Never One Thing: Clare

Never One Thing
By: Clare
 
CW: Strong Language
 
 
I’m a Lutheran because of our theology of both/and (simul justus et peccator)–this human tension of holding constant reminders that I’m f*cked up, loved and holy.
 
Coming out in my late 20’s felt like an explosion of both/and. Fears, insecurities and messiness were held together with excitement, joy and learning to love and to know myself; seeing myself the way that I now know God sees me.  As Joel Workin professed, “living in forgiveness, claiming my wholeness,” my fullness. There is a never-ending depth to the ways God invites me, invites us, to pronounce ourselves in the fullness of who God is calling us to be.
 
May Erlweine’s song “Never One Thing” offers a center to the ways I embrace and embody queerness in this “Lutheran-ey” way.
 
“I’m the underbelly, I am the claw never one thing no not one thing at all. I’m a street fighter, I’m a prayer for peace. I’m a holy-roller, I’m a honey bee.”
 
bell hooks wrote about the ways that queerness speaks to a self that is “at odds with everything around it and has to invent and create and find a place to speak and to thrive and to live.”* Queerness centers how I want to be in the world. Being a part of visions for new ways that we can thrive and live, at odds with the forces of oppression. queerness orients me in my faith. Faith that compels me to confess when I f**k up, and to account and course correct in accountability to community. Queerness locates me in the work of justice and call toward unmasking and confronting systems of injustice, especially when they benefit me. “I am the truth, I am the lie. I am the ground I am the sky..”
 
I hold the tensions of what it is to be a queer person, especially in this month of pride. While there is space to mark this season with kinfolk around the world, with ancestors of the multitudes of ways that love and this vision of thriving exists, we hold and know the pain we still face of violence and discrimination. How, as hooks speaks to, are we in tension with the world around us. There are tensions in this month of pride coopted by capitalism, while rooted in foundations of protest started by Black and brown transwomen. There are tensions, the both/and of movements that have been co-opted by whiteness culture and racism.
 
I have learned that to be queer does not absolve me from being racist or oppressive. Queerness doesn’t absolve me from participating in systems that perpetuate oppression and violence toward BIPOC siblings (especially Black transwomen). I know that I cannot simply center my queerness when it comes to Black liberation and anti-racism.
 
I am never one thing; and both my queer identity and my Lutheran theology help to remind me and hold me accountable – or at least they can.  As an elder in my internship community says, I get to “live out the risk of being faithful.” There is risk, there is tension, and while systems of domination have a strong pull, community calls me to remember to take risks for love.
 
Weighed down with grief and exhaustion of our world, (you know and can name what your body and spirit hold tender dear one and what it may need to recognize too that you avoid or numb to); we hold the tensions which call us to intersectionality and to the possibilities of both/and. There is brokenness in our world and our world contains beauty and resilience which compels us to action and to thriving.
 
How is our queerness calling and inviting exploration of tension? How will you embrace the many things and never one thing which claims you, and which always names you beloved?
 

 
 
 

 

 
 
 

 
Clare (she/her) is completing a two-year part time pastoral internship at University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, CA and was just approved as a candidate for Word and Sacrament. She works as a per diem Pediatric Chaplain at UCSF. Clare enjoys a good Tiktok and hearing your recommendations on summer readings and tv shows. Find her hanging out with the IrReverend, & High Priest of Fabulous John Brett at Faithful and Fabulous monthly queer spirituality events in SF.

Got to be Real by John Brett

We sat along the edge of the stage after her talk. In the quieted, small, storied college auditorium where MLK Jr. once spoke, the four of us exchanged dreams from the margins we inhabited. We conjured heady hopes that history would break open for us with the weight of our theory, praxis, casting visions of fullness, self & community actualization. Rebecca Walker was with us to discuss To Be Real, the then recently published book she had edited on emerging feminist thought: the personal was political as we brainstormed. I spoke of my desire to organize a small caravan of queer folx and allies to drive across the country into small towns to support and provide critical mass for first-ever Pride Parades. Perhaps inspired by Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and anticipating by decades the HBO show We’re Here, my daydream details were far more low-budget. Picture VW busses of rag-tag activists with poster board and sequins and chaplaincy training accompanying Melbas of the Upper Midwest or Annies of Appalachia while creating a rural queer network of organizers of the early internet age. 
 
Though the vision didn’t come to pass, I recognize that it continues to encapsulate something of what I imagine realness means. Any realness I, or anyone else might manifest entails a community context: to be seen, recognized, for all of who we are, who we want to be, whether children of chiffon, leather & studs, plaid, or silk lamé. None of us reaches such a salvation alone.
 
The first time I came out to anyone as questioning my sexuality, it was at a church lock-in, perhaps 2am, in the intensity of an adolescent existential conversation next to the altar in the darkened church chancel. The sanctuary “Jesus Candle” burned above us, casting flickering shadows. It was a holy moment. A few months later, the second time I came out as questioning, a few hours away while I attended a synodical youth leadership meeting, it was in another church sanctuary similarly late at night. My coming out journey started at church. 
 
Did the church and its promises make these spaces seem safer? Did the sacred architecture of worship, the cross looking down above all, allow me a level of comfort, a container to hold my fear and trembling? Nestled in these confessions, the fortunately kept secrets, did I seek absolution? Can we find solace in the institution that caused the wound? 
 
