One of the great joys I feel in the call to rostered ministry is the expectation that we work to create community among Christians and neighbors.
In the gospel stories of Jesus, we hear of the ways in which Christ’s ministry focused on gathering people together for teaching, meals, and healing. In the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul, we hear of the many ways that the early followers of Jesus built communities and the struggles these early communities faced. These communities were not always permanent structures – sometimes a community gathered once for a meal and left transformed. These communities often were separated geographically, but connected through Christ.
Although Proclaim Seminarians are scattered around the country and Canada, we are connected in community through Christ, too. This time of year many of our students are returning back to their communities on campus. As leaders on campus, the members of the Proclaim Seminarian Team (PST) are immediately involved in the work of creating connections with new people in the community as well as re-connecting with people returning to campus.
PST members had a robust and active presence in the orientations at each of our 8 Lutheran seminaries and at a couple ecumenical divinity schools with Proclaim students. Many new students had never heard of Proclaim before and this was the first time they had been connected with other LGBTQ seminarians – what a gift to know that as you follow this exciting and sometimes scary call as an LGBTQ person that you are not alone!
Kristian Kohler, who represents Lutheran students at non-Lutheran seminaries on the PST and attends Yale Divinity School, hosted a Proclaim table during Yale Divinity’s School’s Orientation. Kristian connected with a couple of students on exchange at Yale from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. These two students come from theologically conservative dioceses in the UK and were surprised, but excited to hear about the work of Proclaim and ELM. They even took Proclaim and ELM brochures so they could learn more about the work of ELM and use the resources we provide for pastors and congregations on our website!
Beyond orientation, our representatives are planning ways to connect and build community throughout the first semester. Dug Swank, a first-year student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and the PST representative for LTSP, plans to organize a social for Proclaim members at LTSP as well as Proclaim members who live and work in the Philadelphia area. For students who attend seminaries in areas where many Proclaim members live, a gathering like this is a great opportunity to expand their community outside of the seminary. This community can provide encouragement, mentoring, and professional connections for students as they move through seminary and internship.
The PST will also build community beyond campus this semester – hosting video and phone chats, sending care packages and notes to members on internship or being assigned for first call, and praying for members of the group each month. Like many of the early Christian communities, this group of seminarians is geographically scattered, but through Proclaim we will support and care for each other, and stay connected through Christ.
Peter Carlson Schattauer received his Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School last May and serves as the pastoral intern at Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Seattle. He is busy learning about his new home in Seattle, both the natural beauty and ways in which the housing crisis is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable Seattleites. If you email him and he doesn’t respond, you should assume that he’s watching a show imported from the BBC or listening to the Indigo Girls.
by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director
Facebook went a little “Proclaim” wild for many of us last week! We were celebrating our 200th member. That’s more than FOUR TIMES the size our community was just six years ago. And just a week after welcoming our 200th member, we said hello to our 210th! The energy is contagious.
Proclaim is a group committed to a public witness that LGBTQ people have extraordinary gifts for ministry, that our church is blessed by diversity, that God’s beloved community is expanding, and that God’s grace is abounding.
The week was dubbed “#Proclaim200” and each day members of Proclaim posted a thought or question to generate conversation. These topics included sharing about extraordinary gifts of LGBTQ leaders, honoring the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, prayers for a messy and beautiful community of God, barriers faced by LGBTQ people in the church and ways people are overcoming them, and an invitation to tell others about ELM and Proclaim.
Thousands of people who have likely never heard about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries or our Proclaim program saw a Facebook post from their colleague, friend, acquaintance, family member, classmate or pastor about the public witness of LGBTQ leaders in our church. Here are some of the comments people made:
How do I become a member of Proclaim?
I think LGBTQ leaders bring an understanding of what it means to have to claim your sacredness against all odds, and therefore, can reach out to others who are struggling to claim their sacred core with deeper passion and compassion.
A profound understanding of what it means to lead from the margins, and to cling to grace even in the face of hardship and evil. I’m grateful for the lessons they teach me every day.
Thank you for inspiring me — for reminding me of the Gospel Promise!!
My Facebook feed is starting to fill up with all these #Proclaim200 Clergy. It makes me hopeful and grateful.
We are so grateful to you, our ELM supporters, for all the ways you proclaim the love of God, celebrate the diversity in our church, and faithfully and fabulously live the Good News.
by Jen Rude. Jen posted more to Facebook during #Proclaim200 than she usually does in a month. And she gives thanks for the the people of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (a predecessor to ELM) who first taught and showed her the value of public witness as an LGBTQ person in the church.
