by Jen Rude, ELM program director
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.
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.
By 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.