by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director
Happy New Year!
In this second week of Christmas, after leftovers from holiday meals have been eaten, and the noisemakers and champagne flutes from Sunday night are put away for another year, it is exciting to look back over the moments and milestones we have experienced, together, as a community.
We were off and on the move right from the start of 2017! Asher (Program Director) represented ELM at two national conferences, the Western Mission Network Conference on Lutheran Theological Education at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Arizona (where Proclaimer Rev. Richard Andersen is the Executive Director), and the Extravaganza! Gathering (an annual event for adults who work with youth in ELCA congregations). Then in February, Christephor (Communications and Development Coordinator) attended the annual ALDE Conference for development professionals in Lutheran contexts.
By the end of March, we celebrated three significant milestones. Long time Proclaim member Chris Wogaman – after a ten year wait – was called to Trinity Lutheran Church in Park Forest, Illinois. The Joel Workin Endowment (which supports our annual Joel Workin Scholar) reached $100,000. And, in bittersweet news, ten-year executive director Amalia Vagts announced her departure to pursue a new call toward ordained ministry with the ELCA.
In April, the Rev. Matthew James (Proclaim member and Director of Admissions at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago) joined the ELM Board of Directors, and Proclaimer and seminarian Laura Ferree shared the joyful experience of meeting other Proclaimers in the Holy Land. The end of the month was shadowed by the passing of long time ELM supporter Joe McMahon. This year was doubly hard as we also lost Blanche Grube in November, and important ally for ELM, both before and after the landmark ELCA Churchwide decision in 2009.
Moving into the summer, we were celebrating again as Asher was installed as the Program Director, and we ushered in a new strategic vision for the organization, further focusing goals for the upcoming years and fine-tuning our belief statement: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of LGBTQIA+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.
June brought our presence at ten ELCA Synod Assemblies nationwide, Ben Houge (from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and currently on internship at Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C.) was named the 2017 Joel Workin Scholar, and I was elated to accept the role as ELM’s new Executive Director.
July focused on the 2017 Proclaim Gathering: Healing the Violence, as 71 Proclaim members and their signifigant others came together for fellowship, discernment, worship, and ongoing learning.
The summer came to a close and we were “back to school.” Proclaimer seminarians shared their stories of internship: both lessons learned (from Proclaimer Josh Evans who concluded his internship at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska), and eager anticipation of the unknown (from five seminarians about to embark on their journey: Laura Ferree, Dan Gutman, JoN Rundquist, Thomas Voelp, and Katy Wallace).
What makes the work we do together Extraordinary is the way in which we can support the people doing ministry in the world: our exceptional Proclaimers and their outstanding gifts. This ministry takes many forms, both in the pulpit and outside in different settings. In September we learned about the ministry Proclaimers are doing out of the pulpit. People like the Rev. Becca Seely, who serves as director of a campus ministry in New York; the Rev. Leslie Welton who just took a call as Assistant to the Bishop for Faith Formation and Candidacy in the Rocky Mountain Synod; and the Rev. Susan Halvor, a long-time chaplain who now is the Spiritual Care Director for Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.
And the year would not be complete without our own reflections on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation! We featured two months of guest-blog posts considering the event from an LGBTQIA+ point of view. We got the queer theology perspective from the Rev. Brenda Bos, an intersectional perspective from new Proclaimer Philipos Ghaly, re-formation of the body by trans Proclaimer JoN Rundquist, and what reformation looks like as an ally – the reflections of Bp. Thomas Aitken of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod.
As we shared in our 2017 highlight video, this past year saw big changes and big celebrations for us at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries; and, as we look to this new year, we’re excited to see what will unfold!
Whatever transpires, we know it will be extraordinary if we do it together!
Cheers to you, our supporters and friends, and to all the opportunities to love and support gender and sexual minority Rostered Leaders in the New Year!