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ELM Board Reflection on UMC General Conference

Friday, March 1st, 2019

A reflection on this week’s events in the global church from ELM’s Board of Directors

The apostle Paul reminds us that we who claim to follow Jesus are one body in Christ and that “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Cor 12:26).

Bisexual, LGBTQIA+, and Trans Flags

As members of the one body and in the spirit of co-suffering love, ELM mourns and laments, with all our United Methodist kin, the St. Louis 2019 General Conference’s vote to reaffirm and strengthen the ecclesial prohibitions on ordaining same-gender loving clergy and officiating same-gender weddings, as prescribed by the “Traditional Plan.”  

As we know from experiences within our own Lutheran denominations, such decisions globally impact and harm LGBTQIA+ people who are and will be told that God does not love them or that they do not bear the image of God. They wound the whole body of Christ, because LGBTQIA+ individuals are members of this body and, thereby undermine the church’s witness to God’s ever-expanding, radical love.

ELM holds with tenderness and compassion, all individuals that have experienced similar instances of institutional sin across denominations that caused safety and trust to be threatened, and that lead to further marginalization and feelings of isolation for specific groups of people. The effects of trauma and re-traumatization stretch wide and run deep, and we encourage and support those impacted in seeking support during these painful times.

Furthermore, with the entire body of Christ, we acknowledge and lament our own active and passive participation in the sins embodied in this decision.  We mourn the sins of queerphobia and transphobia. We rebuke the forces of fear, ignorance, and hate that keep the church from celebrating the gifts and ministries of LGBTQIA+ Christians.  

As members of the body of Christ, we also confess and repent the sins of racism and white supremacy, particularly as enacted through colonization, which continue to enforce the gender binary and heteronormativity as divinely and scripturally ordained, thereby erasing global indigenous expressions of same-gender love and expansive gender diversity.  These sins also lead to the creation of a false binary between LGBTQIA+ people and people of color.

As the scriptures teach us to welcome one another, just as Christ welcomes us for the glory of God, so we believe that the Gospel commands us to extravagantly welcome all people, particularly those who are marginalized and oppressed.

Worship at 2017 Proclaim Gathering

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of sexual and gender minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.  We know the value and gifts that queer people bring to the church and to ministry throughout the world.

Grounded in this conviction, we commit to living in solidarity through mutual prayer and support with our UMC kin as they discern their way forward, just as we too continue to discern and struggle within our own denominational structures.  

We rest in the knowledge that the Spirit continues to be present among us, calling and guiding as we journey towards God’s promise to gather all people as part of God’s one family:

Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed… Do not let the foreigner joined to God say, “God will surely separate me from God’s people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.” For thus says God: To the eunuchs… I will bring them to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the sovereign God, who gathers the outcasts…” (Isaiah 56: 1, 3, 7-8).

May we hold each other graciously and tenderly in our times of sorrow. And, may we not forget to step out in bold faith, trusting the Spirit to guide us on the path of reparation and justice.

ELM Board of Directors

Emily Ann Garcia, Co-Chair Matthew James, Co-Chair

Margaret Moreland, Secretary Charlie Horn, Treasurer

Jessica Davis, Emily E. Ewing, Matta Ghaly, Jeff R. Johnson, Barbara Lundblad, Margarette Ouji, Angela Shannon

Public Statement Concerning the Revision of “Vision and Expectations”

Monday, February 25th, 2019

The ELCA Conference of Bishops and Churchwide staff have, for the last year, engaged a process of revision of the church document “Vision and Expectations.” This document was designed and implemented in 1990 as a gate-keeping device to keep gay and lesbian individuals unwilling to promise celibacy from serving on the church’s rosters.

Though the policy was updated in 2010 following the 2009 Churchwide Assembly which passed “Human Sexuality Gift & Trust,” the impact of this document has continued to be a shared, unhealthy ethic of human sexuality that promotes silence, shame, and secrecy for both queer and straight candidates and rostered ministers. This document undermines and inhibits the church’s ability to promote healthy professional boundaries and a responsible ethic for leaders in this church. V&E remains the church’s primary vehicle that promotes discrimination and intimidation of candidates. A new revision of this document has been in progress over the last year.

Leading up to the Fall 2018 Conference of Bishops, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and our colleagues encouraged the Bishops to open the process by which this document was being revised so that voices of concerned parties could participate in crafting an ethic and standard that reflects the communities it affects. We were encouraged when the Bishops did, in fact, vote to postpone recommending a revision to the Church Council with a motion that recognized the need “that special attention be given to inclusive language and descriptions of life situations and relationships by inviting voices from diverse perspectives.”

