Queering the Text

I admit it: the first place I looked when I was assigned this text was www.workingpreacher.org, and my eyes fell on Melinda Quivik’s commentary immediately. There it was on the screen:  “The pastor’s challenge is to work at making a familiar text strange…”

The point of this Lenten blog, it seems, is to make the familiar text queer.

What unique perspectives can the Proclaim community bring to reading the Bible? Most, if not all, LGBTQIA+ people have had to read the Bible with fear and trembling, then with anger, then curiosity. After a long time in the wilderness, we tend to read the Bible with liberation and courage. We demand things of the texts. We demand things of God. “Explain yourself!” “Where are you?” “What might you be doing in me and through me?”

Well, turns out Jesus was likely asking the same things of God as Jesus entered the wilderness, the passage we find in Matthew 4:1-11. We read this story at the beginning of every Lent. “O church,” the trembling pastor proclaims, “we enter the wilderness of Lent, these 40 days of denial and wandering.”

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The tried and true path preacher’s take on this text is the assurance we will be tempted, just as Jesus was tempted. Jesus forsook Satan (try to use the word “forsook”. It just doesn’t get enough airtime these days) Jesus forsook Satan and so should you. There’s rarely an acknowledgement that Jesus is God and can do things we cannot. So try really hard, dear listeners, like Jesus did. White knuckle it.

That’s a terrible way to introduce Lent.

Oh, we can muse about the temptations Jesus faces, the temptations to eat, the temptations of power. The temptations of risky behavior which God will save us from. We might describe different ways Satan tempts us today: too much social media. Obsessions with fitness or fashion or investment accounts. Political infighting. Racism, sexism, homophobia. Look how relevant this sermon is!

But what’s the queer perspective?

I won’t speak for all queers, but I’ll speak for myself. This Lent, as I approach this passage, I think about the wilderness.

To be LGBTQIA+ is to have spent time in the wilderness. There were lonely days. Days when we were sure no one understood us. Days when we didn’t understand ourselves.

For some of us, this led to suicidal thoughts. This led to violent behaviors, physical, self-harming, emotional and social violence. We lashed out to ourselves and others. We could not imagine a path out of this wilderness, so we wandered, getting into trouble. Getting lost.

In my queer reading of this story, I imagine the isolation. Jesus knew He was baptized. He knew He was God’s Son. Those experiences, described one verse earlier in Matthew, were real. Many of us were fortunate enough to know God claimed us and loves us, but we still cannot find our way among people. We cannot find a place to belong in society.

The wilderness changes us, y’all.

That loneliness may be healed, but it has changed the shape of our hearts forever. We know hunger in deep, embedded ways. We have longed to find a settled home, in our families, in our churches, in our relationships, either platonic and romantic.

Jesus spent 40 days not being seen. Not being heard. I suspect He would remember that forever.

It made Him compassionate to others He found in His ministry. He recognized the look of a lost soul because that lost soul connected to something deep inside, something that hadn’t been nurtured until the wilderness. Jesus knew how to speak to isolation, to self-doubt, to self-hatred, because He had lived into each of those things in the wilderness.

As Lutherans, we believe in the theology of the cross. We acknowledge God is found in the suffering. We acknowledge death is real and must take place for resurrection.

The Lenten journey leads to the cross, but it starts in the wilderness. It starts in a place of deep longing and confusion. It starts with that lonely place LGBTQIA+ people know.

For some of us, we had to wander in the wilderness for many years. For some of us, we have had to wander for only a brief period of time. The wilderness changes us, y’all. The wilderness prepares us to be uniquely qualified for compassion. It taught us things. Jesus received gifts for ministry in the wilderness, and so have we.

In the Matthew telling, Jesus comes out of the wilderness and finds out John has been arrested. His hometown is not safe. Jesus moves to a new place, makes new friends. Finds disciples. Starts his work. By the end of chapter 4, Jesus is healing, teaching, doing all the things God called Him to do. He finds His way. This, too, is the LGBTQIA+ story. There is a wilderness. There is also a community. There is power and strength and calling. Both are true.

Bless now, O God the journey that all your people make

The path through noise and silence, the way of give and take.

 I love this hymn by Sylvia Dunstan because it acknowledges the truth. All of us go through the wilderness. I suggest this LGBTQIA+ community is ready to talk honestly about that wilderness, so that we might care for all people, all genders, all sexualities, about the times we have not been seen or heard.

And then the last verse of this hymn:

Divine eternal lover, you meet us on the road

We wait for lands of praise where milk and honey flow.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There is a long road of Lent to walk. There is a land of praise ahead. But first, we must let the wilderness change us.


Brenda Bos (she/her/hers) is the Assistant to the Bishop in Southwest California Synod, working with the first openly gay bishop, R. Guy Erwin, also a member of Proclaim. Brenda lives with her wife Janis and their son, Joshua. She has not yet given up her over-ambitious list of Lenten disciplines.

From PALM to Eastertide

by Amanda Gerken-Nelson


That’s the term many of us in the queer community serving the church have called our partners, lovers, spouses, or significant others for the past ten years. Somewhat jokingly, yet somewhat seriously, this term embodied both our deepest love and our oppression.

It stands for “Publicly Accountable Life-Long Monogamous” and it’s the language used in the 2010 revised version of the ELCA policy Vision and Expectations – in place of partner, lover, spouse, or significant other for those who are in same-gender relationships. 

While seemingly descriptive, the term is explicitly conscriptive.

When the path to ordination for LGBTQIA+ individuals was opened in 2009, the invitation to serve was like that of so many churches and institutions: “you are welcome here as long as you look like us, act like us, and do not disturb our ways of being in this world.”

