“Letter to Myself”: Breaking Expectations

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By: Joseph Graumann

Dear former self: Queerness and Lutheranism are about liberation. Remember that.

In college, you learned that the “white man in the clouds pulling the strings” didn’t exist. You learned how faith and politics inform each other, and you encountered a daring faith. This faith put grace and justice alongside each other.

You also thought that ministry wasn’t for you, in part because the ELCA didn’t recognize the gifts of out queer leaders. You didn’t fit the expectations for ministry (straight cisgenderedness), though you caught wind that those expectations were about to change. They did.

Beware of a new captivity! Just because “they” let you in the club, don’t think that you have to play by all the unwritten rules. It’s now okay to be gay, but you’re going to hear that queer affirmation is a privilege, not a right. You’re going to be told to be grateful that you’re at the table. This is a starting point; this is not the end.

Broadly speaking, the church still expects its ministers to behave a certain way. We prefer tame clergy, who keep their opinions to themselves and spend their weekend nights reading. Humor is best left to the laity, and some people only care if you’re single so that they can plan that wedding.

Some expectations are good: teaching, preaching, and visiting the sick are part of the gig. So is honesty and integrity, and so is loving your neighbor. But in so many ways, dear baby Joe, you are going to break expectations.

You’re going to be too loud. You’re going to be too opinionated. You’re going to be too casually dressed for this or that event. You may even accidentally bring wine to a Baptist’s installation.

But, as it has been forever, your queerness is an asset. Speaking up makes a difference, especially when people don’t expect it. Being rooted in your self-understanding makes you a better pastor. To be queer is to understand that liberation is at the heart of your life, that morality takes a back seat to identity.

God created you just the way you are. In Baptism, you were made free in Christ. Act like it. Relax. Have fun. Be you.



The Rev. Joseph Graumann, Jr. (he/him), has been pastor of Saint Stephen Lutheran Church in Marlborough, Massachusetts for five years. He is a native of the Jersey Shore, and he thinks sand in his car is the mark of a summer well spent. Joe is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.


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