By: Katy Miles-Wallace, Proclaim Member
I’ve never been “conventionally attractive.” For me, that would have meant being a good slender southern girl in flannel, riding boots and a puffer vest, monogram on my chest just below my long sleek hair. No, I was never quite that way.
While I do wear flannel and puffer vests, I’m more suited for boots and snapbacks or flat caps, preferring the butch over the femme. Unfortunately, that has meant that much of my life has been plagued by self-comparison to those conventionally attractive femme bodies that I would never look like (and that, for a while, I tried and failed to look like). The trying and failing and self-comparison have left a mark. This mark persists despite the fact that I feel more myself than ever, despite the fact that I’ve found comfort in wearing men’s clothing, in having a short haircut, in being referred to as handsome, a husbawife, a nonbinary person.
And so, it was quite a shocking moment when, at the beginning of the #Proclaim300 initiative, I saw that it was my face starting back at me from my phone and my laptop. That mark started to creep up again, to remind me that I’m not what people once wished me to be, that I’m not necessarily what one might call pretty. And then…and then the #Proclaim300 donations started. Donations totalling more than $5,000, across many fundraisers, in e-mails, Facebook campaigns, and mailed donations. My own Facebook fundraiser started to bring in gifts of various amounts, and from givers I hadn’t imagined!
At first, I was just excited for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries- excited that the fundraising of 3oo gifts of $300 (one for each Proclaimer, now that we’ve reached 300 members!) seemed to be going well. And then I realized: those notices and calls for donation had carried my face, my unconventionally pretty, butch, expressively eyebrowed, imperfect toothed, glasses wearing, heavyset, short-hair framed face. And those donations weren’t out of sympathy; they weren’t to fix all those things about me or about any of the rest of the Proclaimers that look vaguely like me, but to support me and others, to advocate for more unconventionally beautiful people in the pulpit, behind the table, and in service to the body of Christ.
So, what is it like to participate in these fundraisers and to be the face of the #Proclaim300 campaign? It is a realization of how Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, and the Proclaim community, and all their supporters are here and ready to lift up a world which is different, which is more loving, which appreciates that which is unconventional, and unique, and new, and that which has previously been ridiculed. It is seeing all of that love and support in real time, a wave of the Kin-dom of God breaking into the world.
It is feeling whole and finished, just the way that I am. Thank you, to all of those who gave and who brought this sense of wholeness to me and I’m sure to others whose fundraisers you participated in. You gave much more than just money.
To support Proclaim members like Katy or honor someone who builds a better world, consider a gift to the #Proclaim300 campaign, which aims to raise up Proclaimers, raise awareness about ELM, and raise 300 gifts of $300 by Reformation Day, October 31, 2018. www.elm.org/donate-now (indicate #Proclaim300)
Bio: Katy Miles-Wallace (they/them & she/her) is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, currently residing in the Southern Ohio Synod while awaiting call. Katy is originally from Seguin, Texas and enjoys time with their dog, Molly, and wife, Jessica. Katy is also an artist, specializing in semi-orthodox representations of queer saints.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
Associate Director of Development and Communications
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 20, 2018
“Proclaim” Community for LGBTQIA+ Lutheran Ministers & Candidates Celebrates 300 Members
CHICAGO, IL: Proclaim, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ (ELM) professional community for publicly identified gender and sexual minority ministers and candidates, has reached 300 members. To celebrate, ELM has launched the #Proclaim300 campaign to raise support, awareness, and funds. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.
On September 20, 2018, Proclaim celebrated reaching 300 members when Sergio Rodriguez (he/him/his), a seminarian at Wartburg Theological Seminary, joined the community.
The son of immigrants, Rodriguez says a mentor at a church in San Antonio “…reaffirmed my dignity as a gay Mexican Lutheran and made me aware that God calls people to ministry regardless of where they are in their lives, their gender, their sexuality, and their race.”
Rodriguez recalls, “When a classmate of mine encouraged me to join Proclaim, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was God gathering me to a community of fellow believers and leaders to join them in proclaiming the Gospel…that all may know the all-inclusive love of God.”
