What Do We Stand For?

Proclaim Gathering 2017. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

by the Rev. Amanda Nelson
Executive Director, ELM

Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year (1517-2017)? During the months of October and November, ELM’s blog will feature reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQ+ leaders.


“This is our confession and that of our people, article by article, as follows”


With these words, Dr. Phillip Melancthon concluded the introduction to the Augsburg Confession: a document composed by Melancthon, Dr. Martin Luther, and their colleagues that to this day stands as the confession of the Lutheran Church.

It was written at the request of Emperor Charles V who invited Luther and the Reformers to present their beliefs at a meeting of religious and political leaders with the purpose of quelling conflict and reuniting the Roman Catholic Church in the region.

You see, thirteen years before the Augsburg Confession was written, Luther had caused quite a stir when he posted 95 theses on the church doors in Wittenberg disputing theologies and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

Charles’ desire to snuff out this new movement was not to be. A flame had been lit in the hearts of the Reformers that not even the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire could put out. Having found in scripture the love and grace of God, Luther and his cohorts could not turn back and would not back down.

Such is the history of the Lutheran Church: we are a tradition rooted in public witness and bold proclamation. Our forebears spoke truth to power at the risk of their livelihoods and lives so that people may know that it is God’s gift of grace that reconciles all of creation.

This is the torch that we in the Lutheran tradition are asked to pick up and carry in our communities.

“Power” in today’s world may be embodied differently than it was 500 years ago, but, there are still “Emperors” and “the Church” to contend with; and, there are bodies taking on the role of modern day “Reformers.”

It was Church leaders with power who composed the Nashville Statement this past August – a document of explicit hate for gender and sexual minorities. And it was modern day Reformers who spoke truth to power with documents like the Denver Statement and the Connecticut Statement with explicit love and grace for all of God’s creation.

Public witness and bold proclamation still matter.

ELM didn’t write a statement to contend with Nashville; rather, the lives and ministries of our Proclaim members and staff ARE our statement.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries stands firmly in our belief that the public witness of LGBTQIA+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.

In the words of a cis het white man whose name our church bears: here we stand, we can do no other!

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

As a publicly out Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Rev. Amanda Nelson embodies in her ministry the public witness and bold proclamation of LGBTQIA+ leadership and has seen how her queer identity breaks down barriers for those who feel ostracized by the church. As the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, Amanda endeavors to speak truth to power by sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ pastors and deacons in the ELCA and ELCIC.


Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year? During the months of October and November, ELM’s blog will feature reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQ+ ministries and leaders. This week’s post comes from Rev. Maria Anderson-Lippert, founder of the mission start Arise Portland.


A few months ago at a gathering for Mission Developers in the ECLA, I admitted that Arise Portland’s largest growing edge is our ministry is lacking straight cis-men. When I moved to Portland to “facilitate an experimental ministry to gather young adults who don’t find a home in the church,” I never imagined it would become the queer, re-forming ministry it is today. And I couldn’t be more grateful.

It has always been difficult to describe Arise Portland* to others.

Are you a church? No.

Are you religious? Kind of.

Are you Christian? Some of us are.

Once a month as we’re preparing for Holy Potluck on a Saturday morning, people trickle in the front door, brunch-y dish in hand. They then wander up the stairs and find themselves congregating in the kitchen with others, checking out what is on the menu for today. When the doorbell rings, whoever isn’t in the middle of food prep or setting the table runs down the stairs to greet the person at the door. We all do our part to feed and welcome one another. Once everyone has arrived and all is ready for eating, we parade out of the kitchen and into the dining room. Gathered around the table, we preach to one another through our stories, and we share in our holy communion of brunch foods and coffee or tea. After brunch is finished, a few of us linger, washing dishes, wiping down countertops, and sharing our reflections on our time together.

About two-thirds of the people who are integral to and participate in Arise Portland identify as queer. And although I didn’t set out to create a queer ministry, I’m not surprised  it has become a place where queer folks have found a spiritual home. What we do together at Arise Portland doesn’t resemble church in very obvious ways – there are no robes, pews, or hymn books. Our liturgy is completely organic. You might even say it’s queer. But what we do together – gather in community, tell stories about the good news of belovedness, share food, and send each other out into our lives refreshed, connected, and renewed – feels an awful lot like liturgy to me.

