Guest post by Larry Christensen
ELM supporter and Proclaim parent
If you go to the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Home page, look up at the right-hand upper corner. That guy in the blue clerical shirt and zipper sweater is my son, Erik. He is why his mother and I got involved in full inclusion actions, participated in marches, spoke at panels and forums, got arrested a couple times, and led “sing-ins” at the 2006 Churchwide Assembly in Chicago. We were also the go-to referral when parents had a child come out: “You should meet the Christensens.” Finally I got to be a voting member at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly when the policy changed. It is all Erik’s fault, and for that I am forever grateful.
That is how Linda and I ended up getting asked to sit at the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries information table for the 2017 Southeastern Iowa Synod Assembly this May. We had never done it and did not know what to expect. I took reading material in case business was slow, but there was no need. We had wonderful conversations with a variety of people. Some folks, naturally wondered if there was still a need for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries given the change in the ELCA’s policy, and that was probably our most meaningful work – to help people understand that the work is far from over. We were actually helped by the repeated pleas in the general sessions to recruit people for ordained and diaconal ministry. The clergy/deacon shortage and the availability of wonderful candidates was a natural case-in-point.
Some people wanted to know more about how to become an Reconciling In Christ congregation, and that was a referral to the table next door to visit with the ReconcilingWorks folks. Others simply wanted a chance to talk about how things were going in their congregation back home, and always we encouraged them to work now so that the next time they are in a call process there might be a conversation about a wider search for candidates. “You are from a rural community? Some of our ELM pastors grew up on farms you know.” The ELM materials are great and wonderful conversation points.
There was also another category of conversation which was in its own way sweet and maybe therapeutic. That was the retired pastors and church members reflecting back on the journey that they and the church had taken. It has been a pilgrimage to be sure, and we have all been changed. To be honest, I needed that time at the ELM table to heal a bit, to absorb the change, and enjoy the new wine and wineskins.
Larry Christensen was raised on a farm in Eastern Nebraska, then became a music teacher, then a church youth worker, and finally a church musician. Larry was a “Lay Professional” in the LCA, and “AIM” in the ELCA, and now, in retirement, would guess that he is a “Deacon” – all without additional schooling or degrees. He is married to a wonderful woman, Linda (pictured at right), who is unrepentantly decent, loving, and spiritual, and they are the parents of two children: Erik, who went into the family business and is a gay, Lutheran pastor in Chicago married to Kerry, and their Thai, adopted daughter, Tara, who has been dating a 6’4” car nut for seven years. Larry and Linda live in Des Moines, Iowa where they enjoy their home, yard, and the wildlife that cohabitates with them.