These were my first attempts at being real. Almost 30 years later, with deeper repeated church wounds, and joyous recognition of how much my denomination has indeed begun to accept people of all gender identities and sexual orientations, I wonder if I would still be Christian if I weren’t queer. Taking seriously the theology I was taught, that God comes to us in love, that we in turn love our neighbor, I have stubbornly insisted that the church recognize my realness, fullness, and beauty. As I even now speak my truth beneath the cross, bringing my vulnerability into worship spaces and beyond them, I invite the church, in expectation, to live into its own message, promises of grace. As I continue to work out my own realness, salvation in fear and trembling, still I ask the church to embrace its own.
 
“Your love is my love
My love is your love
Our love is here to stay…”
 
 

 
 
 

 

 
John M. Brett (he/hym/hys), ELCA seminarian & street chaplain, serves the SF Night Ministry as Minister of Faithful&Fabulous!, offering queer-centric ministry programming & accompaniment. Christened IrReverend, & High Priest of Fabulous by parishioners, his first on-the-job pastoral care lesson was to remember to tip the drag queens. He leads an annual Drag Street Eucharist & this fall will support the first-ever Spiritual DragCon.

A Response from the Latino Ministries Association, ELM, and other partner organizations

O LORD, HOW LONG SHALL I CRY FOR HELP?
RESPONSE FROM THE LATINO MINISTRIES ASSOCIATION AND PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS OF THE ELCA TO THE “PRESIDING BISHOP’S REPORT TO THE CHURCH” REGARDING THE SIERRA PACIFIC SYNOD
 
We are deeply saddened and disturbed by Presiding Bishop Eaton’s report on Rev. Megan Rohrer, Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod.
 
In a culturally insensitive dereliction of duty, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has made public her decision to not bring disciplinary charges against the bishop for racist actions perpetrated against the community of Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina (formerly known as Misión Latina Luterana) but instead, simply asking for their/his resignation. This news was shared the same week that the horrible murder of 19 children and two adults in a predominantly Latiné area of Uvalde, Texas, took place. This decision was also shared before a national holiday, suggesting an intent to avoid drawing attention to the Bishop’s Report to the Church.
 
In this weak and compassionless statement, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton framed racist actions as “unwise decisions” and “unfortunate events,” completely ignoring the suffering of an entire community of color of the church-body she is called to serve. With this work left undone, Presiding Bishop Eaton is giving a white aggressor the opportunity to decide their/his own fate — a decision deeply rooted in white supremacy and systemic racism. Communities of color in this church should be concerned about the inability of the Presiding Bishop to support and protect them against systemic racism. Furthermore, all members of the ELCA should be concerned that the Office of the Presiding Bishop is so tentative to hold a synodical bishop accountable for conduct incompatible with the character of the ministerial office; not fulfilling her call by choosing to protect policies and procedures of the church above serving its people.
 
In light of the inaction of the Office of the Presiding Bishop to hold Bishop Megan Rohrer and the synodical leaders of the Sierra Pacific Synod accountable, the Latino Ministries Association of the ELCA and signing partners urge our church to take the following actions:
  • We urge Bishop Eaton to publish the report of the ELCA Listening Panel that was tasked with this investigation.
  • We urge the assembly of the Sierra Pacific Synod to bring a motion calling for the removal of Bishop Megan Rohrer.
  • We urge the Conference of Bishops to bring disciplinary charges against Bishop Megan Rohrer.
Bishop Megan Rohrer is the first openly transgender bishop of the ELCA, with their/his election presenting a significant step forward in the diversity of this church body. However, this advancement has been marred by their/his actions and subsequent reactions steeped in defensive white supremacy. In the wake of the events on December 12, 2021, our Association — alongside other Ethnic Specific Associations in the ELCA as well as LGBTQIA+ partner organizations — has been advocating on behalf of not just Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina but the greater ELCA Latiné community to publicly condemn the racist actions of Bishop Rohrer. Furthermore, we have been calling upon the Presiding Bishop to take disciplinary action against them/him immediately to avoid further harm to communities of color across the ELCA.
 
It is our duty and our Holy Responsibility to stand behind the diverse people of the body of Christ. We are disappointed that Presiding Bishop Eaton did not take disciplinary action to remove Bishop Megan Rohrer from the Office of Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod and from the roster of ordained ministry. As a church, we are called by our faith to forgive Bishop Megan Rohrer, but forgiveness does not mean they/he is fit for ministry. We pray for their/his well-being and that the Holy Spirit will guide Bishop Megan Rohrer to confess their/his racist actions, seek repentance, and commit to reconciliation and reparations.
 
The ELCA has the goal of gaining 1 million new and diverse members by the end of this decade. The actions (and inactions) of Presiding Bishop Eaton have jeopardized this goal. In a single day, the trust of an entire community of faithful Latiné Lutherans was lost. We must fight together for the recognition of the wrongs done to our communities of color in the form of accountability toward racial justice in our denomination, and for a healing process with the Latiné community, to avoid any further pain in our church — particularly with our siblings of color.
 
At this time, we cry out an ancient prayer. . .
 
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
 
In Christ,
 
Latino Ministries Association of the ELCA
in partnership with
European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice (EDLARJ)
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
The Rev. Abel Arroyo Traverso, ELCA Estrategia Latina
Mary Campbell, ELCA Estrategia Latina
The Rev. Francisco Javier Goitía Padilla, Senior Director, Education for Leadership, Christian Community and Leadership Home Area, ELCA
The Rev. Maria Paiva, ELCA Estrategia Latina
Evelyn B. Soto, ELCA Senior Director, Resources and Relationships Christian Community and Leadership Home Area, ELCA
 
 
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world.The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
 
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America | Conference of Bishops
The ELCA’s Conference of Bishops comprises the 65 synod bishops from across the U.S. and the Caribbean as well as the elected ELCA Presiding Bishop and Secretary. The group gathers at least twice each year for worship, study, mutual sharing, and to conduct business. The conference advises the Presiding Bishop on matters related to churchwide planning and ecumenical relations.
 
