ELM Seeks New Executive Director

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is seeking a candidate to serve in the Executive Director position. Interested candidates should email their cover letter and resume to the Executive Director Search Committee, search@elm.org. Applications will be accepted until May 1, 2017, position will be filled mid-June.

About the position:

Grounded in the belief that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying (LGBTQ+) people have extraordinary gifts for ministry, the Executive Director provides leadership in partnership with the Board of Director and staff. The Executive Director casts a strategic vision, leads fund development, and guides operational and program implementation. The Executive Director serves as the only full-time development position on staff.

Full job description and guiding qualifications: Executive Director Job Description: ELM-EDJobDescription

Get Ready, Get Set, Gathering!


by Asher O’Callaghan
ELM Program Director

Registration and scholarship applications for the 2017 Proclaim Gathering will open this Saturday, April 1st.  You can register here.

The Proclaim Gathering brings together publicly-identified LGBTQ+ rostered ministers and candidates from across the church. ELM friends make it possible for seminarians and rostered leaders experiencing financial hardship to attend by providing funds for scholarships – you gave close to $10,000 in scholarships last year, and you can help again this year! Give now.

We’ve moved the Proclaim Gathering to a new time – in the summer – and this year we’ll be in the heart of Chicago. Our 2017 Gathering will be at the Cenacle Retreat Center from July 16th-19th.

The theme this year is Healing the Violence. Local speakers from the Chicago area will help Proclaimers name the violence, explore pathways of healing, and then send them back out into ministry with some practical tools. And, we’ll have plenty of inspiring worship, relationship building with colleagues, and space for leaders to be their full and fabulous queer selves. By the end of it, we send these leaders out renewed and ready to provide ministry to people who deeply need it.

We keep registration affordable so money is not a barrier to attending. Your gift of $100 – or more if you can do that today– will help us provide scholarships to all who need them. You can provide a full scholarship with a gift of $395. We’ll send you a card from the Gathering to express our thanks!

Asher O’Callaghan can’t wait for July 16th, when the 2017 Proclaim Gathering begins! The Gathering has been one of the highlights of his year since 2012. Asher’s favorite hobbies include surfing, discovering craft beers, and writing short bios in the third person.

We Laugh Together

Finding New Perspective at Pendle Hill. Photo by Amalia Vagts

by Amalia Vagts
ELM Executive Director


The ELM Board of Directors gathered March 9-12,2017 at Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat center just outside Philadelphia, PA. We spent the bulk of our time engaged in work that board member Mike Wilker referred to as, “discerning where God has led us in the past and where God is calling us in the future.”

The time was rich, collaborative, challenging, and clarifying. One piece of our work was creating what our facilitators Lisa Negstad and Michael Bischoff referred to as “Simple Practices.” Almost immediately, we changed the heading to “Explicit Practices.” We like to turn words on end. And the new name seemed more “us,” which was the purpose of this exercise.

Of the seven or so practices that made it into the final working list, the one we all agreed on immediately was this: “We laugh together.”

It struck me, as it has many times in my work with the LGBTQ+ faith community, that laughter and joy are so often at the center of our work. Our work is often not easy. At times, it is completely discouraging. The journey has been long. Sometimes the future is unknown. And yet – time and time again, we find ourselves breaking into laughter, into song (and oh yes, even into dance thanks to the Fitness Marshall).

And it seems fitting that if someone happened upon a document that said “Explicit Practices of LGBTQ+ Lutherans,” they’d open it to read “We laugh together.”

Our time together spanned four days. We were thankful and encouraged by an afternoon in conversation with Lenny Duncan and Rev. Lura Groen, co-conspirators from #decolonizelutheranism. Lisa Negstad and Michael Bischoff guided us during a day-and-a-half session about the future direction of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. In addition to the Explicit Practices, we worked with our belief statement to make sure it better reflects our current work. We were nourished by the wonderful surroundings and people of Pendle Hill and each other. We were led by God. We spent a significant amount of time discerning where God is calling us – a direction Mike described as, “beautiful, compassionate, and fierce.” This important work continues and we’ll invite you into conversation with us as it unfolds.

We look forward to more work – and laughter – with you.

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Amalia Vagts, executive director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, has been known to laugh in the face of adversity, and, on occasion, at totally inopportune moments. She does not plan to cease this behavior anytime soon.



ELM logo

Announcement of Executive Director Departure

ELM logoThe Board of Directors of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries announces that Executive Director Amalia Vagts will conclude her role in July 2017 and begin the process of becoming a minister of word and sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The Rev. Dr. Elise Brown, board co-chair, notes:

When Amalia announced her decision to attend seminary to the board last October, it received the news with joy and gratitude. Amalia’s leadership and collaborative spirit have strengthened programming, created connections inside and outside of the Lutheran church, and built a strong financial foundation for ELM as she proclaimed the ways the church is blessed by LGBTQ+ clergy and seminarians. Her leadership and work have been a great gift. While difficult to say goodbye to such a talented executive director, supporting Amalia in her deeper sense of call and vocation is thrilling for the board.

Vagts’ last day of work will be July 31, 2017. The Rev. Brad Froslee, board co-chair, says a search process will begin at the end of March with the plan to have a new executive director in place in July.