Stretching the boundaries and creating new definitions of sacred space, our community is continuing to be formed. In the process, we are re-forming the way God’s love is shared in community and in the world. Most importantly, the folks in our community continue to re-form me, and the church, to be able to share God’s love even more honestly.

Our ministry may always lack in straight cis-men. And, although that’s not the goal, it would be okay. What we’re not lacking is genuine connection, fun, and the sacred, holy moments that can only occur when you gather people together.

*Arise Portland is a new, experimental ministry bringing people together to celebrate and foster wholeness in Portland, ME. What does that mean? It means we trust that everyone is already whole, just as they are. We also trust that when we come together in community, we discover even greater wholeness. To learn more about Arise Portland check out our website at www.ariseportland.org or our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ariseportland.



Maria is constantly surprised by the way that poetry connects her to the Divine. This summer, her husband has been encouraging her to get out on her bike more often and she’s learning that she’s more capable of biking up hills than she realized. (But she is not sure she is glad to have learned that.) If you follow her on Instagram, you’ll discover that she really does have the most adorable cats.






This is Most Certainly True: Queer Theology Reforms the Church!

Editor’s note:  Have you heard it’s the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation this year (1517-2017)? During the months of October and November, ELM’s blog will feature reflections on how the church continues to re-form and the role of LGBTQ+ leaders.


Photo by Kathy Hartl, Christ Lutheran Church.

by Rev. Brenda Bos
Proclaim member and pastor, Christ Lutheran Church, San Clemente, California

A few weeks ago Proclaimer and current pastoral intern Katy Wallace posted in the Proclaim Facebook group: “If we had a Queer Christian’s Creed*, what might it say?” I thought it was an interesting question, but I worried I was not queer enough to have anything useful to say.

About a week later, I was all worked up emotionally. A close friend had died, the world was going crazy, I’m sure something frustrating had happened with my son. My heart was broken open. Cruising Facebook to avoid reality, I came across Katy’s call for a Queer Christian Creed again. I thought I’d give it a shot. This creed literally poured out in about three minutes:

I believe in God the Creator,
who designed all good things,
including people of all gender expressions and sexual orientations.

I believe in Jesus Christ,
God’s perfect Child,
who came to earth to live among us.
Jesus was born into a non-conventional family who adored Him even when they did not understand Him.
He confounded authorities and comforted the oppressed.
Because He represented the marginalized, He was crucified, His body mocked by others, died and was buried.
He knew personal Hell.
On the third day God celebrated the wonder of the human body and raised Jesus from the dead.
Jesus ascended into the realm of beauty, continually moving among us, blessing and sustaining us.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
all music, wonder and strength.
I am a member of the Body of Christ.
I cherish the communion of the saints,
live because of the forgiveness of sin,
emulate the resurrection of the Body
and already experience life everlasting. Amen

My favorite two lines were “Jesus was born into a non-conventional family who adored Him even when they did not understand Him” and “He knew personal hell”. Both those sentiments broke my heart. Both felt really queer and really powerful.

I have been slow to acknowledge the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in my congregation because I don’t want to idolize the past. Don’t get me wrong: I am deeply grateful to Martin Luther and his buddy Philip Melanchthon for their teachings, especially about a loving God who does everything to reconcile with us. I also cherish Luther’s insistence that theology be broken down to make sense for everyday people. But I don’t want to lead a church looking backward at some white guys’ work in Western Europe five centuries ago. I want to proclaim new reformations, new liberations, new demands for a better church and a better world.

In 2017, the Reformation continues: The LGBTQ+  perspective on the world, the non-binary, queer, beautiful, troubled, self-realized, passionate perspective of our community is a gift to the whole church. We can break down theology into delectable little bites of truth, flavored with fabulous. Many of us have known personal Hell, and through the amazing love of our creator we have been raised to new beautiful life in our surprising (to some!) bodies.  We proclaim resurrection in a unique, reimagined way. We live everlasting life with a booming bass line and a tender embrace. We share looks and sighs and a deep commitment to healing, peace and hope.

Will I be reciting the traditional Apostle’s Creed for the rest of my life? Of course: it’s part of my beloved tradition. Will I also be looking for new ways to profess my faith with new language, describing God and community in fresh ways? Yes! This is how the Reformation continues, now and forever. This is most certainly true.

*Note:  This creed is being revised with other Proclaimers for use in our community.

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Brenda Bos continues to be amazed she is allowed to sign her name with a “Rev.” in front of it. When the going gets tough, she and her wife Janis grab their two dogs and hit a local hiking trail. That, and a little tiny, barely-notice-it’s-there scoop of coffee ice cream always help.

