Joyous Easter to you!
I’m so thankful for the signs of Easter I see every day in the ministry leaders you support through your giving to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
This year, the Proclaim Gathering falls in the season of Easter – and for many it is truly a new morning where they can step out from the time of Lent and into the transforming light of the risen Christ.
They experience the joy of hearing the word “gay” alongside words like “fabulous, beloved, joyous, and called.”
Right now, we’re raising funds to support our upcoming Proclaim Gathering – especially to provide scholarships to those who need them.
The critical need for these scholarships became very clear when I was reading a note from one scholarship applicant.
I stopped short at this sentence: “I grew up in a church where the word gay was not used.”
That comment caught my eye because for so long, many LGBT Christians experienced hurt because of the way gay and lesbian people were spoken about in church.
Now there is a new pain caused by silence. Many in the ELCA want to move quickly from a past of exclusion. Yet a growing number of people continue to experience the pain caused when the church doesn’t mention our identities or our families.
ELM is working to change that. You can join us. You can remind this future pastor that the darkness of silence during Lent leads to the bursting joyfulness of Easter. You can remind them they do not walk alone.
I invite you to make a special gift in support of this Gathering – I’d love to add your name to the list of those who will receive thank you notes from the ministry leaders at the Proclaim Gathering this year.
And I invite you this Easter Season to come out about your support for LGBTQ ministry leaders. Tell your own story of transformation and resurrection.
Thank you for all you do for LGBTQ ministry leaders.
Amalia Vagts is thankful for the gift of being part of the National Proclaim Gathering to hear the stories of LGBTQ people called to rostered ministry so she can share them with all of you.
Guest blog by Rev. Marvin Havard, Proclaim member
“Why? Because I’m gay?”
I heard myself say those words to a friend in a conversation in January of 2014 and couldn’t believe I was saying it out loud. All the shame, guilt, and repression from my childhood in a fundamentalist Baptist church and school came roaring up from the depths of my psyche and I collapsed into a weeping mess for the next few hours. My friend was amazing and simply held me and let me cry it out. When I got through the initial emotional meltdown, I knew I needed some help for the next part of the journey.
After finding the website for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) and an agonizing three hours of writing, deleting, and rewriting, I finally sent an email. The response was amazingly quick with a wonderful offer to talk on the phone.
I called and in our conversation ELM program director Jen Rude explained to me that ELM had recently started a project of offering conversation partners for rostered leaders and seminarians in the coming out process. She shared that Proclaim is made up of people who have had a variety of coming out experiences and that it can often help to talk with someone who has been there. (Here’s some more information about pastors and seminarians getting support while coming out). Jen offered to connect me to Donn Rosenauer, a retired Lutheran pastor and Proclaim member, who happened to live in the Dallas metro area where I live.
From our first meeting, Donn’s words of affirmation have continued to uphold me during this process: reminding me that I am a Child of God, created in God’s image, as I was intended to be from the very beginning; encouraging me to write about my experience and to spend time reviewing the journey to this point; but most importantly, helping me to see where God is at work in my life and in the life of the people around me.
Donn Rosenauer says this about ELM’s project to support those coming out: “The ministry in which I am engaged is a needed resource for many on this journey. I have accompanied several pastors coming out. I’ve been doing this ministry as a volunteer with ELM for a little more than two years. I have grown in this service to others and hope this ministry can be an ongoing gift to those we serve.”
Then began the process of coming out – to my wife of 28 years, my family, my friends, and my congregation. As each of these events occurred, Donn encouraged me to not give into my fear but to allow for the work of the Holy Spirit in the response of each person and group. My wife and I are determined to remain friends even as we proceed with a divorce. My family, though struggling deeply to accept the truth, has continued to remain connected and to profess their love for me. The congregation I was serving, though fairly conservative, was much more accepting than I could ever have imagined. I still felt the need to leave and find another call where I can better live into this part of my identity. I am currently serving as an interim pastor while looking for a new call.
In December I officially became a member of the Proclaim community and am looking forward to attending the Proclaim Gathering in April. Through it all, Donn has continued to point me back to God’s work within me and within this process. He has been an incredibly supportive mentor, spiritual director, and friend who understands, who encourages, and who even provides the needed joy and laughter when I get too anxious and self-absorbed.
I say “Thank You!” to Donn, to ELM, to Proclaim and to all who have helped to provide this support and encouragement. I can’t imagine going through this without such amazing people. God is definitely at work within this community and its amazing members!
by Marvin Havard. Marvin (he/him/his) is serving as interim pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Carrollton, TX. After 15 years working as a church musician, he defected to the other side of the bench and was ordained in 2009 as a graduate of Wartburg Theological Seminary. Marvin is an avid reader and has been known to quote Tolkien, Asimov, and other sci-fi/fantasy writers in sermons.
