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Archive for November, 2018

God’s Infinite Love: A Reflection on Being Poly from a Proclaim Member

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

For the past year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ Board of Directors and Proclaim Community have been engaging in conversation around the topic of polyamory. For many in our midst, polyamory is a blessing and is something through which they have received great spiritual and personal fulfillment. There are also many in our midst for whom the topic of polyamory is quite different from their experience and understanding of healthy relationships. We recognize this tension within our community and encourage more conversation and understanding.

What follows is a reflection written by a polyamorous Proclaim member. It is not ELM’s intention to make a public statement about polyamory with this blog post so much as to continue the conversation and to share a personal reflection.

Content Warning: strong language and sexual imagery


“My boyfriend’s boyfriend is a pussy stunt artist.” There’s a lot to unpack there, but I’ll start with myself. I’m a seminarian who identifies as queer and uses various pronouns. I appear male/masculine and identify as AMAB (assigned male at birth). My boyfriend identifies as a FTM trans man. We’re in a polyamourous relationship. Aside from being highly involved in the queer/trans community where we live, he’s also a CODA (Child Of a Deaf Adult) and makes his living as a sign language interpreter. He had been dating his boyfriend for multiple months before I joined the mix. My boyfriend’s boyfriend is a performer who uses their pussy to do stunts on stage for money. They identify as genderqueer and use they/them/their pronouns.

Had someone told me that I would be in love with a trans man, on the verge of going on internship, I would have laughed in their face. As I started seminary, I didn’t hold much hope in finding someone to fulfill my romantic needs. Dating a graduate student is hard, let alone one who is studying to become a pastor. Plus, to love me is asking a lot. I have baggage, an uncertain future, and I’m essentially taking a vow of poverty. These kinds of things aren’t the most marketable prospects in the dating scene. But with my boyfriend, it works.

 

Monogamy puts a lot of pressure on me. I start to panic once I realize that I might not meet the needs of my potential romantic partner but I’ve never had to worry about that with my boyfriend. I know that he’s capable of meeting his needs with other people, and that he’s not just settling for me. I don’t have the anxiety that I’m not willing and able to do everything that he wants in the bedroom (or living room, or hallway, or backyard, or streets of a major city). For the first time, I’ve been able to grow with my partner into something together. I think what clinched our relationship for us, is that we can just be ourselves around each other. We went from talking about important social justice issues around intersectional identities to a complete and utter giggle fit half an hour later. My boyfriend connects my heart, head, spirit and body in a way no one else has every come close to. This is a freedom I’ve never known before entering into this kind of relationship.

My pastoral care classes didn’t teach me how to navigate the dynamics when my boyfriend and his boyfriend broke up. How do I support my boyfriend in this difficult time without triangulating with his other boyfriend? How do I support his boyfriend through this as well? And what does the break up do to mine and his boyfriend’s relationship? We were never romantically involved yet I still care for them and want the best in their life. What do I do with my feelings of happiness that I can spend more time with my boyfriend now? Where do I put my joy now that we’re connected closer than ever?

Documents within the denomination place primacy on heterosexual monogamous marriages. As a seminarian, I never fully understood why the church and my candidacy committee had stake in what I did in my bedroom (or kitchen, or car, or darkened alley). Saying that monogamous relationships are the only relationships that foster trust and deep spiritual connection is patently false. My monogamous relationships have been my least trusting relationships. But there comes a time in my life that I need to be authentically myself and willingly break with doctrine and tradition.

Finally going all-in and joining a polyamorous relationship made me understand myself in a new way. It is like an affirmation of baptism for me. Baptisms have a revelatory function– wherein the newly baptized are joined into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. The ritual signifies a new dedication, a breaking of old ways and an invitation into a larger group. Not only do the newly baptized pledge to renounce sin, but the assembly gathered invest themselves in the formation, growth, and wellbeing of their new family member. Why can’t relationships be like this? Why can’t joining a romantic relationship be a holy act that connects us to the divinely infinite? Jesus is a bit of a slut; he loves everyone (we can’t even put a number on the people that he’s been inside). I would never expect him to turn his back on others just for my sake. Plainly put, Jesus loves infinitely, so why shouldn’t I?

