Operations Support – Part-time

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
Operations Support, Part-Time

Position Description

The Organization

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) is a self-funded social ministry organization that believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. ELM does this work through three main programs: Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement. Learn more at www.elm.org

The Position

The Operations Support position performs and organizes tasks to bolster ELM’s programs, fundraising, and communications and provide general assistance to our staff.

ELM expects that all its staff members will…

  • Cultivate an organizational culture rooted in faith, grounded in radical love and hospitality, clear with purpose, dependent on collaboration, and transparent in motives.
  • Speak to the intersectionality of injustice and oppression, calling ourselves, our community and the larger church to greater awareness of injustice and commitment to ending oppression.

Primary Responsibilities

Program Support: In coordination with Program Director 

  • Coordinate annual Proclaim Gathering registration and site logistics in partnership with Program Director and Gathering Planning Team
  • Facilitate program-related mailings (i.e. synod assembly materials, Proclaim & ELM banners, promotional materials, etc.)
  • Maintain internal and external Proclaim member records 
  • Attendance/assistance at the annual national Proclaim Gathering
  • Provide basic admin support for program-related tasks (data entry, email outreach, etc.)

Communications & Development: In coordination with Associate Director of Development & Communications

  • Format and publish ELM weekly blog “the inter-MISSION” (email & website) 
  • Update ELM’s website (WordPress)
  • Maintain and manage donor database (eTapestry) 
  • Deposit checks and prepare weekly and monthly reports for Executive Director, Associate Director of Development and Communications, and Treasurer
  • Enter financial and in-kind donations into database (eTapestry) and send gift acknowledgements
  • Engage with donors directly regarding sensitive financial information pertaining to their giving.

Administrative Duties: In Coordination with Executive Director 

  • Acknowledge office phone calls and respond to inquiry emails.
  • Support ELM Board Secretary in coordinating meeting materials and logistics for Board of Directors in-person meetings (twice annually)
  • Collect and process mail, 
  • Participate in Board of Directors and team meetings as needed
  • Special projects as assigned


Prior Experience

  • Experience working in an administrative support role required
  • Donor Database/CRM experience required (eTapestry experience preferred)
  • Anti-oppression training and/or deep cross-cultural experience preferred

Personal Skills and Attributes

  • Highly motivated self-starter, comfortable working remotely as part of distributed staff
  • Effective written and verbal communicator
  • Comfortable with communication and productivity technology, such as video-conferencing programs and task management tools (i.e. Asana)
  • Demonstrated competency of issues facing LGBTQIA+ persons
  • Excellent time management with the ability to prioritize tasks
  • Finds joy in daily life and work
  • Passionate about justice and full inclusion for gender and sexual minorities
  • Must be legally able to work in the U.S.

Work Demands

  • This position is based in Chicago
  • Part-time, 18-hours per week within regular business hours during the work week. Weekly schedule set in consultation with the Executive Director 
  • Mobility Note: need to be able to physically go to a local Post Office to retrieve and send mail, must be able to lift packages (max approximately 50lbs), and work from a second-floor office in a non-ADA compliant building without Air Conditioning.
  • Must work regular hours the last week of December to process year-end donations


To apply, send your resume and a cover letter to search@elm.org.  

The deadline for applications is October 23, 2020.  


The Operations Support position shall be paid at a competitive hourly rate of $20 per hour. 

Equal Opportunity Employment Policy

ELM is committed to providing equal employment opportunities to and actively seeks to employ 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.

Faith & Politics: Rev. Joseph Casteñada Carrera

We all know the routine. A person on the internet questions your belief, misinterprets the Bible to contradict Christian teachings. They argue that we should let the hungry starve, kick the downtrodden, rob from the naked, and turn off the neon welcome signs of our hearts to marginalized folks.

You disengage, knowing you are right, you unfriend, mute, snooze the person on social media. 

The routine continues, you reach out to a supportive echo chamber of people who completely agree you had no part in the conflict – they ignore any potential nuance you could rethink, and reduce the experience to “you’re right, they’re wrong.” The tempting routine feels so cozy with support that you are right. 

