By Rev. Amanda Nelson
Executive Director, ELM
It took me a little longer to figure it out than some of my peers; although, I suppose still earlier in life than some people I know. When I think about it, there were signs of it when I was a little girl. My parents had an inkling.
I had good role models when I was a child and again when I was in high school and college, so it’s not like I thought it was a bad thing. But still. I felt nervous when I thought of myself in that way.
It took some time of real listening to my own heart before I was finally able to say: “I want to be a pastor.”
Did you think this was going in a different direction? You’re right, I could’ve said these things about finally being able to say “I’m gay.”
Isn’t that fascinating?
When I was visiting Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) as a prospective student, we spent one evening sharing with each other our call stories: how did you know you were called to be a leader in the church? As we went around sharing, I texted my girlfriend at the time and said, “Wow! This feels an awful lot like sitting with LGBTQ+ friends sharing our coming out stories.”
Deep listening. Feeling a sense of identity and purpose. Fear in telling our friends and family. Risking backlash from our society and culture. Bravely claiming our calling.
Coming out as queer and coming out as a pastor has been a journey intimately intertwined. For me, once I was completely honest with myself and my community about who I am and my sexual orientation, I was then freed and called to be completely honest with myself and my community about my vocation, my calling. I’m one of those people.
As you get to know LGBTQ+ leaders in our church, you’ll hear similar stories to mine. Stories of people for whom the discernment process of listening and struggling to understand who we are and how we are in the world reveals not only our sexual orientation or gender identity, but also reveals to us God’s calling to leadership and ministry. As we come to understand both our calling and our sexual or gender identity, we find both strength and wonder.
This is why it is so important for LGBTQ+ leaders like myself to share our orientation and gender identity publicly as we serve as ministers and leaders in the church: for many of us these identities are symbiotic. They inspire each other and each adds depth to the other.
And yet, this public profession of identity and calling can be risky business. Being LGBTQ+ is still not totally acceptable in our society and in our church. Serving as a pastor in the institution of the Church is not as flashy as working for a start-up or becoming a lawyer. And, still we’re here – with a desire to bring the good news, to share the radical love of God with our hands and voices and hearts.
This is the gift LGBTQ+ ministers bring to our church and our world. This is the dynamic that influences our theology – our understanding of God’s love – and our public ministry – how God’s love can be present in our world. This is why the public witness of LGBTQ+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.
And, it is this intimate relationship of identity and calling that sang out to me as I applied to become the next Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. I feel blessed to be in the position to echo back the strength and wonder of that relationship as I take on this role; and, share with others the gifts and joys of LGBTQ+ leaders in our church.
I look forward to singing with you!
Rev. Amanda Nelson is the new Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She comes to ELM having served as a parish pastor in East Hartford, Connecticut for the past two years and is a member of Proclaim. Amanda lives in Portland, Maine with her dog Cinna (yes, named for the Hunger Games character) where they love to take in the sights and sounds of living in such a beautiful coastal city.