By Rev. Kevin Strickland
Scripture: John 20:19-31
It’s at the tomb that we discover things about ourselves. It’s at the tomb that we come to make sense of the questions that have bogged us down these weeks of Lent, in our wilderness wandering. At the tomb they all come together in one great, blinding awareness. Locked in the tombs of life, hidden in closets afraid to be our truest selves, or shackled behind doors of fear may feel easier than living in this post-tomb, post-Easter world.
When we lock doors, it is not just to keep things from coming in, it is also keeping things from going out. When we lock the doors of our hearts or of our faith or of our churches from being the nail scarred hands and feet open and unlocked to a world around us, we keep things from coming in and going out.
We belong to the company of the faithful in all times and in all places with the fingers of Thomas, needing to touch our Lord.
We need, we yearn, we groan to embrace the fullness of Jesus’ crucified and risen body, because in our bodies we sense the turmoil of the lives around us: young people who desperately seek discernment and question is church really meant for them, congregation members who wonder whether they will have a job tomorrow, colleagues who are burned out and wonder if their vocation is really cut out for them. Not to mention our own question and needs and that of our family—did Jesus really die and rise? Such a reality seems fantastic, mythical to touch the bodies of today’s world, of our world, or my world.In baptism, we are submerged into God’s nail scarred, tomb laden love.
In baptism, God in Christ reminds us that Easter did not just happen; it is still happening. Christ rose, and so can we from the death of self-doubt, personal persecution, and faithless convictions.
Thank you, God, for Thomas. We needed him in that room at the right moment. It is a healthy, doubting, powerful faith that connects his body to Jesus’ body, and in doing so, our body with Jesus’ own body, scars, wounds and all. With his rising, Jesus didn’t take on a brand-new body without any blemish; his resurrection body was the same one that was nailed to the tree. And that’s how it is with us and with the world around us—scars, wounds, and all.
May God grant us Thomas-like boldness with our faith to step out, unlock, and touch the wounds of those hands and feet that we meet all around us!
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
Bio: Rev. Kevin Strickland (he/him/his) has served as the Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive for Worship since 2014. Prior to this call, he served as a parish pastor in Nashville, TN. He and his husband, Robby live in Chicago with their mostly adorable French Bulldog, Halsted.
By Rev. Lyle Beckman
Scripture: John 13: 3-5, 12-14 (NRSV) Jesus … took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. After he had washed their feet … he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet”.
As a young pastor, I struggled with the Maundy Thursday practice of foot washing. Too many pairs of pantyhose, giggling teenagers and congregants who said “No!” when invited. My own insecurities as a young, gay (closeted) pastor shying away from such intimacy played a role in not fully experiencing the potential in this ritual. Over the years however, I have appreciated it more.
Each Maundy Thursday 75 people living on the streets of San Francisco are willing to trust a group of pastors and seminarians to lovingly wash their feet, dress their wounds and let them be anointed and dressed in new socks. Tears run down faces on both sides of the basin. Love and tenderness are shown. Healing and compassion are offered. Human contact connects us in community and to the divine presence in and around us.
Through Jesus’ example of washing feet, and in his life, death and resurrection, we are shown the depth of God’s love, and invited to share it wherever we can. In our congregations for sure, but in the world as well, which is crying out for words and actions of hope, acceptance, forgiveness, welcome and love. Will you wash their feet?
Bio: Rev. Lyle Beckman (he/him/his) served as the Night Minister for the San Francisco Night Ministry until his retirement in September, 2018. Night Ministry offers spiritual care, counseling and crisis intervention every night of the year from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am, hosts two outdoor worship services and several feeding and educational programs. Beckman is currently serving as interim pastor of Christ Church, Lutheran, San Francisco.
By Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson
“And now, it is time to let grace abound! It’s time for gay people to build worshiping communities. It’s time for us to bring God’s good news, and not the church’s bad news, to the LGBTQ [sic] community. It’s time to care for the kicked-out, the runaway, the imprisoned, the friendless, the dying. It’s time to celebrate what has already been done. It is time to remember that we are the church. We celebrate God’s gracious gifts. We proclaim the love, the life, and the grace of God at work within us and our community. We demonstrate the gracious power and glory that is ours when we come out and take the step saying, ‘We are here. We are Gay and Lesbian and Bisexual and Transgendered [sic]. We are friends of Lesbians and Gays and Bisexuals and Transgendered [sic]. We are God’s. We are the kingdom.’ The most precious grace God gives us is the grace to be ourselves. And now, it is time to let grace abound.”- Joel Workin
Often, when in the wilderness, I find myself hungry for wisdom and inspiration.