But being right may not be helpful. The choir of support will make you feel better, but may rob you of an opportunity to decolonize our lives, our religion, our world. Perhaps, you need an election year intervention. I believe conflict and tension are an essential. We can’t dread conflict, just like we can dread the air we need to breathe. It is an inevitable task if you care to faithfully create change

Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it is not worth ignoring another person’s humanity or transformational engagement. God nudges us impatiently. I think that often disengaging from conversation and having friends who never invite reflection can be a misuse of privilege. I’m not calling anyone out, but rather calling us all in to consider if we are abandoning conversations from which our privilege will protect us. We may be making these conversations the responsibility of people who need to escape them for survival. Personally, I need a community that can remind me that even though I am queer, brown, and quirky that I still have privilege.  

The nuance of intersectional identity cultivates responsibility and pushes us to hard conversations. Because whiteness matters. Presenting masculine matters. College education matters. Speaking without an accent matters. Citizenship matters. There is no oppression competition and there is still responsibility in privileges even if you also identify with a group that is marginalized.

We can push more by having intentional community.

A good friend of mine, Rev. Matt Keadle, and I were venting, lamenting, about people who dangerously have behaviors and habits rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and other -ISMs.  

When I get worked up, I feel urgent about issues,  talking way too fast and too much, and finding relief in constantly offering context that I am too emotional. It is a bad habit that implicitly asks for understanding or forgiveness for being upset over oppressive behavior. I want to be right.

Matt balances the conversation and the pace of our thinking; he takes deep thoughtful pauses to consider different perspectives and allows his heart to remember the vast number of different people it holds; he doesn’t speak if he is unsure; he can be angry and sad while still engaging his values and resisting an urge to be petty. 

Sometimes, Matt really bothers me by having no natural pettiness. At times, talking to Matt is not fun or indulgent of my feelings. 

But conversations with Matt are God-filled, essential for our shared work, wellbeing and sustainability in this work. Matt keeps me angry, honest, and clamorous in my expectations of God. I’d like to think that I help the Holy Spirit stir up Matt. I make him uncomfortable at times by just being and talking with the assuredness that nothing I can say would break the friendship, and that I can feel when he wants to say something and I make an awkward, pressuring space for him to say it. 

To be honest with readers, Matt is white and also straight. He is cisgender too. Oh yeah, Matt is also from the midwest. Nothing about the richness of either of our individual intersectional identities dictates that we should be friends.

But we reach out to one another because we are different, we don’t go right to making each other feel better about a tough experience. We ask each other to be reflective, to know we both can be wrong, hurtful. We trust our values are rooted in God and love, but not in being right. We see when disengagement is about survival and when we are trying to hide away privilege and responsibility to avoid discomfort.

Maybe, you want to avoid “feeling bad” when changing and transforming. For many, it’s sad and true, but we can practice discomfort and still survive, which may mean that being right is only about a stubbornness and commitment to being right according to the whiteness and patriarchy we have been taught is “normal” and comfortable.

Get a friend who won’t rush to make you feel better without thinking. 

Get out of posting in social media groups where you know everyone will agree with you. 

Stop playing through the same routine. 

It’s not helpful. It’s played out. Be fresh. Be bold. Be bothered. Engage.

Survive, for goodness sake, survive! But lean into the discomfort during this season of change. Wander in the desert for a little while to find deeper wells.