#WontBeErased: Allies Stand Up

Thursday, November 29th, 2018
From ELM: November 12-19th is Transgender Awareness Week! An annual effort to celebrate and raise visibility for the transgender and gender non-conforming community as well as continuing the movement to end the violence so many face. November 20th is Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) that honors the memory and lives of transgender/GNC people who have become ancestors (many through acts of hate). In recognition of the importance of this week, ELM is adding on to our blog from 10/25/18 Wont Be Erased. This time, with specific instruction and call to action for allies to the trans/GNC community. Written by and for allies from the Proclaim community, we know that solidarity is powerful and protection is needed for those most vulnerable in our communities. Take heed, take notes, it’s time to step it up!
NOTE: While we encourage giving financial gifts to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, we especially lift up the missions of several excellent organizations specifically serving trans, gender-expansive, and intersex communities with both emergency response and sustained projects. We recommend Out Magazine’s  “7 Action Items to Protect Trans and GNC People” for a list of organizations.

It is our collective call to issue clear action directives to cisgender and straight allies, and see them through in solidarity. Below, find writing from ministers that are cisgender allies from within the queer community, collectively drafted by Rev. Lenny Duncan, Rev. Brenda Bos, and Proclaim Member Analyse Triolo.

The first step in destroying a group of people is to dehumanize them. Our government’s proposal to erase transgender identity is a depraved and evil step toward inviting and justifying violence and death. People of faith MUST say no, calling on our congregations to resist, vote against oppression, and become aware of the life and beauty of transgender, intersex and gender-expansive people in our midst. This is not a political statement, this is a LOVE OF ALL HUMANS statement. Our beloved trans, intersex, and gender-expansive friends are not lost and mistaken, they are people, created in God’s image, valued and honored. How can this even be up for debate? Shout it from the rooftops, proclaim it from your pulpits, tell everyone you can. Transgender, gender-expansive, and intersex people are fearfully and wonderfully made. Use their pronouns, speak directly and comfortably about gender diversity in everyday conversations, continue to lift up your friendships and respect for
transgender/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings. It matters.


Cisgender Ally/ Accomplice/ Co-Conspirator Statement of Renunciation
We co-conspirators/ allies/ accomplices of our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings in Christ renounce the abhorrent use of reductive, binary scriptural understanding often used to limit rights and protections of all God’s children.


We have watched with increasing horror as the current administration tries to tighten the noose around this community’s neck. The erasure of our intersex, trans, and gender-expansive siblings’ identities is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is grounded in the false paradigm that the only way to gain freedom in the church or in this country is through the oppression of the vulnerable. The obsession others claiming the identity of the church have with the destruction of an entire group of people is deeply disturbing and not our understanding of the narrative arc of scripture.


WE AFFIRM that our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings are wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God. This same God that the scriptural witness tells us is a liberating God who has broken the chains of oppressed peoples throughout human history.


WE BELIEVE that grace is a disruptive force to the powers of empire which we define as rulers, tyrants, and leaders who gain power on the backs of the most vulnerable. We know the average lifespan for a Black trans woman is 35 years in this country. We have watched their public lynchings and the callous attitude much of the church has had to these horrific acts. We know that we worship a savior who was publicly lynched and received the same disdain. To codify in the policies and law of this land the continued hatred of our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings is unacceptable.


WE CALL on all called and ordained leaders, laity, and seminarians of the ELCA to speak with one voice. We do this out of love but also out of self defense. An attack on one part of the body of Christ is an attack on us all. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.


WE ASK the faithful everywhere the following:


We ask you to profess your faith in Christ Jesus, reject sin, and confess the faith of the church.
We ask you to renounce this administration’s attacks on our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings, and all the forces that defy God.
We ask you to renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God’s grace being offered to all people.
We ask you to renounce laws and policies that are codified to attack our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings and the abhorrent sin of oppressing the vulnerable, because it draws us- a church and a nation- away from God.


