Amalia & Aubrey

Sharing Stories to Create New Ones

by Amalia Vagts
executive director

I’ve had some wonderful new opportunities recently to share the stories of LGBTQ people in ministry.

A number of faith leaders have been in Chicago this week for ALDE Ignite. ALDE is the Association of Lutheran Development Executives. Ignite is the annual conference. Over the course of the conference, I’ve had a number of very meaningful conversations that have left me deeply encouraged about those working to gather resources in support of significant work to make the world a better place.

The week began with the great news that Clyde Andrew Walter had been named ALDE Chapter Leader of the Year. Clyde is the development committee convener for ELM. Yay, Clyde! 

Amalia & Aubrey
Amalia Vagts (left) and Aubrey Thonvold (right).

Also this week, Aubrey Thonvold (of ReconcilingWorks) and I met with Rev. Stephen Bouman, Executive Director of the Congregational and Synodical Mission Unit of the ELCA. We met with Pastor Bouman to update him on the present work of our ministries and to talk about ways we can deepen conversations about LGBTQ people in the church.

Last night, I had a conversation with someone who wants to engage more deeply with the work of ELM. His passion was evident, but I wanted to hear his story. I asked him why he cared about this work.

He told me about dear friends of his, a lesbian couple, and how important they are to him.

“I just think it’s so unfair what they’ve had to go through,” he said. “And it’s completely wrong that our church is doing this and I want to be part of making it change.

As we share these stories with each other, we become part of creating a new one.

Amalia VagtsAmalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, is thankful for people who take time to share their story. Also, she is almost as tall as some of the doors at the Palmer Hotel. 


ELM – Coming to a Synod Near You?

by Larell Fineren, Ministry Engagement Team, ELM Synod Assembly Coordinator

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ Ministry Engagement Program needs fun loving, enthusiastic volunteers to host display tables at Synod Assemblies this year.  Might this be you?!  We put our toes in the water last year and had displays at four Synod Assemblies. We were impressed with the number of connections that came out of this first effort – and so this year, we are hoping to expand to 10 synod assemblies.

ELM's Display Table at Metro Chicago Synod Assembly in 2015
ELM’s Display Table at Metro Chicago Synod Assembly in 2015

Synod Assemblies are some of the best places for us to connect with lay people and spread the word about ELM’s vision, purpose and work.  Lay people are really important in this work since they are the ones who call pastors and other rostered leaders.

The job description for a display table host is available here – ELM Synod Assembly Host Job Description 2016.  The host should be a person who does not need to be in the assembly sessions.  The host does not need a deep knowledge of ELM, but should be familiar with and supportive of our work – and excited to tell others about it!

We are looking for hosts that will be local to the assembly location, so that there will be no housing costs.  Registration and all the materials for the display will be provided through our Ministry Engagement program budget for 2016.  

I’ve stepped up to coordinate all the logistics for registration and display space, and will be sure that all the materials for the display get to the hosts.

If you’d like to help ELM come to a synod near you by hosting a table at your synod assembly, please contact us at

larell Fby Larell Fineren, (she/her/hers).  Larell is a retired Nurse Anesthetist, member of Elim Lutheran Church, Petaluma CA and a Sierra-Pacific Synod Council member.  She writes:  “As I get comfortable in my wisdom years, a profound sense of gratitude buoys my spirit and keeps me involved in the justice work that God calls me to.  I’m a bisexual San Francisco native who’s been involved in LGBTQ inclusion politics for over 40 years.  My initial involvement with ELM was in 2003 when I served on the West Coast Candidacy Panel of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project. Now I live in Petaluma CA and my joy these days comes from helping new immigrants in my community.”

Stepping Forward – Welcoming Christephor Gilbert to the ELM Staff

Stepping Forward
by Amalia Vagts, Executive Director

As you may have heard me say a time or two lately – Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is growing. I’m thrilled to announce that we have hired Christephor Gilbert to be the new Operations Coordinator for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Christephor (he/him/his) is a member of Proclaim, a student in the Master of Divinity program at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and is in Candidacy with the ELCA toward Word and Sacrament ministry.  Prior to seminary, Christephor worked as the Program Manager for the Kentucky Center Governor’s School for the Arts in Louisville, KY, which was a natural move from his first career as a dancer, dance educator, and choreographer (MFA Dance, University of Hawaii, 1993).  Christephor lives in Hyde Park with his partner Donald and their three cats.  He is a member of Third Lutheran Church in Louisville, KY (where fellow Proclaim member, Rev. Steven Renner, is pastor).

