Lay People call Pastors and other Rostered Leaders. What Are You Doing to Get Ready?

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Guest blog by Margaret Moreland, ELM board member and Convener of ELM’s Ministry Engagement program

Margaret Moreland (middle) at the Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly
Margaret Moreland (middle) at the Rocky Mountain Synod Assembly

The truth is out, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) it is the lay members of each congregation who have the privilege and responsibility of deciding who to call to be their pastor, diaconal minister, or AIM!

Also, since a call is required before ordination, lay people have a say in who is ordained.  It’s a very cool thing and doesn’t happen in many other denominations.  Of course the synod bishops and staff provide advice and names for consideration, so they have an important role, but we lay people make the final decision.

Inspiring and supporting congregations in the process and deliberations of choosing a pastor is the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ (ELM) Ministry Engagement Program.  Two other ELM programs work directly with LGBTQ rostered leaders, seminarians, and candidates for ordination and commissioning.  Ministry Engagement’s work is to insure that our congregations and ministries are prepared  to welcome these leaders and their gifts into consideration during the discernment of whom to call.

How do we make this happen?

  • Enrich and Transform – This is a wonderful guide for anyone who wants to learn more about including LGBTQ candidates in a call process. While it was written especially for call committees, it can be used in congregations before a call committee is formed or even in congregations that are not yet in a leadership transition.
  • Synod Assemblies – In 2015 Ministry Engagement staffed ELM tables at four Synod Assemblies. This was a great way to meet lay people and tell them more about ELM and about Enrich and Transform. In 2016 we plan to have tables at 10 or more Synod Assemblies.  We’ll have as many as we have volunteers to help this happen in their home Synods
  • Local Synod Contacts – Ministry Engagement also has Local Synod Contacts in eight Synods to connect with Synod staff and support them in working with congregations in leadership transition. Many of these volunteers are Proclaim members, others are long-time supporters of ELM. They have made sure that the Synod staff know about Enrich and Transform, and some have done trainings with staff and with interim pastors or met with congregation call committees.

One comment we’ve heard more often than we would like is “But my congregation is just not ready for an LGBTQ pastor.”  But that can’t be the end of the conversation. Our response is “What are you doing to get ready?”

How about your congregation?  Do you already have a LGBTQ pastor or minister?  Are you ready for the next call process? (It will come!)

What can you do now to get ready?  One good step is to take a look at the Enrich and Transform guide and start some conversations in your congregation.  Another would be to host an ELM display table at your synod assembly (contact me at if you’re interested).

Your donations help us keep these projects going.  Your work in your own congregation and Synod can do even more!

*Printer-friendly version of Enrich and Transform.

Margaret pic survival suit


Margaret Moreland is ready for anything in her cold water survival suit, but it does make talking difficult.  And she really likes talking about how wonderful it is to be a member of a congregation with a Proclaim pastor.



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