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

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.

A Lutheran Mystic

by Carolyn Lawrence

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.


The first time I told someone I was a mystic, it didn’t go over too well.

I mentioned to a coworker, with whom I frequently discussed theology, that I had been reading a fair bit of Meister Eckhart and that I would identify myself as a Christian mystic.

“Oh wow,” he scoffed with incredulity, “that’s a bit of a big claim, isn’t it?”

“Is it?” I responded.

His reaction surprised me. I wondered why I was receiving pushback by identifying myself within a long and venerable tradition of Christian mystics. I am a mystic through and through. Searching for union with God is my singular desire in my faith, and I didn’t find my identify to be scandalous.

Perhaps it’s because I have an encompassing view of Christian mysticism. I would argue that we are all mystics when we go to the altar to receive Christ’s presence in bread and wine. For me, that’s the pinnacle mystical moment in our worship. If one defines a mystic as a person seeking union with God, then the taste of Jesus’ body and blood surely qualifies as a mystical encounter!

And, as a Lutheran, I believe there is another space where union with God is possible: Martin Luther’s ethics were dominated by the call to love and serve our neighbor. Both he and I take the second great commandment—“Love your neighbor as yourself”—to be paramount to Christian engagement in this world. And, it is in loving our neighbor that we encounter the Divine.

Against this Lutheran backdrop and with my deepening mystical identity, I recenlty came to a stunning realization reflecting on Matthew 25:31-46. In this well-known passage, Jesus speaks of himself as a king welcoming in those who served him when he was hungry, thirsty, estranged, and imprisoned. Jesus identifies completely with those on the margins; “I was hungry…I was thirsty…I was naked…” The righteous are confused — when did they see him this way? Jesus replies in verse 40: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Taking these words at the mystic level, the result is profound: to see the face of God, one must look to the outcast of this world. To have union with God one must welcome and embrace those on the margins of society. I am a mystic because I search for God’s union and love. I am a Lutheran mystic because I believe that God’s presence is found among those who the world casts down.

As we continue this Lenten mystical journey, I invite you to seek, serve, and love the Christs in your communities to find a glimpse of the Divine.


 Carolyn Lawrence (she/her/hers) serves as Operations Coordinator of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She attends the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. In her free time, Carolyn enjoys baking bread, debating theology, and cuddling her cat Percy.




Photo at top: Cary Bass-Deschenes

Bio Photo: Provided by author.

ELM Statement Concerning United Lutheran Seminary

ELM Statement Concerning United Lutheran Seminary

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries was deeply saddened to hear that the Rev. Dr. Theresa Latini, President of United Lutheran Seminary, previously served as the director of One by One, an anti-LGBTQIA+ organization that promotes conversion therapy as a solution for people “in conflict with their sexuality;” and, that Dr. Latini – in her previously published writings – described herself as someone who had struggled with a “homosexual orientation” but through prayer and one-on-one counseling was able to change her orientation.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. By living into the fullest expression of their identities, LGBTQIA+ leaders model God’s liberating love for all and boldly proclaim the goodness of their being – so beautifully captured in the words of the Psalmist: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139: 14a).

Organizations like One by One and the horrific practices of reparative and conversion therapy are the antithesis of the Psalmist’s beautiful lyric, not to mention the gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, these practices and organizations promote self-hatred and the systemic oppression and repression of LGBTQIA+ people; they mentally and physically abuse children and youth; and, they cause spiritual, emotional, and physical death.

Rather than boldly stating her past and joyfully celebrating her identity and transformation of heart, Dr. Latini chose not to share the fullness of her story to the ULS Board during the hiring process. Tragically, once informed, the Board also chose not to make an announcement in the interest of full transparency. The mismanagement and secrecy surrounding these events has instilled fear and mistrust in the LGBTQIA+ community towards the seminary and its leaders.