Always Asking the Question

The Rev. Leslie Welton and Bp. Jim Gonia (Rocky Mountain Synod) serving communion at Welton’s installation as Assistant to the Bishop.

by Rev. Leslie Welton
Proclaim member

Editors Note:  Have you wondered where God is calling LGBTQ+ people within the greater church? This is the final in a four-part series on Proclaim leaders who are doing ministry outside of the parish ministry context.


I have been in my current call for three weeks . . . It feels like three days! A month ago, I was saying tearful goodbyes to a congregation I loved very much and moving half-way across the country to a new role in a synod office. Very different ministries, to say the least.

So the past three weeks have been drinking from the firehose of information!

I also find myself asking questions at the rate of an inquisitive toddler: Who are these congregations? Who are these people? What do they expect of me? Can I really do this work? What if I annoy my colleagues? What if I screw up? Did I make the right choice?

That last question is the one that I find myself camping with a bit, and it’s partly due to my new role around candidacy in this synod. As the Assistant to the Bishop for Faith Formation and Candidacy, I get to walk with folks discerning a call to rostered ministry in this church. My own road of discernment in the beginning was a bumpy one; and, as I get to know these candidates, who are asked to be very vulnerable in the process of discerning a vocation, I am reminded that my call here is to pray for these leaders as they are being formed.

These are the new “congregation members” for whom I am called to pray in my ordination vows, and I love that!

One of my favorite lessons in seminary came from a professor who said we should always ask, “Can I honestly say I’m where God is calling me to be today?” I am mindful that LGBTQ+ folks have a rocky road in candidacy, and we get asked a lot of questions.  Questions of identity and call can be frustrating when the church around you can’t see what you and those who know you best can see. I’m thankful that I can be a voice in the process and advocate for candidates on a wider level.

The move from a congregation to a specialized ministry was not an easy decision, but three weeks in I can say it was the right decision. I still feel a bit like Joshua standing at the border of Canaan not knowing what was in store, but I also hear that voice from the cloud assuring, “Do not be afraid, I go before you.” (God did have to tell Joshua that about a dozen times before he got it). I grieve the loss of the relationships in the congregation, the stories I was privileged to share, the rhythm of preaching with a congregation, and learning from one another, and the community. But I see where my passions in ministry are such a fit in this call.

Faith formation is what we are about in the church, and it’s all about asking the questions that bring us closer to the God who loves us so much. For that I am grateful and excited to see what the years ahead hold.

Leslie Welton is happiest with a cup of coffee in one hand, a book in the other and one of her cats on her lap. She is a perpetual student of all the instruments she owns but cannot yet play and nurtures an obsession with miniature anything. She will try any food but bologna and sees the hospitality of her own table as integral to understanding the hospitality offered at Christ’s. The recent move from California to Colorado (to serve as Assistant to the Bishop for Faith Formation and Candidacy, Rocky Mountain Synod) has her excited to explore the mountains but a little bit chilly.

Five Careers and Counting

View from Ravenscroft Chapel at Spirit in the Desert. Photo by Christephor Gilbert

by Rev. Richard Andersen
Proclaim member

Editors Note:  Have you wondered where God is calling LGBTQ+ people within the greater church? This is the third in a four-part series on Proclaim leaders who are doing ministry outside of the parish ministry context.

I have been the executive director at Spirit in the Desert retreat center since January 2016, and have been thrilled to welcome more than 3,800 people from all over the U.S. and 41 countries as they participated in 151 programs – and the numbers keep growing! We are already seeing 20 percent more people in 2017 so far.

 Our purpose is to offer the opportunity for renewal, reconciliation, healing and transformation for every participant.  We do this with welcoming hospitality, the expertise of program facilitators, and our serene, eight-acre, Sonoran Desert environment that includes open spaces for meditation, prayer and reflection.

 Retreats this fall include “Healing of Memories” for veterans and first responders, “Boundless Compassion” for all those seeking to live and share compassion, mercy and justice, “Leading Well” for clergy and ministry leaders, and “Spiritual Director Training.”  People with LGBTQ+ identity are among the guests who are welcome here. Our mission is to provide the supportive environment and resources for people to freely discover their calling.