About the Latino Ministries Association of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America | Asociación de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA
We are one body in Christ. We are called to live in one faith and one baptism. The Church of Christ is made up of people with different cultures, traditions, and languages. As Hispanic Christians faithful to the Lord, we cannot function apart, nor disconnect from ourselves, nor from the rest of the Body that is the Church. The purpose of this Association is to contribute to strengthening the proclamation of the Gospel to Latino communities, promoting the growth and consolidation of established and developing Latino congregations in the United States and the Caribbean, promoting inclusivity without assimilation and diversity without segregation, and combating racism in this church. Harnessing the diverse cultures in our church, we must fight and work for the union of all Lutheran members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
 

 
 
OH, DIOS, ¿POR CUÁNTO MÁS DEBO DE PEDIR AYUDA?
RESPUESTA DE LA ASOCIACIÓN DE MINISTERIOS LATINOS Y LAS ORGANIZACIONES ASOCIADAS A LA ELCA AL “INFORME DE LA OBISPA PRESIDENTA A LA IGLESIA” SOBRE EL SÍNODO DE SIERRA PACÍFICO
 
Estamos profundamente entristecidos y perturbados por el reporte de la Obispa Presidenta Eaton sobre el Reverende Megan Rohrer, Obispe del Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico.
 
En un abandono de su deber y en una forma culturalmente insensible, la Obispa Presidenta Elizabeth Eaton ha hecho pública su decisión de no presentar cargos disciplinarios contra el Obispe Rohrer por sus acciones racistas perpetradas contra la comunidad de la Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina (anteriormente conocida como Misión Latina Luterana), sino simplemente solicitarle su renuncia. Esta noticia se compartió la misma semana en que ocurrió el horrible asesinato de 19 niños y dos adultos en una zona predominantemente latina de Uvalde, Texas. Esta decisión también se compartió antes de un fin de semana feriado nacional, lo que sugiere una intención de evitar la visibilidad de dicho Reporte de la Obispa Presidenta para la Iglesia.
 
En este reporte débil y sin compasión, la Obispa Presidenta Elizabeth Eaton enmarcó acciones racistas como simples “decisiones imprudentes” y “eventos desafortunados”, ignorando por completo el sufrimiento de toda una comunidad de color del cuerpo eclesiástico al que está llamada a servir. Con este trabajo dejado sin terminar, la Obispa Presidenta Eaton le está dando a un agresor blanco la oportunidad de decidir su propio destino, una decisión profundamente arraigada en la supremacía blanca y el racismo sistémico. Las comunidades de color en esta iglesia deberían preocuparse por la incapacidad de la Obispa Presidenta para apoyarles y protegerles contra el racismo sistémico. Además, a todos los miembros de la ELCA les debe preocupar que la Oficina de la Obispa Presidenta sea tan tentativa de responsabilizar a un obispo sinodal por conducta incompatible con el carácter de su cargo ministerial; incumpliendo así con su llamado, al elegir proteger las políticas y procedimientos de la iglesia por encima de servir a su gente.
 
En vista de la inacción de la Oficina de la Obispa Presidenta para responsabilizar a el Obispe Megan Rohrer y a los líderes sinodales del Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico, la Asociación de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA y los aliados signatarios instan a nuestra iglesia a tomar las siguientes medidas:
  • Instamos a la Obispa Presidenta Eaton a que publique el informe del Panel de Escucha de la ELCA que se encargó de esta investigación.
  • Instamos a la asamblea del Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico a presentar una moción pidiendo la destitución del Obispe Megan Rohrer.
  • Instamos a la Conferencia de Obispes a presentar cargos disciplinarios contra el Obispe Megan Rohrer.
El Obispe Megan Rohrer es el primer Obispe abiertamente transgénero de la ELCA, y su elección representa un importante paso adelante en la diversidad de este cuerpo eclesiástico. Sin embargo, este avance se ha visto empañado por sus acciones y reacciones posteriores impregnadas en una supremacía blanca defensiva. A raíz de los eventos del 12 de diciembre de 2021, nuestra Asociación —junto con otras Asociaciones Étnicas específicas en la ELCA, así como organizaciones aliadas LGBTQIA+— ha estado abogando en nombre no solo de la Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina sino de toda la comunidad Latiné de la ELCA para condenar públicamente las acciones racistas del Obispe Rohrer. Además, hemos pedido a la Obispa Presidenta que tome medidas disciplinarias en su contra de inmediato para evitar más daños a las comunidades de color en toda la ELCA.
 
