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Archive for October, 2017

What Do We Stand For?

Thursday, October 26th, 2017

Proclaim Gathering 2017. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
Executive Director, ELM

Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year (1517-2017)? During the months of October and November, ELM’s blog will feature reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQ+ leaders.

 

“This is our confession and that of our people, article by article, as follows”

 

With these words, Dr. Phillip Melancthon concluded the introduction to the Augsburg Confession: a document composed by Melancthon, Dr. Martin Luther, and their colleagues that to this day stands as the confession of the Lutheran Church.

It was written at the request of Emperor Charles V who invited Luther and the Reformers to present their beliefs at a meeting of religious and political leaders with the purpose of quelling conflict and reuniting the Roman Catholic Church in the region.

You see, thirteen years before the Augsburg Confession was written, Luther had caused quite a stir when he posted 95 theses on the church doors in Wittenberg disputing theologies and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

Charles’ desire to snuff out this new movement was not to be. A flame had been lit in the hearts of the Reformers that not even the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire could put out. Having found in scripture the love and grace of God, Luther and his cohorts could not turn back and would not back down.

Such is the history of the Lutheran Church: we are a tradition rooted in public witness and bold proclamation. Our forebears spoke truth to power at the risk of their livelihoods and lives so that people may know that it is God’s gift of grace that reconciles all of creation.

This is the torch that we in the Lutheran tradition are asked to pick up and carry in our communities.

“Power” in today’s world may be embodied differently than it was 500 years ago, but, there are still “Emperors” and “the Church” to contend with; and, there are bodies taking on the role of modern day “Reformers.”

It was Church leaders with power who composed the Nashville Statement this past August – a document of explicit hate for gender and sexual minorities. And it was modern day Reformers who spoke truth to power with documents like the Denver Statement and the Connecticut Statement with explicit love and grace for all of God’s creation.

Public witness and bold proclamation still matter.

ELM didn’t write a statement to contend with Nashville; rather, the lives and ministries of our Proclaim members and staff ARE our statement.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries stands firmly in our belief that the public witness of LGBTQIA+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.

In the words of a cis het white man whose name our church bears: here we stand, we can do no other!


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

As a publicly out Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Rev. Amanda Nelson embodies in her ministry the public witness and bold proclamation of LGBTQIA+ leadership and has seen how her queer identity breaks down barriers for those who feel ostracized by the church. As the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, Amanda endeavors to speak truth to power by sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ pastors and deacons in the ELCA and ELCIC.

Gathering Our Scattered Parts: Transformed in the Cross to be a Multi-Issue Church

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Selfie by Ghaly.

by Phillipos Ghaly
Proclaim member

Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year (1517-2017)? During the months of October and November, ELM’s blog will feature reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQ+ leaders.

 

There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives. – Audre Lorde

On Saturday November 4th, I will join Vicar Kelsey Brown and the Rev. Asher O’Callaghan in crafting a session on LGBTQ Ministry at #decolonize17, the next annual gathering of #deconloizeLutheranismWe will theologically reflect on the intersectionality of our experiences and identities as people who are called to rostered ministry in the ELCA. We will also look at the history of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and Proclaim, and envision the future of a more colorful and queerer Lutheranism.

Almost a year ago, I crossed the threshold from my cradle Orthodox tradition into the Lutheran Church and I will celebrate my first year of grace on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In the ELCA, I have experienced and known deep welcome and warm hospitality, and I give thanks for the ways by which I was raised and lifted up to ministry by ordained clergy and lay people in this denomination. I have been blessed with a supportive synod, and many mentors and colleagues.

At Ateshi Ashk (Fire of Love) Sufi Dargah in Oakland, CA during a Makam Shekhina retreat, a community of Jewish Priestess and Sufi Dervishes praying and playing together in embodied, multi-gender, ecstatic counter-oppressive devotion.

However, as a Queer and non-binary Immigrant-of-Color with a call to ordained ministry in the ELCA, I sense that my colorful presence is contested in certain spaces within this Church. I have observed that my mere existence disrupts the false binaries and clean-cut identities that have perpetuated single stories and allowed us to become a single-issue people: a behavior that has subsequently erased many of us who are integral parts of this Body and seeped complacency into this Church’s conscience and character in the face of complexity.

Again and again, I see PoC issues and LGBTQIA+ issues contra-positioned by people who are neither, and presented as somewhat oppositional with a claim that we have to choose one over the other because we can’t afford to tackle both racism and ethno-centrism, and homophobia and transphobia, all in the same breath.

I can’t afford to just be Queer as a brown-skinned, bearded North African living in the midst of racism. I can’t afford to just be Queer while I am waiting on my immigration papers in the midst of changing laws and ICE raids. I can’t afford to just be Queer when I witness implicit or pronounced racial-bias against clergy of color (especially women of color) in call and hiring processes within the ELCA. And I certainly can’t afford to choose between closeting my Queerness, or crawling out of my skin to be a single-issue person who can perpetuate a single story for a single-issue Church.