 ELM helped me discover my calling.  I graduated from Luther Seminary in 1979.  At that time I joined the ARC Retreat Community instead of seeking a call as an ordained pastor.  In 1986 I was ordained and took a call to a parish in Southwestern Minnesota while remaining in the closet.  Hiding my LGBTQ+ identity did not work and I resigned from my call.  From 1987 until 2008 I sought and found successful alternative careers in restaurant management, financial planning and fundraising.  After the vote in 2009 the St. Paul Area Synod Council called me to specialized ministry with Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSSMN).  In 2016, the Grand Canyon Synod called me to my present position at Spirit in the Desert.

 The calling I have received to serve the ELCA as an ordained pastor has brought me great joy.  I waited a long, long time.  However, the experiences I had working at the ARC Retreat Center, managing five restaurants, building a financial planning team and raising funds for LSSMN are the reasons I was qualified to accept the call to Spirit in the Desert.

 In my experience ELM gave me the structure, the support, and the pathway to follow my calling.  I am grateful!

Richard lives in Cave Creek, AZ with Patrick Burns.  They met the first day of college in 1964.

When Did You Feel Welcome?

Rev. Susan Halvor conducting a blessing of the motorcycles.

by Rev. Susan Halvor
Proclaim member

Editors Note:  Have you wondered where God is calling LGBTQ+ people within the greater church? This is the second in a four-part series on Proclaim leaders who are doing ministry outside of the parish ministry context.

At a recent staff meeting of hospital chaplains, I asked that we each share about times when we felt welcomed or included, or when we did not – the stories were powerful!
One person shared that after a life of moving from place to place and always feeling like an outsider, finally they were being truly welcomed into a small Alaskan community, so much so that the community rallied to find this person a (rare) winter job.
Another spoke of the process of slowly breaking into the tight-knit Emergency Department culture: first ignored, then referred to as “chaplain,” and finally the moment when the nurses actually knew this chaplain by name.
Or the one who spoke about visiting the back areas of Laboratory Services for the first time and being celebrated as the much-loved chaplain who prays enthusiastically over the intercom in the mornings.
And, one person talked about offering ashes on Ash Wednesday in an administrative section of the hospital, and, after many refusals, came across a woman who wept and said “you have no idea how much I needed you to come by right now.”
As we shared our own stories of vulnerability and welcome, I thought about how vulnerable it feels to be a patient, to be cut off from your “normal” life and activities and community.
And I thought about how each of us on our team has felt “other,” and the ways that has informed our ministries. In our department, we are straight, lesbian, queer and transgender. We are African, Indian, Caucasian, Nicaraguan, Alaska Native, African American and Scottish.
As a queer Lutheran hospital chaplain and pastor, I often feel like I don’t quite fit in many of the spaces I inhabit. The Proclaim community helps me feel a sense of belonging; but I also realize that that sense of “otherness” actually connects me to the people I serve here at the hospital – patients, their loved ones, the hospital staff who care for them and the hospital staff that keep this operation running.
My own experiences of vulnerability, my own wondering, “Will you still love me if you truly know me?” helps me better care for the child who has just been diagnosed with diabetes, the Hmong teenager who has experienced the death of a parent or sibling; the transgender patient whose anxiety increases with every new person who walks through the door; the patient with a traumatic brain injury and their partner, looking ahead to a completely different life; the patient whose opioid addiction and mental illness makes it difficult to develop a safe discharge plan.

It’s the best job in the world – I get to care for patients and their loved ones, hear incredible stories, support staff, and teach about my passions (compassion, cross-cultural communication, resilience, grief education, and more). Every day is different, and it is a gift to follow this call.

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

After 11 years as a Children’s Hospital Chaplain at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska, Susan Halvor is now the manager of the Spiritual Care Department and has to sneak away to spend the time she loves with patients and their families. When she’s not at work, she’s happiest playing outdoors in Alaska with her dog Jack, wrangling her two cats, line dancing or eating ice cream. Some of these activities have been known to happen at the same time! She also enjoys serving as one of the chaplains to the Proclaim community.

Beloved and Enough: Cultivating Community Through Campus Ministry

Photo by Kathleen Koran. Pictured (L to R) Huiquao Yao and Becca Seely

by Rev. Becca Seely
Proclaim member

Editors Note:  Have you wondered where God is calling LGBTQ+ people within the greater church? This is the first in a four-part series on Proclaim leaders who are doing ministry outside of the parish ministry context.

