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A move for the ELM Chicago office & welcome to Marie!

Change is afoot in the ELM office in Chicago! We are going to be moving out of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square at the end of month and we are adding a person to our team.

St. Luke's
Sunday morning worship at St. Luke’s Logan Square. Photo: Jason Creps Photography.

For the last eight years, our Chicago home has been at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square. We moved there after many years at St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco. St. Luke’s Logan Square was the perfect place for our new home for so many reasons – they were the recipient of a 5-year ELM Mission Grant and they had recently called Pastor Erik Christensen, who at the time was serving as co-chair to ELM. A small group of committed donors and a grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation helped establish the office and the new Operations Coordinator position (previously held by Rachael Johnson, who now works for Eco-Faith Recovery, another former ELM Mission Grant recipient!).

Earlier this year, the congregation of St. Luke’s made the difficult and courageous decision to sell their church building. Pastor Erik speaks beautifully about the decision in this interview (click to read more). While they are still in their building, we knew it was time for us to find a new home. For the time being, we are “on the move” as we look for a new landing place. However, we have found a temporary new home and team member at Grace Evanston Lutheran in Evanston, IL. Grace Evanston and Grace Logo Pastor Daniel Ruen have been long-time advocates for the mission of ELM. When looking for a place and person who could help with our immediate need of support with ELM’s mail and donations processing, we first turned to Grace and their parish administrator, Marie O’Brien. We are excited to welcome Marie, who will begin working four hours a week on Monday, March 30! And we are also happy to deepen our relationship with the people of Grace Evanston. For the time being, our mailing address will remain 2649 N. Francisco Ave, Chicago, IL 60647 and our mail will be forwarded to Grace.

Both St. Luke’s Logan Square and ELM wanted to make time to mark this upcoming change in our relationship, so the people of St. Luke’s will hold a festival Eucharist and service of celebration during their usual worship time at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, April 12. Pastor Erik Christensen will preside and ELM Program Director Pastor Jen Rude will serve as Assisting Minister. ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts will preach. All are welcome.

Our move from St. Francis happened because they wanted to turn our office into a nursery. Our move from St. Luke’s is the result of new directions for that community. Change is good! Thank you for your support and encouragement as we move through this change and growth in our own organization.

You Are My People/Thank God for Allies

by Jen Rude, ELM program director

Members of Proclaim at Wartburg Seminary.
Proclaim students at Wartburg Seminary.

This past month I visited two of our ELCA seminaries – Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, IA and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC.  And while it was -11 degrees in Iowa and 84 degrees in South Carolina, I received a warm welcome in both places.

At Wartburg Seminary, Proclaim students hosted a campus-wide Convocation on How and Why to be an LGBTQ Ally.  Some people were already committed allies seeking to find additional ways to be supportive. Others initially wondered why we even need to have this conversation anymore.  Proclaim members Becky Goche, Paul Andrew Johnson, and I spoke to students, faculty, and staff about being an LGBTQ ally in their ministries. We shared our own experiences of coming out – both about our sexual orientation and about our calls to ministry. Conversation continued in small groups and over lunch.   I think hearing LGBTQ classmates talk about their experiences opened some hearts in a new way.  I might even say some new allies were made that day.

chelsea preaching
I love that the preacher is called the Proclaimer!

At Southern Seminary I was blessed to be able to hear Proclaim member Chelsea Marsh preach in chapel, bringing a word of gospel and challenge, and ultimately of God’s faithfulness. Chelsea is one of the leaders of Walking Together, the Gay-Straight alliance on campus, and she organized a lunch with this group while I was there.  Especially because there has been only 1 (and now 2!) openly LGBTQ student on campus, these allies are even more important.  We had a lively and generative discussion about being a rockstar ally.  I felt so grateful that future LGBTQ pastors will have these pastors as allies.

While ELM is becoming more widely known and seen as a resource and a partner, there are still folks who don’t know about us.  We need to keep spreading the word.  It is a really beautiful moment when someone encounters ELM for the first time and resonates with our mission and says, “oh, yes, YOU are my people” or “now I’m not alone.”  Have you told someone about ELM this week?