Because the wilderness can exist in my mind, my body, and my spirit, it can be quite overwhelming – this feeling of emptiness, being lost, disorientation.
In the context of wilderness, I find myself turning to the wisdom of prophets and ancestors as Mapmakers – using their maps to guide me today as I journey further into new territories.
Those whose wisdom and understanding hold a space that is beyond time or place. Whose words and actions are a gentle hand against my back encouraging me and propelling me forward.
As one of the “Berkeley Four,” Joel paved a path for me to enter candidacy and serve the church as an out queer woman when he challenged church doctrine by coming out as gay at PLTS with Jeff, Greg, and Jim in 1987.
Joel never saw the day when the church opened its doors to publicly out LGBTQIA+ pastors and deacons. He died in 1995.
And yet, he did.
Joel had a vision of God’s kin-dom of inclusion and wholeness for gender and sexual minorities and it propelled him in his work and his words.
Joel didn’t have to live in it to know it was possible.
I can only imagine who the prophets and ancestors were whose hand was at Joel’s back.
I count them as my prophets and ancestors too, even if I can’t name them.
God of counsel and wisdom, you have gifted your creation with the words, actions, and hearts of great prophets and sages. Thank you for the comfort and challenge this wisdom encourages and for the reminder that we are always surrounded by those determined to share your love for all. Amen.
Bio: Amanda (she/her/hers) is the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She thinks you should know a bit more about Joel:
Joel Raydon Workin (1961-1995) In 1987, Joel came out publicly as a gay candidate for the ordained ministry. Following this courageous and faithful act, Joel’s certification was revoked by the ELCA and his name was never placed on the roster of approved candidates waiting for call. Joel’s ministry continued in Los Angeles, however, at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and as Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice. He and his husband Paul were active in Lutherans Concerned/Los Angeles and Dignity/Los Angeles. The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Fund was established upon Joel’s death from AIDS on November 29, 1995. In keeping with Joel’s wishes, awards from the fund are used to provide scholarships to publicly-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer seminary students who proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all. The fund is managed by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
By S. Leon LaCross
“Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it?” Luke 15:4
It’s easy to write this sheep off as sinful and in need of saving. However, I’m proposing that this sheep is brave. It takes a lot of courage to strike off on your own and do your own thing. As the Joel R. Workin Scholar, I’ve been identified as having a prophetic voice; but I don’t always hear it.
I fall into the trap of doubting myself, self-sabotaging and otherwise getting down on myself. I drift off from my community and feel like a pariah. But just when I think I’ve gone too far afield, when I’ve lost hope, when I start to get my wooly coat caught in the brambles, I’m found again.
I’m reminded that I have a flock of rainbow sheep that want me around. I bump into a queer colleague, sigh too deep for words, and appreciate each other’s struggle. I’m not alone out there.
To get intertextual, we are all in the wilderness, calling out…but we’re not making the roads straight. We’re skipping down the yellow brick road, over the rainbow, and into a brave new day, collecting friends along the way.
Good Shepherd, you tend every flock and gather in your forgotten sheep. Help us to be the shepherds searching for our siblings who have drifted away. Help us to be brave sheep, daring to forge new paths. Be with us in the wilderness and help us to hold space for those who have not yet found their flock. You rejoice with us as we are reunited with our kindred. Tend to us on our Lenten journey. Amen.
Bio: S. Leon LaCross (he/they) is a third year seminarian at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary pursuing a masters in Divinity with hopes to be ordained. His specific academic interests revolve around sex, sexuality, and gender as they intersect with theology. He is an adoring partner to his boyfriend, Noah (he/they), and a part time step-father for Noah’s cat Moxie (she/her) and dog Mr. Pickles (he/him). They enjoy cooking, gaming and gardening together as well as generally trying to become literally the gayest.
A reflection on this week’s events in the global church from ELM’s Board of Directors
The apostle Paul reminds us that we who claim to follow Jesus are one body in Christ and that “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Cor 12:26).
As members of the one body and in the spirit of co-suffering love, ELM mourns and laments, with all our United Methodist kin, the St. Louis 2019 General Conference’s vote to reaffirm and strengthen the ecclesial prohibitions on ordaining same-gender loving clergy and officiating same-gender weddings, as prescribed by the “Traditional Plan.”
