Great Joy in That City

Now those who were scattered went from place to place, proclaiming the word…So there was great joy in that city. Acts 8:4, 8

There is great joy in the cities of Green Bay, St Paul, Inver Grove Heights and in places around the country as we celebrate the first calls of three Proclaim members.  

Rachel Knoke
Rachel Knoke


Rachel Knoke has been called to serve as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.

Jill Rode. Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia
Jill Rode

Jill Rode has been called to serve as Associate Pastor of St. Anthony Park Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN.


Julie Wright

Julie Wright has been called to serve as Associate Pastor at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights, MN.

Is your congregation ready to welcome the gifts of an LGBTQ pastor?  More faithful and fabulous LGBTQ candidates are ready to serve.  Begin the conversation in your congregation now using ELM’s resource Enrich & Transform: Welcoming LGBTQ Candidates into the Call Process.

ELM also knows that many LGBTQ candidates continue to wait for first call. We created a resource specifically for LGBTQ first call candidates, The Mysteries of the Ages.

Together let’s create great joy in more cities!

Ruth- Phyllis-Jeff

25 Years, And Into the Future

by Margaret Moreland, ELM Board Member

Ruth- Phyllis-Jeff
Ruth Frost, Jeff Johnson, and Phyllis Zillhart on their ordination day.

On January 20, 1990 my husband, Bennett Falk, and I attended the service of ordination for Phyllis Zillhart, Ruth Frost, and Jeff Johnson.

This was a life changing day for me. I had gay and lesbian friends and relatives, but it had never occurred to me that I could or should take a public part in opposing the discrimination that they faced. Listening to the prayers offered by the congregation at that service woke me up to the pain that the church caused so many gay and lesbian people and their families. I decided right then that I could not remain part of a church that turned away so many people for being themselves unless I worked for change.

I did not know Jeff, Ruth, or Phyllis at the time they were ordained. Over the next year or so, I got to know Jeff a bit. When he and some others had the idea of setting up an alternative candidacy process for gay and lesbian seminarians, they asked me to participate. I was not sure just what a chemist could offer to this project, but I enthusiastically said yes.

Ordination Photo
Margaret Moreland (at right) waves her ordination wand at the extraordinary ordination of the Rev. Megan Rohrer.

Since that time I have been on the boards of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries, and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries for all except about 4 years. Ruth, Jeff, and Phyllis were the first of 18 pastors who were extraordinarily ordained. Bennett and I attended every one of the extraordinary ordinations, bursting with joy, laughing and crying.

Now I’m again on the board of ELM, and working on the new Ministry Engagement program. We are connecting with congregations in the ELCA to help them enrich and transform themselves by calling an LGBTQ pastor. I can speak to this personally since Pastor Jeff Johnson has been my pastor since 1999 at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley. Although ELCA policy now allows people in same sex relationships to be pastors, many congregations have trouble imagining having an LGBTQ person in a called position. Ministry Engagement  has prepared a guide for call committees to help them plan for including LGBTQ candidates. We are making plans to have an information table at several Lutheran synod assemblies this spring. We are gathering stories from congregations that have LGBTQ rostered leaders so others can learn from them.

Working as part of ELM is such a great part of my life, maybe I’ll keep doing it for another 25 years.

Margaret MorelandGuest Blogger Margaret Moreland serves on the ELM Board of Directors and is Convener of the Ministry Engagement Program. She (and Bennett) attended every extraordinary ordination and she has vowed to never eat sushi served by a squid.

My Only Scandal

Guest blog by Proclaim member, Rev. Brenda Bos.

BBos Christ LutheranI was among the first class of seminarians to go on internship after the 2009 ELCA decision to ordain LGBTQ clergy. Like my fellow Proclaim members, I don’t know how different my call process would have been if I was straight. I know straight pastors who got calls five seconds after assignment, and I know straight pastors who waited as long as some of the queer candidates.

Like most gay first call candidates I know, I waited. Then the call came. A congregation in San Clemente was looking for a pastor. They were not Reconciling in Christ, but had a long history of welcome, including gay clergy who were out, gay clergy who were not out. My call committee was very comfortable talking about my wife and was eager to show her how much they wanted to call me. My conference, made up of a smaller cluster of churches in a geographic region of the synod, lost four out of fifteen churches after 2009. Understandably, my colleagues in this conference have been cautious to welcome me. The worst part about being a queer pastor is wondering, am I overly sensitive, or am I being slighted because of who I am?

My church has a service every Sunday on the beach. Even in 45 degree weather in January, about fifty brave souls gather. We have tourists, athletes using the bike path, homeless people. Few visitors know exactly who we are or what we are doing, but they are intrigued by church on the sand. But because of this large influx of visitors, I never know how people will react when they find out we have a lesbian pastor.

bbos christ lutheran san clementeRecently I mentioned my wife in a sermon. A visiting family was sitting in front of some members. The members overheard the woman lean over and ask, “Did she just say ‘wife’?” and he nodded. They didn’t stay for communion. I convinced myself it was because they were Catholic and didn’t want to commune in a Protestant church. Or maybe they had brunch reservations.