I am a shape-shifter and a border-bandit, and I inhabit the liminality of in-betweenness and embody multiple mixities in my journey, identities and experiences. I am Queer. I am Brown. I am an Immigrant. I am ethnically Coptic. I am a Lutheran. I am a mix of the above and more.

Empowered by Luther’s Heidelberg Disputations, I choose to turn my focus away from our perceived institutional limitations and bondage to binaries to gaze upon an encompassing cross. It is the sight of a vulnerable and fierce Jesus, naked and crucified, completely exposed without closets or masks, and stretched out by multiple oppressions. His scar-bearing face—the face of the Word made flesh—is at the center of an intersection that encompasses many peoples, identities, issues, oppressions and contradictions. His crucified and naked wounded body exposes injustice, destroys false binaries, either/or identities, and closets of erasure that attempt to veil us, to make invisible and suffocate the Image of God within us.

Weekend immersion for Kohenet, the Hebrew Priestess institute for earth-based feminist Judaism.

From creation to redemption, and until the culmination of salvation-history, Christ gathers all our scattered parts, our multiplicities that need to be named because of the scars we bear, and heals and lifts them up in the new creation of the Resurrection. Luther was right that in the cross we see and comprehend God – a theology of the cross pauses our anxieties and expands our conversations as Church on the intersectionality of our communities and their mission.

Our task as LGBTQIA+ PoC Lutherans who are in the business of building up God’s kin-dom is to be grounded in cultivating a resilient and profound theology of the cross that lifts up the dazzling display of our differences and calls out the false glory of sameness and conformity.[1] We are called to prophetically show up and interrupt the complacency of single-issue spaces by applying both a fierce and critical awareness and also generosity with a gentle and powerful softness that affirms and builds up the whole body of Christ.

In re-imagining and living into Beloved Community together, we can dream into a future that envisions the ELCA birthing radically-subversive, counter-oppressive and mindfully-active multi-cultural Christian communities that proclaim the good news of grace-filled intersectionality.

 

[1] Latina/mujerista theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz uses Kin-dom of God, to replace the dominating sexist, masculine, patriarchal, imperial and elitist connotations of “Kingdom.” In her work, she offers an eschatological image of an inclusive family of God to which we all can belong as kin, and by which we are responsible to bring justice and liberation to the world. See Ada Maria Isasi-Díaz, En la lucha/In The Struggle: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).


Selfie by Ghaly. Powell’s, Portland, OR.

Philipos Ghaly is a genderqueer intersectional multi-religious theologian living in diaspora from Cairo, Egypt. He holds a BA in Psychology and a BA in Religious and Human Studies, and recently completed his MA in Theology at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA. He is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in preparation for ordained ministry. Philipos is a dervish of the late Sufi Sheikh Dr. Ibrahim Farajeje, former provost of Starr King School for the Ministry and professor of Islamic and Cultural Studies. He is committed to spiritual practice, deep greening, radical queering, and counter-oppressive “scholartivism” and desires to spiritually support and accompany those who labor in Justice organizing. He is passionate about mobilizing faith leaders and building networks for Queer and Trans religious professionals and leaders of color. He speaks Arabic, English and some French, and has academic knowledge of Coptic, Hebrew and Greek. Philipos is married to Rev. Sonny Graves (United Church of Christ) and they are co-conspiriting together against the Empire. 

#wholenesslookslike

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year? During the months of October and November, ELM’s blog will feature reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQ+ ministries and leaders. This week’s post comes from Rev. Maria Anderson-Lippert, founder of the mission start Arise Portland.

 

A few months ago at a gathering for Mission Developers in the ECLA, I admitted that Arise Portland’s largest growing edge is our ministry is lacking straight cis-men. When I moved to Portland to “facilitate an experimental ministry to gather young adults who don’t find a home in the church,” I never imagined it would become the queer, re-forming ministry it is today. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

It has always been difficult to describe Arise Portland* to others.

Are you a church? No.

Are you religious? Kind of.

Are you Christian? Some of us are.

Once a month as we’re preparing for Holy Potluck on a Saturday morning, people trickle in the front door, brunch-y dish in hand. They then wander up the stairs and find themselves congregating in the kitchen with others, checking out what is on the menu for today. When the doorbell rings, whoever isn’t in the middle of food prep or setting the table runs down the stairs to greet the person at the door. We all do our part to feed and welcome one another. Once everyone has arrived and all is ready for eating, we parade out of the kitchen and into the dining room. Gathered around the table, we preach to one another through our stories, and we share in our holy communion of brunch foods and coffee or tea. After brunch is finished, a few of us linger, washing dishes, wiping down countertops, and sharing our reflections on our time together.

