We are marching….

Guest blog by Proclaim member Rev. Caleb Crainer

caleb pride 1I’m not a morning person, but on the morning of the LA Pride parade, I was in our line-up spot with donuts, t-shirts, buttons, and feather boas promptly by 7:30am. Soon after, the rest of our contingent trickled in and our friends from Hollywood United Methodist Church joined us for our annual Street Eucharist before the parade. Have you ever had the Psalm overshadowed by Jennifer Lopez’ new song? Have you ever had the words of institution covered up by revving motorcycles? It was kind of amusing, kind of annoying, and entirely holy.


caleb pride 2Each year our Southern California Reconciling In Christ congregations (socallutherans.com) gather to volunteer at the various LGBTQ Pride events in the area. Originally we just marched in the Pride parade in Los Angeles, but now we also have a presence at parades and festivals in Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura County, and San Diego! It’s easily one of the most visible witnesses for the Lutheran Church in the state. This year we decided to do some Reformation education with our theme “500 years of FABULOUS posting!” Raul, a member at Hollywood Lutheran, totally hammed it up as a mohawk wearing Luther as we strolled down Santa Monica Boulevard lined with thousands of folks.

But Sunday’s celebration wasn’t like the others.

Young Latino Queer folks at Orlando’s Pulse Night Club had been viciously massacred just hours before. We didn’t know details or how many had been killed as we stepped off…but we knew that we would march for them. In the wake of the recent shooting at UCLA, our city was already on alert, but this was a level of evil we didn’t expect. The Police Department contacted the festival and parade organizers and asked them if they should cancel the celebration…their response: “You must not know who we are.” We are a movement born from the violent attacks of bigots, forged in the fire of scorn and ridicule, scarred by neglect and prejudice…and we are STRONG.

We waved our rainbow flags for our family who had been killed the night before, our friends who had died of HIV/AIDS, our neighbors who lived in closets and fear, and for ourselves.

Los Angeles’ Pride Parade was started in 1970, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The parade became known as “Christopher Street West” after the location of the drag-bar where our trans/drag/queer siblings had had enough with police brutality and oppression. Our west-coast parade, started by local clergy and leaders, was intended to display our pride in the midst of crushing hatred. We would remember, we would persevere.

caleb bio picI kept getting text messages from people all morning wanted to express their sorrow and solidarity and some said “I’m glad you’re safe.”  Little did I know, that the threats we were under were even more real and near than I even imagined.   Later while I was working at the booth one person said, “I’m glad they caught that guy in Santa Monica.”  A young man had been caught that morning with a vehicle full of guns and was reportedly headed for the parade. Who knew we had all been in mortal danger the entire time we’d been frolicking so gayly?

The truth is we never know what’s coming. We can be prepared, but our LGBTQ community is strong and defiant and passionate. We know that in order to find safety, we must risk everything. We dare to love and that is the gospel of Pride. We have strength in our vulnerability and promise in our uncertainty. It’s a gospel that resonates with our Christian tradition and it’s a gospel more people deserve to hear.

I’m so proud of members of Proclaim. I feel like every Sunday is like a mini-pride-parade for us, for God, and for love that brings us through. Happy Pride!


Crainer, Caleb (1)


Rev. Caleb Crainer serves as pastor of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, California where he enjoys group costumes, passing out buttons, and walking in long lines. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.


More than can be counted: thanksgivings from Jen Rude

You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted. Psalm 40:5, NRSV

Rev. Jen Rude.  Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

Dear ELM Community,

As I move toward my last days on staff at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, I want to share a few reflections and numerous thanksgivings – more than can be counted.

I first got connected to ELM in 2004. I was a seminary student wondering if I was wasting my time as an LGBTQ person in the Lutheran Church when I was introduced to an Extraordinary community.  I met living witnesses of possibility, faithfulness, courage and hope.  This seed of a connection led me to ELM gatherings with LGBTQ pastors and seminarians, receiving the Joel R. Workin Scholarship, being extraordinarily ordained, serving on the ELM board, and in 2013 joining the staff team as program director.  

Serving as program director with ELM has been a great ministry.  It has stretched me, inspired me and grown my faith.  I love the way our work together lives in the queer spaces of tension: challenging and joyful, thoughtful and creative, focused and flexible, prophetic and pastoral, critiquing and imagining, and most of all Spirit-filled.  

I feel honored to have worked with so many incredible people (like you!).  You, dear friends of ELM, are church to me.  You live out the best of who and what God calls us to be with faithfulness, boldness, hard work and joy.  I have learned so much from you.  I cannot imagine doing this work with a more faithful and fabulous group of people.   