We have no evidence that this has happened.

A committee made up of Bishops and Churchwide staff has been meeting to prepare a revision of “Vision and Expectations” to be presented to the Conference of Bishops at their Spring 2019 meeting, starting Friday, March 1st. As far as we know, there has been no invitation to include the participation or voices of concerned parties. ELM strongly disagrees with this course of action and condemns the lack of a promised open, fruitful, and transparent process.

A draft of the latest revision has not been shared with us, but we are deeply concerned about a process that fails to consider the perspectives of those who have been most damaged by our church’s policies around sexuality. We seek to offer our lived experiences and queer wisdom in the creation of a sexual ethic for our church that creates healthy and thriving church leaders, and in turn, congregations.  

ELM calls on the Conference of Bishops to hold your siblings and yourselves accountable to the promise made at your fall meeting to invite “voices from diverse perspectives” into this process of revision. Do not recommend a document that has not been created in an inclusive setting. A failure in a just and open process will result in the creation of flawed guidelines.

To all leaders, lay and rostered, who are concerned members of our congregations and communities: if you value healthy, vibrant ministers, please reach out to your Bishops to express your concern. Documents that promote and call for “holy living and faithful witness” cannot be created only by those who hold power within our institution, the result of this kind of process is colonization and oppression. Trust in our church and in its policies is only garnered by courage and openness to change, and inclusion and diversity – two of the church’s stated values that are seemingly being ignored in this process.

Here is a list of talking points we have created that might assist you in your outreach to Bishops and church leaders:

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. We believe that living into the fullness of who God created us to be is the greatest expression of “holy living and faithful witness” that is asked of us by our Creator.

ELM Hiring – Program Director

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is seeking candidates to serve as ELM’s Program Director.

Interested candidates should email their cover letter and resume to ELM’s Executive Director, Amanda Nelson at search@elm.org by July 10th, 2018.


About the position:

The program director builds and supports community through the Proclaim program; journeys alongside and equips candidates through the Accompaniment program; works to expand call opportunities at all levels of the church through the Ministry Engagement program; recruits, develops, and equips volunteer leaders for each program; and works collaboratively with the executive director, associate director, and the program & administrative assistant on strategic work and communications for these programs. The program director supervises one (part-time) staff person.

Applications will be accepted until July 10th, 2018. Position will be filled by August 15th.

Full job description and guiding qualifications: Program Director Position Description.


Questions may be sent to search@elm.org

ELM is committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all qualified individuals and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, marital status, veteran status, parental status, or any other basis prohibited by applicable law.

Extraordinary Saint: John Eric Rolfstad, June 1, 1958 – April 4, 2018

Friday, June 1st, 2018
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is remembering an Extraordinary Saint in our movement this week: John Eric Rolfstad.

John Eric served on the Board of Directors for Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries – a predecessor body to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries – and was an avid supporter of Lutherans Concerned/North America, which became ReconcilingWorks.

“John Eric was a kind and gentle man,” writes ELM Board Member, the Rev. Jeff Johnson (San Francisco). “He was an early supporter of LLGM and the movement within the church to abolish the policies of discrimination against queer people.”

Jeff remembers that John Eric “was one of the lead organizers of an annual week at Holden Village for LGBTQIA+ people that countered the shame so many face in the church with affirmation, warmth, and unconditional loving kindness.”

It was there that Amalia Vagts, former Executive Director of ELM, first met John Eric: “I met him at Holden Village years ago before I began working with ELM. He was hosting a happy hour and had brought in an elegant selection of cheese and wine to share.”

Amalia shared recently that “John Eric was a wonderfully warm and kind presence. He lived generously and traveled when he could to be at extraordinary ordinations or special events and always seemed thrilled to connect with the ELM & LC/NA communities. He was always such a joyful, warm, kind, person.”

John Eric will be remembered for many things tomorrow (6/2) at his memorial service at Seattle’s First Baptist Church  (1111 Harvard Avenue, at 1:00 pm with a reception to follow). To ELM, he will be remembered for his kindness, his hospitality, his belief in the gifts and beauty of the LGBTQIA+ community, and his hearty laugh.

For more personal information about John Eric, you may read his obituary here. 

Rest eternal grant him, O God. And may light perpetual shine upon him. Amen.

 

 

Photo above from obituary.