Getting to know seminarians across the church I witness a rich diversity of gifts and experiences. And I am particularly inspired by seminarians, staff, and faculty who are not LGBTQ, but who feel passionate about justice, about celebrating diversity, and who put themselves out there in support of their LGBTQ friends and colleagues.  God’s church is in good hands with these leaders.

Although the focus of ELM’s work is with LGBTQ rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians, we also rely on relationships with current and future leaders in our church who are not LGBTQ. Because these allies are our people.  Today I offer a special prayer of gratitude that we are walking together.


jen 2013 retreatBy Rev. Jen Rude.  Jen is grateful for many allies in her life.  In sharing her coming out story and call story with the Gay-Straight Alliance at Southern, she gave particular thanks for her campus pastor, Rev. Maribeth McGoven, who was one of the first people she came out to as an 18 year old college student. Pastor Maribeth was kind, loving, and a fierce advocate and ally.  She is one of the reasons Jen continued on the path to ministry.


Treasure in Clay Jars: Introducing a New Resource from ELM

A huge thank you to the Revs. Timothy Weisman, Brenda Bos, and Emily Ewing for their work in visioning, compiling, and editing this resource.

Guest blog by Rev. Timothy Weisman.

Treasure in Clay Jars: A New Resource from ELM

Nearly four years ago, I began a call process with a congregation who needed a pastor. I had just received my assignment, and I couldn’t have been more excited. I spent hours (days!) poring over the congregation’s Ministry Site Profile, Annual Report, website, and Facebook page… while, of course, compulsively checking my email for another email from the synod office or call committee chair.

“So, how are you going to come out to them?” asked an Assistant to the Bishop shortly before my first interview. “Will you come out right away?” “Or at the end?”

“When will you come out to the rest of the congregation? During a sermon? Which sermon? Will you use the lectionary text? Or another? Or what if you did it during announcements time?”

“What will you say?” “Will you tell a story?” “What story?” “Will you talk about God?” “How?”

“Since your process will inevitably take longer than most, what will you do in the meantime?” “If you don’t complete this process, then what?” “Are you prepared to wait?” “How long?”

Yikes. It’s not like I hadn’t thought of these questions, but the reality was that I didn’t have solid answers—or, really, any answers. I was nervous enough as a young seminary graduate—and now I have to figure out when and how to come out to who and where. To be sure, I worked with an Assistant to the Bishop who is a veritable rock star, but I still felt very alone.

Fast forward one year. A friend introduced me to a 1998 resource from the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns called “And So We Speak.” Throughout that book, seminarians and clergy told stories—stories of their candidacy and call processes, stories of serving congregations as an LGBTQ leader, and more.

I immediately recognized this as the book I desperately needed back in 2011. I needed to hear how others journeyed through the call process. I needed to hear how others made sense of their fabulousness in the midst of their call. I didn’t need answers; I needed stories. I needed to know that I wasn’t alone.

I’m writing this blog to introduce a new ELM resource titled Treasure in Clay Jars – Stories of LGBTQ Leaders in the Lutheran Church. Modeled after “And So We Speak,” this book shares current stories and insights from LGBTQ leaders in the Lutheran church as they honor their identity while working their way through a long and lonely process.

“What do you think God thinks about you being LGBTQ?” “How did you come out to [fill in the blank]?” “What did you do ‘in the meantime’ or while waiting for a call?” Members of Proclaim responded to these prompts and several others as we assembled this resource. (Thanks to all the contributors!)

Whether you’re a member or prospective member of Proclaim, you’re on synodical or churchwide staff, or you’re an ally and supporter of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, I hope you’ll not only read these stories but also treasure themthere’s extraordinary power contained herein—as God, who is active in each narrative, tells the story of raising up a courageous people for ministry in Christ’s church.