More than a decade after I first “met” ELM, I am even more passionate about our work and filled with joyful gratitude as I think about you, the community of people doing this work.  Our work is still important.  Critical.  Life-saving. Challenging.  Holy.

As I move toward my new call as University Pastor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, I look forward to my continuing relationship with ELM as an enthusiastic supporter and member of the Proclaim community.  

With a little sadness, much gratitude, and all love,

Jen esig

Joint Message from ReconcilingWorks & ELM Regarding Thrivent

A Joint Message to supporters of ReconcilingWorks and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries:

Thrivent members recently received an appeal to designate Thrivent Choice Dollars in response to the mass shooting in Orlando. This came as a jolt for those who know that Thrivent executives decided in 2014 to ban funds to a handful of organizations, including Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and ReconcilingWorks, deeming our work in support of LGBTQ individuals as “divisive.”

It is hypocritical and futile for Thrivent to offer support for the effects of homophobia while banning funds to those working to remove the cause of it.

We give thanks for Thrivent staff who are LGBTQ or allies of our community, many who are working hard to end this discriminatory and dangerous policy of intolerance.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and ReconcilingWorks will continue to affirm and support the LGBTQ community, who are beloved, and to work against injustice, hatred, homophobia, and discrimination.


We encourage Thrivent members to contact Thrivent with a message that they must end this practice. You are welcome to use the language below as a boiler plate (shared with permission by Proclaim member Miriam Samuelson-Roberts).

“Dear Thrivent,

Thank you for the opportunity to direct my Choice Dollars to help the victims of the horrific shooting in Orlando. This e-mail stings a bit, though, because of Thrivent’s policy to not allow Choice Dollars to be directed toward organizations that support the thriving and safety of LGBTQ people. In light of the shooting, I ask you to reconsider this stance, and to consider that the message Thrivent puts forth through that policy–that those in the LGBTQ community are to be “othered” and seen as a “divisive issue” instead of fully equal children of God–is the same underlying message at the core of the violence that we saw last weekend.”

In peace,
Amalia Vagts, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
Aubrey Thonvold, ReconcilingWorks

Guest post from Padre Ángel D. Marerro about Orlando

During these heavy and difficult days, we look to one another for understanding, comfort and direction. We wish to share with you these words from Proclaim member and ELCA pastor, Padre Ángel Marerro. This post was published first on the Huffington Post blog on June 13, 2016. Shared with permission of the author. 

Orlando: A Pastoral Response from a Gay Latino Priest
by Ángel D. Marerro

A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” – Jeremiah 31:15 (RSV)

On Sunday, we woke up to the unspeakable horror of the most devastating mass shooting in the history of our country. For the past day, I have sat silently with my husband at home, crying in the face of the impotence of a world that, despite our social progress, still hates us.

In the midst of all this, I believe that Christian clergy in particular need to face an important reality: the church has blood on its hands. From our pulpits, and in our traditions, we have been complicit in fostering the sins of misogyny, sexism, racism, and homophobia. We are responsible for tolerating in our midst a poor, ignorant and murderous scriptural interpretation that leads to death and untold suffering. As a religious leader in the Boston-Metro Latino community, I cannot remain silent about this.

The words my husband Zach spoke to me have also been heavy on my heart all night. As a thoughtful interfaith leader that works primarily with Jews, Christians and Muslims, he eloquently reflected that “this isn’t simply ‘extremist Islam’, as some would like to paint it. This comes out of centuries of many religious traditions systematically demonizing and dehumanizing LGBTQ individuals. This hatred isn’t out of nowhere. It is in parts of Islam, yes, but it is within parts of Christianity and Judaism, as well.”

Facing such a reality, I feel I must apologize for the complicity and silence of the Church. I am sorry for the pain our sinful indifference and self-righteousness has caused, and continues to cause, throughout the world.

And in the midst of all this senseless suffering, I dare to do the only thing that comforts me in times like these. Here is my prayer for our communities today:

I dream of a day when being different is a reason to celebrate and not to fear.

I hope for a day when all God’s children can come together without condemnation.

I pray for a season where justice is not a matter of politics but of humanity.

I believe, like the modern psalmist proclaimed:

We Shall Overcome, We Shall Overcome, We Shall Overcome Someday
Deep In My Heart, I Do Believe, We Shall Overcome Someday


Padre Ángel D. Marerro is pastor of Santuario Luterano in Waltham, MA. Originally posted in the Huffington Post.  Orlando: A Pastoral Response from a Gay Latino Priest




Proclaiming through pictures & song

In beautiful photos taken by Emily Ann Garcia and words written and sung by Ashley Wai’olu Moore, we now present the 2016 Proclaim Gathering Video Slideshow:

What does the annual Proclaim Gathering mean to LGBTQ leaders?