The Holy Gospel According to Coming Out Stories

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

The Holy Gospel According to Coming Out Stories

by Rev. Amanda Nelson
Proclaim member and Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

 

Benson Kua Wikimedia Commons CC 2.0

In college, a dear friend of mine did her senior thesis on the coming out process for LGBTQIA+ individuals. To write her thesis, she interviewed many of our classmates and friends who had already bravely come out, and some who were not yet ready to do so publicly.

At the time, I had not yet come out to her and had only started to give myself permission to even think of the possibility that I wasn’t straight.

I remember talking to her many times about her interviews and finding myself fascinated with what she was learning. One of the major points of her thesis, something that sticks with me even to this day, is the role of vulnerability and fear.

I asked her again recently to clarify this point for me and this is what she said: [when you come out] you lose control of how people will view you because that view could change. When you don’t come out, you retain the power and control: you are keeping this idea to yourself, no one can judge what they don’t know. The moment you tell people, you lose control as you don’t know how people will react/respond/change their views on you.”

There is so much truth in this! In my life and in my work, I encounter countless individuals for whom their relationships did change drastically when they came out.

Some relationships changed for the worse: communication was cut off, closeness was replaced with distance, and depth replaced by superficiality. At its worst, coming out can inflict physical, mental, and spiritual violence from those we thought loved us.

And!

And, many of my peers who have come out have experienced relationships that changed in truly beautiful ways: fear of acceptance from our family and friends was met with unconditional love; fear of being able to express our identities in public through dress, speech, or displays of affection were quelled by the celebration of Pride in our communities; and, suffocating silence was transformed by safe, brave spaces into liberated voices of joy in our churches and schools.

At its best, coming out can mediate reconciliation of body, mind, and spirit.

To be honest, it’s not an “either, or” – you either have good experiences in coming out or bad ones – because what things in life really are binary? It’s more like a circle or a spiral of different reactions and experiences. It is a spiral we experience the first time we come out…and it is a spiral we experience the one thousandth time we come out.

It is this spiral that can hold many people back from ever fully expressing their identities.

When I am experiencing the hurtful phase of the spiral, I can deeply understand why people choose not to come out. And, when I’m experiencing the joy-filled phase, I feel as tho I have been lifted into a holy embrace with God and I want to shout it from the rooftops.

Fear and vulnerability are such powerful forces in our lives, and, they are transformational.

Brene Brown, who writes so beautifully on the subject of vulnerability, has said, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

In this season of Easter, of resurrection, I am finding gospel “good news” in the coming out stories of my peers and colleagues. Throughout these next two months, we are excited to share many of those stories with you.

Thanks be to God for those who serve our church publicly out, and for those who help to ensure that gender and sexual minorities experience a holy embrace from our church in celebration of those identities!


Photo from Amanda’s Installation on March 10th by Emily Ann Garcia

Rev. Amanda Nelson (she/her/hers) is Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. When she told her friend that she was gay her friend laughed and said “uh huh, yeah”…because many people had jokingly “come out” to her because of the topic of her thesis. When she realized Amanda was serious, she apologized and was perfectly loving and accepting. Amanda is grateful to her friend, Elena, for her unconditional love.

 

Love Lives Again in ELM’s New Endowment

Thursday, April 5th, 2018
by Rev. Amanda Nelson

Proclaim member Executive Director of ELM

I never had the good fortune to meet Blanche Grube – she died soon after I started as Executive Director at the end of last summer. But, I had heard about her from ELM’s previous Executive Director, Amalia Vagts, as well as from Proclaim members and members of our Board.

Blanche’s legacy of loving ELM and the LGBTQIA+ leaders we serve well preceded her – and her legacy will now transcend the boundaries of life and death.

Blanche did something extraordinary before she passed away: Blanche added ELM to her will.

Blanche wanted to make sure that the gender and sexual minority ministers who she so valued would be able to flourish even after she was no longer here to send her annual gifts.

We are thrilled to announce, that, thanks to Blanche’s generosity, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ endowment is now active!

Over the next few months, ELM’s Board will be creating an Endowment Committee to discern the governance and vision for this endowment – ensuring the gifts made to ELM’s Endowment are stewarded with the utmost care and the funds are used to celebrate and support LGBTQIA+ leaders in innovative and necessary ways.

I will also be working with this Endowment Committee to expand our planned giving efforts and look forward to speaking with many of you about this opportunity!

In this season of resurrection joy, we dance to the hymns that proclaim: “Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain; love lives again, that with the dead has been; love is come again like wheat arising green.”