As we know from experiences within our own Lutheran denominations, such decisions globally impact and harm LGBTQIA+ people who are and will be told that God does not love them or that they do not bear the image of God. They wound the whole body of Christ, because LGBTQIA+ individuals are members of this body and, thereby undermine the church’s witness to God’s ever-expanding, radical love.
ELM holds with tenderness and compassion, all individuals that have experienced similar instances of institutional sin across denominations that caused safety and trust to be threatened, and that lead to further marginalization and feelings of isolation for specific groups of people. The effects of trauma and re-traumatization stretch wide and run deep, and we encourage and support those impacted in seeking support during these painful times.
Furthermore, with the entire body of Christ, we acknowledge and lament our own active and passive participation in the sins embodied in this decision. We mourn the sins of queerphobia and transphobia. We rebuke the forces of fear, ignorance, and hate that keep the church from celebrating the gifts and ministries of LGBTQIA+ Christians.
As members of the body of Christ, we also confess and repent the sins of racism and white supremacy, particularly as enacted through colonization, which continue to enforce the gender binary and heteronormativity as divinely and scripturally ordained, thereby erasing global indigenous expressions of same-gender love and expansive gender diversity. These sins also lead to the creation of a false binary between LGBTQIA+ people and people of color.
As the scriptures teach us to welcome one another, just as Christ welcomes us for the glory of God, so we believe that the Gospel commands us to extravagantly welcome all people, particularly those who are marginalized and oppressed.
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of sexual and gender minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. We know the value and gifts that queer people bring to the church and to ministry throughout the world.
Grounded in this conviction, we commit to living in solidarity through mutual prayer and support with our UMC kin as they discern their way forward, just as we too continue to discern and struggle within our own denominational structures.
We rest in the knowledge that the Spirit continues to be present among us, calling and guiding as we journey towards God’s promise to gather all people as part of God’s one family:
Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed… Do not let the foreigner joined to God say, “God will surely separate me from God’s people”; and do not let the eunuch say, “I am just a dry tree.” For thus says God: To the eunuchs… I will bring them to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the sovereign God, who gathers the outcasts…” (Isaiah 56: 1, 3, 7-8).
May we hold each other graciously and tenderly in our times of sorrow. And, may we not forget to step out in bold faith, trusting the Spirit to guide us on the path of reparation and justice.
ELM Board of Directors
Emily Ann Garcia, Co-Chair Matthew James, Co-Chair
Margaret Moreland, Secretary Charlie Horn, Treasurer
Jessica Davis, Emily E. Ewing, Matta Ghaly, Jeff R. Johnson, Barbara Lundblad, Margarette Ouji, Angela Shannon
By Mikah Meyer
“My whole life I’ve assumed God messed up on me,” a 20-something let out while stoically holding back tears.
He approached me after a church hosted a presentation about my journey to all 418 National Park Service sites.
But just as my talk wasn’t only about the national parks, so too was this young man’s story not solely about believing God faulted in creating him. And indeed, after hearing how my parks journey was largely due to being an openly gay Christian, this young adult felt safe enough to share the other half of his statement:
“But now I realize He made me this way. It’s not a flaw that I’m gay.”
As I internally cheered this queer person’s assertion, my heart also broke that he’d carried those initial thoughts for over 20 years.
And while I wish I could say this was the only time I’d heard that story, the truth is it’s just one of thousands. From teenagers, young adults, 30-somethings, retirees, and even ministers and those in opposite-sex marriages. A few words shared after presenting my “National Parks Cabaret,” after guest preaching at a church, or sent in desperation over Instagram—all expressing that for the first time they’d felt safe to share they were a queer Christ follower.
“What is the Church doing wrong,” I often lament to close friends, “that all these people feel a stranger from the stage/internet is the only person they can confide in?”
Yes, I had intentionally put myself and my story as a gay Christian in the media, using a 3-year road trip and world record attempt to draw the attention. But I was not a church leader. I did not have seminary training that should allow me to seek out those struggling with their faith. And I was certainly not an ordained minister.
I was just some dude waving a rainbow flag in the national parks.
But perhaps that’s the point of this story.
I was 19-years-old before I met an openly gay adult. And in my mid-20s before meeting an openly gay Christian. And though it took longer than I wished, it was these encounters that eventually led me to come out.
My life was not changed by some famous person or a praised religious leader.