I wasn’t raised up in church.  Growing up, my primary exposure to Christianity was through the voices of the Christian right that seemed to saturate the media in the 1990s.  The older I got, the clearer it seemed to me that Christian faith was just a pious mask for moralism and bigotry.  By the time I came out as gay in high school, I thought I had Christianity’s number and I was sure as heck not calling it.  But like it does for so many, college changed me.  The courses I took in the religion department opened my eyes to a faith that was much more complex than I had understood.  I was exposed to a multiplicity of voices from the Christian tradition and my assumptions were challenged one by one.  I went from a kid who thought she had it all figured out to a young woman realizing how little she knew about faith and God – and how much she actually wanted to know.

Ash Wednesday Service. Photo by Gregory Togbah. Pictured (L to R): Megan Macpherson, Christian Pisco, Sedalia Mahlum, Becca Seely, Jordan Mosley.

Fast forward fifteen years and I am now a campus pastor, walking with young people as they navigate the exciting, challenging, assumption-busting, identity-shaping college years.  I serve as director of a campus ministry network in New York City, where I work with an incredible diversity of students.  It is a joy to get to accompany young people as they go through their own transformations – as they begin to figure out what they do and don’t believe, who they are and who they feel called to become.  It is also a joy to cultivate Christian community that is actively LGBTQ affirming, especially when, even in New York City, the dominant Christian voices on campus are not LGBTQ welcoming.  I delight in the fact that many of our students are LGBTQ young people who long to know there is a place at the table for them in the church and that many of our non-LGBTQ students care passionately about setting a table where all are welcome.  One queer student told me that she wasn’t sure she could be part of church anymore after some hurtful past experiences but that on her first day at our campus ministry, when we included gender pronouns in our introductions, she finally felt at home.  Now she is one of our peer ministers.

I am grateful every day for the opportunity to be an out pastor serving in this context because just by being fully who I am, I am able to bear witness to the wideness of Christ’s love – to embody the reality that everyone who feels like an outsider for whatever reason is unconditionally beloved of God.  I feel blessed to be called to a ministry where daily I get to share with stressed, uncertain young adults the good news that they are beloved and they are enough.

Photo by Molly Greenberg.

Becca Seely (she/her/hers) is Executive Director of Lutheran Ministries in Higher Education of New York City.  She enjoys hanging out with her Proclaim member wife, Abby Ferjak, doing elaborate craft projects, speed reading young adult fiction and being the proud caretaker of a professional grade sno cone machine (in case you ever need to borrow one).

Back to School and Back At It

Proclaim members Ashlei Buhrow, Tim Schroeder, and Jon Rundquist

By Ashlei Buhrow
Proclaim Member and MDiv student, Luther Seminary

Well, it’s that time of the year! School is starting, new faces are coming onto campus, and there is a feeling of orderly chaos.  For the first time in a long time, I actually am looking forward to the start of a school year.  Why? Because I’m starting to see the ways in which I can use my gifts at Luther Seminary.
Last year was my first year of seminary, and that came with a lot of changes: turning 21, moving to a new state, living with unfamiliar people, and most life changing—coming out.  In October of 2016, I told my friends and family that I was a lesbian, and not unlike many, felt very alone.  I knew that there was a group on campus called Emmaus that was an LGBTQIA+ group, but I didn’t have the guts to reach out to them until much later.

 Then, this group called Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) kept coming up in my circles, and I was encouraged to get involved! I joined, and immediately got connected with Proclaim.  Lucky for me, a position in the Seminary Outreach Team had opened up the following week—and I was invited to be the student representative for Luther Seminary. To be honest, I had no clue what I should or shouldn’t do; honestly, I didn’t even really grasp what it meant to be gay.  But I knew I had support and always would be supported.

 That brings us to this year at Luther Seminary.  Everyone deserves to feel like they can be authentic and true to themselves, and that’s exactly what I hope to help bring to the Luther Seminary campus as part of the Seminary Outreach Team, and leader for Emmaus!Today, we tabled at the Open House hours during First Week orientation—rainbow and trans flags flying, with the addition of some Skittles and Starbursts.  These past few years, a lot has changed at Luther Seminary, and so I decided to leave it up to the campus population to help decide what Emmaus and Proclaim will mean to them.  Those who were interested placed their names, pronouns, and contact information on a sheet for me to connect with them; the sky is the limit after that!  Some ideas currently in place are: working with Decolonize Lutheranism and Naked and Unashamed;  learning more about LGBTQ+ rights and their roles in the global church; and facilitating more opportunities on campus for education on trans rights.  I look forward to this school year and starting fresh, but even more so I am looking forward to being a person that people know is here for them and connecting them to resources they find helpful.