Guest blog by Justin Ferko, Proclaim member, member of the ELM Seminarian Outreach Team, and the 2015 Joel R. Workin Scholar
In this photo you see the lovely members of the Trinity Lutheran Seminary Community listening to our very own Rev. Jen Rude present on the history, mission and vision of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Proclaim Members David Young, Brian Whitton, Laura Ferree, and I were pleased to host Jen’s visit from February 15 – 18, 2016.
What you don’t see or feel is the vibrant energy in that room. Over twenty-six people including faculty, staff and students came to hear the sacred history from the first extraordinary ordinations in San Francisco to the way the Spirit continues to raise up LGBTQ leaders in the church. Many students had never heard the story of grace in struggle until that brown bag lunch.
Seth Bridger, Director of Recruiting and Admissions, exuberantly shared how as an ally he had answered the call for all leaders to prepare congregations for diverse pastoral candidates. Before leaving his most recent call at Gloria Dei in Cincinatti, OH, he had prepared his congregation to welcome future LGBTQ pastoral leaders. Currently, Proclaim Member Rob Bork serves as the pastor of Gloria Dei in Cincinnati!
Commenting on Jen’s visit, Denise Sager, Vice President for Leadership Formation said this was a “high five the Holy Spirit” moment as Jen accompanied the students and ELM Seminary Advocate Dr. Cheryl Peterson in a meeting with President Barger on February 18, 2016. This was the culmination of a series of student-led meetings on what the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) mission means for Trinity, what accountability for RIC looks like in this community, and trainings from Equality Ohio on what it means to be an ally to the LGBTQ community and use of language including pronouns.
In addition to speaking on campus and meeting with Trinity faculty and staff, Jen visited with Pastor Jim Wilson of Lord of Life in Columbus. This congregation has raised up and supported eight persons for seminary, including Proclaim Members Alex Raabe, Brian Whitton, and myself.
Jen’s visit to the Trinity Lutheran Seminary Community left us reverberating with the prophetic call to:
+ Be co-conspirators and allies with LGBTQ lay and rostered leaders to set the stage for the person who is called to this role after you.
+ Reframe the leadership selection process by asking bishops, synod staff and seminary staff to accept all qualified trained leaders and seminarian candidates with the request for congregations to “opt-out” instead of a default “no” to LGBTQ candidates.
+ Demystify the mysteries of candidacy by making the ELM publication The Mysteries of the Ages: A handy guide for LGBTQ people exploring or preparing for rostered ministry in the ELCA available to all people in candidacy.
Thank you Jen and ELM for your presence on campus! You are always welcome here. We’ll keep you posted on the voting process for TLS to become a Reconciling in Christ seminary which will conclude with our May 2016 Board meeting.
Justin Ferko is a second year M.Div. diaconal ministry candidate and ELM Seminarian Outreach team representative. He is moved by the passion of the Trinity Lutheran Seminary Proclaimers and allies to support LGBTQ leadership and welcome because “all means all.” Justin is the 2015 Joel R. Workin Scholar.
by Rev. Emily E. Ewing, ELM board member and convener of the Proclaim program
One of the reasons I love being a part of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) is that we as an organization believe that difference makes a difference. Because of this belief 6 years ago ELM formally committed to ongoing anti-oppression work. We dedicate 4-8 hours to training and/or education at one of our two in-person board meetings each year. We focus on a variety of areas of anti-oppression work.
This year the Rev. Gordon Straw, one of our ELM Board members and a member of the Brothertown Indian Nation, led our time together. Gordon provided information, led an experiential exercise, and guided conversation about American Indians and Alaska Natives both in the ELCA and the larger historical context of the land we now occupy.
As a church and theology nerd, I really appreciate how Gordon framed theology from both a modern Western Christian perspective and from a Native perspective. Modern Western Christian theology typically understands humanity’s relationship with God and creation as hierarchical in which God is at the top of the hierarchy, humans are just below, and living and then non-living beings below that.
From a Native perspective, the worldview is more circular as we are all related to each other, from humans and animals to plants, rocks, wind, and the four directions. Within Lakota tradition this is expressed in the term “Mitakuye O’yasin,” which translates as “all my relations.” Our existence as humans is not a separate thing from the existence of all of God’s creation; instead, we are interconnected.
As board member Margaret Moreland pointed out, “We all are living on land that was home to indigenous people before Europeans came here. Gordon brought to life the consequences of the European take-over for Indians in the past and right now.” The land we are on is sacred land because it is part of God’s good creation. It is also sacred land because it gives life and nourishment to us. It is sacred, importantly, because people have lived on it in harmony with creation and in conflict with creation and each other not only since white people arrived, but since long before then as well.
