From ELM Executive Director Amanda Gerken-Nelson
I’ve often joked with Proclaim members and ELM supporters that if Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries were a church, we’d be on the cover of Living Lutheran for our outstanding growth and ministries!
On September 20th of this year, Proclaim welcomed its 300th member! Now, with 319 members, Proclaim – ELM’s professional community of
publicly out gender and sexual minority seminarians and rostered ministers – has more than quadrupled in size since it’s inception almost nine years ago.
As Proclaim has grown, ELM has had to respond to the ever growing and changing needs of our community. And so, our staff, Board of Directors, and the leadership teams for all three of ELM’s ministries – Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement – have worked to grow and diversify what we do and how we do it to more wholly support these vibrant leaders of our church.
This fall, ELM’s new program director, Olivia LaFlamme, organized a Facebook group for Proclaim members who identify with a racial identity other than white. Olivia noted regarding the formation of this group: “I hope to use this space to cultivate community and support for those in Proclaim who face racial as well as gender/sexual oppression.”
To meet the growing needs of our community, ELM expanded our staff this year by adding a three-quarter time Associate Director of Development and Communications. By adding this new position and reconfiguring responsibilities between the staff, we have been able to provide more administrative support to our growing Proclaim community and have been able to give more time and attention to growing our volunteer and support base to help sustain the ministries that help our Proclaim members serve their congregations with vitality and enthusiasm.
New Proclaim members bring with them a multitude of identities and ELM’s staff and Board of Directors have engaged in education and anti-oppression training around gender and sexual identities that are either new to us or have challenged us – yes, even we need to be educated on gender and sexual identities!
The ELM Board learned more about intersex and asexual identities at our spring in-person meeting when we decided to add the letters “I” and “A” to the “LGBTQIA+” acronym whenever it is used in ELM publications.
The ELM Board and the Proclaim community have had opportunities to learn more about polyamory through education sessions held at both the spring in-person Board meeting and this summer’s Proclaim Gathering. Polyamorous families and individuals are looking to organizations like ELM for support and community as they navigate the candidacy process and the church’s restrictive teachings on human sexuality.
Like any congregation or community that is growing at such a significant pace, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is learning how to embrace difference, how to listen to each other in our disagreements, and how to navigate the challenging relationships between identity(ies) and faithfulness.
While we by no means consider ourselves experts or exemplars of church growth, we do believe that the queerness of our identities – as individuals and as an organization – has provided us with many tools for engaging and navigating this time of growth and change and maintaining our integrity and purpose.
In the midst of the grief and consternation which can accompany change – there is also great beauty and joy! Joy in knowing that Proclaim’s growth means that there are an increasing number of LGBTQIA+ individuals who not only feel called to ministry in the church – they are actively serving our church and bringing the good news to thousands of individuals across our nation every week. And that is a beautiful image of the kin-dom of God!
Thank you for the support, feedback, and engagement you’ve provided us at ELM this year! We look forward to what 2019 will bring and we are grateful to have you join us in the journey!
I wish you a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!
Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson, Executive Director
Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) is the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Her favorite thing about this role is getting to know the people and congregations who love and support LGBTQIA+ pastors, deacons, and seminarians across our country – and there are a lot of you! Amanda travels extensively for ELM and would love to visit you and your community . Please consider inviting her to preach at your church sometime!