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Author Archive

Freed to Abundant Life

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Freed to Abundant Life

by Rev. Steve Hoffard
Proclaim member and Pastor of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church–Kingston, ON

One of the strangest things that happens to me as a pastor is that, occasionally, I am hit hard by the truth of the gospel right in the middle of preaching.

I can wrestle with a text and finding the right words for a whole week, going over it again and again. I even practice preaching it from the pulpit a number of times as part of my homiletic practice, and nothing particularly moving or spectacular happens.

Then wham! It does. Suddenly the Holy Spirit illuminates something for me right in the middle of proclaiming the gospel.

This is what happened to me two summers ago. A secret I had held tightly for fifty years, one that I had only whispered to one other person a few weeks earlier, confronted me in the middle of a sermon.

I was preaching on the Lutheran World Federation theme “Liberated by God’s Grace: Humanity Not for Sale”. In particular, I was speaking about the grace Jesus spoke of in John’s gospel saying, “I have come so that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” In that moment, I suddenly understood that not living my truth had affected someone else besides me.

By keeping my secret, my wife of twenty-two years was not able to experience the abundant life she deserved. It was in that moment that I knew what I had to do. It was the beginning of sharing my truth with my family, friends and congregation that I am and have always been gay.

I spent months coming out to family, friends and those closest to me. Then one day, I found myself standing in the same pulpit, trembling as I shared with the congregation how grace had called me forth in my full identity.

I told them about my orientation and how I no longer desired to change it. Most importantly, I told them that I was good with who God created me to be.

I recognized it as a gift that made me more sensitive to the struggle of others and therefore a better pastor. I had been freed to the abundant life that God intended for me and for all of us.

Now when I climb into the pulpit, I don’t expect something revelatory to happen. But I never know where the Holy Spirit will take me next!


Rev. Steve Hoffard (he/him/his) is pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Kingston, Ontario.  He continues to blunder into God’s grace unexpectedly while exploring who God created him to be.

 

Mystic Sexuality as Resistance

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

by Elle Dowd

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.

 

Each time I read the works of one of my favorite historical mystics,  a part of me is transported back to a 13 year old version of myself – lounging on my comforter, kicking up my legs behind me, pouring over the words breathlessly, devouring it as if it were a Judy Blume book.  Reading the mystics, I feel that same eager, hungry response bubbling up in my body and in my spirit.

In all honesty, a lot of these mystical writings would be just as likely to get banned today as my beloved teenage fiction stories, should people actually be paying attention. Moralists might call these writings blasphemous, improper, even pornagraphic.  And in the time these pieces were written, their authors were threatened by the authorities with sanctions or silencing bans. Many of the historical mystics in our Christian tradition were too honest, too scandalous, too sexy for the powers that be.

One of my favorite mystics is Mechthild of Madgeburg, who wrote The Flowing Light of Divinity as a German tween in the 1200s. Her visions read like romance novels, describing the relationship between the Trinity and the Soul as that of two lovers, and their prayers like sweet pillowtalk.

Prayer is naught else but a yearning of soul … it draws down the great God into the little heart; it drives the hungry soul up to the plenitude of God; it brings together these two lovers, God and the Soul, in a wondrous place where they speak much of love.”

Church dignitaries of her time called for her writings to be burned.

Yes, there is something dangerous about mystics.
Something inherently political.
Something outside the status quo, something queer.

The ways that mystics refuse to let soul be separated from body, the way that mystics receive so intimately the love of God, the way that they release that love so ecstatically…it is all a little too threatening to people whose power is intrinsically tied to the repression of bodies and the silencing of expression.

Queer theologians today, many of us mystics, face these same sanctions when we dare to talk about the ways that we encounter God.  We are too outside the lines of acceptable respectability. In the hubris of going the places where God has led us, we are already outside of our “place,” but we’re too intoxicated with the taste of divine kisses to care. We are caught up in the whirlwind of a romance with a wild and untamed God, a force of love so strong that in its wake, it turns over tables, dethrones kings, and topples empires.

Thanks be to God. 


Elle Dowd (she/her/hers) is a bi-furious #pastorschool student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a candidate for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Elle has pieces of her heart in Sierra Leone, where her two children were born, and in St. Louis where she learned from the radical, queer, Black leadership during the Ferguson Uprising. She currently works as a community organizer with #DecolonizeLutheranism and on weekends tours the city of Chicago in search of the best Bloody Mary.