When I was serving as the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in East Hartford, CT, I had the opportunity on a few occasions to receive new members. Recalling the wisdom of my Old Testament Professor, the Rev. Dr. Steed Davidson, who once told me “even when we welcome others into community, there is power: ‘I have the power to welcome YOU into OUR community,” I would always augment the rite of reception ever so slightly to say: “we look forward to how you will change us and help us grow evermore fully into the beautiful kin-dom of God.”

In 2019, I, on behalf of ELM, was able to bring both of these perspectives into the process to review and revise Vision and Expectations

I was able to lift up and share the voices, perspectives, and experiences of queer people and how this document has inhibited and excluded our gifts; and, I was able to share how our gifts have the potential to change the ELCA and help us to live ever more fully into the beautiful kin-dom of God. 

I have heard our church leaders say that Vision and Expectations is more than just about human sexuality, and yet it has been the crux of its application. Minimizing V&E’s focus on human sexuality minimizes and erases the oppression queer people have experienced in the world and in the church which hyper focuses on who we have sex with and/or with whom we have deep, meaningful relationships.

Certainly, there is more to V&E and the church than human sexuality, just as there is more to my relationship with my wife than our sexual intimacy. 

Yet, perhaps, healing our relationship with human sexuality is exactly where we need to start this process of reconciliation so as to liberate us from the ways we have tried to confine and construct such relationships rather than celebrate the joy and awe of God’s beloved creation.

Human sexuality needs a Good Friday – a time to die to the systems of oppression that have defined with whom and how we are to be in relationship and who has power – so that we can experience the delight and release of its Easter morning.

Thank you to those who gave of their talents and treasurers in 2019 to make ELM’s advocacy and activism in this process possible. The journey continues and I look forward to seeking it out with you in 2020.


Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) serves as executive director of ELM and is a proud member of Proclaim and a rostered minister in the ELCA. Amanda would like to thank Dr. Davidson for ruining Christmas and for giving her faith the breadth and depth she needed to sustain her in ministry.

Love is in the Air

A 2019 Reflection by Lewis Eggleston

In this season of hearts, chocolates and likes, it’s my great pleasure to reflect on the most liked ELM Communications of 2019! Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries received an extraordinary amount of love, likes, and shares in 2019 and, if you’re like me, you might be curious what resonated with our community.

Over the past year our social media presence has grown by over 60%! More folks read our Pride devotionals, our Advent Poems, our weekly blogs, than ever before. We have ministry leaders reading, educating, and praying with our weekly materials in their own contexts around the world. They are praising the heartfelt impact the perspectives of LGBTQIA+ ministry leaders have made on their community. ELM and the Proclaim community continue to enrich & transform not only social media platforms but hearts and minds as well.  

What could the Good News look like on Social Media? Let’s take a look:

This image is the most shared and far-reaching post from 2019 (photo left, image descriptions below). Thanks to the InFaith Foundation, ELM had a huge presence at the Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, which made it possible for ELM to stand in real-time solidarity on the floor of the assembly and watch in awe at the overwhelming support shown from the assembly when they declared the ELCA a “Sanctuary Body”. This post was shared nearly 1,000 times and reached over 97,000+ people! To me, this affirms that we remain a bold tradition and when we act boldly, rooted in the Gospel, it both resonates and commissions people to the inclusive church body.

Lastly, the post to receive the MOST Love & Likes (850+) in 2019 happened when the Southeastern Synod elected an openly gay & married Bishop. Proving that when congregations make the bold & Spirit-driven move to call LGBTQIA+ pastors they grow to LOVE these called ministry leaders and perhaps one-day vote them into office as Bishop. 


Thank you, ELM family for all the Likes and especially the . Blessings!

(Photo Descriptions: First: Image of Sky and Cross with text: The ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) declares itself a sanctuary body. Second: Photo of Bishop Strickland with the words: Congrats Bishop-elect Strickland from your family at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.)




Lewis Eggleston (He/Him/His) is the Associate Director of Communications and Development for ELM. He currently lives in Germany with his Air Force spouse and their dog-child Carla. Ordination into the Ministry of Word and Service is his goal for 2020!

All That You Touch You Change, Right?

By Olivia LaFlamme (ELM Program Director)

Time, as we know it, is a construction. It is not naturally occurring. It is a tool, an instrument, that we use to measure our days and lives.
“I am 40 years old”
“I’m finally going on that trip to Copenhagen this year.”
“I was in labor for 22 hrs!”
Time is a factor in all of those statements. Their meaning is made known by the relationship to a measurement of time-gone-by but I notice something else in there. Change!
Time is also a way to mark a change, a movement from one thing to the next. As the great speculative fiction writer Octavia Butler said, “the only lasting truth is change”.  What if we calculated our lives in change? What if the equation included discovery, expansion, pruning, and stillness? That’s an exciting prospect for me and when I’m bogged down by a scarcity mentality, I remember that I have a choice. I can frame my life differently by posing a simple intervention, “but what has changed?”
Much has changed since February of 2019 for ELM. There are just three that I would like to bring forward.
1)    Proclaim membership continues to stretch out across the continent; growing up and out!
2)    The Gathering: The church (un)bound boasted the largest attendance ever.
3)    The Queer Leadership Development Series made a grand entrance as the new kid to the program scene.
*accepts round of applause*
Time changes us; that’s a fact. So does heartbreak, accepting a new job, moving into a new home, _________ (you fill in the blank). What changed you in 2019?
I want finish out the Octavia Butler quote because it’s just so good. Consider it my offering to you in the year of 2020.
“All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Is Change.
Is Change.”

-Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993)

Olivia LaFlamme (they/them/theirs) is a Black gender non-conforming queer feminist residing in Durham, NC. They are the Program Director at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. These days home, family, and doing puzzles are at the center for them. A goal for 2020 is learning how to sew!