Says ELM Executive Director Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson, “We rejoice in the growth of Proclaim! This is an enormous milestone for our organization and for the church – this means there are 300 publicly-out LGBTQIA+ leaders who are dedicating their lives to calls of public ministry! This means that LGTBQIA+ folks are feeling more and more free and able to say ‘yes’ to God’s call – even in a church that for so long said ‘no’ to their leadership.”
ELM was founded in 2007 as a merger between Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries (LLGM) and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project (ECP), which for years ordained LGBTQIA+ ministers “extraordinarily,” outside the bounds of the ELCA’s official doctrine, which did not allow it.
In 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America changed their policy to allow gender and sexual minorities to serve the church as out and partnered ministers. Even still, congregations can refuse to consider ministry candidates because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, and LGBTQIA+ ministry candidates continue to face barriers and prejudice.
ELCA Bishop Kirby Unti of the Northwest Washington Synod reflects on the gifts of Proclaim members: “The church has entered a time when what we need are effective adaptive leaders. Our LGBTQIA+ ministers tend to be some of our best adaptive leaders. Their lives have relied upon adaptive sensibilities in order to thrive.”
Says ELCA Bishop William Gohl, “From Appalachia to the inner city, in suburbia and specialized ministries, Proclaim rostered ministers are blessing our Delaware-Maryland Synod with gifts that cultivate the more-inclusive and diverse communities for which this church prays and aspires to. I am grateful for the partnership of #Proclaim300 colleagues who are serving, that all the world may know the redeeming love of God in Christ, for all – without exceptions.”
To meet the needs of a growing Proclaim community – increased by 50% in the past 3 years – ELM’s #Proclaim300 campaign aims to raise 300 gifts of $300 by October 31, 2018 (Reformation Day), totalling $90,000.
“ELM’s goal is to continue to support Proclaimers at all stages of ministry,” says Gerken-Nelson. “A gift at any level is a blessing. We are grateful for the many who make these ministries possible!”
In addition to facilitating the Proclaim professional community, ELM’s Accompaniment program provides individualized guidance, mentorship, and resources for publicly identified Lutheran LGBTQIA+ ministers and candidates. ELM’s Ministry Engagement program advocates for these leaders by advising on church policy and equipping churchwide leadership, seminaries, congregations, allied nonprofits, and other organizations to employ and embrace Proclaim members.
Follow #Proclaim300 on social media September 17-23, 2018 to see and hear stories about the gifts of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, plus) ministers through videos, images, personalized fundraisers, and testimonials.
For more information: www.elm.org
Follow #Proclaim300 Week Sept 17-23, 2018: www.FB.com/extraordinarylutheranministries
Contribute to the #Proclaim300 Campaign: www.elm.org/donate-now
Images for use:
“Sergio Rodriguez” (courtesy of Rodriguez)
“Proclaim300” (courtesy of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries)
“1 of 300” (courtesy of Emily Ann Garcia Photography, for ELM)
By: Sergio Rodriguez, Proclaim’s 300th member
From ELM: We did it! Proclaim (ELM’s professional community of publicly identified LGBTQIA+ ministers and candidates) just hit 300! Join us in a bold welcome to Sergio Rodriguez, Proclaim’s 300th member.
I must from the outset thank and praise our Triune God for the grace which brought us all here together for ministry in our world today. This message of the grace of God in Christ Jesus continues to shape and mold our communities from which God calls us and will call others like us to ministry.
Growing up the gay son of two Mexican immigrants, the notion that God would call anyone outside the sexual and gender norms of our Mexican-American society seemed contrary to God’s will. Though I loved Jesus, his mother Mary, and the church, I found myself at odds with the wider Roman Catholic institution because of my sexuality. While this effectively made me leave the church during my high school years, I found myself returning to the Roman Catholic church as I studied at Baylor University.
At Baylor University, I felt God called me to serve the capacity as a minister of the church and to test this out. I became the chaplain of two music organizations; the Baylor University Marching Band and Kappa Kappa Psi.
Despite serving in this capacity, I still resented my sexuality and found myself hungering for a God who would simply accept me for who I was and who I wanted to be.
