by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director
A movement of out seminarians began in the late 1980’s when four seminarians came out to their candidacy committees. These and other acts broke open the movement for full inclusion in the Lutheran church.
In 2009, when the policy barring LGBTQ candidates and rostered leaders in same sex relationships ended, ELM was working with 2 or 3 LGBTQ seminarians each year.
Now, just six years later, there are 58 publicly identified LGBTQ seminarians connected with Proclaim. Seminarians make up more than 25% of the Proclaim community. The future looks very bright!
More and more LGBTQ people who are called to ministry are now able to follow this call into our seminaries, our congregations, and into the whole church. Some are born and raised Lutheran and others are drawn into the Lutheran church through our theology, engagement in the world, and faithful witness.
Who are today’s LGBTQ seminarians?
They are scholars. Seven current Proclaim seminarians are recipients of a merit-based full tuition ELCA Fund for Leaders Scholarship and several others were awarded partial Fund for Leaders scholarships.
They are community leaders. Both on and off campus these leaders are involved in the work of being church in the world. Proclaim seminarians are taking the lead on four separate campuses to work with our movement partner ReconcilingWorks toward becoming a Reconciling in Christ seminary. They are leading Gay-Straight Alliances and are involved in LGBTQ groups in the community leading conversations about faith. But don’t expect to find them exclusively in LGBTQ ministries. Proclaim seminarians are active in Public Church Fellows, Interfaith Supper Club, and the Lutheran Office of Public Policy Council. They care about and are active in many aspects of the wider church.
They are servants. Proclaim seminarians are serving on synod council. Several members are serving as student body President and members of the student association at their seminary. As part of their seminary worship life they are serving as school sacristan and leading a liturgical dance group.
And that’s just a sampling.
While these seminarians are amazing leaders in so many ways, being LGBTQ is part of what makes them extraordinary – wonderfully “out of the ordinary.” This experience of being an LGBTQ person of faith has shaped their call and their gifts for ministry. They are faithful – following a call to ministry in a church that still has a lot of room to grow in LGBTQ affirmation, and being unsure of where this call may lead them. They are justice-seekers – having a particular eye for those on the margins and others who may have felt excluded. They are evangelical – sharing about the transformative power of God in their own lives as a way to share with others the Good News. And they are fabulous – bringing their unique and beautiful selves in service to God and God’s people.
Proclaim seminarians continue to lead the way in proclaiming the gospel with justice and grace. The road is not always easy, but these leaders have listened to their call, developed and shared their gifts, and are seizing the opportunity to be good stewards of their education, their ministries and the wider community.
Your gift to ELM helps support these extraordinary seminarians so that one day soon they will be ready to be called to serve your congregation. Lucky you!
By Rev. Jen Rude, who is inspired and humbled both by the witness of those early LGBTQ seminarians of the 1980s and the 58+ seminarians who continue the movement across our church today.