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ELM Statement Concerning United Lutheran Seminary

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ELM Statement Concerning United Lutheran Seminary

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries was deeply saddened to hear that the Rev. Dr. Theresa Latini, President of United Lutheran Seminary, previously served as the director of One by One, an anti-LGBTQIA+ organization that promotes conversion therapy as a solution for people “in conflict with their sexuality;” and, that Dr. Latini – in her previously published writings – described herself as someone who had struggled with a “homosexual orientation” but through prayer and one-on-one counseling was able to change her orientation.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. By living into the fullest expression of their identities, LGBTQIA+ leaders model God’s liberating love for all and boldly proclaim the goodness of their being – so beautifully captured in the words of the Psalmist: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139: 14a).

Organizations like One by One and the horrific practices of reparative and conversion therapy are the antithesis of the Psalmist’s beautiful lyric, not to mention the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, these practices and organizations promote self-hatred and the systemic oppression and repression of LGBTQIA+ people; they mentally and physically abuse children and youth; and, they cause spiritual, emotional, and physical death.

Rather than boldly stating her past and joyfully celebrating her identity and transformation of heart, Dr. Latini chose not to share the fullness of her story to the ULS Board during the hiring process. Tragically, once informed, the Board also chose not to make an announcement in the interest of full transparency. The mismanagement and secrecy surrounding these events has instilled fear and mistrust in the LGBTQIA+ community towards the seminary and its leaders.

Because, unfortunately, time and again, gender and sexual minorities have been lured into the halls and sanctuaries of our churches with promises of “all are welcome” only to be faced with  heteronormative biases, un-checked prejudice, and statements like “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries condemns and abhors the assumption that gender and sexual identities are sinful, wrong, or need to be changed in any way. We lament Dr. Latini’s history with an anti-LGBTQIA+ organization, and mourn her perceived need to hide her personal story of identity. We grieve our church’s inclination towards institutional preservation over the honoring of God’s beloved children.

Likewise, ELM is deeply saddened and troubled by the entanglement of ELM Board Member, the Rev. Dr. Elise Brown, who has served on ELM’s board faithfully and honorably for the past six years. Dr. Brown is also the Chairperson of United Lutheran Seminary’s Board of Trustees. ELM’s Board of Directors under the leadership of our Co-Chairs, the Rev. Matthew James and Emily Ann Garcia, are engaging in discernment and conversation regarding Elise’s role on our Board.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes that we are called to respond to God’s love and call to justice by listening deeply, publicly claiming our identities, working collaboratively, acting transparently, and speaking truthfully. We covenant to live into these practices with all those who desire truth, trust, and justice.

ELM dreams of a Church in which gender and sexual minorities do not need to question whether they are welcome wholly as they are – in our congregations, at our seminaries, or in our pulpits. Our lived experiences remind us daily that we are not there yet. While we are on the journey, ELM will continue to advocate for LGBTQIA+ leaders, offer our gifts as resources to the broader community, accompany individuals and communities in the holy work of loving the “fearfully and wonderfully made” Body of Christ embodied in all its queerness, and hold each other gently when the world doesn’t live up to God’s promises.


 Rev. Amanda Nelson                 Rev. Asher O’Callaghan
Executive Director                                  Program Director

Board of Directors
Emily Ann Garcia, Co-Chair                   Rev. Matthew James, Co-Chair
Dr. Margaret Moreland, Secretary          Charles Horn III, Treasurer
Rev. Emily E. Ewing                                 Rev. Brad Froslee
Philipos Ghaly                                           Rev. Jeff Johnson
Rev. Dr. Barbara Lundblad                    Rev. Michael Wilker

*Rev. Dr. Elise Brown is a member of ELM’s Board but is not listed as a publisher of this statement due to her dual roles as Chair of the United Lutheran Seminary’s Board of Trustees.

9 Responses to “ELM Statement Concerning United Lutheran Seminary”

  1. Pastor Jason Churchill says:

    Thank you for this statement and for your continued bold witness. Living in the region of ULS, I am no longer comfortable relying on this institution for continuing education or as a spiritual base. I pray that LGBTQIA+ students and staff find a network and safe space. I’m happy to offer such a space outside the Philly area in Wilmington Delaware.

  2. Laurie Eaton says:

    Beautifully written, honest and respectful, and most of all, faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your strong witness in this painful situation, and for your ongoing work.

  3. Pastor George Grubb says:

    Amen! Had this information been made public in the announcement of Dr. Latini’s selection, it could have been such a positive story. What in the world were these people thinking? The “coverup” just fosters doubt and suspicion. Dr. Latini and Dr. Brown need to go.

  4. Pastor Will Fisher says:

    Thank you Amanda, Asher and the ELM Board! This is well written and shares enough information without inundating us. I do not envy the Co-Chairs’ task of discernment and conversation with Rev., Dr. Brown. There seem to be many roles at play here. The popular “it’s complicated” seems apropos. This is not ELM’s first foray into “what about past actions?” Not too long ago a new member of Proclaim was openly and joyously welcomed…as we do. Not until after the joyous welcome did leadership realize that person’s past held very negative experience for some in our community. The new member’s recognition of their own change of heart and growth was seemingly all that was needed for at least some of the negatively impacted members to step aside and allow the forgiveness of God to flow through. I have every confidence in the ELM board led by the co-chairs to navigate this path that is seemingly more complicated. I hold you all in prayer and the community as a whole for healing, forgiveness, and continued forward movement.

  5. Rev. Mark Perry says:

    It is unclear in reading this post that Dr Lantini has expressed regret and repentance over her previous stance and articles she wrote but that is my understanding. Is that correct? I understand that doesn’t excuse the ULS Boards lack of transparency and proper process but it is important to note.

  6. gail bizer says:

    What the….. are you all serious. This insane.

  7. Carl W. Mangold, retired ELCA pastor says:

    I am not pleased to learn of Dr. Latini’s anti-LBTGQIA+ background. I am a 1975 graduate of LTSP, one of the seminaries becoming ULS. Dr. Latini’s One by One involvement does not reflect the theological ethical stance of the ELCA as I understand it, and certainly not mine, and maybe not the PCUSA. Neither is it consistent with the future trends of our society and younger generations. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and as a Licensed Independent Substance Abuse Counselor and as a pastor of the ELCA (now retired from all three) with 44 years of professional experience and work in the arenas of intimate partner abuse, sexual abuse, and gender orientation/identity, it is my firm conviction that conversion/restorative therapy is a fraud, a sham. There is no peer reviewed literature/research of which I am aware that supports conversion/restorative therapy. The APA is on record since 1997 as opposed to this approach.

  8. Tom Chittick says:

    What a wonderful overall statement.
    What a model of truth telling, which was not finger pointing.
    What a fine statement about the goodness of creation!
    What a clear message of an inclusive church.
    What a strong lament for so many hurt by what has transpired at our seminary.
    Thank you all.

  9. Pastor Heather says:

    Amen… a generation after graduating from Gettysburg I had hoped we were doing better. I remember being caught wrong-footed with press and parishioners had questions about the ELCA’s first sexuality study in the early 1990s …which was given to press first but clergy had not seen. I’m stunned at the poor judgment displayed by many here and wonder what is behind it. I’m also surprised at the stupidity of those who sought to keep it quiet in thinking that – in this day and age – they could. We need to do better by one another …especially those of us who are in the privileged majority!

    I had hoped that the Seminary’s affirming position was what it purported to be… I hoped that never again would the scene between one of my dearest friends and I during seminary have to be repeated: where revealing his sexuality to me was so painful I honestly thought we was about to tell me he was dying.

    So sad. How long, O Lord… how long?