Amy Hanson

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

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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.