This week we have a guest post from Proclaim member, Emmy Kegler. Read about some of the creative and exciting ministry Emmy is engaged in as she awaits first call.
By Emmy Kegler
When I came out as gay at 16, I knew my life was going to be complicated. When I accepted the long-fought call to ministry at 19, I knew my life was going to be more complicated. And when I followed that call all the way through Clinical Pastoral Education, internship, three years of classes, divorce, graduation, and this period of time awaiting first call in the Twin Cities… I had a sneaking suspicion that my life was always going to have a strong degree of messiness.
Many of you know this mess, too. We become translators of our experience, bridgers of the gap. We explain to friends, family, loved ones, colleagues, seminarians, call committees, congregations, total strangers how it can be that we are gay-, bi-, trans-, queer-and-also-Christian. I love those conversations (most of the time). I love how the messiness of being LGBTQ and called to serve the church can transform people’s minds and hearts around sexual orientation, gender identity, Scripture, tradition, and the long arc of the hope of God. But these conversations can be exhausting. It is not always fun to have my personal life and ministerial calling as a theological exercise. The layers on layers of theology, history, and interpretation are difficult to unwrap over a beer at a neighbor’s barbeque.
I wanted to create a space where people could learn, on their own time, at their own comfort level, about the myriad of concepts and beliefs around what it means to be LGBTQ and Christian. There are so many incredible resources scattered across the Internet, but tracking them down through a basic Google search can be like walking through a queerphobic minefield. In addition, the interconnected questions are complex. What does feminist theology have to do with the way we read the Bible as LGBTQ people? How did the Lutheran church get to where it is? What is bisexuality and what does it have to do with faith? How do we know when we’re in a spiritually abusive church and how do we leave?
For years I’ve wanted to create a space that could connect all those questions and the incredible resources already in existence. So on the eve of my thirtieth birthday, with my girlfriend holding my shaking hand, I launched a fundraiser for a website tentatively called Queer Grace, “an encyclopedia for LGBTQ and Christian life.”
Four months later, fifteen thousand people have visited the site. Donations just topped $2,500, meaning I can pay my growing group of writers for the incredible content they are generating. Eighteen articles are up, with eight more awaiting submission or final edits. In the next phase, I’ll be updating the site with direct links to important sites like gaychurch.org (is your church on there? Double check!).
At first, Queer Grace was a way to fill my waiting time. But each day I work, I feel a sneaking suspicion that this is as much my call as ordained ministry will be. I live in a space where the word of God is preached, the law named, the gospel proclaimed. I live in a space where the promise of welcome at the Lord’s table is offered.
Queer Grace is found at www.queergrace.com. When you have the time, read it. Share it. Let me know where there are resources lacking. Donate to the cause. The Spirit is up to something here, and we’re all welcomed along for the ride.
Emmy R. Kegler has a Master’s in Divinity from Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minn. She was raised in the Episcopal Church and spent some time in evangelical and non-denominational traditions before finding her home in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She is currently awaiting call in the ELCA. While she waits, she works as a self-employed web designer and church curricula writer. She lives in Minneapolis and enjoys biking, board games, books, beer, and babysitting her girlfriend’s dogs.
Guest blog by Proclaim member, Miriam Samuelson-Roberts
I love talking to my friend Lindsay on the phone. We both just graduated from seminary, and it brings me such joy to hear about her ministry, her girlfriend, her road trips, and to talk about our shared passion for all things gardening and vegetable-related. Lindsay, like me, is a queer bisexual woman.
I also love talking to my friend Joel. Joel and I went to college and seminary together, and have talked each other through preparation for our preaching class together, shared moments of spiritual self-discovery, and have seen each other through all the normal excitement and love and heartbreak that comes with young adulthood. Joel also identifies as bisexual.
I love keeping up with my friend Kelsie—as she lives into her ministry on internship this year, as she prepares for having a baby with her husband, as she preaches and leads Bible studies and prepares to be a pastor. Kelsie, too, is a bisexual woman.
I tell these stories because stories are the way I most relate to God’s vision for the world—through the stories of the Bible, through the parables Jesus tells, through the stories of fellow humans and children of God living their lives today. As I reflect on my own identity—a queer bisexual woman, married to a man, who feels called to ordained ministry in the ELCA—I see my own story reflected in the stories of other people whose sexual identities may not fit into prescribed categories, and whose stories often go untold. I relate a lot to the term “bisexual invisibility”—bisexuality, or really any identity that doesn’t fit neatly into categories—is an identity that often gets erased, or subsumed into the binary categories of gay and straight, or dismissed as something that isn’t real or valid.