Es nuestro deber y nuestra Santa Responsabilidad respaldar la diversidad de las personas en el cuerpo de Cristo. Estamos decepcionados de que la Obispa Presidenta Eaton no haya tomado medidas disciplinarias para destituir al Obispe Megan Rohrer de la Oficina del Obispado del Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico y de la lista de ministros ordenados. Como iglesia, nuestra fe nos llama a perdonar a el Obispe Megan Rohrer, pero el perdón no significa que sea apto para el ministerio. Oramos por su bienestar y que el Espíritu Santo guíe a el Obispe Megan Rohrer a confesar sus acciones racistas, buscar el arrepentimiento y comprometerse con la reconciliación y las reparaciones.
La ELCA tiene la meta de ganar 1 millón de miembros nuevos, jóvenes y diversos para fines de esta década. Las acciones (y omisiones) de la Obispa Presidenta Eaton han puesto en peligro este objetivo. En un solo día se perdió la confianza de toda una comunidad de fieles luteranos latines. Debemos luchar juntos por el reconocimiento de los daños causados a nuestras comunidades de color en forma de rendición de cuentas hacia una justicia racial en nuestra denominación, y por un proceso de sanación con la comunidad latiné, para evitar más dolor en nuestra iglesia, particularmente con nuestros hermanos, hermanas y hermanes de color.
En este momento, solo nos queda clamar una antigua oración. . .
 
Señor, ten piedad.
Cristo, ten piedad.
Señor, ten piedad.
 
En Cristo,
 
Asociación de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA
en colaboración con
European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice (EDLARJ)
 
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
The Rev Abel Arroyo Traverso
Mary Campbell
The Rev. Francisco Javier Goitía Padilla
Evelyn B. Soto
 

 
A STATEMENT FROM THE ELCA LISTENING TEAM
REGARDING SIERRA PACIFIC SYNOD
 
The ELCA Listening Team was convened by Bishop Elizabeth Eaton to hear the narratives of people in the Sierra Pacific Synod in a time of turmoil, and to make recommendations for action. Sadly, the decisions that have been reached by the Office of the Presiding Bishop totally disregard the heart and intent of our report. We do not want it to be supposed that our work is aligned with or supports the proposed actions.
 
The word “racism” does not appear at all in “The Bishop’s Report to the Church.” Yet the Team’s finding was that racist words and actions caused trauma and great pain to many people of color in that synod. To characterize racist actions as simply “insensitive” or “misguided” is to validate the charge against the ELCA that we are blind to the pain we cause our siblings of color. When we do not name and confess the sin of racism in our institutions, we are doomed to continue in its power.
 
In order to address institutional racism, we need institutional courage. The compassion and justice work of individuals cannot by themselves bring about the needed transformation of an entire institution. All parts of that institution must look courageously through a gospel lens at their practices and policies in order to recognize the ways in which they are contributing to oppression. The ELCA has yet to find that courage.
 
From the beginning of our work, the Listening Team strongly recommended that the Presiding Bishop publicize the report and distribute it throughout the ELCA. We urge that this action be done as a step toward much-needed transparency. It will foster authentic partnership in the complicated situations that we face in our life together in a time of institutional distrust and continuing violence against people of color.
 
Our conclusions drawn from the many hours spent listening to what the Holy Spirit was saying through those whom we interviewed seem to have been set aside. We mourn with those who have been harmed, and now feel, once again, unheard by their Church.
 
Personally, we are embarrassed and distressed in our relationship with the members of the Community of Misión Latina Luterana. Despite our best efforts to communicate the depth of the abuse that the Misión Latina Luterana community suffered, it feels that our words have fallen on deaf ears. The people of the community entrusted their stories of trauma and pain to us with tears and with gratitude for our listening. They trusted that we could fulfill our promise that the ELCA truly cares about their Community, and will take action to remediate the wrongs done to it. We continue to hope that it will do so.
 
Abiding in God’s longing for justice –
 
The Rev. Margaret Payne, retired bishop of the New England Synod
The Rev. Constanze Hagmaier, bishop of the South Dakota Synod
Roberto Lara, president of the Latino Ministries Association of the ELCA
 

 
 
UNA DECLARACIÓN DEL EQUIPO DE ESCUCHA DE LA ELCA
SOBRE EL SÍNODO DE SIERRA DEL PACÍFICO
 
El Equipo de Escucha de la ELCA fue convocado por la Obispa Elizabeth Eaton para escuchar las narraciones de las personas en el Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico en un momento de agitación y para hacer recomendaciones para toma de acción. Lamentablemente, las decisiones a las que ha llegado la Oficina de la Obispa Presidenta ignoran totalmente la intención de nuestro informe. No queremos que se suponga que nuestro trabajo está alineado o apoya en alguna forma las acciones propuestas por la Obispa Presidenta.
 
La palabra “racismo” no aparece en lo absoluto en “El informe de la obispa a la iglesia”. Sin embargo, el hallazgo del Equipo de Escucha fue que las palabras y acciones racistas causaron trauma y gran dolor a muchas personas de color en ese sínodo. Caracterizar las acciones racistas como simplemente “insensibles” o “equivocadas” es validar la acusación contra la ELCA de que estamos ciegos ante el dolor que causamos a nuestros hermanes, hermanas y hermanos de color. Cuando no nombramos y confesamos el pecado del racismo en nuestras instituciones, estamos condenados a continuar bajo su poder.
 
Para abordar el racismo institucional, necesitamos valentía y coraje institucional. El trabajo de compasión y justicia de los individuos no puede por sí solo lograr la transformación necesaria de toda una institución. Todas las partes de esa institución deben mirar valientemente a través de un lente evangélico a sus propias prácticas y políticas para reconocer las formas en que están contribuyendo a la opresión. La ELCA todavía tiene que encontrar esa valentía y coraje.
 
Desde el comienzo de nuestro trabajo, el Equipo de Escucha recomendó encarecidamente que la Obispa Presidenta hiciera público el informe y lo distribuyera por toda la ELCA. Instamos a que esta acción se realice como un paso hacia la transparencia que tanto se necesita.
 