During my senior year of college, God showed me the message of radical and inclusive grace for all through my studies of Dr. Luther’s works, conversation, and conversion to Lutheranism.
At that time, I felt that I needed to wait before I dived right into word and sacrament ministry. From the end of college up to this present day, I managed to complete a Master’s of the Arts in Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary, switch from the LC-MS to the ELCA, and move to San Antonio where I briefly studied Marriage and Family Therapy.
About two years ago, the weight of these changes finally took their spiritual toll on me as I contemplated giving up the idea of being a rostered word and sacrament leader in the ELCA.
I felt that I was unable to find an affirming congregation that would also attend to my identity as a Latinx Lutheran. Precisely at that moment, God made me aware of Gethsemane Lutheran Church and Jesus Maestro church in San Antonio where I met my future pastoral supervisor and Spiritual Father who awakened in me that call I felt so many years ago in college.
Moreso, he reaffirmed my dignity as a gay Mexican Lutheran and made me aware that God calls people to ministry regardless of where they are in their lives, their gender, their sexuality, and their race.
So when a classmate of mine encouraged me to join Proclaim, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was God gathering me to a community of fellow believers and leaders to join them in proclaiming the Gospel of our Crucified and Risen Lord that all may know the all-inclusive love of God!
Bio: Sergio Rodriguez (he/him/his) Growing up in the Texas borderlands in an immigrant household, my parents raised me to be aware of how the border defined our identities, culture, and lives as children of God. While my formative years were spent growing up in socially conservative Mexican household in McAllen, TX, I found affirmation, mercy, and unconditional love amongst my fellow musicians, religion majors, and friends at Baylor University.
Though I continued to struggle to integrate my Latinx identity with my faith, I felt God calling me in the midst of an emotionally difficult time of my life during my senior year of college to a position of leadership knowing full well the lucha that people of color face in the church.
Unbeknownst to me as I navigated through the institution of the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod, God needed me to mature, develop, grow and learn further about what radical grace means for all people today.
Rather than be disingenuous to my God-given identity as a Latinx believer, I left the Missouri Synod while I finished a Master’s in Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary because God showed me the depth, the breath and the height of the love of Christ for all people with no exception to gender, race, sexuality, age, creed, capacity or the like
After taking a year off following graduation and moving to San Antonio, God kindled in me the passion, the confidence and knowledge for being a leader in the church for the sake of the world and moved me to start the candidacy process for rostered word and sacrament ministry. As I progress through my studies at Wartburg Theological seminary and candidacy process, God has continued to assure me there is no more certain calling for me than to proclaim Christ crucified for the sake of the world in word, sacrament, and deed.
By: Pastor Gus Barnes, Jr., Proclaim Member
The call began in the mid- sixties. Our family relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city that was healing from racial riots (and still has issues even in 2018). We rented a third story flat owned at the time by a LCA (Lutheran Church of America) pastor who was African American.
Upon an invitation to Lutheran Church of the Epiphany, now called All People’s, my brother Mark and I found ourselves playing church! Of course back then I was the presiding minister because I remembered all of the parts and I could sing! This church’s invitation welcomed me into the Lutheran fellowship, because I was baptized Baptist.
This church groomed me to serve God’s people even though it was healing from the darkness of the racial riots. I served in many capacities in those years including becoming the first person of color to hold the office of Council President.
As attendance and membership declined, we collectively decided to give the building away so that a new congregation could begin. Epiphany offered me a full scholarship to Wartburg College and to Wartburg Seminary. As excited as I was about the offer, I turned it down… I felt the church was not ready for a man of color who also discovered he was gay.
The call continued as I attempted to identify my identity within a Black community that did not accept “homosexuality,” so my few relationships were with white men who “did not see color.” This acceptance was very difficult for my father, who blamed it on my mother’s side of the family: my uncle was gay and we did not talk about it.
After Church of the Epiphany closed, I journeyed to find where my sexuality and faith was welcomed. In 2000, I sang for a wedding at Reformation Lutheran in Milwaukee. After the service, Pastor Mick Roschke informed me that they were welcoming new members the following Sunday. My response was, “Ok! Ok what!?