And so I tell these stories, and my own story, mostly to say that God’s kingdom is vast, and varied, and beautiful. When Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, I believe he calls us to understand our neighbors as ourselves—to see the sacred in one another and in each of the ways we are called, in our unique identities and lives, to live out God’s love in the world. Bisexuality and other non-binary sexual identities are as varied as the people who possess them. And that’s a wonderful thing! What a gift to get to listen to the many ways that bisexual people live out their calls as partners, friends, pastors, and community members. What a gift to have to listen deeply—to have to put away all assumptions about categories and to get to hear people’s stories for what they are.
This is what I hope for bisexuality and all non-binary sexual identities in the Church—that these identities can be visible, that they can be a way of helping us all recognize the broad spectrum of identity and the many ways we each live that out. When I was younger, my youth choir would totally ham it up every time we sang “All God’s Children Have a Place in the Choir”—we would break out kazoos and tambourines and we would jump around with the freedom of knowing that we each really did have a place there. I’m grateful for spaces in the Church where we all feel like we have a place, and I’m grateful for those who are working to ensure that more and more of those places exist for all of us. Thanks be to God for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and all its partners, supporters, and advocates who are doing this life-changing ministry that allows us to put away all assumptions and hear, serve, and love all our neighbors.
Miriam Samuelson-Roberts just completed her MDiv at Yale Divinity School and is serving as pastoral intern at Augustana Lutheran Church in West St. Paul, MN this year. She lives proudly into the space of being a bisexual woman married to a man and is grateful for the places that conversations around faith and sexuality intersect. She and her husband Daniel live in Minneapolis and love being outdoors, but are also sort of enjoying the Netflix life right now.
Earlier this month, ELM Program Director Jen Rude and I attended “Until All Are Free,” held by our movement partners, ReconcilingWorks. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries was very happy to sponsor and participate in this great event. One attendee, Tim Mumm, who came to our pre-event about making an intentional plan to call an LGBTQ pastor, wrote a Facebook post during the Assembly about the importance of community. I invited him to share his post via the ELM blog as a way of highlighting the important work of ReconcilingWorks, and of the importance of bringing our full LGBTQ identity to worship and congregational life. – Amalia
Faith & Community
by Tim Mumm, ELM Guest Blogger
Author’s Note: This was written and shared on Facebook in the early hours of August 1st, 2015 during the “Until All Are Free” assembly.
At the ReconcilingWorks Assembly in Minnesota. It is so good for me to be here. These assemblies are often emotional for me, and I’ve choked up or been brought to tears several times, both at the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries pre-assembly event, and during the opening day of the assembly. I’ve been openly angry, and sad at times, too.
I’ve known for a long time that in an LGBT environment, and to a lesser degree in an LGBT friendly environment, I can let my hair down and just be myself.
It hit me today that my belief in God is tied to community. When I am here among LGBT Christians, when I know with all my heart that I am in a safe and welcoming environment made up of fellow believers, I am certain that I believe in God. When I have to wonder if those around me are supportive of me, when I’m not sure I’m safe, then I’m not sure I believe in God. And when other Christians give me mixed messages or make it clear that I or those I love are not welcome, my belief crumbles; I don’t even want to believe. In those times of doubt and uncertainty, I don’t force myself to believe: Rather, I trust God to carry me through.
This is why the work of ReconcilingWorks is so important to me. This is why churches that publicly proclaim welcome by becoming Reconciling in Christ are so important to me personally. I need the community of church, and I need to know with my whole heart that I am welcome and safe in that community.
If you are a member of a church that is not a part of the welcoming movement, please consider asking this of your church. Contact ReconcilingWorks for guidance. Too many LGBT people have been terrorized by the church and by sincere Christians. We need communities that are welcoming, that are safe, and that celebrate our lives and our gifts too.
Timothy John Mumm was baptized at 17 days of age by his father, a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, with the words, “Receive the sign of the holy cross, both upon your forehead and upon your breast as a token that thou hast been redeemed by Christ the crucified.” Those signs, and the Holy Spirit remain with Tim, even now. Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in Deaf Education, a master’s degree in counseling, and is a nationally certified sign language interpreter and a qualified mental health interpreter. At 36 years old, Tim came out of the closet as a gay man. Tim feels that his past and ongoing struggle as a man of faith and a gay man has been defining to his life. He carries this heartfelt tension thoughtfully as a child of God, a child of grace.