Ruth- Phyllis-Jeff

25 Years, And Into the Future

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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.