Because, unfortunately, time and again, gender and sexual minorities have been lured into the halls and sanctuaries of our churches with promises of “all are welcome” only to be faced with  heteronormative biases, un-checked prejudice, and statements like “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries condemns and abhors the assumption that gender and sexual identities are sinful, wrong, or need to be changed in any way. We lament Dr. Latini’s history with an anti-LGBTQIA+ organization, and mourn her perceived need to hide her personal story of identity. We grieve our church’s inclination towards institutional preservation over the honoring of God’s beloved children.

Likewise, ELM is deeply saddened and troubled by the entanglement of ELM Board Member, the Rev. Dr. Elise Brown, who has served on ELM’s board faithfully and honorably for the past six years. Dr. Brown is also the Chairperson of United Lutheran Seminary’s Board of Trustees. ELM’s Board of Directors under the leadership of our Co-Chairs, the Rev. Matthew James and Emily Ann Garcia, are engaging in discernment and conversation regarding Elise’s role on our Board.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes that we are called to respond to God’s love and call to justice by listening deeply, publicly claiming our identities, working collaboratively, acting transparently, and speaking truthfully. We covenant to live into these practices with all those who desire truth, trust, and justice.

ELM dreams of a Church in which gender and sexual minorities do not need to question whether they are welcome wholly as they are – in our congregations, at our seminaries, or in our pulpits. Our lived experiences remind us daily that we are not there yet. While we are on the journey, ELM will continue to advocate for LGBTQIA+ leaders, offer our gifts as resources to the broader community, accompany individuals and communities in the holy work of loving the “fearfully and wonderfully made” Body of Christ embodied in all its queerness, and hold each other gently when the world doesn’t live up to God’s promises.


 Rev. Amanda Nelson                 Rev. Asher O’Callaghan
Executive Director                                  Program Director

Board of Directors
Emily Ann Garcia, Co-Chair                   Rev. Matthew James, Co-Chair

Dr. Margaret Moreland, Secretary          Charles Horn III, Treasure

                           Rev. Emily E. Ewing, Rev. Brad Froslee, Rev. Jeff Johnson, Rev. Dr. Barbara Lundblad, Rev. Michael Wilker

*Rev. Dr. Elise Brown is a member of ELM’s Board but is not listed as a publisher of this statement due to her dual roles as Chair of the United Lutheran Seminary’s Board of Trustees.

Capes, the Organ, and God’s Voice

by the Rev. Douglas Barclay

Proclaim member and Pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, Manchester, CT

When I was a child I would hide beneath the pew during the endless sermons at my central PA church. But when the organ would play it was like the voice of God. I would sit up on the pew and strain to see the organist: clearly the person closest to God.

Other Sundays with my grandmother we wouldn’t “go to church” but we could watch TV church…The Hour of Power. The Crystal Cathedral had water features and the glass doors would open as the organ postlude exploded…I was convinced that Fred Swann was a divine being.

I was hooked.

While some children dreamed of becoming astronauts, I wanted to be a church organist, preferably a caped organist.

After years of piano lessons at 14 my dream job finally emerged. My English teacher offered me my first organ job at her Methodist church. A vintage Wurlitzer electronic organ was the instrument. Soon enough I would soon graduate to the bigger Lutheran churches with real pipe organs in the small town in Western PA.

In the midst of all of this I was also struggling with the realization that I was gay. I would have done anything to be delivered from such a fate, especially in scary gun-toting Western PA. It was in that place of fear that I heard God’s voice once again through music.

While preparing for Sunday worship, sitting on the organ bench, I had what I can only describe as a mystical encounter with God. As I was playing, I felt the entire world melt away…erotic rapture.

I interpret that experience as one of pure grace. God’s presence made me aware that I was entirely held, known, loved and accepted.

I think I was given this gift so that no matter how bad it got in school or at my house, no matter how close to self-harm I came, I would have something to keep me alive.