Ashlei Buhrow is a Master of Divinity middler (second year, for those not in the know!) at Luther Seminary, and in candidacy toward Word and Sacrament ministry in the Northwestern Wisconsin Synod (a surprising turn of events discerned only three days after she finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin)!  Currently job hunting for something that feeds her passion for youth ministry and LGBTQ+ engagement, Ashlei enjoys testing out the breweries of Minnesota, spending time with her partner and her dog, and exploring in nature.

I’m One of “Those” People . . .

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

By Rev. Amanda Nelson
Executive Director, ELM

It took me a little longer to figure it out than some of my peers; although, I suppose still earlier in life than some people I know. When I think about it, there were signs of it when I was a little girl. My parents had an inkling.

I had good role models when I was a child and again when I was in high school and college, so it’s not like I thought it was a bad thing. But still. I felt nervous when I thought of myself in that way.

It took some time of real listening to my own heart before I was finally able to say: “I want to be a pastor.”

Did you think this was going in a different direction? You’re right, I could’ve said these things about finally being able to say “I’m gay.”

Isn’t that fascinating?

When I was visiting Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) as a prospective student, we spent one evening sharing with each other our call stories: how did you know you were called to be a leader in the church? As we went around sharing, I texted my girlfriend at the time and said, “Wow! This feels an awful lot like sitting with LGBTQ+ friends sharing our coming out stories.”

Deep listening. Feeling a sense of identity and purpose. Fear in telling our friends and family. Risking backlash from our society and culture. Bravely claiming our calling.

Coming out as queer and coming out as a pastor has been a journey intimately intertwined. For me, once I was completely honest with myself and my community about who I am and my sexual orientation, I was then freed and called to be completely honest with myself and my community about my vocation, my calling. I’m one of those people.

As you get to know LGBTQ+ leaders in our church, you’ll hear similar stories to mine. Stories of people for whom the discernment process of listening and struggling to understand who we are and how we are in the world reveals not only our sexual orientation or gender identity, but also reveals to us God’s calling to leadership and ministry. As we come to understand both our calling and our sexual or gender identity, we find both strength and wonder.

This is why it is so important for LGBTQ+ leaders like myself to share our orientation and gender identity publicly as we serve as ministers and leaders in the church: for many of us these identities are symbiotic. They inspire each other and each adds depth to the other.

And yet, this public profession of identity and calling can be risky business. Being LGBTQ+ is still not totally acceptable in our society and in our church. Serving as a pastor in the institution of the Church is not as flashy as working for a start-up or becoming a lawyer. And, still we’re here – with a desire to bring the good news, to share the radical love of God with our hands and voices and hearts.

This is the gift LGBTQ+ ministers bring to our church and our world. This is the dynamic that influences our theology – our understanding of God’s love – and our public ministry – how God’s love can be present in our world. This is why the public witness of LGBTQ+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.

And, it is this intimate relationship of identity and calling that sang out to me as I applied to become the next Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. I feel blessed to be in the position to echo back the strength and wonder of that relationship as I take on this role; and, share with others the gifts and joys of LGBTQ+ leaders in our church.

I look forward to singing with you!

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Rev. Amanda Nelson is the new Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She comes to ELM having served as a parish pastor in East Hartford, Connecticut for the past two years and is a member of Proclaim. Amanda lives in Portland, Maine with her dog Cinna (yes, named for the Hunger Games character) where they love to take in the sights and sounds of living in such a beautiful coastal city.

Moving to Midian: The Strife and Success of LGBTQ+ Seminarians Setting Out on Internship


Proclaim Members Off to Internship.  Pictured (L-R, Top -Bottom): Jon Rundquist (photo by Emily Ann Garcia), Katy Miles-Wallace (photo by Emily Ann Garcia), Thomas Voelp, Laura Ferree (photo by Emily Ann Garcia).