 

 

 

 

Photo at top: WorkingArts

Bio Photo: Provided by author

The Journey to a Call

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

L to R: Caleb Cranier and Javen Swanson at a Proclaim Gathering. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

by the Rev. Javen Swanson
Proclaim member and pastor,
Gloria-Dei Lutheran, St. Paul, Minnesota

 

It was August 2011 and I had just been approved for call. Because my husband Oby was then serving as pastor of a United Church of Christ congregation in the Twin Cities suburbs, I requested a restriction to the St. Paul Area Synod. My request was denied. I quickly learned that there are more candidates (both ordained and first-call) seeking calls in the Twin Cities than there are calls to be received.

Meeting with the synod staff to discuss my next steps, I was told that the fact that my request for restriction wasn’t accepted did not mean I couldn’t be considered for a call in the synod. They said the synod staff regularly reviews the names of candidates who are awaiting call and restricted to the Twin Cities. Perhaps a call would become available sometime in the future that could be a good fit.

But, they told me, I would also need to be my own advocate: keep an eye on the synod website for open calls; call the synod office monthly to discuss any new possibilities with the assistant to the bishop; get involved in the synod and network with other pastors in the area. I came away from that conversation with a clear sense that I would need to fend for myself.

Two and a half years later, I was feeling hopeless and all alone. When a call finally did come in the summer of 2014, it came not because the synod had passed my name onto a congregation, but because a fellow Proclaim member advocated for me and put my name in front of a call committee.

Seeking a first call can be a nerve-racking process for any newly-approved candidate, but it is often an especially difficult process for LGBTQIA+ candidates who, almost 10 years after the 2009 vote, still encounter roadblocks getting interviews and finding a call.

Two years ago, ELM’s Accompaniment Program launched a First Call Coaching Team. Twice a year, as recently-graduated Proclaim seminarians complete the approval process and receive their synod assignments, we offer to match them with a coach whose task is to walk with them through the process of seeking a first call. The coaches are all Proclaim members, most of whom have learned from their own challenging experiences how best to navigate the process and negotiate the obstacles LGBTQIA+ candidates encounter along the way.

The First Call Coaching Team has collected some of the best practices for LGBTQIA+ candidates awaiting first call, and coaches connect monthly with first-call candidates to offer support. Perhaps most importantly, coaches provide a listening ear, sharing in both the frustrations of awaiting first call and the joys of a successful call process.

If you ask me, synods should offer coaches to every candidate awaiting first call. Until then, ELM’s first call coaches will do the work of walking with LGBTQIA+ candidates as they seek a first call and supporting them through all the ups and downs of that journey.


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Javen Swanson is Associate Pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minnesota (one of TWO Proclaim pastors on the pastoral staff!) where he has served since 2014. He makes a home with several Old Testament characters: his husband Obadiah, dog Ruthie, and cats Amos and Hosea.

Pride and Policies for 2019

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Crosswalk at Christopher Street during Pride, with the Stonewall Inn in the background. Photo by Mark Erson.

by the Rev. Mark Erson
Proclaim member and pastor, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Manhattan

 

It has been a total pleasure to serve on the Proclaim Team these last few years.  It has given me the opportunity to witness the growth of this essential group of colleagues and to work with some pretty awesome folks as we strive to build and strengthen this community and its witness.

I know we have just started 2018, but I am already so excited for 2019.  As one who loves to make the most of anniversaries and historic remembrances, 2019 offers us two amazing anniversaries to celebrate and to create a lot of hoopla over.

First of all, June of 2019 will mark Stonewall 50.  Yup, fifty years since the uprisings at the Stonewall Inn (really a bar) here in the West Village of New York City.  While some of us have been alive for all fifty years, we have all been affected by the movement that grew out of those initial events.  As LGBTQIA+ people it is part of our legacy.  New York will be World Pride City in 2019.  Please, consider coming to NYC for the celebration.  As a church that sits right on the Pride March route, I’m hoping to have 50 pastors cheering on the march from our steps.

But more importantly to the work of the Proclaim team, 2019 is also the tenth anniversary of the passing of the resolutions at Church Wide Assembly (CWA) that brought about policy changes regarding ordained LGBTQIA+ people.  There will be another CWA in 2019 and the Proclaim Team is making it a priority to publicly celebrate this milestone.