God gave me the gift of escape through music as well and I went on to study piano and organ at college. The music of the church and the liturgy kept calling. My first job out of college was as an organist at a Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore. Even though it wasn’t a gay mecca, I finally could be out and doing what I loved.

That freedom and space created room for me to discern that I was called through music into the priestly ministry as well. Now I get to wear incredible capes even more often.

I still don’t particularly like sermons. I don’t feel particularly holy or in divine ecstasy often these days.

But I know that the God of acceptance and holy affirmation continues to speak through fiery musicians and dissonant chords and the congregation’s song.

Thanks be to God for the gift of music. Thanks be to God for the gay musicians who have mentored me. Thanks be to God for the work of Proclaim in always keep God’s acceptance and Yes before us. Also, thanks be to God for fabulous capes.


The Rev. Douglas Barclay is pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church in Manchester, CT. He graduated from the seminary formerly known as LTSP after setting the world on fire with a particularly good sermon on the importance of capes in 2nd c. Gallican worship. He worked for years as a church musician in Baltimore, including a brief but spectacular stint at Christ Lutheran Inner Harbor as Interim Director of Music where he was also ordained. He and his partner Sean live in New Haven, CT and enjoy long walks on the beach, Swedish hip-hop artists and pizza from Modern. He hopes to one day be interred in the organ loft at Notre Dame in Paris.




Photo at top: Public commons

Bio Photo: Provided by Rev. Barclay

The Call of the Cantor

by John Weit

Proclaim member and Deacon serving as the Program Director for Music in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA

I have long sensed my calling to be a leader of the church’s song. Growing up in church I was amazed at how a single person could sit behind an organ console and use the various buttons and keys to make a multitude of different sounds. What was even more incredible to me was how that one person behind that instrument could help a large group of people sing together.

Music can unite a gathered assembly, form memory, and serves as a vehicle to conveying theology. It is sometimes daunting knowing that the words that I choose to be sung and through my leadership I am essentially putting theology in people’s mouths. Through song, sung together in worship, our prayer, proclamation, praise, and lament are shaped and given communal voice. It is not about what I as a leader like to sing and what styles are comfortable to me. In whatever leadership role we have, we need to move beyond ourselves and consider what best proclaims the gospel and shapes the prayer of the church.

With communal song at the core, there is often other music that enriches the worship life of the church. Choirs, soloists, and instrumentalists offer music to glorify God, as well. Silence can also surround our music. All of this works together to shape and support the song of the people. 

The vocation of the church musician is something I have cared deeply about these last few years. I’m happy to currently serve in a call with the ELCA that, in part, offers tools and resources to help church musicians think about their vocation and craft. In my role I work very closely with the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM). In 2016 as part of their 30th anniversary as an organization, a statement titled Called to Be a Living Voice was crafted to reflect on the varied role of Lutheran church musicians, often called cantors. I encourage you to read and reflect on this statement and share it with the musicians in your context.

It is true that not all musicians come to this work as a career. Many church musicians I know are bi-vocational. Some musicians may see working for a church as a way to some make extra money or to build their resume. Musicians will take on different levels of responsibility depending on the context. I pray that musicians who serve our assemblies continue to feel strengthened in their sense of call to their vocation and feel supported by their ministry colleagues.

In 2018, ALCM is helping to support the vocation of the Lutheran church musicians by organizing several one-day workshops around the U.S. and Canada under the theme Hearts Hands Voices. The ELCA is pleased to be partnering with ALCM to offer an extended skill-building session in Valparaiso Ind., July 23-26. These events will cover a multitude of styles, instruments, and topics. Visit for more information and please share this with the church musicians in your lives.

May the church continue to be blessed with musicians who faithfully lead our assemblies, surrounding word and sacrament with song.


Deacon John Weit serves as Program Director for Music in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. He lives in Chicago with his husband, the Rev. Matt James, and their cat, Buddy. John also serves as Assistant Organist at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.







Photo at top: Emily Ann Garcia

Bio Photo: Provided by John Weit