ELM Goes to College

by Jen Rude, ELM program director

ELM is headed for college.

The college years are often a time when young people start discerning a call for ministry. This can be a challenging journey for anyone – but it can be especially difficult if you are LGBTQ. And it can be particularly isolating if you don’t know any LGBTQ seminarians or rostered leaders.

ELM outreach posterThis month we are reaching out to Lutheran Campus Ministries at colleges and universities all around the country to try to connect with LGBTQ students who are in this time of discernment for rostered ministry.  We designed this colorful flyer for campus ministries (see picture) to post for students and we’re letting campus pastors know about our resources and how to connect students with ELM.

We hope to connect with LGBTQ college students who are in discernment. We also want to provide resources to campus pastors who help students explore their vocation.  ELM has resources, support, and lots of great connections to share.

For over 25 years Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has been supporting LGBTQ pastors and seminarians. Over 215 Lutheran LGBTQ rostered leaders and seminarians are part of Proclaim. A program of ELM, Proclaim is the professional community for publicly identified LGBTQ Lutheran rostered leaders and those preparing for rostered ministry. We’d like to meet potential seminarians as early in their process as possible, to provide guidance, mentors, support and community.

Do you know a college or high school student who identifies as LGBTQ and is considering the ministry?  Let them know about ELM!  We’d love to walk with them as they listen for their call.


Jen photo Jan 2016Jen is thankful for her campus pastor who walked alongside her as she considered a call to rostered ministry, long before being LGBTQ and a pastor even seemed like a real possibility.  And, one of Jen’s favorite books on discernment is Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak, which she reads almost yearly and highly recommends.


Hearts Full After Workin Visit

by Amalia Vagts
ELM Executive Director

Each year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries selects one member of Proclaim who is studying to be a rostered leader in the church to be the Joel Workin Scholar. This award recognizes a person who embodies Joel’s passion for justice and faith in their lives and ministry. The award includes $2,500 to be used for academic or spiritual study. In addition, the scholar is invited throughout the year to be involved with various ELM activities.

The 2016 application process is now open, and as I do each year in connection with the Workin Scholarship, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on Joel and the way his voice continues to guide our work.

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Ray and Betty Workin with the first Workin Scholar, Rev. Jen Rude.

Last summer, Rev. Jen Rude (ELM Program Director), Jim Kowalski (former ELM Board Co-Chair), and I drove to Fargo, North Dakota*. We were there to visit Ray and Betty Workin. Ray and Betty are the parents of Joel Workin. By the end of a marvelous and heart-filling visit we had heard stories we never knew about Joel and looked through the many scrapbooks that Betty has kept over the years.


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Front page article from The Forum (regional daily newspaper) in 1988.

Joel was one of the first openly gay seminarians in the Lutheran Church. When he and his classmates came out to their candidacy committees, it pushed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America into a conversation about something that had been a long reality – people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions are called to serve as pastors and rostered lay leaders. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were already serving as pastors in the Lutheran church. It was just not widely being talked about. Many know the history (and if you don’t, here’s a nice overview).  Joel stepped into the story when he came out. While the American Lutheran Church initially approved Joel’s candidacy, it was later rejected by the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Workin cover 3Despite the church’s lack of recognition, Joel continued to follow a call to ministry and launched a hospice ministry to those dying from AIDS in Los Angeles. He passed away from AIDS himself in November of 1995. In the last weeks before his death, Joel gave his family and friends permission to create a scholarship in his name. Joel’s bright and prophetic voice lives on through the Joel Raydon Workin Memorial Scholarship and through a book, Dear God, I am Gay – Thank You! (the preserved essays and sermons that Joel wrote as a seminarian and candidate for ministry).

The 2015 Workin Scholar was Justin Ferko, who shared recently in a letter to the Workins that he plans to use the remainder of his award for a course series on public church, prophetic communications and organizing. Through this scholarship and with the encouragement many of us find in Joel’s writing, LGBTQ leaders like Justin are not only free to serve, but are doing so in extraordinary ways.

To learn more about the Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar Fund or to submit an application, please visit the ELM website.

Pepe-JeffAmalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director, considers the evening she spent with the Workins to be one of the most memorable and life-giving experiences she’s had in this role. And she was quite happy the evening ended with a game of cards, which she’s since dubbed (with their blessing), “Workin Poker.” She’s become a bit of a fanatic, having taught it to most of her family and friends. This picture is of Pepe Sanchez and his husband, the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson (also one of the first openly gay Lutheran seminarians) after a rousing game of Workin Poker at the home of ELM Board member Margaret Moreland and Bennett Falk.

*Edited from a previous version to correct the author’s geographical error. 🙂

Queer Stories/Sacred Witness

by Jen Rude, ELM program director

Registration is now open for the 2016 Proclaim Gathering.  This annual gathering is a time for LGBTQ leaders to build community, receive continuing education, worship, play, connect, and renew.  This year on April 10-13, 2016 Proclaim members and their families will gather at beautiful St. Francis Retreat in San Juan Bautista, CA.

2016 gathering logo colorI love the logo for this year’s theme, developed by Proclaim member Katy Wallace. Katy is a seminarian at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary – and a graphic designer.  I love the way all the words mingle and connect. Our stories are queer, they are sacred, and they are a witness.  What is sacred is our stories, our queerness, and our witness.  Our witness is stories, is queer, and is sacred.

This year our speaker Dr. Frank Rogers will be facilitating part of our time together as we mingle and connect with Queer Stories/Sacred Witness. We will have time for personal reflection and contemplation, small group story sharing and listening, and large group sharing and reflection.  We’ll also have time to stay up late singing and laughing with others, or get up early and take a hike through the hills alone.  We’ll worship, pray, learn and grow as individuals and as a community.