We want to tell stories of ministry that has happened and is happening because of those policy changes.  We want to proclaim the good news of radical welcome that the ELCA embraced in 2009 and continues to work at growing into.  We want to challenge the church to be honest and see that there is still work to be done.

It is a tall order.  There is a lot to do and say.  Over the next 18 months there will be a variety of ways to have input into this project and this proclamation.  Please keep watching, for opportunities to participate, vision, brainstorm and collaborate.

Due to the great divide in the 2009 vote, those of us who were rejoicing were asked to keep a lid on it so that those who were still struggling would not become angered.  Well, this party has been ten years in waiting.  Together we can make the most of it.  In the words of a not too distant Advent season – Keep Awake, Keep Watch.


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

Mark Erson (he/him/his) is pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, Manhattan, NY, on Christopher Street and wonderfully close to the Stonewall National Monument.  As a theatre artist, he engages the performing arts every chance he gets at St. John’s for the sake of the gospel.  He is married to his high school sweetheart, Scott Jordan, and is entertained continuously by their dog Brooklyn.

Extraordinary 2017!

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Happy New Year!

 
In this second week of Christmas, after leftovers from holiday meals have been eaten, and the noisemakers and champagne flutes from Sunday night are put away for another year, it is exciting to look back over the moments and milestones we have experienced, together, as a community.

We were off and on the move right from the start of 2017!  Asher (Program Director) represented ELM at two national conferences, the Western Mission Network Conference on Lutheran Theological Education at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Arizona (where Proclaimer Rev. Richard Andersen is the Executive Director), and the Extravaganza! Gathering (an annual event for adults who work with youth in ELCA congregations).  Then in February, Christephor (Communications and Development Coordinator) attended the annual ALDE Conference for development professionals in Lutheran contexts.

By the end of March, we celebrated three significant milestones.  Long time Proclaim member Chris Wogaman – after a ten year wait – was called to Trinity Lutheran Church in Park Forest, Illinois.  The Joel Workin Endowment (which supports our annual Joel Workin Scholar) reached $100,000.  And, in bittersweet news, ten-year executive director Amalia Vagts announced her departure to pursue a new call toward ordained ministry with the ELCA.

In April, the Rev. Matthew James (Proclaim member and Director of Admissions at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago) joined the ELM Board of Directors, and Proclaimer and seminarian Laura Ferree shared the joyful experience of meeting other Proclaimers in the Holy Land.  The end of the month was shadowed by the passing of long time ELM supporter Joe McMahon.  This year was doubly hard as we also lost Blanche Grube in November, and important ally for ELM, both before and after the landmark ELCA Churchwide decision in 2009.

Moving into the summer, we were celebrating again as Asher was installed as the Program Director, and we ushered in a new strategic vision for the organization, further focusing goals for the upcoming years and fine-tuning our belief statement: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of LGBTQIA+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.

June brought our presence at ten ELCA Synod Assemblies nationwide, Ben Houge (from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and currently on internship at Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C.) was named the 2017 Joel Workin Scholar, and I was elated to accept the role as ELM’s new Executive Director.

July focused on the 2017 Proclaim Gathering:  Healing the Violence, as 71 Proclaim members and their signifigant others came together for fellowship, discernment, worship, and ongoing learning.

The summer came to a close and we were “back to school.” Proclaimer seminarians shared their stories of internship:  both lessons learned (from Proclaimer Josh Evans who concluded his internship at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska), and eager anticipation of the unknown (from five seminarians about to embark on their journey:  Laura Ferree, Dan Gutman, JoN Rundquist, Thomas Voelp, and Katy Wallace).

What makes the work we do together Extraordinary is the way in which we can support the people doing ministry in the world:  our exceptional Proclaimers and their outstanding gifts.  This ministry takes many forms, both in the pulpit and outside in different settings.  In September we learned about the ministry Proclaimers are doing out of the pulpit.  People like the Rev. Becca Seely, who serves as director of a campus ministry in New York; the Rev. Leslie Welton who just took a call as Assistant to the Bishop for Faith Formation and Candidacy in the Rocky Mountain Synod; and the Rev. Susan Halvor, a long-time chaplain who now is the Spiritual Care Director for Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

And the year would not be complete without our own reflections on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation!  We featured two months of guest-blog posts considering the event from an LGBTQIA+ point of view.  We got the queer theology perspective from the Rev. Brenda Bos, an intersectional perspective from new Proclaimer Philipos Ghaly, re-formation of the body by trans Proclaimer JoN Rundquist, and what reformation looks like as an ally – the reflections of Bp. Thomas Aitken of the Northeastern Minnesota Synod.