I am Joseph (he/him – they/them), child of Yolanda, who enjoys radical laughter with our Creator. Child of George, who creates intimate, rooted music alongside our Creator. I have her curiosity & wild sense of humor and his insatiable desire to connect and to love always more deeply. They gave me my first and longest family, & they taught me how to form new family and community. I end my emails with, “Blessings & warmth, Rev. Joseph Castañeda Carrera, MPP,” but I never introduce myself this way in-person. 
I make art that notices people and the world longing for God’s abundant presence and aching for the sacred joy of God’s inclusion, diversity, innovation, connection, creation, and compassion. One of my greatest commitments is discerning the same people who long as I serve as pastor. I balance being a pastor of beloved people in outrageously different contexts and reaching for the vision of being one church together; when it gets difficult, I laugh or I cry. Since 2016, I have served as pastor developer of ADORE LA, a queer faith community experiencing God in unconventional ways and Hollywood Lutheran Church since a year later. I have served as a coordinator or member of many synod, churchwide, and community committees and boards over the last decade, including the Strategic, Authentic Diversity Task Force, the Authentic Diversity Advisory Team, the McCune Foundation’s Community Organizing Institute planning team, Oxnard’s Community Relations Commission, and Latino Lutheran Network for Diversity. 
Prior to ordained ministry, I have worked beside many different people to stir up change in the world, failing and succeeding throughout the journey. I served as executive director and in various positions for over ten years at El Centrito Family Learning Centers, an organization committed to multilingual and multicultural education and community organizing. And prior to that had many experience in other nonprofit organizations as well as serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. I am an alumni of UCLA, CSUN, PLTS, and the University of Birmingham (England).
I have two lovely, sassy dogs, Remy and Pippy. My spouse Jaffa and family make life better and an adventure of discovering mystery and responding to God’s Will.

Faith & Politics: Rev. Meagan McLaughlin

Two memes have echoed in my mind since I started my first call back in February of this year: “Jesus has skin in the game, and so do we,” and “Seek the well-being of the city to which I have carried you into exile,” from Jeremiah 29.  Both resonated, again, as I reflected on the intersection of faith, queer identity, and politics. 

With the privilege I have as a white, cisgender person, being queer has given me some “skin in the game” – wounds and barriers of being gay and married in a straight world, and a straight church. I am continually challenged by my colleagues and neighbors and friends of color, those with differing abilities or health issues, those with queer identities different from mine, to stand with those whose experiences place them further on the margins.

Jesus wasn’t a Samaritan, but he centered a Samaritan man in a story about embodying love for neighbor. 

Jesus wasn’t a woman, but his longest conversation about God and life and identity was with the woman at the well. 

Jesus wasn’t a tax collector, or someone shamed for supporting themselves as a sex worker, but that didn’t stop him from eating with those who were. 

And he paid a price for that: ultimately, Jesus was arrested, tortured, and lynched by the state for proclaiming God’s justice all the way to the margins. 

Jesus had some serious skin in the game, y’all, and I am increasingly convicted that I need to as well. 

“Seek the well-being of the city.” I had a conversation with a family member recently about a whole lot of things we vehemently disagree on, and as I listened really hard to understand where they were coming from, I finally understood: with every fiber of their being, they believe that individualism is going to save us, as people and as a nation. 

I responded that what got me through seminary, and the process to get a call that went on forever and was fraught with anti-LGBTQIA systemic challenges and bias, was not rugged pull-myself-up-individualism, but all of you. This community of LGBTQIA clergy and seminarians did not weaken me, or encourage self-pity and blame. Rather, you showed me the joys and the injustices of the world and church in which we live, and flamed the fire of my call, and encouraged me at times when I thought I couldn’t do one more thing. I could not do any of this on my own. 

And we aren’t meant to. “Seek the well-being of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” Not my own well-being, or the well-being of just those like me or those closest to me, but the well-being of the city. And especially now, when we are all in exile in different ways, I take this as my guide, in my preaching, my life, and my vote. 

When I go to the poles, it is because Moses demanded justice from Pharaoh, Rizpah mourned for her children until they were buried, Jeramiah called the people to seek the well-being of the whole community, Mary claimed that God’s justice was going to be a reality in THIS world, and Jesus over and over demonstrated God’s commitment to a world of justice for all people, especially those on the margins. 

When I speak out on “political” issues, it is not because I am a democrat or a liberal, but because as a queer person of faith, I find it confounding that something like “feed the hungry, heal the sick, welcome the stranger, care for the widow” is considered political in the first place. 

Seek the well-being of the city to which you are sent, because we all have skin in the game! 