Some of the folks who received scholarships for last year's Proclaim Gathering.
Some of the members who received a scholarship for last year’s Proclaim Gathering.

LGBTQ leaders have extraordinary gifts for ministry.  And their witness proclaims the gospel now in our church and world.  The Proclaim Gathering is an opportunity to nurture these gifts and these leaders so their ministry may be grounded, fruitful, faithful, and fabulous.  Sounds like what our church needs!

You can support these leaders by contributing to Proclaim Gathering Scholarships.  We never want finances to be a reason someone can’t attend. Help us invest in our extraordinary leaders! We hope to raise $10,000 to support all who may need a scholarship – we’ve already received one gift for $1,000!


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by Rev. Jen Rude.  Jen remembers her first ELM retreat in 2004 and eating dinner with famous LGBTQ Lutherans she’d only seen in films or read about in the news before.  Eating meals and lingering over table conversation continues to be one her favorite parts about Proclaim Gatherings.  Such wise, interesting, faithful, and hilarious people.  These conversations continue to be a great source of sustenance.  

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2015 – Year in Review

25 year logo

Thank you for being part of a remarkable year for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. As we celebrated 25+ years of ministry by publicly-identified LGBTQ people we also experienced a 25% increase in Proclaim members during 2015 alone!

While we are still compiling final numbers as the last donations of the year still arrive by mail, I am thrilled to tell you that we are beginning 2016 fully funded and ready to go. I always like to reflect on where we’ve been before moving on to where we are going – so settle as we look back at 2015. As you do, know that you make this ministry real through your prayers, encouragement, and financial support.

2015 in Review….We started the year celebrating 25+ years of ministry by publicly-identified LGBTQ people with the anniversary of the first extraordinary ordinations.

More congregations and synods received a new resource Enrich & Transform  to help open the call process to LGBTQ people.

We engaged in deep in-person work at our spring and fall board meetings, and in anti-racism and intercultural competency training at the ELM board meeting and Proclaim retreat.

We released Treasure in Clay Jars – an expansive project that shares stories of LGBTQ people in Lutheran Ministry.

We made our way all around the country to be with as many of you in person as possible, and when we could, captured some great stories from the road – like this one from Jen’s seminary visits in the spring.

We welcomed our new 4-hour/week admin support maven, Marie O’Brien of Grace Lutheran Evanston and said farewell to our home at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church as they prepared to sell their building and began a rather unwieldy and irritating move to PO Box 14317 – thank you for your patience!

We celebrated with Rev. Ángel David Marrero Ayala as he was ordained called to mission development in the New England Synod.

We had an amazing Proclaim Gathering – including a day-long media training from Macky Alston from Auburn Seminary.

We had our first very Web-Chat update for ELM volunteers and donors.

We were present at synod assemblies in Rocky Mountain Synod, Sierra Pacific Synod, Minneapolis Area Synod, and Metro Chicago Synod through our Ministry Engagement work.

We celebrated with extraordinary congregations like Augustana Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C.

We rejoiced with Nate Gruel who was received onto the ELCA roster after a 36-year journey.

The ELCA celebrated the first “ordinary” ordination of a transgender person – the Rev. Asher O’Callaghan.

Named Justin Ferko as the 2015 Joel R. Workin Scholar, with a $2,500 grant towards his education, and invited his reflections on ministry.

Led workshops and were a sponsor for Until All Our Free, the ReconcilingWorks assembly.

Highlighted some fabulous ELM supporters – like Julie and Luther Grafe – who helped lead our Faithful & Fabulous Chicago campaign.

Shared many personal stories through the ELM Blog – including Rev. Lura Groen’s thoughts on our connections with the Black Lives Matter movement, Bp. Kevin Kanouse and his coming-out journey, Emmy Kegler’s new website Queer Grace, Miriam Samuelson-Roberts reflections on bisexuality, and Rev. Mark Erson’s “Gospel Night” services at St. John’s Christopher Street.

Proclaim reached 200 members this fall – and then quickly grew to 215!

ELM received a $30,000 grant from the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation to develop our Proclaim program in 2016.

Celebrated progress for trans* people called to rostered ministry,including Portico Benefit Services’ actions to remove all exclusions related to trans healthcare and expand trans-inclusive coverage.

Organized a peer-to-peer outreach effort, Faithful & Fabulous Chicago, through which over 20 new individuals and couples became new donors to ELM – giving a combined total of at least $6,500!

The Board incorporated some values around sustainability and productivity that staff members Amalia and Jen learned at the Rockwood Leadership Institute and moved to a 4-day/36 hour work week for full-time staff.

Celebrated the ways that seminarians are still at the forefront of our mission.

Developed even more resources for congregations who say they “just aren’t ready” for a gay pastor. And we started asking – What are you doing to get ready?

Ended the year with this joy – After very faithfully seeking first call, the Rev. Cara Knutson and the Rev. Tim Feiertag received calls and were ordained in December.

As I shared with those attending the 2015 Proclaim Gathering – ELM is fruitful and multiplying.

I know it can be hard to understand the full scope of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ work. For me, it often comes down to words like these from Mack Patrick after attending the 2015 Proclaim Gathering:

“This is the first time since discerning my call that I have felt 100% at home. For the first time since seminary I am not having to teach anyone about who I am, and I am finally not alone and it is an extraordinary feeling.”

You have created that feeling. Thanks for an extraordinary year!

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