As we shared in our 2017 highlight video, this past year saw big changes and big celebrations for us at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries; and, as we look to this new year, we’re excited to see what will unfold!

Whatever transpires, we know it will be extraordinary if we do it together!

Cheers to you, our supporters and friends, and to all the opportunities to love and support gender and sexual minority Rostered Leaders in the New Year!

Thank You For Being Extraordinary!

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director

 

To all of our friends and supporters – thank you for a fabulous 2017!

Please click on the image above to watch a short highlight video from all of us at ELM.

For those unable to watch the video – the text from the video is below.

Happy New Year!

 

 

 


Video Text:

2017 has been a year of big changes and big celebrations for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Our programs continue to grow:

This year we gained 44 new members of Proclaim from Atlanta, Georgia to Regina, Saskatchewan.

33 of our new members are Seminarians.

4 are pastors, 2 deacons, and 5 are either retired or awaiting call

Overall our membership has reached 283 people – that’s 283 LGBTQIA+ leaders of our church publicly witnessing to the the transformational love of God and boldly proclaiming the good news of the gospels to communities across our country.

Over 85 volunteers, many of them Proclaim members themselves, help to strengthen our programs by serving as first-call coaches, local contacts, and synod assembly table hosts, to name just a few of the capacities in which they serve.

This year, we said farewell and thank you to Amalia Vagts for her years of dedicated and creative leadership – and welcome to Rev. Amanda Nelson who serves as our new Executive Director

Over 40 individuals and families have joined the ranks of those who support ELM financially – providing gifts annually or monthly to strengthen our ministries and lend their support to gender and sexual minority leaders of the Lutheran Church

Through it all, the gifts you have made of time and finances have been a blessing for many: You’ve connected new seminarians into the community of Proclaim. You’ve equipped call committees to open their processes to Gender and Sexual Minorities. You made the 2017 Proclaim Gathering possible and meaningful for the 70 Proclaim members who attended. You’ve helped to make ELM who we are today – and give us hope for who we can be in the future.

To all of you who have supported ELM this year, we say “Thank you”

Thank you for your gifts of time.

Thank you for your financial gifts.

Thank you for believing in LGBTQIA+ leaders.

Thank you for being Extraordinary!


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Amanda is deeply grateful to all who have made her first five months as Executive Director so meaningful! She looks forward to meeting more friends and supporters of ELM in the New Year – so invite her to your congregation!

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director

 

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

It seems that from the very beginning, followers of the faith have been asked to publicly proclaim and boldly witness to the good news that grace has come on earth in the form of a vulnerable, non-conforming person named Jesus.

While shepherds kept their watching
Over silent flocks by night
Behold throughout the heavens
There shone a holy light

As my family and I get ready to stand on the mountain tops again this Christmas to joyfully proclaim Christ’s birth, I am thinking about all of the Proclaim members who will lead their congregations in these celebrations this year!

Pastors who have helped to make sure that every detail of the Christmas Eve service – or, in many cases services – reflects the awe and wonder of that first nativity.

Deacons who labor to prepare holiday meals for the homeless, rehearse choirs and special music for their congregations, and corral the children in their pageant costumes (pictures of which will haunt them for years to come!).

Interns who have offered their own pieces of flare to their congregations’ celebration of the season while learning what it means to have to “work” the holidays and spend the time away from home and loved ones.

Seminarians and those who are awaiting and in between calls who dream of the ways they will contribute to a congregation’s experience of these holy days while resting in the hope and anticipation of Advent.

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

I am in awe of these public proclaimers who take heed the calling of this hymn and the Holy Spirit to boldly witness to the joy of that grace come to earth in Jesus; and, who do so in witness to the fullness and holiness of their gender and sexual identities.

The shepherds feared and trembled
When lo above the earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed our saviour’s birth

Go, tell it on the mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere!
Go, tell it on the mountain,
That Jesus Christ is born!