We mourned the loss of our dear friend, Blanche, when she passed last summer. And now, we dance with her in this resurrection glee and give thanks for her generosity which surpasses the bounds of this worldly life.

We wouldn’t be where we are now without the support of donors like Blanche!

Please keep our Endowment Committee in your prayers as we embark on this new journey. And, please join us in giving thanks for Blanche Grube!

 



Rev. Amanda Nelson (she/her/hers) is Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She is thrilled that it is okay once again to shout “Alleluia!” and lifts her voice in “Alleluias” for Blanche! Her favorite thing about Easter is Starburst jelly beans – she keeps a bag in her car this time of year for emergencies. 

 

 

 

Photo at top: from the obituary for Blanche posted on Dignity Memorial’s website.

Bio Photo: Provided by author

Why Do We Fear Mystics?

Thursday, March 29th, 2018
 

by Reed Fowler

Proclaim member and
MDiv student at LSTC

In this time of Lent as we follow the call to journey into the wilderness, we also remember our ancestors in faith who went before us. To help us in doing that, several Proclaim members will be reflecting upon the mystics in their blog posts here during the month of March.

Why do we fear mystics?
Why do we delegate those who feel deeply and without restraint to psychiatric wards, allow those who experience visions and speak of them to roam without shelter or care, create a culture that is so scientific and reason-based that any moment of Divine unity is best experienced and then filed away – only to be shared in hushed tones? Why is it that the wildness of nature is one of the few spaces where we are allowed to express holy and mystic awe, and yet those spaces are constantly threatened and encroached on?

The industrial structures that are the fabric of United States are based on the lie that we have to seek outside of ourselves and community to fill spiritual needs. Marketing is designed to trick us into believing that we aren’t enough. That we don’t have the capacity to encounter the Divine in our very cells, but that we need to be supplemented by things that we buy and consume.

“You can’t exist in your body as it is, you need to change it…”

“You can’t reach the Divine unless you subscribe…buy…”

What could our world be if more people lived into the reality that we already have what we need spiritually in ourselves and in community? To lean into our dirt-creaturehood and realize that we are Good and made for the delight of the Divine?

There is a power in being receptive to mystic happenings, because it requires vulnerability and openness, and a counter-culture belief in experience. It’s also a muscle that can be trained. Artistic practice helps to develop those muscles in my embodiment and daily life. It’s hard for me to be still and quiet in traditional meditative forms, but while weaving or throwing clay, I can center.

Dorothee Söelle is a mid-century German mystic, who proposes that mystic experience can be an act of resistance, a balance point. “But if I need both, the inner light of being at one with every living thing and the resistance against the machine of death, how do I get them together?”* The artistic impulse is to react from your gut with a ‘yes’. Yes, things are messy and rough right now. Yes, God is still near. Yes, we are holy and can experience the Divine.

 

*Söelle, Dorothee. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2001. pg. 5

 


Reed Fowler (they/them/theirs) is a seminarian at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a candidate for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. They are invested in interfaith collaboration, holding space for witness and tenderness, and centering alternative and artistic expressions of the sacred. They spend downtime knitting, queering faith + domesticity, gardening, and snuggling with their ever-increasing menagerie.

 

 

 

Photo at top & Bio Photo: Provided by author

Updates from March Meeting of ELM Board

Thursday, March 15th, 2018
Notes from March ELM Board of Directors Meeting

by Dr. Margaret Moreland, ELM Board Secretary, and the Rev. Amanda Nelson, ELM Executive Director

 

The ELM Board of Directors had their spring, in-person meeting this past weekend, March 8-11, 2018, at Seafarers International House in New York City. The ELM Board meets twice a year in person, in March and October, and then meets via

ELM Board Members and Staff at Amanda’s Installation [Photo by Emily Ann Garcia]

teleconference in the in between months.

This month’s meeting had a full agenda which included reports from ELM’s staff and Treasurer, reflections and discernment regarding the situation at ULS, investing in the future of ELM, anti-oppression training, and the Installation of ELM’s Executive Director, the Rev. Amanda Nelson.

Here is a brief update and synopsis.


Board Members who were present included Matt James (Co-Chair), Emily Ann Garcia (Co-Chair), Margaret Moreland (Secretary), Emily Ewing, Jeff Johnson, and Brad Froslee.  ELM’s Treasurer, Charlie Horn, was present as well as Mike Wilker who is coming off the Board after serving two consecutive terms, most recently as Secretary of the Board.  ELM staff who were present included Amanda Nelson and Asher O’Callaghan.  Board members absent from the meeting included Barbara Lundblad and Elise Brown.