I told him that I was waiting for a church to ask me to join! This, friends, holds true today: people are waiting to be asked and invited back to church!
I served this congregation faithfully for ten years until a change in leadership in 2010 assured that two of us would be let go. Sadly, I was one. The other was Director of Music, also gay. I served the Greater Milwaukee Synod since we became the ELCA, serving at three Church-wide gatherings- 2009, 2011, and 2013.
The sense of call became stronger and when my mother’s life ended in the spring of 2012. I enrolled at Wartburg Seminary with the assistance of a church who supported me. Year one was difficult due to a seminarian who wanted to “pray the gay away.” Thanks be to God, I finished in five years!
The call continues! I married my spouse Steve in 2017, graduated in May of 2018, accepted a call at Luther Memorial in Delevan, Wisconsin, with Ordination coming on September 15, 2018. Luther Memorial is a Reconciling in Christ congregation. I cherish the name Gus because I am one of G.od’s U.nique, S.ervants. Thanks be to God!
Bio: Gus Barnes, Jr. (He/Him/His) I will be ordained on September 15, 2018 by Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, the ELCA’s second-ever African American woman pastor elected as Bishop. I will be her first ordained as an African American man who is openly gay, in an interracial marriage.
By Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson, ELM Executive Director
Two weeks ago I had the joy of traveling to the Bay Area of California to meet friends and supporters of ELM. Some of these folks I had met before while I was a student at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) in Berkeley, and many were long-time supporters and old friends of ELM who are becoming new friends of mine!
As we sat around kitchen tables, I could barely contain my excitement to tell them that Proclaim anticipates welcoming its 300th member this fall!
“I just can’t believe it.” “Well isn’t that just amazing!”
These were just a few of the reactions to the news.
You see, many of these supporters have been a part of our movement since day one. Many of them attended the first Extraordinary Ordinations of Jeff, Ruth, and Phyllis in San Francisco in 1990; many of them served on the Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries Board, the grants committee, and even the West Coast candidacy committee for the Extraordinary Candidacy Project; many of them were present the multiple times our Churchwide body took up the conversation of LGBTQIA+ welcome and some were even arrested for their public, peaceful resistance. Piqued your interest? You can learn more here: www.elm.org/history/
For many of them, 300 members of Proclaim (meaning 300 publicly-out LGBTQIA+ seminarians, pastors, and deacons who have made a commitment to public leadership in our church) was only a dream!
We celebrated this momentous occasion, and we also took time to reflect on the process of how we’ve gotten to this point. I was quick to remind them that we got here because of them! Because of you!
Because of people who have believed in and adored LGBTQIA+ pastors with their whole hearts for years and have supported ELM and our ministry to support and advocate for gender and sexual minorities in our church!
As ELM celebrates #Proclaim300 and gears up to mark the milestone with #Proclaim300 Week Sept 17-23, I am so grateful to all of our supporters who have gotten us to this point and made this occasion possible!
While in California, I was also able to meet with communities who had helped to form me while I was a student at PLTS. And, it was my pleasure to share with them the story of Proclaim and ELM, and our joy at our accomplishments.
Thanks for ALL the ways you are joining us in this celebration! Will you forward this e-mail to help others support #Proclaim300? Could you make an ask to help us get to our goal of 300 gifts of $300, or consider a special gift yourself at www.elm.org/donate-now?
#Proclaim300 is a time to celebrate and thank those early movers and shakers and donors in our movement who paved the way for our 300th member to join our community.
#Proclaim300 is a time to go wild with joy for the community Proclaim is nurturing.
#Proclaim300 is a time to tell the story of how important ministries like Proclaim are for LGBTQIA+ leaders and for our church as a whole.
Bio: Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) got married this summer – that’s why her name has changed! Surrounded by those they love, Amanda and Tasha committed their lives and love to each on a small farm in Maine. Now they are planning a honeymoon to Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia – if you have recommendations, they’d love to hear them!
Pictured: St. Francis Lutheran Church in San Francisco made a special cake for Amanda’s visit & preaching, and gave a #Proclaim300 gift to honor the occasion!