Rev. Marvin Harvard. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

To find a community of other LGBTQ leaders in which I was welcomed and celebrated was so life affirming. I return to my normal routine with a renewed energy and excitement about ministry. – Rev. Marvin Havard

There are places and times in my life when I am attacked for who I am. The powerful and positive affirmation at the retreat is life-giving. – Nancy Wichmann

Ferree, Laura
Laura Ferree. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia


For the first time I was in a space with faith folks that I didn’t need to hide or protect my identity.  It was inspiring and helpful to hear that my story and all other LGBTQ+ stories are sacred and have a place in the church. I will now honor my story more often rather than trying to hide my story.  -Laura Ferree

I think this retreat helped me to solidify my calling, challenged me to consider a new way of talking about ministry and provided me with confidence in who God has made me to be. – David De Block


The 2017 Proclaim Gathering will be July 16-19, 2017 in Chicago, IL.

Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins

Christephor Gilbert Named 2016 Joel R. Workin Scholar

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is delighted to announce that Christephor Gilbert has been named the 2016 Joel Raydon Workin Scholar. The selection committee was thrilled by the number of excellent applications and is thankful to all who applied.

Photo of Christephor
Christephor Gilbert

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, following 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.  Christephor currently works one day a week as operations coordinator for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Christephor’s home congregation is Third Lutheran Church in Louisville, KY (where fellow Proclaim member, Rev. Steven Renner, is pastor).

Each year ELM names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar  to honor the life and ministry of Joel Workin. Joel was one of the three gay seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after “coming out” to their candidacy committees. Upon his death, Joel’s parents, Ray and Betty, and other family and friends created the scholarship fund in his name to keep his prophetic voice part of the movement.

Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins
Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins

You can read more of Joel’s writing in the collection, “Dear God, I am gay – thank you!” The announcement is made in connection with Joel Workin’s birthday, which was May 29.

Workin Selection Committee Chair Michael Nelson wrote to Christephor,

“Your comparison of the grace of a dancer to God’s grace was captivating from the very first paragraph… I think what most moved us as a committee was your expansive language in describing God’s grace: that like the dancer, God’s grace is there for us when “gravity gets the best of you … a potential that was hovering just under the surface … And in the dark falling, in the everlasting emptiness, the grace is there.” …As Lutherans who recognize grace as key component of our theology, you opened our eyes to seeing grace in an entirely different light.”

Upon learning that he had been selected, Christephor replied,

“The passion, pain, hope, anger, and joy that Joel put to words in his work gives voice to a truth that is already writ large and deep on my spiritual center, a truth that ripples out beyond his experience and mine.  Each moment in the life of a queer Christian is set, remembered, and re-lived with each passing generation.  Change happens, sometimes at light-speed and sometimes so slowly you can barely tell that anything is different.  But then God’s grace is always breaking through.  And sometimes that grace shows us where more change must take place.

But we are in this together, a community of souls and a cloud of witnesses.  As Joel says, our greatest grace is to be ourselves—and to live without reservation into our place in the church.  Mary Oliver speaks to this community in her poem “Wild Geese.”  The final haunting lines remind me that the stories of others who have gone before, people like Joel Workin, tell me I belong—and encourage me to continue telling the stories:  ‘Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.’

I like to think that when we each feel as though we are the only one, all it takes is the honk of another to remind us that the flock is just overhead.

It is an honor and a delight to be the 2016 Joel Raydon Workin Scholar, and I am deeply thankful to the selection committee, the staff and board of ELM, and Joel’s parents who carry on his legacy.”

The award comes with a $2,500 scholarship for academic or spiritual study and is available for members of Proclaim who are studying to be rostered leaders in the Lutheran church.

The Workin Selection Committee includes three personal friends of Joel’s – Michael Price Nelson; the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson; Greg A. Egertson; and former Workin Scholar, the Rev. Rebecca Seely. ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts did not serve on the committee this year as one of the applicants was an ELM staff member.

Opportunity: ELM Seeks Program Manager

elm_logo-acronymExtraordinary Lutheran Ministries is seeking a full-time program manager. Interested candidates should email their cover letter and resume to Amalia Vagts, Executive Director, director@elm.org, with PROGRAM MANAGER in the subject heading. Initial deadline for applications is June 21, position open until filled.

About the position:
Grounded in the belief that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying (LGBTQ+) people have extraordinary gifts for ministry, the program manager builds and supports community through the Proclaim program; walks with and equips leaders through the Accompaniment program; and connects with and uplifts congregations through the Ministry Engagement program. The program manager equips and labors alongside volunteer program conveners and works in partnership with the executive director and operations coordinator on strategic work and communications for these programs. Location flexible/telecommuter position.

Full job description and guiding qualifications: Program Manager Job Description