In sharing her news with the board, Amalia writes:

Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

I have been transformed by the experiences I have had these past ten and a half years. You invited me into your living rooms, sanctuaries, offices and hearts and shared your sorrows, joys, and stories with me. Thank you. Our work together has changed my life. The people who make up Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries as friends, board members, and the Proclaim community are truly faithful and fabulous. I feel a sense of deep fulfillment and clear that my calling is now leading me elsewhere. I will leave feeling confident that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is healthy, adaptable, and ready to receive your next executive director. It is impossible to imagine my life without the people who make ELM what it is and I’m thankful that I don’t have to! With joy, I will continue to wholeheartedly support ELM as a donor and friend and connect in new ways as a future Proclaim member. And for now, I’m getting back to work for the next five months!

Vagts’ tenure at ELM has been a time of great growth and change for the organization. She has overseen the expansion of ELM’s three programs, strengthened connections with donors and supporters, and has worked closely with congregations, synods, and bishops across the country. Brown shares, “The passion and faith Amalia brings to this work is unsurpassed. She is thoughtful, forthright and quick to add both deeper insights and moments of levity. That unique combination of gifts has served ELM very well over these 10 years. She has been an extraordinary leader during an extraordinary time.”

During her more than ten years with ELM, Vagts has been instrumental in the changes in ELM and the church. She was hired as the development director of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries in October 2006. Shortly after that Vagts co-facilitated the merger of LLGM with the Extraordinary Candidacy Project. In 2008, ELM hired Vagts at its first executive director.

Through Vagts’ leadership and skill, ELM doubled the number of extraordinary ordinations and calls to publicly identified LGBTQ+ ministers before the ELCA’s policy change in 2009. That year there were 46 members of the Extraordinary Roster–a community of resistance and hope that provided prophetic witness and pastoral leadership in communities often ignored and oppressed by the church and society. Today, the Proclaim community has 245 members, and continues to grow.

As board co-chairs, Brown and Froslee are working with the full board to appoint a Search Committee and will lay out the next steps for succession in the coming week. Additionally, the board will host gatherings across the country to allow those who have worked closely with Amalia to celebrate and honor her work.

ELM gives thanks for a gifted leader who has given her heart and soul to the work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to proclaim a place of welcome, grace, justice, and leadership in the Lutheran church and far beyond. Through her, God has unleashed the proclamation of the gospel.

Froslee says, “ELM vibrantly responds to God’s love and call to justice. It’s a gracious, strong, and creative ministry. We’re looking forward to the future and the new leader.”

What Does It All Stand For?

by Asher O’Callaghan
ELM Program Director

If you’ve been following the LGBTQ+ movement during the past few decades, you’ve probably noticed several changes in the language we use. A few decades ago, many would use gay and lesbian to refer to our community. Then bisexual was included creating the acronym LGB. And not too long after that, transsexual was added to the mix, thus LGBT. Now, the word transsexual is usually replaced with transgender, and the letter Q has also been added for queer. Which brings us to LGBTQ—the acronym ELM has often used.

Most of these changes in language have taken place over the course of years and there’s been a lot of deliberation about what language fits and what doesn’t. So with that in mind, we’d like to invite your feedback on the most recent addition we’ve made.

In recent months, some of you may have noticed that we’ve begun using a + at the end of LGBTQ in many of ELM’s publications. The + is meant to symbolize the many queer identities that might not be fully represented by the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. Identities like intersex, two-spirit, or asexual, just to name a few. It reminds us to greet the new identities we encounter with open minds. It reminds us of how our language itself is evolving, and how we too are evolving with it.

The point to changing our language isn’t to make people feel uncomfortable and confused. The point is to recognize that language stands for something. The words we use are meaningful. Language is power. Words can actually create possibilities that didn’t exist before.

Take me for example. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “How old were you when you knew you were transgender?” Older than you might guess. Because I didn’t become familiar with the word transgender until I was in my 20s. Until then, I simply had never heard a word that described my experience of my gender. When we have no words to express our experiences, we are kept alone and silent.

The internet was the first place I found the word transgender. When I read about the experiences of other trans people, it felt like being named. With one word, experiences I had never been able to express before were affirmed. With one word, my experiences no longer kept me isolated but joined me together with others. In a very real sense, the word transgender made me possible.

These letters stand for something. They stand for people—for POSSIBILITY. Without words to name who we are in the world, we’re left silent and alone with our experiences. We want to celebrate the on-going naming and claiming of new identities in our community. We want to acknowledge that the process of naming and claiming these experiences is part of our DNA as a community.

Does the + help us do that? Ideally, it helps affirm the on-going evolution of queer identities in our communities. However, it may minimize identities like intersex, asexual, or two-spirit by lumping them all into a symbol. We invite your feedback.

For a few high-quality, user-friendly lists of what each of these words (and many others!) means check out these resources:

Lutheran Introduction To Our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Neighbors

LGBTQ+ Definitions

Asher O’Callaghan is grateful for all the ways that visibility gives birth to possibility. He didn’t know he could be a queer Lutheran pastor until he met a queer Lutheran pastor. He’s grateful for all the folks whose public witness as LGBTQ+ faith leaders creates space for queer faith.