By Dan Gutman
Proclaim member

ELM editor’s note:  This is the second of a two-part feature on Proclaim seminarians and internship. Like Moses who set out for the land of Midian (Ex. 2:11-20), a place where his identity was shaped by God and God’s people, so too do our seminarians make a home away from  home on internship, God building on their call so they might return to their home – their Egypt – equipped more fully for the work of ministry.  Last week we featured a Proclaim seminarian, Josh Evans, reflecting on his year as an intern in Omaha, NE. This week, we feature stories from seminarians who are about to embark on internship this fall with the intention of lifting up a multitude of experiences from across the Proclaim community.  In preparation for this week’s post, ELM sent a questionnaire asking soon-to-be-interns to reflect not only on their hopes and apprehensions as LGBTQ+ candidates, but also on the overall process with their synods and their seminaries.  What came back was honest and, frankly, hard to hear in light of the overall struggle that LGBTQ+ persons in ministry continue to face.  And yet, it was important for us to lift up these experiences as a true reflection of what it means to be called to serve this church at this time.  Thanks to Proclaim member, and new intern, Dan Gutman, for contextualizing the experiences of our Proclaim seminarians.


Internship placement is a time rife with excitement and anxiety for seminarians.  For LGBTQ+ candidates in particular, fear and apprehension can overwhelm the process and resurrect our deepest insecurities.  Depending on relationships the candidate has with the seminary, the synod, and the potential internship sites, the overall process can be a continuous series of revelations that are reminiscent of that initial experience of coming out as LGBTQ+.  Candidates find themselves once again in the vulnerable position of being accepted and welcomed as their whole selves.

For some Proclaim interns, we are the first LGBTQ+ person people in the congregations have interacted with. Jon Rundquist is serving Living Waters Lutheran in Sauk Rapids, MN and Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer of Minneapolis.  “As an out transfeminine internI was one of the first trans folk that many in the congregation had interacted with.”   Initially, Jon was concerned whether these congregations would even allow a trans person to serve as intern.  However, as Jon settles into their sites, they are hopeful: “the growth that I achieve, the relationships I form, and the progress that is made – make it abundantly clear that God is calling me to lead a congregation in ordained ministry, and that God is at work in both [of my internship] communities, forming positive experiences so the reality is affirmed that a queer leader in the ELCA can serve wherever God is calling them.”

Recently, LGBTQ+ seminarians have run into a shortage of internship sites open to receiving them as interns. “I was essentially…put into a secondary search.”  For Katy Miles-Wallace the process was rough.  Only three of the available churches listed in the pool of sites offered to her would interview an LGBTQ+ candidate. Of those three, none were a good fit.  Katy feels fortunate to have had the support of the Proclaim Accompaniment Team throughout her application process and gives thanks for the people of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Dublin, OH who were willing to open their doors to an LGBTQ+ intern and have been incredibly generous and welcoming!

For many LGBTQ+ interns, internship is another point in the process where sexual identity is conflated with sexual activity and we, once again, feel punished for having healthy understandings of sexuality. For Thomas Voelp at St. Peter’s by the Sea Lutheran Church in San Diego, CA, internship has brought personal relationships into question.  Thomas feels supported by his supervisor and many in the congregation. However, when it comes to his desire to date while on internship, Thomas feels restricted by an either/or binary of what relationships look like and the process they take – the expectation that candidates be either single or married.  “I want to scream: ‘God does not despise sexuality or dating!’”

For a growing number of our Proclaim interns, the internship placement process is filled with grace and joy. “My hope for the process is that each candidate for internship may have an experience like mine.”  Laura Ferree, serving one of the only two RIC congregations represented in this article, Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA, was not without apprehensions in this process but says, “I felt supported throughout the entire process and as if my identity and safety mattered to my school and future internship site.”  Laura’s hope for the process is, “that other RIC congregations are willing to step up and create safe internship sites for LGBTQ+ candidates.”

ELM’s Accompaniment program walks alongside and supports candidates throughout their journey to first call. This program works to address many of the issues the seminarians in this article articulated so that more LGBTQ+ seminarians have an experience like Laura’s.

It’s encouraging to see the fruit of our work and the glimpses of hope each Proclaimer carries with them into internship. And yet, there is so much more work to be done until every LGBTQ+ candidate’s whole self is affirmed, supported, and warmly embraced by the whole church.

Dan Gutman (he/him/his) is just beginning his internship at St. John Lutheran Church in Celina, OH.  He is a member of Proclaim and is married to Mandy and they have the most adorable children you’ve ever seen, Sam (2 yrs) and Luke (2 mos).  Dan loves being outside, playing with his children’s’ toys, and drinking snooty beer (preferably all three at once).  Dan’s hopes for internship are to leverage the privilege he is ascribed by being in a heteronormative relationship to move the congregation toward a more affirming place with LGBTQ+ candidates.