WWJD. What would Joel Do? I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately. I’m not yet in the Pride spirit. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. I’ve been re-reading Joel Workin’s essays this week desperately looking for his wise words for inspiration for the current events happening in ELM and the larger ELCA body. I feel the weight and added pressure as a Proclaim member and now one of the few ELM staffers to continue the platform on which the queer Lutheran movement has operated on for the past 30 years. I wish the church and my community felt the same urgency for equal rights today as Joel did when he attended the 1987 March on Washington. As the chief fundraiser for ELM, I am afraid our queer movement will not be funded at the level it requires for much longer.
Because of that, to be “Here I Stand” honest, I feel like some of those who supported Joel and the Berkeley 4 are now abandoning me and my generation of queer clergy.
For some- pastors, lay leaders, long-time supporters – who have quietly stepped to the back of the room- they feel the work is now finished for them in their now well-established call & congregational life, or if not finished, then ultimately they are undone by the fact that the ELM Board would defend its BIPOC board and staff members rather than looking the other way when a Bishop caused harm- ignoring too the inner turmoil this caused to the leaders advocating for queer Lutheran ministers to hold a queer “family” member accountable. I admit there is great nuance in what I just said, but at the end of the day, financial support was pulled because of this singular action.
ELM is committed to the work of intersectional analysis and uplifting anti-racism as a necessary partner to queer advocacy and inclusion.
To that point, I must also rejoice that some saw this action like the long-awaited prodigal child returning home- to witness a Lutheran organization confront power & call out racist actions- for some this was the quintessential spirit of Lutheranism & ELM maturing into a bigger bolder entity. As a result, more persons of color joined Proclaim and some donors increased their giving, joyfully. Countless others maintained their giving to ELM, acknowledging their committment to our queer movement. Thank you.
The reality is however, ELM has seen a decrease of 20% in overall generosity compared to last year. The staff is shaken, yet resolved to continue the work. The board will need to make big decisions, and prayers would be appreciated.
All this does not strike Pride in my heart.
However, one undercurrent that continues to inspire the board- Liberation is not liberation unless it’s liberating for everyone.
Personally, that is enough for me.
When I celebrate Pride- it is because I know I’m working to create a space that looks like the kin-dom of God.
So with a heavy but determined & hopeful heart, I’ll leave you with some of Joel’s words to inspire us- and of course below Joel’s words is my Pride music video selection of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” covered by Sam Smith.
On the one hand, being, in my instance, white, male, gay, middle-class American, etc., makes no difference; being God’s makes all the difference and that is the central focus of my life and ministry. On the other hand, being white, male, gay, middle-class American, etc. makes all the difference, too. God does not make use of persons or means of grace ‘in general’; God uses the particular, the specific. My particulars have given me a keen sense of experience of the not yet-ness of the church, a feeling for and connection with those who are not yet ‘in’. I am committed to and convinced of my own and the church’s need to be always reforming, daily dying and rising, on guard against too easy identification of God’s obvious ways and answers. More than this, however, I am utterly committed to and have been transformed by the great yes’ of God. My story, other’s stories, the story of the world, are all, in the last analysis, in faith’s analysis, stories of grace. These are stories of a relentless, loving God who will not take ‘no’ for an answer, not my ‘no’ nor your ‘no; not the church’s ‘no; not the world’s ‘no!