Call to Action Ideas for Allies:
    1. Vote for leaders and policies that affirm the trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex communities.
    2. Lift up and amplify trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex voices and organizations.
    3. Name and call out transphobia and implicit bias against trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex people, including (y)our own.
    4. Take to the Comments section of supportive statements (like that of ELCA presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton) to address trolls who respond with hatred instead of God’s liberating love.
    5. Educate yourself on trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex issues and experiences. Encourage other cisgender persons to do the same.
    6. Follow trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex faith leaders and journalists, and signal-boost their work or sign up for their newsletters. And when you see articles about the trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex community appearing in mainstream media or faith contexts, hold them accountable by asking why a trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex person didn’t write or appear in the piece.
    7. Publicly renounce Trump’s proposed redefinition of gender and other discriminatory policies in personal and social media interactions.
    8. Give your spiritual gifts (think time, talent, treasure) to this movement. Some trans-led organizations include (from Out Magazine)Audre Lorde ProjectBrave Space AllianceCasa RubyFamilia: Trans Queer Liberation MovementFierceOrganizacion Latina de Trans en TexasSoutherners on New GroundSylvia Rivera Law ProjectTrans Latin@ CoalitionTrans Law Center, and Trans Lifeline. More comprehensive lists can be found at the Trans Justice Funding Project and Borealis Philanthropy’s Fund for Trans Generations.

by Lura Groen, Proclaim Member 
 
6.14.16 
Initially published this in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016. We are reissuing an updated version with permission from the author.
My colleague the Rev Carolyn Albert Donovon took one of my recent Facebook posts, and turned it into this lovely liturgy. It’s intended to be used when the LGBTQIA+ community must gather to mourn and celebrate. I invite you to use it in its entirety as you wish, but request that you don’t omit our sex being holy. It is best if the leader is a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+, even if that is not the clergy person, but can be used in settings where that is not possible.
 
The leader will read the non-bolded text, which may then be repeated by the people gathered. If you identify as LGBTQIA+, you may choose to say “our” while those who do not identify as LGBTQIA+ may choose to read “your” at the beginning of each line. We do this not because cisgender, heterosexual folks are not holy in these ways, too, but because it is LGBTQIA+ people who have been told over and over and over that they are not, and these are days when we need to claim aloud that excluding LGBTQIA+ people from our understanding of the sacred has been and still is a violent lie – perpetuated for many long years by the church. We raise our voices to correct this lie.  We also honor those who choose to remain in silence.
 
My Beloved Queer Ones,
 
(y)our lives are holy.
(y)our lives are holy.
(y)our dancing is holy.
(y)our dancing is holy.Rev. Lura Preaching
(y)our protest is holy.
(y)our protest is holy.
(y)our grief is holy.
(y)our grief is holy.
(y)our rage is holy.
(y)our rage is holy.
(y)our community is holy.
(y)our community is holy.
(y)our gender identities are holy.
(y)our gender identities are holy.
(y)our gender expressions are holy.
(y)our gender expressions are holy.
(y)our gender journeys are holy.
(y)our gender journeys are holy.
(y)our bodies are holy.
(y)our bodies are holy.
(y)our sex is holy.
(y)our sex is holy.
(y)our love is holy.
(y)our love is holy.
(y)ou are holy.
(y)ou are holy.
We are holy.

Recapping the October Board Meeting

Thursday, November 8th, 2018
By Emily Ann Garcia and Matt James
Board Members who were present included Matt James (Co-Chair), Emily Ann Garcia (Co-Chair), Margaret Moreland (Secretary), Emily Ewing, Matta Ghaly, Jeff Johnson, and Brad Froslee. ELM’s Treasurer, Charlie Horn, was present as well.  ELM staff who were present included Amanda Nelson and Olivia LaFlamme.  Board members absent from the meeting included Barbara Lundblad and newly joined board member Angela Shannon.
This past October ELM’s Board of Directors met for one of two annual in-person meetings at the beautiful Nicholas Center in Downtown Chicago. Each meeting we endeavor to remind ourselves of who Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is by keeping our Explicit Practices before us, we share them with you now as a reminder of who you are as a Proclaimer, supporter, ally of ELM and the incredible LGBTQIA+ ministers that continue to transform and enrich the world.
ELM Explicit Practices:
  • We respond boldly to God’s love and call to justice in these ways:
  • We listen deeply.
  • We publicly claim our identities.
  • We work collaboratively.
  • We act transparently.
  • We ask, “Who is not here?”
  • We speak truthfully, even when it’s hard.
  • We laugh together.
With a fuller slate of staff, we all felt there is great energy and potential as God’s Spirit leads us into the future.
We spent time dreaming about where we might hope to see ELM go as we move forward together toward the edges of our work.
Guided by our Explicit Practices listed above, we asked ourselves:
  • What would ELM look like in five years if we lived into these edges?
  • What could we do, starting now, to help us get there?
We dreamed of how we might continue to support Proclaim members doing fabulous, ground-breaking ministry around the country and around the world.
We dreamed of how we might continue to be a beacon of God’s justice in-breaking into God’s world:
  • Continuing the journey of being an anti-oppression organization;
  • Providing fabulous opportunities for continuing education and professional development that speak to our community;
  • Supporting Proclaimers who are called to Mission Development/Redevelopment;
  • Continuing to reimagine what it means to be the community of Proclaim and how we might support those in myriad ministries in and around the church; and
  • Continuing to walk through the challenge of supporting the great work and ministry of ELM through fundraising and other resources.
These conversations will guide the board’s and staff’s work in the coming months as we live into our dreaming.
We also had the opportunity to meet with the President of ADLA (African-Descent Lutheran Association), the Rev. Lamont Wells.  ELM and ADLA got the chance to get to know each other, and start imagining what kinds of next steps we might take to work more closely together in the future.
The Board’s next meeting will be a conference call on December 20th.  The next in-person meeting with be held March 14-17, 2019 in Berkeley, CA.
Questions or concerns you may have for the Board may be directed to Executive Director, Amanda Nelson (amanda@elm.org) who will pass them along to the Board’s Executive Committee.