About two-thirds of the people who are integral to and participate in Arise Portland identify as queer. And although I didn’t set out to create a queer ministry, I’m not surprised  it has become a place where queer folks have found a spiritual home. What we do together at Arise Portland doesn’t resemble church in very obvious ways – there are no robes, pews, or hymn books. Our liturgy is completely organic. You might even say it’s queer. But what we do together – gather in community, tell stories about the good news of belovedness, share food, and send each other out into our lives refreshed, connected, and renewed – feels an awful lot like liturgy to me.

Stretching the boundaries and creating new definitions of sacred space, our community is continuing to be formed. In the process, we are re-forming the way God’s love is shared in community and in the world. Most importantly, the folks in our community continue to re-form me, and the church, to be able to share God’s love even more honestly.

Our ministry may always lack in straight cis-men. And, although that’s not the goal, it would be okay. What we’re not lacking is genuine connection, fun, and the sacred, holy moments that can only occur when you gather people together.

*Arise Portland is a new, experimental ministry bringing people together to celebrate and foster wholeness in Portland, ME. What does that mean? It means we trust that everyone is already whole, just as they are. We also trust that when we come together in community, we discover even greater wholeness. To learn more about Arise Portland check out our website at www.ariseportland.org or our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ariseportland.

 

 

Maria is constantly surprised by the way that poetry connects her to the Divine. This summer, her husband has been encouraging her to get out on her bike more often and she’s learning that she’s more capable of biking up hills than she realized. (But she is not sure she is glad to have learned that.) If you follow her on Instagram, you’ll discover that she really does have the most adorable cats.

 

 

 

 

 


This is Most Certainly True: Queer Theology Reforms the Church!

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year (1517-2017)? During the months of October and November, ELM’s blog will feature reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQ+ leaders.

 

Photo by Kathy Hartl, Christ Lutheran Church.

by Rev. Brenda Bos
Proclaim member and pastor, Christ Lutheran Church, San Clemente, California

A few weeks ago Proclaimer and current pastoral intern Katy Wallace posted in the Proclaim Facebook group: “If we had a Queer Christian’s Creed*, what might it say?” I thought it was an interesting question, but I worried I was not queer enough to have anything useful to say.

About a week later, I was all worked up emotionally. A close friend had died, the world was going crazy, I’m sure something frustrating had happened with my son. My heart was broken open. Cruising Facebook to avoid reality, I came across Katy’s call for a Queer Christian Creed again. I thought I’d give it a shot. This creed literally poured out in about three minutes:

I believe in God the Creator,
who designed all good things,
including people of all gender expressions and sexual orientations.

I believe in Jesus Christ,
God’s perfect Child,
who came to earth to live among us.
Jesus was born into a non-conventional family who adored Him even when they did not understand Him.
He confounded authorities and comforted the oppressed.
Because He represented the marginalized, He was crucified, His body mocked by others, died and was buried.
He knew personal Hell.
On the third day God celebrated the wonder of the human body and raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus ascended into the realm of beauty, continually moving among us, blessing and sustaining us.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
all music, wonder and strength.
I am a member of the Body of Christ.
I cherish the communion of the saints,
live because of the forgiveness of sin,
emulate the resurrection of the Body
and already experience life everlasting. Amen

My favorite two lines were “Jesus was born into a non-conventional family who adored Him even when they did not understand Him” and “He knew personal hell”. Both those sentiments broke my heart. Both felt really queer and really powerful.

I have been slow to acknowledge the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in my congregation because I don’t want to idolize the past. Don’t get me wrong: I am deeply grateful to Martin Luther and his buddy Philip Melanchthon for their teachings, especially about a loving God who does everything to reconcile with us. I also cherish Luther’s insistence that theology be broken down to make sense for everyday people. But I don’t want to lead a church looking backward at some white guys’ work in Western Europe five centuries ago. I want to proclaim new reformations, new liberations, new demands for a better church and a better world.

In 2017, the Reformation continues: The LGBTQ+  perspective on the world, the non-binary, queer, beautiful, troubled, self-realized, passionate perspective of our community is a gift to the whole church. We can break down theology into delectable little bites of truth, flavored with fabulous. Many of us have known personal Hell, and through the amazing love of our creator we have been raised to new beautiful life in our surprising (to some!) bodies.  We proclaim resurrection in a unique, reimagined way. We live everlasting life with a booming bass line and a tender embrace. We share looks and sighs and a deep commitment to healing, peace and hope.

Will I be reciting the traditional Apostle’s Creed for the rest of my life? Of course: it’s part of my beloved tradition. Will I also be looking for new ways to profess my faith with new language, describing God and community in fresh ways? Yes! This is how the Reformation continues, now and forever. This is most certainly true.

*Note:  This creed is being revised with other Proclaimers for use in our community.


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Brenda Bos continues to be amazed she is allowed to sign her name with a “Rev.” in front of it. When the going gets tough, she and her wife Janis grab their two dogs and hit a local hiking trail. That, and a little tiny, barely-notice-it’s-there scoop of coffee ice cream always help.