Fomentará una asociación auténtica en las situaciones complicadas que enfrentamos en nuestra vida juntos en un momento de desconfianza institucional y continua violencia contra las personas de color.
 
Nuestras conclusiones extraídas de las muchas horas que pasamos escuchando lo que el Espíritu Santo decía a través de aquellos a quienes entrevistamos parecen haber sido ignoradas y dejadas a un lado. Lloramos junto con aquellos que han sido dañados y ahora se sienten, una vez más, ignorados por su propia Iglesia.
 
En lo personal, nos sentimos avergonzados y angustiados en nuestra relación con los miembros de la Comunidad de Misión Latina Luterana. A pesar de nuestros mejores esfuerzos por comunicar la profundidad del abuso que sufrió la comunidad de Misión Latina Luterana, parece que nuestras palabras han caído en saco roto. La gente de la comunidad nos confió sus historias, su trauma y su dolor con lágrimas, pero también con gratitud por nuestra escucha.
 
Confiaron en que podríamos cumplir nuestra promesa de que la ELCA realmente se preocuparía por su comunidad y tomaría medidas para remediar los daños que se le habían hecho. Seguimos esperando que así sea.
 
Permaneciendo en el anhelo de justicia de Dios —
 
La Reverenda Margaret Payne, obispa jubilada del Sínodo de Nueva Inglaterra
La Reverenda Constanze Hagmaier, obispa del Sínodo de Dakota del Sur
Roberto Lara, presidente de la Asociación de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA

A Message from the ELM Board Co-Chairs

Greetings, 
 
As we anticipate Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s decision regarding the actions of Bishop Megan Rohrer and the Sierra Pacific Synod Council on December 12, 2021, we, as the Co-Chairs of the Board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries want to remind our community of what led us to the decision to suspend Bishop Rohrer from the Proclaim and ELM community, our involvement with the Listening Panel that was convened by Bishop Eaton, and what the future holds for ELM. 
 
Pride
We acknowledge that Bishop Eaton’s announcement is expected to come as we begin the month of Pride in the LGBTQIA+ community. We grieve the timing of the anticipated release of Bishop Eaton’s announcement. The timing continues to reinforce what we have seen play out over the last several months in the ELCA, where BIPOC communities, specifically the Latiné community, have been pitted against the LGBTQIA+ community. This creates false binaries and can erase people who exist wholly in more than one of these communities. 
 
Pride began as a riot in NYC and was led by black and brown transgender women. There have been attempts in the secular world to erase the origins of Pride month, but the truth remains, that queer liberation is not possible without the liberation of our black and brown, LGBTQIA+ siblings. The anticipation of this announcement further reinforces the trauma that the Latiné, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ have experienced over the last several months. 
 
ELM’s Relationship with Bishop Rohrer
For much of 2021, ELM had struggled internally because of racist actions then-pastor Rohrer had made regarding the ELM board and staff members. These events all took place before Rohrer became bishop in September 2021. Internally, after individual conversations with Pastor Rohrer went nowhere to address these issues, ELM’s Board convened an Accountability Team composed of transgender, white, BIPOC, and neurodivergent members of ELM’s Board and the Proclaim community. Pastor Rohrer was invited to participate and co-create a process to address and repair the harm they had caused BIPOC members of ELM’s Board, staff, and Proclaim. 
 
In September, at Bishop Rohrer’s request, ELM sponsored a reception to celebrate their becoming the first trans bishop. In that same month, they informed ELM they would not continue to participate in the accountability process. 
 
After four months of deliberation, the Board came to the consensus that we would suspend Bishop Rohrer’s affiliation with ELM and its Proclaim community until they were willing to listen and talk about the harm they had done. Since there are over 400 members of the Proclaim community, we knew our decision to suspend Bishop Rohrer would be a public action so we crafted a public statement to Proclaim members and the broad ELM community. 
 
The weekend of December 12, 2021, the week before ELM’s regularly scheduled board meeting on December 16, we were coming to a consensus about the public statement and our process. Then on December 12, Bishop Rohrer and the Sierra Pacific Synod Council fired Pastor Nelson Rabell-González and harmed and traumatized Misión Latina Luterana and staff members of the Sierra Pacific Synod. In ELM’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Board affirmed our consensus to suspend Bishop Rohrer because they refused to participate in ELM’s internal accountability process.
 
On Friday, December 17, we informed Bishop Rohrer of the board’s decision, including a long, detailed personal letter from the Accountability Team, and gave them a copy of ELM’s public statement. They asked us to make a few changes to the public statement which we did. We released the public statement of the ELM Board decision the following week. 
 
Please read the full statement of ELM’s public response regarding Bishop Rohrer here. On Christmas Day, the Bay Area Reporter reported an interview with Bishop Rohrer in which they said they had “stopped participating actively in ELM in 2014” because they said ELM plagiarized their writing and dead-named people. Their statement was confusing because Bishop Rohrer participated in ELM events, retreats, receptions, and media since 2014–and because Board members that were involved in those issues thought they had been successfully resolved in 2014. 
 
The ELM Board Co-Chairs and members of the Accountability Team held Zoom meetings with the BIPOC and Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming affinity groups in Proclaim and one large group Zoom meeting for all Proclaim members in late December and early January to verbally inform them of the above actions. ELM board and staff members also responded to some calls and emails from donors. We noticed that many BIPOC Proclaim members and donors affirmed the Board action and announcement, while all of the complaints about the Board action were from White Proclaim members and donors–some of whom ended or suspended their financial contributions and affiliation. Other White Proclaim members and donors have responded with clarifying questions, requests for more information (some of which we cannot disclose), and some generous contributions. 
 
