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.