It was normal, everyday queer people living their lives openly and authentically that opened my eyes and heart to a future I’d never seen until seeing them.
Mine was the same story I heard from a boy over Instagram who messaged:
“I’m 15-years-old, I go to a private Baptist school in Texas and I’m not out to anyone. But after seeing who you are, I know not only can I grow up to be ordinary…but also extraordinary.”
Never doubt that each and every one of you, whether a minister, lay person, or an ally, can change someone’s world—and in turn collectively the world—by living openly and honestly as a queer person of faith or Christian who believes God loves LGBTQ+ people as they are.
If the experience of my parks journey has taught me anything, it’s that one doesn’t need to be plastered on the headlines or across social media to allow someone to feel closer to God and their true selves.
One only need live their life proudly and authentically as the beautiful people God made them.
So that through sharing your story, others can know they can be both ordinary, and extraordinary.
Bio: Mikah Meyer is an ELCA campus minister’s son who swore he’d never grow up to be a pastor like his dad. He now spends his time traveling to churches & ministries around the world sharing the Gospel–particularly at colleges—making him in fact: A campus minister.
The ELCA Conference of Bishops and Churchwide staff have, for the last year, engaged a process of revision of the church document “Vision and Expectations.” This document was designed and implemented in 1990 as a gate-keeping device to keep gay and lesbian individuals unwilling to promise celibacy from serving on the church’s rosters.
Though the policy was updated in 2010 following the 2009 Churchwide Assembly which passed “Human Sexuality Gift & Trust,” the impact of this document has continued to be a shared, unhealthy ethic of human sexuality that promotes silence, shame, and secrecy for both queer and straight candidates and rostered ministers. This document undermines and inhibits the church’s ability to promote healthy professional boundaries and a responsible ethic for leaders in this church. V&E remains the church’s primary vehicle that promotes discrimination and intimidation of candidates. A new revision of this document has been in progress over the last year.
Leading up to the Fall 2018 Conference of Bishops, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and our colleagues encouraged the Bishops to open the process by which this document was being revised so that voices of concerned parties could participate in crafting an ethic and standard that reflects the communities it affects. We were encouraged when the Bishops did, in fact, vote to postpone recommending a revision to the Church Council with a motion that recognized the need “that special attention be given to inclusive language and descriptions of life situations and relationships by inviting voices from diverse perspectives.”
We have no evidence that this has happened.
A committee made up of Bishops and Churchwide staff has been meeting to prepare a revision of “Vision and Expectations” to be presented to the Conference of Bishops at their Spring 2019 meeting, starting Friday, March 1st. As far as we know, there has been no invitation to include the participation or voices of concerned parties. ELM strongly disagrees with this course of action and condemns the lack of a promised open, fruitful, and transparent process.
A draft of the latest revision has not been shared with us, but we are deeply concerned about a process that fails to consider the perspectives of those who have been most damaged by our church’s policies around sexuality. We seek to offer our lived experiences and queer wisdom in the creation of a sexual ethic for our church that creates healthy and thriving church leaders, and in turn, congregations.
ELM calls on the Conference of Bishops to hold your siblings and yourselves accountable to the promise made at your fall meeting to invite “voices from diverse perspectives” into this process of revision. Do not recommend a document that has not been created in an inclusive setting. A failure in a just and open process will result in the creation of flawed guidelines.
To all leaders, lay and rostered, who are concerned members of our congregations and communities: if you value healthy, vibrant ministers, please reach out to your Bishops to express your concern. Documents that promote and call for “holy living and faithful witness” cannot be created only by those who hold power within our institution, the result of this kind of process is colonization and oppression. Trust in our church and in its policies is only garnered by courage and openness to change, and inclusion and diversity – two of the church’s stated values that are seemingly being ignored in this process.
Here is a list of talking points we have created that might assist you in your outreach to Bishops and church leaders:
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. We believe that living into the fullness of who God created us to be is the greatest expression of “holy living and faithful witness” that is asked of us by our Creator.
By Rev. Lamont Wells Director for Evangelical Mission for the Metropolitan New York Synod
For far too long the question of who should be allowed into Church leadership has always been a heavily contentious subject. It was in the 16th century that Martin Luther advocated for the “priesthood of all believers” (so long as they weren’t women). It almost took another 450-500 years before women were allowed into leadership positions in the Church. The injustices of exclusion still strongly affect women, disproportionately people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. As we approach the 10th Anniversary of the ELCA’s 2009 affirmative vote for inclusivity for LGBTQIA+ leadership, it’s my hope to realize the importance of increasing leadership opportunities from within the same gender loving and gender non-conforming communities.