ELM and Bishop Eaton’s Listening Panel
At the beginning of March, Bishop Eaton convened a three-person Listening Panel to advise her about what actions she should take regarding Bishop Rohrer and the Sierra Pacific Synod Council. See the ELCA press release. The Listening Panel met April 1 and 2 and asked ELM to send two representatives to a 30-minute session. We had decided to send Pastor Kelsey Brown and Pastor Michael Wilker. As it got closer to the day of the meeting with the listening panel, the time was changed for ELM to meet with the panel. As a result, Pastor Brown was no longer available to represent ELM, and so Pastor Margarette Ouji, co-chair of the board, stepped in with Pastor Wilker. Before meeting with the Listening Panel, we wrote them a letter that can be found here
 
What is next for ELM? 
The Board commissioned a Communications Advisory group, made up of Board members and our Associate Director of Development and Communication Lewis Eggleston. The Communications Advisory group will help name and shape priority areas of content on behalf of the Board, to reflect and enliven ELM’s vision, mission, and values. They will be the conduit of the Board to more proactively, productively, and supportively address concerns and priorities in ELM communication. 
 
We will continue to listen deeply to our siblings in the Latino Ministries Association and the African Descent Lutheran Association and work together for a more liberated and equitable church. 
 
In August, Pastor Mike Wilker will step down from the board of directors of ELM. In November 2021, he was elected by the board to step in and serve for a short time. 
 
ELM has contracted with an organizational coach for three months to help the Board and staff discern our work together as an organization. We will have more information about this work in the coming weeks.
 
We invite you to work together and with ELM’s Board and staff to continue to organize queer seminarians and ministers, confront barriers and systemic oppression, and value and celebrate queer leaders and their ministries.
 
In the crucified and resurrected Christ,
Rev. Margarette Ouji (she/her/hers) 
Rev. Michael Wilker (he/him/his) 
ELM Board Co-Chairs

Time After Time: A Pride Devotional by Lewis Eggleston

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


 

 
Lewis Eggleston (he/him) is the Associate Director of Communications & Generosity for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. He lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany with his husband and their dog-child Carla. He is and approved for & awaiting ordination in the Ministry of Word & Service. 




 

An Earth Day Reflection by Dane Breslin

Approaching the intersections of queerness, ecology, and theology is daunting to me. Though I hold a degree in environmental studies, have worked seasons on sustainable farms & orchards, taught stream restoration, and have always loved gardening; I still feel as though I know very little about how the organic systems which sustain our lives actually works! My queerness is also mysterious to me- it has been a constant revelatory process that defies the many binaries I thought were the only options and invites me into another way of being. My life is far more sparkly than I thought it would be- there is a saturation of color I did not anticipate. All of this exists within the major question of my heart: what the hell is this all about? What is reality about? What is real? Or, what is Divinity?
 
For me, whose previous life has exploded with the death of a beloved friend & spiritual sibling, who is still reeling from the rapid change of divorce, I can’t approach the queer-eco-theological intersection with the brain but only from the mystical space of the heart. When I speak from my heart what emerges is poetry: so below is a poem which I hope speaks to this profound intersection from my limited and privileged perspective.
 
The Body Earth
 
When you see your body
Do you see a body that is the Earth?
When your lovers kiss your skin
Their lips touch glacier, grassland, desert sand
 
Gaze into an open eye
And gaze into the eyes of the wetland!
Sing to the rafters of this old Cathedral
And join the chorus of creation! 
 
Do not strive to be stardust
But to be the kin of the sunflower
The dogwood, the ancient beetles,
(And, of course, the sacred honeybees)
Who have watched eons pass
Who are content right here, on Earth
 
Do not desire to leave this place
Instead, desire to stay rooted right here
Belong right here, as you always have and will
On this mantle of soil which gave birth to you
The origin and destination of your bones
 
To you and I, and all that moves
(Even the wild asparagus in the ditch)
We are One & We are Different
The Unitive & The Particular
Always, always, all at once
 
YES- the whole of creation is beautifully queer
So, may we dissolve the binary which divides
Parses us into “humanity” and “the environment”
This is an illusion…
 
For, we are not separate from nature
Nature brought us into being!
We are Nature
We are kindred
We are one body.
 

 
Image Description: An image with a toddler’s hands playing in the dirt with the words: Do not strive to be stardust. But to be the kin of the sunflower, the dogwood, the ancient beetles, (And, of course, the sacred honeybees) Who have watched eons pass who are content right here, on Earth. Do not desire to leave this place. Instead, desire to stay rooted right here. Belong right here, as you always have and will. On this mantle of soil which gave birth to you the origin and destination of your bones. By Dane Breslin
 

 
Dane Anthony Raphael Breslin (he/him) lives with his toddler son in the homeland of the P’Squosa (Wenatchi) people in Central Washington. He is a candidate for ministry of Word & Sacrament in the ELCA. Dane is a queer poet, artist and plant enthusiast who works to move faith communities to support queer youth, to plant sustainable gardens and joins them in unlearning colonial and racist patterns/beliefs/behaviors in heart/body/mind.