A couple wanted to join our church. I sat with them and talked about our welcome to the LGBTQ community. They nodded and smiled… and never came back again. A few members of the congregation left before I started this call. Some were shocked we would consider calling an openly gay candidate. As my congregational president said, “They accidentally joined the wrong church,” and we bid them farewell.  Well, other members bid them farewell. They split before I hit the scene.

One of the benefits of serving a smaller congregation is the pastor sees every face, every reaction to the sermon. Last Sunday I thought I saw a visitor cringe when I mentioned my wife. It actually threw me off. I started to think, “Has she been here before? Of course she has. Does she not know my story? Is this a problem?” I finally pushed that miserable line of thinking out of my head and kept preaching. I thought I saw her cringe at a few more things I said, and convinced myself that was just how she held her face while listening. After the service (she stayed for communion!) I re-introduced myself, not sure I remembered her name, etc. She was enthusiastic, loves this service, splits her Sundays between this church and a Catholic church up north. I had read her reactions incorrectly, and had made myself pretty uncomfortable while freaking out.

But I am sad that I wonder what people think. My council has told me in no uncertain terms to stop wondering what people think. But there is still a moment as I come out where I wonder what the ramifications will be. It’s not a good thing. Of course, there are people who feel liberated knowing their pastor is lesbian. Some are in same-sex relationships, but the majority of my congregation is just happy to be a part of an inclusive community. This is a time of great joy in my community, and I am so happy to be a part of their celebration of welcome. Still. It needs to be named: our shame, even when we’ve “worked through it”, is deep and insidious and throws us for curves at times and places we do not anticipate. I am loud and proud and most of the time am met with open arms. I am so grateful for the Proclaim community who shares in the joys and struggles of this calling. Perhaps someday I won’t worry what reactions I receive from coming out. I have been called to love Jesus and to love a woman. I long for the day when the gospel of Jesus Christ is my only scandal.

Brenda Bos is six months in to her first call and is relieved and delighted to report she loves the work. Before becoming a pastor, Brenda was a production manager for network television sitcoms. The similarities between her two careers are myriad.

2014 – What a great year!

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries 2014 Year in Review!

We have finished another wonderful and full year –  I invite you to take a moment to join me in looking back at some highlights. (You can check out all of these stories in our ELM Blog archive!)

selfie-retreatJanuary – We launched Proclaim Pulpit Supply – a new way for LGBTQ leaders to proclaim God’s love for all and for congregations looking to support Proclaim leaders – especially those seeking call.

February – We celebrated 5 calls to Proclaim leaders, celebrated new solar panels on a congregation, interviewed an intern and internship supervisor and shared new ways to support LGBTQ leaders awaiting call.

March – We launched Extraordinary Friends (our monthly giving program),   and were invited to discuss placement of LGBTQ ministry candidates at the March Conference of Bishops meeting.

April – We launched the Proclaim Seminarian Team, finalized things for the 2014 Proclaim Retreat, Dreams & Visions, took a glance at the work of the Proclaim Team, and got creative. Oh, and then there was that new logo… 🙂

May – we got a Gold Star! We also went to Washington, D.C., got Faithful & Fabulous and held the  RETREAT! We also invited applications for the 2014 Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Award, with an increased award of $2,500 thanks to generous donors who have helped grow the fund.

susan alaska prideJune – We celebrated more calls, attended Pride, rejoiced in generous supporters raising funds for ELM, and heard some great stories from an intern in Proclaim.

July – We gave a first glance at some forthcoming ELM resources; highlighted ministry in South Africa; remembered the life and work of Bp. Stanley E. Olson, and named Amy C. Hanson as our 2014 Joel R. Workin scholar.

August  – Guest blogger Donna Simon wrote about Ferguson, MO;  Amalia toured LA,  we released some new statistics about LGBTQ leaders, and celebrated some life passages, including a couple more calls to LGBTQ leaders.

September – Amid all the calls, we released a vital new resource for those who are first call candidates; highlighted Brenda Bossome guest bloggers, congregations, and leaders, and announced our new  One Minute to Proclaim videos.

October – We rolled out the brand new Enrich & Transform, a resource for call committees & congregations who wish to be open to LGBTQ candidates; learned about Bi Visibility Day;  got together with Proclaim folks in Chicago; and we told supporters how they can “come out” about their support for LGBTQ-led ministry.

November – We visited ELCA seminaries in Gettysburg and Philadelphia; advocated for LGBTQ leaders at the ELCA Church Council and Conference of Bishops; and reflected on Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Friendship BraceletsDecember – We got a glimpse of the upcoming Proclaim retreat, highlighted a generous and faithful giver, and wished all of you a wonderful and peaceful Christmas and New Year!

And really, those are JUST the highlights. You made this entire year possible through your prayers, work, and financial support. We’re moving right into 2015  as we celebrate 25+ years of extraordinary ministry by LGBTQ leaders! We are so thankful you are with us.