Even those of us who knew some of the history of native peoples learned a lot. One of the things that I learned is that individuals will have an opportunity this year in the ELCA at our synod assemblies and hopefully at our Churchwide Assembly as well, to support Bp. R. Guy Erwin, the Southwest California Synod, and the American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran Association in passing a resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery.
The church has been complicit in much of the harm done to native peoples as white settlers moved across this land. One step that we can take as people working to be allies with Native communities is not only to learn our collective and their particular histories anew, but also to renounce the doctrine of discovery, which declared that European discoverers were Christian and “civilized” and the Native people were not, and therefore any lands discovered by Europeans were owned by Europeans. Native peoples were merely inhabitants on the land.
Gordon also shared with us two important news sources that I am looking forward to exploring in more depth: the National Congress of American Indians (ncai.org) and indianz.com. I was also encouraged to hear about the ELCA Native American Ministries Endowment Fund, to support the important ministry done by and in native communities throughout the ELCA. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries made a gift to this fund in honor of Gordon’s ministry and in thanks for the work he did with us at our meeting.
Rev. Emily E. Ewing serves as pastor of Trinity Fellowship (ELCA) and First Presbyterian Church in Rushford, Minnesota. Emily comes from land originally inhabited by the Ute and the mountains they knew as the Shining Mountains.
by Amalia Vagts, ELM executive director
We began our meeting with a conversation led by Marvin Ellison about the current landscape regarding LGBTQ people and faith movements. Marvin currently is the Director of Alumni Relations at Union Seminary – he is also an ordained Presbyterian minister and taught at Bangor Theological Seminary (U.C.C.) for thirty years. We wanted to hear the perspective of someone working outside the Lutheran church to help us gain broader perspective. Marvin laid some groundwork about the current state of LGBTQ people of faith from several perspectives (PC-USA, UCC, Catholic, Episcopalian, Jewish…). Marvin framed these conversation with the following questions: use one word to describe the current state of LGBTQ people and the church; what is the next work for LGBTQ people of faith and our allies and partners in ministry; and why stay in the struggle. This conversation helped frame our whole weekend together.
Every year, the board does 4-8 hours of anti-oppression board learning together. This year, ELM Board Member Gordon Straw offered to lead asession about American Indian/Native Alaskan Lutheran ministries and broader legal/societal conversation about American Indians. This was a moving and informative conversation and brought up some possible connections/collaborations.
We gave thanks for leaders! We celebrated and gave thanks for the wonderful leadership of Michael Wilker, who was ending three years as co-chair. Mike has been a faithful and deeply committed leader and we are incredibly thankful for him. We gave thanks for several other board members and leaders who had finished their terms in the fall of 2015 – Jim Kowalski (who had served as co-chair), Jeremy Posadas (who served as Secretary for the last three years), and Angel Marrero-Roe. We had a service of thanks and Godspeed for Randy Nelson, who has finished serving for 5 years in the role of Accompaniment Convener.Randy has worked with program director Jen Rude and key volunteers to create and implement this important work.
We elected new board members and new leaders! We are thrilled to welcome the following new leaders – Nicole Johnson (Minneapolis, MN); Rev. Barbara Lundblad (Minneapolis, MN), Rev. Brad Froslee (Minneapolis, MN); and Rev. Jeff Johnson (Berkeley, CA). We’re excited! The Board chose new coordinating officers – Rev. Elise Brown and Rev. Brad Froslee as co-chairs and Mike Wilker as secretary. Charlie Horn continues as treasurer.
We had a good conversation about work ELM has been doing to value, invite, and sustain racial diversity on the board and our struggles with achieving the diversity we seek.Three years ago, 5 of 12 board members were people of color. One year ago, 3 of 12 were. Currently, 1 of 12 are people of color. After good conversation, and by consensus, we passed a statement affirming our belief that difference makes a difference and our recognition that our current board is mostly white. We committed to making several changes, including agreeing that the next two leaders we seek will be people with skills and passion for leadership with ELM and who are people of color.
Throughout the weekend, we had rich, generative conversation about where we have been, where we are, and where we intend to go in the coming year and beyond in our work to live out our belief that LGBTQ people have extraordinary gifts for ministry. These conversations will turn to plans in the coming months.
I’ll end by sharing how we began our meeting – by reading the names of the Proclaim community and their ministry sites aloud, while singing the Iona chant “Kindle a flame.” This was a powerful experience – and the notion of kindling the flame was a touch point throughout our meeting.
Always, in our work in these meetings, we are thankful for all those who know about, care about, and support the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.