Bio: Emily Ann Garcia and the Rev. Matthew James are the Co-Chairs of the ELM Board of Directors. Emily resides in Vancouver, British Columbia and is a Proclaim SPICE (spouse of a Proclaim member). The Rev. Matthew James lives in Chicago, IL and is the Director of Admissions at LSTC. He and his husband, John Weit, are both Proclaim members.

Linda Christensen, Saint

Thursday, November 1st, 2018
By Margaret Moreland and Bennett Falk
We met Linda Christensen only twice: once at her son Erik’s extraordinary ordination in 2006; the other at Erik’s wedding to Kerry. She was so excited about both events.
 
I (Margaret) had heard from Erik about Linda several times before I met her. Whenever Erik talked about his journey to ordination, he always mentioned that his mother had been instrumental in nudging him toward the Extraordinary Candidacy Project.
Erik describes the first nudge this way:
“I was past college and considering seminary, but had no sense for how that would work as someone who’d come out in college and had no intention of being closeted. Mom mentioned a small church in San Francisco that participated in the “extraordinary” ordinations of three gay and lesbian clergy … and they had a cookbook: “Those People at That Church.” I remember her showing me the cookbook, and flipping through the pages,wondering who those people were.”
Linda remained a friend of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries: a regular financial contributor who, with her husband Larry, helped organize the Goodsoil Singers at the 2007 Churchwide Assembly and staffed the ELM information table at the 2017 Southeastern Iowa Synod Assembly.
 
Former ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts remembers:
“Linda mailed a hand-written check each month for all the years I worked for ELM. Each month she wrote “Gratefully” in the memo of her check.”
Linda was truly a “friend of ELM,” but that barely hints at what there is to celebrate in Linda’s life.
Linda Christensen was a champion of what can only be called “tenacious love,” love that does not give up.
 
Tenacious love is not “safe.” It is not admiration of the already successful. It is risky; it is love for those who are pushed aside, left behind, ignored. It is love that does not acquiesce to injustice, love that is never embittered.
Tenacious love is not easily confined to the home or the classroom (or, for that matter, the church). In May, 1998 the Des Moines City Council considered (and ultimately rejected) an amendment to add “Sexual Orientation” as a protected class to the city’s Human Rights ordinance. In a contentious 2-hour meeting, Linda spoke: “I didn’t know how to have a relationship with God where you hate the sin but love the sinner, because having lived with my son for 18 years and knowing him, there was no part of my child I could hate.” Tenacious love speaks its mind.
More than a year later, when Iowa’s governor signed an order to protect LGBTQIA+ people from hiring discrimination in the executive branch of the state government, opposition forces rallied in Des Moines to demand that the order be revoked. The Des Moines Register reporter who had covered the 1998 city council meeting recalled Linda’s words and quoted them again: “The world needs a lot more Linda Christensens.”
 
On July 31, 2018 Linda passed away at her home in Des Moines, Iowa surrounded by the family she loved so dearly.
We give thanks to God for the life of Linda Christensen, and we pray for the strength to be agents of tenacious love.
 

Bio: Margaret Moreland and Bennett Falk 
have been “the newlyweds” since their marriage in 1971. Margaret is secretary of the ELM Board. Bennett is known for Goodsoil Radio and Lutheran True Confessions (lutheranconfessions.com).