The Board spent significant time in conversation around the situation at United Lutheran Seminary – reflecting on the pain this event has caused the ULS community and the reverberations felt within our church. The Board was also able to spend time in conversation and prayer with our Board Member, Elise Brown. The Board’s response, which summarizes the sentiment and spirit of our conversations, was published on Wednesday, March 14th.

The Board heard healthy reports from ELM’s Treasurer and Executive Director which highlighted, in particular, the significant increase in the amount of the Joel Workin Memorial Scholarship – from $2,500 to $6,000 – thanks to the regular gifts and generosity of ELM’s supporters! The Joel Workin Committee is now accepting applications from eligible Proclaim members for the 2018 scholarship.

The Board authorized Executive Director, Amanda Nelson, to begin the search process for a part time (18 hour) Program and Administrative Assistant position to replace Christephor Gilbert who left ELM at the end of January to complete his seminary studies; as well as a new, three-quarter time (27 hour) Associate Director of Development and Communications position. The Program and Administrative Assistant is a Chicago-based position whereas the Associated Director of Development and Communications can be done remotely. The job listings are posted on ELM’s website.

The ELM Board devotes 4-8 hours of our spring, in-person meeting to anti-oppression training. This year, River Needham, student at LSTC and candidate for ministry in the MCC, led our Board in eight hours of training on the subjects of gender, ace-spectrum orientations, and polyamory.

Former Board Secretary, Mike Wilker, and current secretary, Margaret Moreland, introduced much needed revisions to ELM’s Bylaws which were unanimously accepted by our Board. The Board would also like to thank former Board Member, Jeremy Posadas, and ELM friend and supporter, Sara Stegemoeller, for their help and guidance in updating our bylaws.

The Board spent time dreaming and brainstorming around three specific areas: ELM’s presence at the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, ELM’s work and presence in Canada supporting our Proclaimers in the ELCIC, and grants that give ELM permission to dream about the future of our programs. No specific actions were taken, but the Spirit is swirling in our midst.

A highlight of our gathering was the service of installation for Executive Director, the Rev. Amanda Nelson. Hosted at Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran Parish, this service featured joy-filled music, a stirring sermon preached by the Rev. Jeff Johnson, the reminder of God’s presence and blessing experienced in the sacraments, and a festive reception hosted by the Board and local Proclaim members. Thanks to all who made it such a wonderful celebration!

The Board’s next meeting will be by conference call on May 17th.  The next in-person Board meeting will be held October 4-6 in Chicago.

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.

 

ELM Hiring – Associate Director and Administrative Assistant Positions

Thursday, March 15th, 2018
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is seeking candidates to serve as ELM’s Associate Director of Development and Communications as well as Program and Administrative Assistant.

Interested candidates should email their cover letter and resume to ELM’s Executive Director, Amanda Nelson at search@elm.org


About the positions:

The Associate Director of Development and Communications organizes and supports the fundraising efforts of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and coordinates internal and external communications in partnership with the ELM staff. Applications will be accepted until April 20th, 2018. Position will be filled by June 1, 2018.

Full job description and guiding qualifications: Associate Director of Development & Communications Job Description

 

The Program & Administrative Assistant provides general administrative support to the ELM staff and programs. Applications will be accepted until April 13th, 2018. Position will be filled by, if not before, June 1, 2018.

Full job description and guiding qualifications: Program & Administrative Assistant Position Description


Questions may be sent to search@elm.org

ELM is committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all qualified individuals and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, marital status, veteran status, parental status, or any other basis prohibited by applicable law.

Response to United Lutheran Seminary from ELM’s Board of Directors

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Response to United Lutheran Seminary from ELM’s Board of Directors

A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil.
A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
– Martin Luther, Heidelberg Disputation, 1518

Since its inception, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) has been a community rooted in the Gospel’s call to justice. This call birthed a movement of resistance in principled non-compliance with the systems of oppression, marginalization, and injustice which plague our church and society. Although much has changed since our genesis in 1990, oppressive systems continue to be embedded within our institutions and communities and our call to prophetic witness remains vital to the well-being of the body of Christ and the world.

Through God’s abounding grace, our commitment to discipleship in Christ demands that we reject the corrupt practices of a death-dealing empire to be transformed by faith to live according to the Way of Jesus. At the center of this commitment is the mystery of the cross by which we are called to proclaim the Word in Law and Gospel, to call for confession and repentance, and to make way for redemptive and restorative justice within our church.