As a mark of solidarity, I empathize with the painful realities of serving for years in conference and Synodical leadership and rarely seeing leadership that reflected my ethnic image or cultural heritage. Because of this lack of diversity and inclusivity, I have developed an internalized trauma that questions whether it is even possible to have multiple leaders of color to ascend to the various elected leadership roles within the Church. In 2018, we experienced the winds of the Spirit blow in a dynamic way that blessed the Church with a historic election of the first two African Descent women to the bishopric. However, my greatest concern is that the Church won’t recognize their elections as a movement for change and greater inclusivity, but rather a moment of accomplished mission and achievement.
My hope and cure for my internalized trauma is to see a robust trend in our Church (the ELCA) toward a diverse assembling of key leadership that keeps breaking barriers and that accepts differences in the intersectionality of humanity. This would create an institutional climate that provides models of leadership that so many more children of God can relate and connect to without waiting for the minimal exceptions. As the National President of the African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA), it is my intention to work with ELM, WELCA and other ethnic specific associations to organize and advocate for leaders who bring our Church the gifts of greater diversity. In our indigenous expression as people of African Descent, same gender leadership and individuals were not a problem but always seen as key participants and “gifted ones” in the beauty of a diverse community. Knowing that God can use us all, we must support opportunities to choose leaders that God is raising from Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall, and Standing Rock.
Bio: The Rev. Lamont Anthony Wells is the Assistant to the Bishop/ Director for Evangelical Mission in the Metropolitan New York Synod. Pastor Wells is responsible for coordinating the development of stewardship resources and missional leadership for over 200 new and renewing congregations/ministries. He is currently the National President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s ‘African Descent Lutheran Association’ (ADLA). In his role, his leadership is the primary ecclesiastical voice of justice and equality for over 50,000 Lutherans of African Descent in the U.S.A. For many years he hosted a weekly radio program, “A Positive Message for Powerful Living with Pastor Lamont Wells,” in Philadelphia. In his ministerial career, Rev. Wells has pastored religious communities of multiple denominations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Atlanta, Georgia, including having served as the Lutheran Campus Pastor for the Atlanta University Center (AUC).
Guided by the principle that a personal relationship with God is an essential life strategy, Rev. Wells is committed to a life of contemplative prayer and critical study of scripture. He consistently expounds in his theology that, “God’s grace allows us to know that all things work together for good to them that love God…” (Romans 8:28 – his favorite Bible verse)
By Sara Cunningham , Executive Director & CEO of Free Mom Hugs
When I was a child, my mother called me “Goose,” I am certain now more than ever this was because of my natural ability to put my nose into other people’s business. I needed to know what was going on, if everyone was ok, and most importantly when we could all get together again. Community was everything to me then, and it certainly is my focus every day now.
My Journey to becoming an ally began with the words from my child, “Mom I’ve met someone, and I need you to be okay about it.” I didn’t take the news very well, and I said and did some things I regret even to this day.
I had to re-examine my religion as it suggested that I needed to choose between my faith and my child. I discovered, with the help of some others who came alongside me, that what I believed about LGBTQIA+ people came from a few verses in the Bible that had been misinterpreted and misunderstood. From there, my journey went from the church to the local pride parade wearing a homemade button and offering Free Mom Hugs or High Fives.
I wasn’t the first mom to show up at a Pride Parade offering love and hope and hugs, but I did create a non-profit based on that experience. After my post about being a stand-in mom at same-sex weddings went viral; what we have seen has been a movement of love and celebration for the LGBTQIA+ Community.
It has been the most amazing gift dropped in our laps as far as getting the message out to moms, dads, educators, and churches that NOW is the time to get educated, to step out of fear and ignorance and come out of their own closets to speak out on behalf of their children.
But what has been even more beautiful is the community, the connection and healing that is taking place in the lives of LGBTQIA+ youth and adults due to the thousands of compassionate, empowered people who are responding and offering support, birthday cards, words of affirmation, homemade blankets, and other simple but very important small gestures such as referring to a transgender person by their chosen name.
We also recently had a follower on Instagram post about their 11-year-old child who attempted suicide because of intense scrutiny and bullying from family and school. We noticed the post and got our group of “Mama Bears to the Rescue” their address and when the young girl came home from the hospital, she was surprised by dozens of cards, stuffed animals and blankets from Mamas all across the country. These small acts of kindness, this kind of loving presence in the life of that child and her Mama delivered a message of love and hope that was life-changing for them.