From all of us at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries – we wish you a very, merry Christmas!


Amanda loves Christmas and especially Christmas music. During this season you will find her sitting by her Christmas tree, drinking glogg, and snuggling with her partner and dog watching Christmas movies.

Blessings for the Longest Night

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Photo by Analyse Triolo

by Analyse Triolo
Proclaim Member

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

This time last year I was on internship at Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan, in New York City, preparing my very first “Service of the Longest Night” and writing a post for this very blog joining my experiences with that of other Proclaim members as we awaited the Advent of the longest night of the year. We each prepared for that night with a service for people who, like many of us, feel the sting of loss more acutely at this time of year.  For me this became therapeutic as I grieved the recent loss of my mother, Diane, who had passed four months earlier.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
arriving
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

I couldn’t have known at the time just how impactful my experiences leading a “Service of the Longest Night” would be. After our service concluded with Jan Richardson’s “Blessing for the Longest Night,” I spoke with a member who shared with me their experience of profound loss, and how they felt disconnected from the joy of the Christmas season even years after losing their loved one.  I was so scared of leading a service like this because I didn’t think I’d be able to control my own emotions while holding worshipers in their own grief. What I learned is that I didn’t need to be strong enough. As we each named our saints and placed a white rose on the altar for each, all we needed to do was walk that hidden road together, in the company of one another.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

Within days of that service we lost my paternal grandfather, and several months later my grandmother as well. As I led each of their funerals, some of the longest nights of the year for my family, I kept coming back to Jan Richardson’s words in this blessing and others from A Cure For Sorrow.  In these words, we found solace in the knowledge that we aren’t alone in our grieving.  Nor is any of us as we traverse this road together, trusting that it is always darkest before the dawn.

 

Poem “Blessing for the Longest Night” from A Cure for Sorrow by Jan Richardson.  Emphasis added.


Analyse Triolo (she/her/hers) has found herself in the long, drawn-out Advent otherwise known as Awaiting First Call. Struggling to be patient, she accepted a job as a Math and Science teacher at a local Elementary School. (Who says Science and Religion can’t coexist?!)  She holds a Master of Divinity from the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, a Masters of Arts in Ministry from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and is told she’s a Master Crafter too! Her new favorite hashtag is #CallMeMaybe.

Already Becoming

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Rainbow Embroidery Art by StitchesOfAnarchy (Visit the artist’s Etsy Page)

by Chris Schaefer
Proclaim Member

Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year (1517-2017)? Today’s post is the last of our series of reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQIA+ leaders.

 

500 years sounds like a very long time. To an individual alive in 2017, 500 years spans many generations beyond their lived experience.

And yet, in the grand scheme of existence and creation, 500 years is just a drop in the bucket!

As a people and a church, we’ve come a long way since the time of Luther, and there is good reason to commemorate all that has been accomplished for justice and equity in both secular and religious circles.

And yet, as much as humanity and Lutheranism have progressed since the beginning of the Reformation, there is still so much that needs to be done.

I was reminded recently how much this rings particularly true for queer folk.

When I began my seminary journey in 2014, my uncle exclaimed how proud he was to have a nephew who was on “the front lines” of LGBTQIA+ inclusion in the church.  I giggled a little thinking that was somewhat ridiculous as the 2009 decision to allow openly gay and lesbian clergy to be called to congregational ministry was soooo long ago, and I was just a late arrival to the ticker-tape parade celebrating the queer Lutheran liberation army’s victory.

Clouded in the great privilege of being openly loved and accepted by my family, friends, and home church—all the while having long ago accepted that my path to ordination wouldn’t be simple, easy, or straight-forward (pun intended)—I often forget just how recent and hard fought the queer Reformation in the Lutheran Christian Church has been.

I’m allowed to be married to the love of my life and simultaneously answer my discerned call to Word and Sacrament ministry, and that is FABULOUS.  And yet, I must also recognize the fact that openly gay and lesbian folk still have an extremely difficult time being called to many congregations who claim to hold true to the spirit and tenets of the ELCA.  This doesn’t even begin to touch on the hoops and hurdles faced by erased bi and ace* folks, silenced trans and intersex folks, and especially those with intersections as PoC, women, and femmes, just to name a few.