The Rev. Timothy Weisman serves as pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Tim and his partner, Howie, are the proud parents of the most adorable puppy on the planet. (No, really.)

This post was updated on 3/23/15 to correct an error in the name of the group that produced And So We Speak. The correct name is the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns.

ELM Board

Welcome, Jim and Thank You, Julie!

Jim Kowalski photo
Jim (center) with Bruce Jervis and Amalia Vagts at Bp. Guy Erwin’s installation.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is blessed by extraordinary friends like Jim Kowalski. Jim and his husband Bruce Jervis have been faithful supporters of this movement for many years. Their connection began in 1992 when they moved to San Francisco and found their way to St. Francis Lutheran Church. They experienced the transformative impact of having an LGBTQ pastor when they met Pastors Phyllis Zillhart and Ruth Frost. Jim soon became involved with Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries, serving on the board. In his professional life, Jim worked with major giving for Golden Gate University. Jim and Bruce deepened their passion and involvement in the movement as they learned more about other pastors like Jen Nagel, Erik Christensen and others who were changing hearts and lives and proclaiming God’s love for all people. Over the years, Jim and Bruce have demonstrated their passion for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries through generous personal giving, by caring about the Proclaim community and attending many ordinations, installations and making Sunday morning visits to Proclaim-led congregations and through volunteer leadership. Jim joined the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Board of Directors in 2011 and has served in several roles, most recently as convener of the Fund Development Committee. At the February meeting, the Board of Directors unanimously elected Jim to the position of co-chair. Jim’s two-year term began March 1, 2015. We welcome Jim, giving thanks for his passion and faithful commitment to ELM and LGBTQ ministry leaders! Jim writes,

“ELM’s support of LGBTQ Lutheran pastors, chaplains, candidates and seminarians makes a huge difference in their ministries – I’ve seen and heard it myself many times. I feel called to help ensure our Proclaim members have every possible resource they need to follow their call.”

Julie photo
Rev. Julie Boleyn

Rev. Julie Boleyn first connected with the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries movement through a friendship with Jane Ralph at Holden Village. Years later, Julie followed a call to ministry and entered candidacy through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project.  Julie was approved for ordination by both the ELCA and ECP. Julie and her partner, Rev. Jeanie Reardon, became involved with Proclaim when it launched in 2010. Julie took on a leadership role as Proclaim Retreat Convener, leading the planning and implementation work for three Proclaim retreats. Julie was ordained in 2012 and serves as pastor of Unity Lutheran Church of Berwyn in Berwyn, IL. She joined the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Board of Directors in 2012 and was elected Co-Chair in 2013. Julie was a key voice in moving the board towards the strategic planning work we undertook in 2013. She also was the first person to clearly articulate the need for program staff – leading eventually to the creation of the new position of program director. Most recently, Julie shepherded the Intercultural Development Inventory work that the Board did at its February meeting. As Julie concludes her leadership service on the Board of Directors and as Co-Chair, we give thanks for her leadership, vision, and passion.

Julie writes,

“For 25 years, we have been working to make it possible for LGBTQ folks to do the ministry we are called to do. It has been a joy and a privilege to help lead this organization in a time when the strategies around that work needed to shift. I am thrilled by the new leadership rising up in ELM, and the creative imagination at work. I cannot wait to see what’s next.”

Jim joins the Rev. Mike Wilker as co-chair of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Board. Mike will serve one more year as co-chair. The Board spent a good amount of time discussing and discerning the decision to appoint another male identified leader, as well as not having a Proclaim member as co-chair. After a rich conversation about the depth of diversity on the board and the gifts Mike and Jim offer – as well as their calling to serve in this role – the board felt clearly that this was the right decision for leadership at this time. The Board has made a commitment to gender balance and Proclaim representation in our next co-chair.

We are thankful to all the wonderful leaders who bring their diverse experience and many gifts to carry out the mission of ELM!

Amalia VagtsAmalia Vagts, Executive Director, is quite certain she serves with the greatest Board of Directors in the universe.