Lenten Devotional: “The stones will cry out” by Carla Christopher

 

I will stand on your city steps 
and call out the lies of your leaders
I will feed the hungry without permits
I will heal without license
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
I will block traffic and shut down streets
I will ride a donkey through your parade
of tanks and soldiers 
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
I will cherish sex workers for their work 
and mystics for their visions
I will embrace homeless wanderers
and give them keys to my every hidden secret
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
I will drink in public
and eat forbidden fruit, licking juice from my fingers
I will strip naked
and caress the feet of beautiful men
while women twine their hair around my toes
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
I will greet disease with a kiss
I will dismiss bribery with scorn
I will laugh at your critique
I will teach what you have banned
I will break criminals out of prison
I will die to resurrect before I cower
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
*and a blessed Triduum and Easter to you all!*
 
The table laid,
a Sunday made of palms intertwined
and sweetest wine.
A breeze of rising bread and 
the caress of rich spice
that carries memories of woman’s hair
and paradise-warmed skin.
We wait for you,
heart and hand and door open.
Enter us with your spirit,
Consume us with healing fire,
surrender as a gift.
We lift my eyes to the morning,
receiving you as
the sun/Son.


 

 
Image Description: a warm colorful sunset over water with a rocky beach scene with the words: I will stand on your city steps and call out the lies of your leaders. I will feed the hungry without permits. I will heal without license. Even if you silence me the stones will cry out. -Carla Christopher
 

 
Rev. Carla Christopher (she/hers) is Assistant to the Bishop in Charge of Justice Ministries for Lower Susquehanna Synod in central Pennsylvania and a multicultural Black woman who adores being a queer lesbian-ish femme.

Trans Day of Visibility by Vica Etta Steel

Visible
By: Vica Etta Steel

Today, March 31, is the Transgender Day of Visibility.

Do you know this day?
 
Or is it invisible in your world, do you see this day? Do you see we who are transgender? Can you hear us over the din of hate spoken in political actions, in loathing statements, and too often in the rational dismissal of our pain by those who claim to be allies. Our voices are unheard. 

Invisible.

I cannot speak for all transgender people. We are as varied as the leaves in the wind, blown in our own arcs, flitting, flying, falling in joyful tumbles. 
I can only speak, 
honestly,
vulnerably, 
from my own truth. 
From hope 
that something about my writing resonates with my family of we who transgress, we who transform, all of us in our fullness of we who are transgender. 
And of all who work to become allies.
And all whom we name allies. 
 

On this day, I call for visibility. 
Visibility of our existence.
 
I ask for visibility, I plead for visibility in your sermons. Share our truth – we exist. God did not make mistakes with us, we are the imago dei too. Humans make mistakes when humans choose to ignore God’s beauty borne in us too.

Visibility in your social media. Share the voices of transgender people. Find us, we who are speaking into the cacophony of so much casual hate. Share our love, our joy, our pain, our weary exhaustion.

Visibility in your circles.
Speak clearly that you know 
Transgender women are women
Transgender men are men
And non-binary people are delightfully, joyfully valid.
Speak clearly that children know who they are. 
Speak clearly from listening to us, we who are transgender. 

Visibility 

that we visibly suffer from those who choose silence, who choose calm instead of 
anger at the outrages of hate become politics in Texas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa . . . so many more, 

like the leadership of Luther Seminary, phrased as the banal both-sides-have-good-people argument uplifting those who exclude, who harm, as they obscure we who are harmed in their rejection of RIC conversations, in their choice to make invisible the pain laid on us by the so many, the too many churches who choose to be the buoys for fear still. 

Reach out. Check in. Be visible in your love.

And in this essay 
this prayer

this scream 

I pray from weary frustration, 
anger
too tired to 
scream above a whisper, 
still I pray 

For visibility.
I pray that you who read, you who listen
Hear our call to hear us, find us. Believe us.
 

 
Transforming God, you who speak now in the world, your voice resonating through wind in the trees, soil decaying into new growth, let the fullness of your voice sing, yell, cry into the hearts of those who embrace hate toward your Queer creations, may their hearts be unhardened and most especially sing love of your transgender children on this day. Let us all who are in this world, all who are this world, cry our love in joyful song. Amen. 
 


TAKE ACTION: In the comment section of this blog post on ELM’s Facebook page, trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming Proclaimers will be posting their cash app and venmo tags. If you heard Vica’s call today and want to make your love visible, please donate to one of the posts and when you have, comment under their post with a “heart” or “sent” so that everyone gets a chance to be blessed & so that folks can see where to share the love equally amongst the community. If everyone has been donated to, feel free to double up! If you are still unsure where to donate but wish to support trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming Proclaimers, then you can also donate through elm.org and list #TDOV in the comment and these funds will be earmarked for this community. Thank you. 
 

 
Image Description: The background of the image is the Transgender Flag with the words: On this day, I call for visibility. Visibility of our existence. I ask for visibility, I plead for visibility in your sermons. Share our truth – we exist.- Vica Etta Steel



 
Vica Etta Steel (she/her) is a woman, queer, transgender, and unexpectedly a faith leader! She attends Wartburg Theological Seminary. She preaches and does outreach at St. John’s Lutheran in Madison, WI. She keeps a ministry in her blog at Qwest.substack.com and on TikTok (@vicasteel) where she speaks of the voice of God, never silent and always present in the world around us. Vica is married to her powerful wife, Stella (36 years this March!). They live with their little dog, Arabella Longbody, their leopard gecko, Snowflake, and many other creatures and plants!

2022 Joel R. Workin Scholars: Rachel San Diego & Jory Mickelson

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministry is pleased to announce that seminarians Rachel E. San Diego (she/hers) and Jory Mickelson (he/they) have been selected as the 2022 Joel R. Workin Scholars.