Christephor Gilbert. Photo by Jason McGovern, LSTC.
Christephor Gilbert. Photo by Jason McGovern, LSTC.

Christephor will be working 8 hours a week for ELM, processing our mail and contributions and providing additional support for our communications work.

Christephor says,

“It was a dream come true when, as a life-long seeker, I fell into the loving arms of an ELCA congregation that was not only radically inclusive, but also had at its helm an out member of the LGBTQ community.  Now, as a gay Lutheran, part of my call to work in the church is to continue to support, encourage, and advocate for LGBTQ people in the ELCA.   I’m excited and grateful to work with ELM and play a small role in the organization’s mission to support rostered leaders and seminarians, paving the way for a future where all God’s children, inclusive of their diversity, are welcomed and celebrated.”

Christephor will be working from Resurrection Lutheran Church in the Lake View neighborhood of Chicago. This is an exciting new partnership between Resurrection and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries – although our connections run deep. Program director, Jen Rude was called by and extraordinarily ordained at Resurrection in 2007.

We’ve received a generous and wonderful reception from Pastor Kelly Faulstich and the people of Resurrection. Pastor Kelly writes,

“At Resurrection, we’re excited to continue our support of and ministry with ELM! Our members often share fond memories of ELM Program Director Pastor Jen Rude’s ministry when she served here. And, we have always been sharing space in a figurative sense, when it comes to supporting, equipping, and encouraging LGBTQ leaders in the church. Now we get to share physical space too! We’re looking forward to having Christephor among us.”

Christephor starts February 29. As we welcome Christephor we say a very thankful and fond farewell to Marie O’Brien, who was our “bridge” operations coordinator (and spiritual guide) in 2015. Marie is the parish administrator at Grace Lutheran Church in Evanston – another wonderful partner with ELM. Marie provided much needed support for 4 hours a week and has been a wonderful, energizing, and caring part of our team.

Our system this past year was temporary and was not ideal – as many of you experienced. In addition to Marie’s support, I’m grateful to Jen Rude for her extra work these last months – picking up our mail and then sending it via package delivery to Marie. This resulted in a week’s delay in our responding to your giving – and none of us here felt good about that. I am thankful that your contributions and letters will have a more direct route now – from our P.O. Box into Christephor’s caring hands as he takes the mail just up the road to Resurrection to open, record, and deposit your gifts.

And I am thankful for YOUR giving, which helps us grow our organization as needed to support the growing number of LGBTQ people called to ministry. Thanks to you, we are able to give Christephor this paid employment and connection with ELM while he is in seminary and are able to more efficiently and consistently stay in communication with you.

Please join me in welcoming Christephor!

Amalia Vagtsby Amalia Vagts, (she/her/hers). Amalia loves being part of a team and is so thankful for Rachael, River, Marie, and now Christephor,for their work to receive and help with the wonderful contributions you send to support LGBTQ leaders and share with you the ways your support is making a real difference.

ELM Reveals The Mysteries of the Ages

by Rev. Jen Rude, ELM program director

“…the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to God’s saints.” Colossians 1:26

Our comprehensive resource The Mysteries of the Ages: A Handy Guide for LGBTQ People Exploring or Preparing for Rostered Ministry in the ELCA is now complete!

LGBTQ people have extraordinary gifts for ministry. Our church needs these leaders.  The process toward rostered ministry can be confusing and frustrating, especially for LGBTQ people. Within our Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community we have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and support to share.  There’s no need to go it alone.

Rev. Brenda Bos (left) visits with seminarian Fred Demien (right). Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.
Rev. Brenda Bos (left) visits with seminarian Fred Demien. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

The Mysteries of the Ages is a 60 page resource (yeah – 60 pages!) that serves as a conversation partner for LGBTQ individuals from initial discernment, through the stages of candidacy, Clinical Pastoral Education, internship, and first call.  Through narrative, stories, humor, tips, prayers, charts and the sharing of experiences, we hope this resource will be a welcome companion for for LGBTQ people considering or pursuing rostered ministry. And in the review process, we’ve heard from a few non-LGBTQ folks that they’ve found it helpful too!

It’s hard work to walk the road alone. Part of the gift of ELM is that we are building community between experienced LGBTQ leaders and those newer to the process. We hope that you will take a look at The Mysteries of the Ages and and share it with someone you know who might be considering ministry or who is already on the path to rostered ministry in the Lutheran Church.

20150418 Proclaim 151558-2by Jen Rude. Jen is deeply grateful for the many people, too numerous to name, who contributed to this resource by filling out surveys, writing, editing, researching, asking questions, offering feedback, and keeping the whole process fantastically fun.