After nine years of working at The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, Proclaim member Meagan McLaughlin (she/her/hers) studied at Luther Seminary and United Theological Seminary and graduated with her MDiv in December of 2015. Pastor Meagan was ordained in January of 2020, and is currently serving her first call at Christ Lutheran Church, in Webster Groves, MO. Meagan, her wife, Karen, and their three cats live in St. Louis, and when she is not preaching (on Zoom), providing (socially-distanced) pastoral care, serving on (yet another) committee, or walking in one the parks in her new neighborhood, you can probably find her cuddling with her cats and binge-watching Disney+. 

Reed Fowler, 2020 Workin Scholar

The Joel R. Workin Scholarship Committee is thrilled to announce that the 2020 Workin Scholar is Reed Fowler!

Reed Fowler, 2020 Workin Scholar

Reed Fowler (they/them) grew up in rural Vermont and completed seminary coursework at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in May 2020, focusing on arts integration in ministry and expansive pastoral care. Previously, they studied theater at NYU Abu Dhabi and worked as a dog and cat groomer. Reed will begin their internship year at St. John’s Lutheran Church, NYC in August. They will be accompanied on internship with their dog, Ari, and cat, Gizmo. In their downtime, Reed knits, sews, and watches competition cooking shows.

See below to read Committee Chair, Michael Price Nelson’s, congratulatory letter to Reed!


Dear Reed, 

I write to inform you that the Joel R. Workin Scholarship Committee of ELM has selected you as this year’s Workin Scholar. It was our unanimous conclusion that your essay (reflecting on “Oh, You Shoulda Been There” by the late Joel Workin), was an impressive and moving  reflection on the cross; two pandemics, AIDS and COVID -19; and, our own responsibility as Christians living through such challenging times.

“It suddenly feels much closer to the HIV/AIDs crisis. Where identities and cultural backgrounds are blamed for a virus. Where government response (or lack thereof) decides that some people are disposable. Decides that essential workers, low-wage workers, people without healthcare, people with preexisting conditions, Black and brown communities, undocumented communities, are disposable.

But those decisions are not of God. Those commemorated with a Quilt square were not disposable. Those who are dying of COVID are not disposable.” 

You moved us as you described your own struggle to make sense of, or piece together, if you will, the brokenness of this moment:

“Liminal spaces often feel like fractured spaces. These days, I am longing to stitch pieces of life and experience together into a cohesive whole, into a cohesive narrative. I have been longing and dreaming towards a patchwork quilt where each square is worn, but bound together. Bound together with memory, grief, loss, and joy. Yet that is not how trauma works. Trauma breaks us into pieces. Into fragments … It feels like every time I stitch a piece of my past into my present, I notice even more floating fragments. Is God also fragmented? Human, Divine, Spirit, flesh, Creator, wounded? “

And what a beautiful answer you offer to the question!

“Yes, and no. Always yes, and no. God dances in the Trinity, weaves us together through the Holy Spirit, pushes us to endure the birthing pains of restoration. Death and victory are entwined, cross and tomb are entwined.” 

You concluded with an elegant prayer, a plea to God and a call to action and I quote only a small part of  it here:

“Surround us. Enfold us. Hold us as we weave together our own stories of resurrection, and resistance, and life. We pray this through our breath, through our heartbeats, through the wounded Christ and the joyful Spirit.”

On behalf of the committee, Reed, I congratulate you on your achievement!

Joel R. Workin Scholarship Fund

Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins
Joel Workin (left) and Paul Jenkins

Each year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel Workin. Joel was one of the three gay seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after “coming out” to their candidacy committees. Thanks to a generous endowment started by Joel’s friends and family at the time of his death, and with the support of other ongoing contributions, this award comes with a $6,500 scholarship for academic or spiritual study and is available to members of Proclaim.

We’re Hiring! Operations Support Position Open

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is seeking candidates to serve in an Operations Support role.

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

About the Position:

The Operations Support position performs and organizes tasks to bolster ELM’s programs and provide general assistance to our staff.

Full job description: Operations Support Position Description (Fall 2019) .

Applications will be accepted until September 20th.

This position is based in Chicago.

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.

ELM Board Reflection on UMC General Conference

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”

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

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

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

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, 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.