At my synod assembly this summer, Presiding Bishop Eaton was present, and I had an opportunity to ask her about what is happening on the churchwide level to clear paths to ordination and reduce wait time to calls for all those mentioned above. She told me that the Council of Bishops is currently working on addressing the issue of “bound consciences,” but she also confessed that it would probably be slow going and take a lot of work in individual congregations to make any discernible progress.  She was very sorry to have to admit that.

Like any death and resurrection, all Re-formations are complex, messy, and frequently painful. I may want to just jump to the resurrection where all folks are openly loved and welcomed regardless of their identities, but first I must mourn and lament for all who came and battled before me and have allowed me to even be where I’m at.  Hopefully I’ll even get to a place of forgiveness for all those who kept our queer Lutheran ancestors locked in their closets of repression and silence.

I want the butterfly moment, but I must also put in the work of a hungry caterpillar to get there, accepting that our chrysalis moments will be hard and painful.

We’ve come a long way. Let’s keep going.

 

* “ace” is shorthand for Asexual identities.


Chris Schaefer (he/him/his) is a Senior Seminarian at United Lutheran Seminary living right outside of Washington, D.C. He can usually be found on the road listening to RuPaul’s podcast while commuting to Church Admin classes, connecting with mischievously holy people, and introverting on his couch watching TV with his husband and very vocal cat. He enjoys liberation theology with a touch of medieval mysticism and a glass of whiskey.

#ELMgivesthanks: a Campaign of Gratitude

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017


L-R: Amanda Nelson, Pat Potter, Larre Nelson, Brenda Moulton, Lisa Nelson – enjoying lobster rolls at a shack in Maine.

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
ELM Executive Director

 

“Mom, are Pat and Brenda more than friends?”

Pat was the organist at my church from when I was just a little kid to when I was a young adult. She is tiny in stature but mighty in gifts for music and compassion. Pat is ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC) so she served our church both as an organist as well as an Associate Pastor for visitation.

Pat had a “friend,” Brenda, who would come to church with her from time to time. Brenda was also a pastor, ordained in the American Baptist Church, so she couldn’t be there every Sunday. Brenda was nice, had a wicked sense of humor, and she would sing alto with me when she came to church – so, I liked her a lot!

When I was in middle school, my best friend Jenni and her family started attending our church as well. One time, Jenni and I were talking about church and she talked about “Pat and her partner, Brenda.”

I was confused…Brenda was Pat’s friend! Surely my parents would have told me if Pat and Brenda were more than friends, right?

Wrong – but not because my parents had any issue with Brenda and Pat’s relationship. My parents wanted my siblings and I to love Pat and Brenda for Pat and Brenda and not allow the world’s negativity around gay people to get in the way of our relationship.

Without knowing it, Pat was the first gay pastor I met; and, even after learning the truth about their relationship, Pat and Brenda were the first gay pastors I knew I could turn to when I was learning more about the church’s stance on same-gender relationships and eventually discerning my own orientation and call.

It was Brenda who first gave me a brochure that said “Everything Jesus ever said about homosexuality” on the front – and then, when you opened it, it was blank inside.

Pat has walked with my family through the joys of confirmations and graduations and the sorrows of losing loved ones.

I can still remember the warm hugs they gave me when I told them “I think I’m gay” and the excited looks on their faces when I said “I think I want to be a pastor.”

My family and I remain close to Pat and Brenda and I still find myself seeking their wisdom and basking in their love when we get together.

I am so immensely grateful for their witness in my life. Pat and Brenda, I give thanks for you today!

 

 “Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks for everything – for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Friends! Are there LGBTQIA+ pastors or deacons who are part of your past or present faith journey that you’re grateful for? Who are the “Pat and Brenda” of your story?

Proclaimers! Are there individuals or communities that took a leap of faith to support you as an LGBTQIA+ leader in our church that you’d like to thank?

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries invites you over these next few days to publicly express your thanks! Write a letter, pick up the phone, or write a post on social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) with the hashtag #ELMgivesthanks.

We look forward to hearing your stories!


Two turkeys: Amanda Nelson and her mother, Lisa Nelson

Rev. Amanda Nelson is the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. There is so much that she is grateful for this year – including the privilege to work with and for gender and sexual minority leaders in the Lutheran Church. She and her girlfriend, Tasha, are “hosting” Thanksgiving at Tasha’s parents’ house today (aka making all the food)…pray for them!