Guest blog by Proclaim Program Convener and ELM Board Member, Rev. Emily E. Ewing
I recently attended my first in-person ELM Board Meeting since becoming the Proclaim Program Convener. It was wonderful to spend time with the extraordinary folks on our board, including people who have been a part of the movement since the beginning and shared incredible stories from the early days and newer folks and fellow Proclaim-ers who are also on the board. I was blown away by the commitment and care of the folks who make up the Board as well as the amazing work they, and now we, are doing to support LGBTQ people in ministry! We did a lot of great work together over the course of 3 days.
One of my favorite conversations was about the “why?” of ELM. We did an exercise to get down to a basic “why” statement as a way of describing ELM’s purpose. Before the 2009 policy change, this was generally understood as “ELM believes LGBTQ people should be able to be pastors and is making that possible.” Since 2009, it’s been a little harder to describe. We began the exercise by sharing our own personal “whys” we have for doing this work. Mine ranged from doing this because LGBTQ leaders have huge gifts for the church and still face unnecessary obstacles when encountering the institution of the ELCA to the reality that my being as a queer pastor is Good News for some and makes it ok for others to also claim their faith.
After sharing our personal “whys”, we started picking out commonalities, words and phrases that resonated deeply, then combined them into a simple statement that we all felt connected to. That statement is “ELM believes that LGBTQ people have extraordinary gifts for ministry – through their public witness they proclaim the Gospel now.” The statement is not set in stone – for example we used “Gospel” knowing that depending on the context, it could make more sense to say “God’s love for all” or “God’s mercy,” etc., but the statement is helpful for me in talking about ELM and the work we’re doing together. We also talked about our various programs and why they exist and why we are part of them, which was fun to think through. Needless to say, there was some overlap between ELM’s organization-wide “why” and my “why” as Proclaim convener as well as the “why” of the Proclaim program.
We also talked about the new proposal for our Proclaim Gatherings, which adds more focus and resources toward regional/local gatherings while still continuing to offer an annual national gathering. The Board affirmed the proposal and I’m excited for the opportunities we’ll have to not only gather together April 10-13, 2016 in San Juan Bautista, California, but also gather regionally for an evening or even an overnight for those of us that are more spread out. We also will be starting to look at smaller, more specifically focused gatherings beginning in 2017! This is so exciting!
I also got to hear about the Ministry Engagement program’s presence at Synod Assemblies, focusing on congregations to continue to expand the congregations that would potentially call Proclaim rostered leaders. They are working to expand ELM’s presence at future Synod Assemblies, so if someone in your congregation might be interested in hosting an ELM table at your assembly next year, keep that in mind as Margaret Moreland, the Ministry Engagement Convener would probably love to talk to them! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Accompaniment continues to do amazing work from connecting those awaiting first call with coaches to journey with them through the process to the amazing work of our Proclaim Seminarian Team and the 60 seminarians in Proclaim!!
We began talking about our 2016 budget and staffing for the organization, especially as we are growing so much (with 210+ Proclaim members)!! As part of our conversation around staffing we decided to make Amalia and Jen’s shift to a 36-hour, 4-day (Monday-Thursday) workweek permanent, recognizing the benefit it gives them in both their work and their personal life, which also means it benefits us.
This was a great time and so affirming in the work that we are all doing together to support and encourage each other and all LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders, seminarians, and those awaiting calls.
As Proclaim continues to grow, I am excited for the ways that we are engaging each other as a community virtually and locally. It is always a gift for me when I get to see fellow Proclaimers and ELM supporters, both through my computer screen and in person. This is only possible because of the commitment of the work of ELM and the fierce support and affirmation of folks throughout ELM’s larger community. So thank you, for your support: your prayers and your donations, which make it possible for us to continue to be fruitful and multiplying.
Rev. Emily E. Ewing graduated in 2014 with an M Div from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Emily is thoroughly enjoying the role of Proclaim Program Convener. Emily is currently living in West Jordan, Utah, enjoys live Facebooking conferences and is surprisingly fond of running half marathons.