On Our Team

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by the Reverend Thomas M. Aitken
Bishop, Northeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA

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.


As I reflect on the future of the church during this season of “Reformation” and “re-formation,” there is no doubt in my mind that this vision of church includes LGBTQIA+ leaders. And, as Bishop of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod, I recognize that I have a role to play in making that possible.

This past January, I began scouting around to find a group of faithful, forward looking people in my Synod to form an LGBTQ TEAM. At the outset, the goal of this team was to come together and learn from our Proclaim and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries  colleagues about the world they live in as they discern a call in this church.  
I wanted a cross section of people on this team: young and old, straight and not, extraverted and introverted.  I even looked for some folks who have been transformed over the years: those who went from one way of looking at LGBTQIA+ folks to a new, gracious, and faithfully open way.  I found them!  There are nine of us from various locales in our Synod – from large towns to small ones.

I am proud of our work together so far!

Since January, we have met four times as a group and talked together about our experiences and our goals. We set the table for what we are doing through devotions; Scripture; and good Lutheran theology that focuses on the goodness of creation, the gifts of the Spirit, and the work of our Lord in redemption, wholeness and healing.
The immediate goal of our Team is to walk alongside Call Committees in our Synod who have not necessarily imagined interviewing an LGBTQIA+ candidate to serve their community as a Deacon or a Pastor.  Two congregations not presently in the call process have volunteered  to serve as a trial interview so that we might learn in a “safe” environment how to better accompany real call committees down the road. We are learning from our mistakes and from what works.  
At one of our meetings in July, I invited Proclaim members Rev. Joel Beregland and Peter Carlson Shattauer to present ELM’s “Light to All in the House” workshop which was well received by our team. I’ve also invited Rev. Amanda Nelson, new Director of ELM, up to Duluth to guide and encourage us.

As I said down at University Lutheran Church of Hope Minneapolis at a welcome event for Amanda as the new ED, I am telling congregations that the clergy “shortage” we have talked about is not as “short” a list as we have imagined.  I ask for your prayers.

The Reverend Thomas M. Aitken is Bishop of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod and a graduate of Luther Seminary with undergraduate studies from Northwestern College and the University of Minnesota.  He is in his third year of his second six-year term and  is Shepherd  to 132 congregations and 200 Rostered Ministers.


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