ELM acknowledges that the situation at United Lutheran Seminary (ULS) is the product of a larger, systematic, institutional culture that utilizes secrecy and devalues transparency for the purpose of self-preservation and fragile stability. These systems create a pattern of sin that protects the powerful and privileged and harms the vulnerable and marginalized. Although we claim to be evangelical, our church has not been immune to this sin. In fact, the current state of affairs at ULS has clearly exposed how deeply our beloved church is entangled in and complicit with these systems.

In order to protect and prioritize its public perception for the sake of respectability and approval, institutional leadership discourages individual leaders from telling their story, be it by confessing the ways in which they enacted and perpetuated oppression, or the ways by which they were, through the gospel, transformed and restored to right relationship with God in community. The Rev. Dr. Theresa Latini and others have been taught and encouraged to not bring their whole selves and whole journeys into the greater narrative of the church by elders in our community who, in their deceit, mean well but perpetuate shame. When stories are hushed and veils pulled over our eyes, we do not get to see the cross but are expected to believe in the false glory of a manufactured and superficial resurrection.

Our ability to respond to brokenness is also tainted with sin: when lack of transparency and deep corruption (systemic sin) is exposed, individuals are either sacrificed through punitive measures, not as a corrective to abuse of power, but for the purpose of institutional continuity; or, they are defended and protected by the institution – praised for their leadership in handling a hard situation. In these broken systems, individuals are either scapegoated or protected, excommunicated or permitted to remain. This false binary assumes there are only two options: one which works to preserve the systems of oppression deeply at work in our institutions at the cost of the marginalized; the other which further isolates people from one another, their deeper humanity, and reintegration in community

As the ELM Board, we see these systems at play and know that we are no less susceptible to their influence. We acknowledge that this sinful system would have us either wholeheartedly support the Rev. Dr. Elise Brown as a member of our Board and ignore her role in this situation or banish her completely from our community and ignore our kinship.

As a queer organization we reject this false binary.

We understand the Gospel as calling us to name the truth of the situation and events, listen deeply to the pain, confess the harm, and repent—turning to a new way of being that includes, to the extent that it is possible, making amends, creating correctives for the power imbalance, and restoring just relationships.

Having met together this past weekend with times for deep listening and conversation, the ELM Board has received and accepted the resignation of the Rev. Dr. Elise Brown. While Elise’s role on the ELM Board has ended, our relationship with her has not and will not end. Elise will continue to be a member of our community through relationships with our Executive Director, the Rev. Amanda Nelson; Board members who are companions with her on this journey of reconciliation; and, individual Proclaim members with whom Elise has a close relationship. ELM is providing opportunities to Elise for continued engagement and anti-oppression training in the recognition that she will continue to be an ally to gender and sexual minorities and that all allies need to be equipped and encouraged.

The ELM Board also acknowledges that we must continue to educate and train our Board Members to more fully embody ELM’s explicit practices of listening deeply, publicly claiming our identities, working collaboratively, acting transparently, asking “who is not here?”, speaking truthfully even when it is hard, and remembering to laugh together. As a Board, we commit ourselves and our time to continuing to explore ways to live into our practices and receive the training needed to deepen our own understanding of the systems of oppression to which we are susceptible.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries will continue our work of lifting up and spotlighting LGBTQIA+ leaders whose experiences, voices, and ministries matter in times like these. We are deeply encouraged by and stand in solidarity with the organizing that has occured on the ULS campuses by LGBTQIA+ students and their colleagues. Systemic change happens when folks within communities erupt with purpose and calling – and that is happening in Philadelphia and Gettysburg as well as at other seminaries as they respond to this situation and their colleagues’ pain.

As the Board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, we would like to affirm that the messy is valuable. We know that there is pain and grief and sorrow in our communities right now; and, we believe that by listening to the cries of those on the margins the church has the opportunity to repent – to turn to a new way of being that includes, to the extent that it is possible, making amends, creating correctives for the power imbalance, and restoring just relationships. We are committed to walking the way of the cross.

In solidarity and hope,

The Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Board of Directors

Emily Ann Garcia, Co-Chair          Matthew James, Co-Chair
Margaret Moreland, Secretary         Charles Horn, Treasurer
Emily E. Ewing                                     Brad Froslee                                                                                                                                                 Jeff R. Johnson                              Barbara Lundblad 

 

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.