Guest blog by Proclaim member Ross Murray, diaconal minister
Calling is a funny thing. It’s almost never a direct path. We can plan, but God will intervene with what God’s going to do.
For the last five years, I’ve been working at GLAAD, the world’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy organization. Throughout my time at GLAAD, I’ve been the lead on religious work. Even though my exact title has shifted over the years, I’ve been blessed to preach, organize pro-LGBT faith voices to rally for LGBT equality, and support LGBT people and communities of faith. I’ve worked hard to dispel the myth that LGBTQ people and religion are opposed to one another, or “God vs. gay,” as we are so often told.
Perhaps the most Lutheran, and even protestant, thing I’ve done was developed and executed a campaign around Pope Francis’ visit to the US that highlighted the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and LGBTQ people. Instead of a church door, I was connecting media with LGBT Catholics who could talk about how they continue to keep their faith, despite alienation and sometimes outright persecution from the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
But until this point, I have been doing this work as an educated, hard-working Lutheran lay person. After April 30, I am now doing my LGBTQ advocacy work at GLAAD as a called and consecrated diaconal minister in the ELCA. Diaconal ministers go through theological education, candidacy, and a call process, just like clergy. However, the role of the diaconal minister is distinct.
While clergy are ordained into “Word and sacrament” ministry, diaconal ministers are consecrated into a ministry of “Word and service.” A diaconal minister is someone whose ministry is at the border of the church and the world. Historically, diaconal ministers have assisted in worship, run the administration of the church, directed aid for those in need. Diaconal callings usually involve a focus area: chaplaincy, administration, social service, prison ministry, etc. My particular calling will be to advocate for equality and acceptance for LGBTQ people, both in the church and the world, through my job at GLAAD.
While being called and consecrated is new for me, the fundamentals of my day-to-day job are unlikely to change. However, what will change is that mutual accountability that I have with the ELCA. My job is now my calling, which means I’m representing the larger church through my actions. It also means that I can continue to help the ELCA find ways in which to use its platform and voice to continue to call for the care and protection for LGBTQ people in society.
We are at a time when faith voices are critical to the LGBQ movement. That “God vs. gay” myth persists. Statewide “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” (RFRAs) attempt to reinforce it. Anti-LGBTQ advocates and public examples like Kim Davis want that myth to stay in place in order to protect their position in the world. My calling is about making sure that there continues to be a public witness that can use sound theology and a firm belief in the power of grace to spread the message that God has created us, knows us, and loves us, just as we are.
Ross Murray and Abby Ferjak were consecrated as ELCA diaconal ministers in a service on Saturday, April 30, 2016 at Advent Lutheran Church on Broadway in Manhattan, NY. Abby will continue her work as a hospital chaplain at Valley Health System in Ridgewood, NJ. Both Ross and Abby are members of Proclaim, a community of 220+ LGBTQ rostered leaders, seminarians, and candidates for ministry. Proclaim is a program of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
by Ross Murray. Ross is a Lutheran Diaconal Minister and member of Proclaim. He is GLAAD’s Director of Programs, focusing on global and the US South. He has written and appeared on numerous media outlets, including CNN, Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Religion News Service. Ross is also a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBT youth and their allies. If you’ve been thinking of jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, but don’t know where to start – check Ross out: @inlayterms – in 2014, he was named one of Mashable’s “10 LGBT-Rights Activists to Follow on Twitter.”