that these trips create a significant financial burden for IAM, and knowing that they have to work hard every year to raise the necessary funds to carry out their work, I was concerned that their trip might not have been worth the effort on purely economic terms. IAM’s Executive Director, the Rev. Judith Kotzé, allayed my fears as we met the morning of her flight home to evaluate this year’s slate of events.  She said,

You cannot know what it means for me, for us, to be able to worship with you here in Chicago. To see an openly gay pastor and his partner so warmly accepted by their congregation. To see that it is a non-issue, that your leadership is accepted and trusted. To be able to share our story with you, and to receive the gift of your prayers and your songs. To be able to carry that story home with us to share with people and congregations who can barely imagine that such a thing is possible.”

As I listened to Judith, all I could think is how it wasn’t that long ago that we, here in the United States, were saying the same thing. I can remember a time when I could count on one hand the number of publicly identified LGBTQ clergy in the ELCA that I knew, and they were almost all members of what has grown to become the Proclaim community.

Our work, yours and mine, is a witness to people of faith around the world. Each time we simply show up, put on the collar, step into the pulpit, consecrate the elements, pray for the ill and the dying, visit those in prison, we are proclaiming a future for the whole church that has already broken in, but is not yet complete. That is something to be proud of, something to celebrate, loudly and publicly and shamelessly.

To learn more about the work of IAM, and to make a gift to their courageous and life-saving work, visit