Rachel attends Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, has been recommended for ministry by the Sierra Pacific Synod and is currently an intern at Immanuel Lutheran in Seattle, Washington.

Jory is an MDivX candidate at Luther Seminary, has been recommended for candidacy for the Northwest Washington Synod and is currently an intern at Christ Lutheran in Ferndale, Washington. 

Committee Chair Michael Nelson writes: We had a dozen wonderful candidates this year –the most ever – but Jory and Rachel were the voices that we felt best honored and embodied the ongoing witness and legacy of Joel Workin. 

Rachel’s sterling resume reveals a breadth of experience and steady commitment to the marginalized, as well as her work on multiple justice issues, including victims of violence. In her reflection on Joel Workin’s essay (entitled “Overflowing” which cites moments of God’s “Yes, Period” and “No, Period,” in one’s life and ministry) Rachel rousingly writes, “There is not enough white paper that could contain the stories of “No, period” that my Brown body holds.”  Later, she concludes that she “was bathed in the waters of sacredness of (her) experience … (that she has found) “Yes, period” showing up in community, in grace, and in the Holy waters between us.”

Among many other accomplishments, Jory’s resume reflects their service to the church and notes that he is the recipient of the 2020 Grace Award from the Northwest Washington to serve the LGBTQIA+ community in Whatcom County. Their elegant essay was marked with insightful moments with phrases like this: “Queer people’s gift to the church is one of rupture and disorder. LGBTQIA people ruptures the silence of what God’s people fear to speak aloud and attempt to hide away. Ruptures our private spiritualities into public faith. Ruptures the barrier that church walls have become and lets in the world.” 

On behalf of the committee, I congratulate each of the twelve fine candidates and pray they will continue to bear witness and ministry to the LGBTQIA+ community for years to come.

Each year ELM names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel Raydon Workin. Joel was one of the three seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after coming out to their candidacy committees. Upon his death, Joel’s parents, Ray and Betty, and other family and friends created the scholarship fund in his name to keep his prophetic voice part of the movement.  The scholarship is available for all members of Proclaim who are preparing for rostered leadership in the Lutheran church. This year’s award comes with a $7400 award for both Rachel & Jory. 

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries organizes queer seminarians and rostered ministers, confronts barriers and systemic oppression, and activates queer ideas and movements within the Lutheran Church.

To learn more about the Workin Scholarship click here.

To read Jory and Rachel’s essays, click the links below. 

Joel Workin Scholarship_Rachel San Diego Workin Essay_Jory Mickelson

Lenten Devotional: We Claim Them/They Claim Us

by Aaron Decker
 
 
When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to YHWH, the God of our ancestors; YHWH heard our voice and…brought us out of Egypt… (Deuteronomy 26:6–8)
 
By the time the offering of first-fruits described in this Sunday’s First Testament reading actually happens, these words are false. Those standing before the priest, holding baskets of gifts, were never in Egypt. The generation rescued from the house of slavery had died long ago in the wilderness.
 
It was not us, they should say. It was our ancestors. Those who came before us. But we claim it as our own. The captors in Egypt harmed us. God rescued us.
 
Long before I was formed in my mother’s womb, this and all rituals say, this happened to me. It is ancient history, but I am also living it now. It is my story.
 
We lift bread and cup. Jesus is not re-crucified. The once-and-for-all uni/multiverse-shattering crucifixion-and-resurrection death-always-becomes-life event is not just remembered or reenacted. No— time collapses, and we are there, we have always been there, 2,000 years ago and before time began. We are tangibly, bodily, gathered in a small, upper room in old Jerusalem, dining with friends.
 
 
Are our dour, self-effacing Lenten austerities actually a fabulous dinner party in disguise? How queer!
 
And there, at the table: Ancestors whose struggles we claim as our own. Their oppressors treated us harshly and afflicted us! Their suffering is alive in us! We cried out to God in their voices! And God heard us, and—
 
God heard the queer Christian leaders whose courage in these last decades paved the way for our leadership now, and—
 
God heard the civil rights activists, the people who strove for racial and gender equity, whose work also liberated our folx’ struggle for rights, and—
 
God heard the mystics throughout history, whose imaginations could not be limited by social norms, who spoke about God’s love with shocking, erotic words that ring familiar in our ears, and—
 
God heard the nameless, forgotten, whose sainthood is greater than all the Capital-S Saints combined, whose name cards God inscribes in gold and places by hand at favored seats around that Holy Table, and—
 
These people are alive now, being rescued when God rescues us from our captors, our Egypts. Not just in our memories but in the first-fruits offered to us by Christ. Their pain, their struggles, are alive. Their joys, their triumphs, are alive. We live in them, and they in us, whenever we celebrate the Passover of our Beloved Jesus.
 
That great Passover. When YHWH heard our voice and brought us out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is indeed right, indeed our duty, but perhaps most of all, our joy.
 
 

 
Image Description: Photo of chalice and broken bread over an orange background with the words: we have always been there, 2,000 years ago and before time began. We are tangibly, bodily, gathered in a small, upper room in old Jerusalem, dining with friends. -Aaron Decker
 

 
Aaron Decker (he/him) is a Theological Educator in Bolivia with ELCA Service and Justice (Global Mission). He has passions for world languages, textual ambiguity, and education as liberation. He lives with his cat, Moses; like in Exodus, Aaron might talk more, but Moses is definitely in charge.