This is where we are going Beyond The Hug. We are supporting homeless youth with Free Mom Hugs Hoodies. We are helping our transgender friends fund legal fees for gender name changes, emotional and financial support after top- surgeries; we travel to small-town colleges and encourage their GSA’s. We are educating on behalf of our communities in schools and in the workplace. We are advocating on behalf of mental health awareness, ending workplace discrimination, and putting an end to once and for all the mental abuse that is conversion therapy.
So many young LGBTQIA+ people are hurting from family rejection and rigid religious beliefs. This is why I support LGBTQIA+ ministries like Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries who, every day, affirm & inspire bold loving leaders to Proclaim the gospel in the world. We may not be able to change every heart and mind – we may not be able to solve most problems – but one thing we can all do is be a loving presence in the life of LGBTQIA+ people. Anyone reading this can send a card, speak words of affirmation, get together with someone for a coffee, give a small gift, use someone’s chosen name, give a hug. These are things we can all do.
My hope is that my journey will inspire all of you to want to be a loving presence in the life of LGBTQIA+ people.
Together I believe we can change the world, so it is a kinder, safer, more loving place for all people to live.
Love wins. Hugs and high fives help too.
Bio: Sara Cunningham is the Founder of Free Mom Hugs and has a heart as deep and wide as the ocean, and a commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community that matches it. Sara has very recently been featured on the Today Show, CNN, and has been viewed by millions on social media. What does Free Mom Hugs mean to her? “For me, it just represents unconditional love,” she said. “Everyone needs love and understanding from their mother.”
By Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson
Over the course of this past month, ELM’s blog has featured stories of “new-ness”:new ideas and goals for the new year, new members of Proclaim, new ELM staff members to help serve our growing community.
“Newness” as a theme and concept is not just a reaction to the start of a new calendar year as of January 1st – but also the anticipated advent of change and newness for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries as an organization as a whole.
In my first year as Executive Director of ELM, I have often reflected on Phyllis Tickle’s book The Great Emergence. In the book, Dr. Tickle talks about how the Christian church has undergone a reformation approximately every 500 years (to read a brief description of Dr. Tickle’s ideas and a personal reflection from a Presbyterian colleague, click here). I have wondered if ELM has gone through our own re-formations approximately every ten years or so: from the first extraordinary ordinations and the formation of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project in 1990 and 1993, to the merger of these ministries which formed Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and the change in ELCA policy to allow LGBTQIA+ individuals to enter candidacy and serve openly in 2007 and 2009, to now: in 2019 we’re marking 10 years since the ELCA’s policy changed, ELM has an entirely new staff, and Proclaim has grown to over 320 members.
Perhaps, this theme of newness feels resonant to all of us because we are in a time of re-formation.
It wouldn’t be surprising, then, if in this period of change and newness we might find ourselves experiencing some disorientation and asking ourselves “is this the new place where we are called to be?” Or, like the Magi who visited the holy family in the stable–which we currently celebrate in this liturgical season of Epiphany–ask ourselves “Is this, in fact, the holy one?”
What has remained true for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries throughout the years and re-formations is our insistence on and deep belief and trust that the lives, bodies, and calls of gender and sexual minority leaders are indeed holy and beloved.
It is with great intentionality of living into that sentiment and with a deep reverence for what has come before us that our current ELM staff and board endeavor to explore, listen, and consider journeying down new paths in our programming and ministries.
We are living into our gospel mandate to look to the margins even within the LGBTQIA+ community to center the experiences of the most marginalized: those with identities that are still “taboo” in our culture and society, and those who carry in their bodies and lives a variety of identities beyond gender and sexual orientation that complicates and complexifies their oppression and which calls on us as an organization to think, act, and exist differently.
As we embark on this journey, we hope to continue to share with you all what we learn and what we’re hearing through this blog. Many of you have supported ELM for many years and through our previous re-formations–we are excited to share this new journey with you and with those of you who have more recently joined our community.
Our staff welcome your thoughts and reflections on what you hear and experience with us on this journey. And, we thank you for your continued support and encouragement!
Bio: Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) is currently in Texas avoiding the polar vortex. Upon her return to her home in Maine on Sunday, she looks forward to celebrating a Patriot victory and knows she will get hate mail for saying “Go Patriots!”