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Kindling the Flame

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by Amalia Vagts, ELM executive director

I love sharing updates with all of you about the work of the ELM Board of Directors because Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is incredibly lucky to have such a marvelous and committed group of visionary leaders. We gathered last weekend (again at the wonderful Pendle Hill near Philadelphia). Some highlights:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

And, we find great joy in our work – see the photo below of board members playing a prototype of an ELM-related board game…details on that to come!
board playing game

ELM board members playing an ELM-themed board game.

Amalia Vagts, wrote this blog on her parents’ laptop on the eve of some time off with them in Florida. She thinks she might get them a new one for Christmas.

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