Epiphany: “For we observed his star at its rising…”

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by the Rev. Bryan Penman
Proclaim member and pastor,
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Conshohocken, Pennsylvania

I think the season of Epiphany provides a wonderful backdrop to reflect on our work together as ELM. For many of us the themes of Epiphany resonate with our story of call – of searching, of bringing gifts to the church, and showing the way to Christ in our world through an expansive and inclusive church. For we are a people who have “observed a star at its rising” as we witness the ELCA become a more welcoming church for our LBGTQIA+ siblings.

As ELM continues to work towards this manifestation of the church, some of the work I have been helping to do is with our Ministry Engagement team. Like a guiding star in the sky, our team seeks to be a resource to guide conversations with congregations who are looking to call a new pastor. Part of that work has been to advocate and partner with Synod staffs who serve as the front lines of guiding these conversations with call committees and transition teams. Often our work with congregations is overshadowed by larger more fearful forces. Like Herod’s attempt to oust the Christ child from his midst, we often help congregations get from “I don’t think we are ready,” with a “let’s help you get ready!” (For more, check out this little video ELM put together about my call story).

Helping congregations take a step out in faith to find Christ is what the Ministry Engagement team is all about – helping to serve as a guide and resource to shape conversations at a congregational level for LGBTQIA+ candidates. Congregations often need the help of a guiding star to help them see the gifts we bring to the church as faithful and fabulous pastors, deacons, and other rostered leaders. ELM has prepared a resource called “Enrich and Transform: Welcoming LGBTQ Candidates into the Call Process” for Call Committees and Transition teams to equip them through the call process. In this resource you will find things like: factors to consider when creating a Mission Site Profile, resources to talk about with the congregation on why a congregation should consider calling an LGBTQIA+ candidate, information about why a First Call candidate adds value to a congregation, how not to offend the candidate in the interview process, and how to welcome and engage their new pastor.

The diversity of gifts that we bring to Christ in our church is what makes the work of our team so wonderful. We now have over 162 pastors and deacons serving in calls throughout the U.S. and Canada! But with several still awaiting calls and 89 seminarians in the candidacy process, we know that we have more work to do to prepare synods and congregations to affirm these leaders of the church across all of our 65 Synods. The star is rising, let us continue to search and seek to build an inclusive and expansively diverse church for the sake of the gospel and on behalf of the world.

Stay fabulous friends.

Rev. Bryan Penman is a dynamic pastor in the Philadelphia suburb of Conshohocken, PA where he actively engages in community outreach and regularly speaks on the topic of human sexuality in a Lutheran context believing that Jesus Christ calls our church to be just a tad more fabulous. In preaching and teaching, he frequently refers to the unconditional love of God; how we are all wonderfully made. In loving God we love each other, or as it is written in the gospel according to RuPaul, “Honey, if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else!?!?”

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