New Year: Turning Resolutions Into Solutions

By ELM Program Director Olivia LaFlamme

Resolution; a firm decision to do, or not to do, something.

The first thing we ask people when the new year arrives is “what are your new year resolutions?”

We expect lists of long promised changes and sacrificing of indulgences or vices.  We all seem to know that the newness of the year cycle starting over again means that change is in the air in a way that we can harness to make our lives better. We feel emboldened to be, do or say that thing that we haven’t had the capacity for in the years past.

A resolution is a firm decision; it is a stake in the ground and a line in the sand. But how many of us know that what starts off all hopeful and confident on January 1st, so quickly slips through our fingers and is forgotten; tucked away until next year. We all do that, right? And here’s the thing, that loss of steam around that list of firm decisions to do, or not to do, something makes perfect sense because it is missing something crucial. That list of declarations can never be fulfilled without a plan. What if, instead of just resolutions this year, we approach the newness, this heightened possibility of making positive change, with solutions on top.

Solution; a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation.

Every day we are all coming up with solutions to the most mundane problems. 

Problem: I’m hungry.

Solution: Eat. 

That’s one way to put it, but it’s a little oversimplified. In order to eat, you had to find out what you had available (at your desk, in your kitchen, in your bag, etc.), then you had to choose something, then you may even have had to prepare the food (you know how many steps that could involve!) before you could actually just “eat”. The solution isn’t “eat”, it’s actually all those steps that lead up to you performing the act of eating. We do this constantly; following a series of actions that we know will lead  to our desired result. Somewhere in our minds we just know that is how things work. In order for something to happen, there we will be a bunch of other things that happen to make that a reality; let’s call that a plan.

Here’s the thing, “resolution” and “solution” have the same root word; “solve”. Both are seeking to find the answer to a question. What separates the two is simply the modus operandi. Resolutions are statements of intention (“I won’t”/“I will”). Solutions are the means, the way that you will make something happen; a plan. Setting an intention to leave something in 2018 and take something else into 2019 is purposeful and is productive. But let’s take it one step further and ensure our success just a little bit more this time. Let’s add a plan of action. How are you going to do it? Who do you need to talk to that can hold you accountable? What would it look like if you were able to do this thing? What do you need today to make that possible tomorrow?

Every new year promises change. Let’s encourage each other to get in on that opportunity to heal, grow, and expand our horizons in 2019 with intentions and plans. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Olivia LaFlamme (they/them/theirs) is the Program Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Olivia  is a Black queer feminist. They have an M.A. in Women and Gender Studies with an emphasis on queer theory and a B.A. in Comparative Women’s Studies with a concentration in Social Justice. Olivia is a budding filmmaker (focused in documentary) and their thesis project, entitled “Spirits Speak,” is an experimental documentary exploring queer temporality as it is demonstrated through ancestral/lineage projects (spiritual, archival and artistic). They have a background in organizing, administration in the university, and teaching. Raised in the Assemblies of God Christian church, they have since cobbled together several religious traditions that inform their own spiritual identity. Olivia views faith in the Supernatural as crucial to their ability to move through this world that would seek to destroy their gender non-conforming, Black and queer body. They have an amazing and supportive partner, three younger siblings, and loving parents.

2018 Year-End Reflection

From ELM Executive Director Amanda Gerken-Nelson

I’ve often joked with Proclaim members and ELM supporters that if Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries were a church, we’d be on the cover of Living Lutheran for our outstanding growth and ministries!

For instance…

On September 20th of this year, Proclaim welcomed its 300th member! Now, with 319 members, Proclaim – ELM’s professional community of
publicly out gender and sexual minority seminarians and rostered ministers – has more than quadrupled in size since it’s inception almost nine years ago.

As Proclaim has grown, ELM has had to respond to the ever growing and changing needs of our community. And so, our staff, Board of Directors, and the leadership teams for all three of ELM’s ministries – Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement – have worked to grow and diversify what we do and how we do it to more wholly support these vibrant leaders of our church.

For instance…

This fall, ELM’s new program director, Olivia LaFlamme, organized a Facebook group for Proclaim members who identify with a racial identity other than white. Olivia noted regarding the formation of this group: “I hope to use this space to cultivate community and support for those in Proclaim who face racial as well as gender/sexual oppression.”

To meet the growing needs of our community, ELM expanded our staff this year by adding a three-quarter time Associate Director of Development and Communications. By adding this new position and reconfiguring responsibilities between the staff, we have been able to provide more administrative support to our growing Proclaim community and have been able to give more time and attention to growing our volunteer and support base to help sustain the ministries that help our Proclaim members serve their congregations with vitality and enthusiasm.

New Proclaim members bring with them a multitude of identities and ELM’s staff and Board of Directors have engaged in education and anti-oppression training around gender and sexual identities that are either new to us or have challenged us – yes, even we need to be educated on gender and sexual identities!

For instance…

The ELM Board learned more about intersex and asexual identities at our spring in-person meeting when we decided to add the letters “I” and “A” to the “LGBTQIA+” acronym whenever it is used in ELM publications.

The ELM Board and the Proclaim community have had opportunities to learn more about polyamory through education sessions held at both the spring in-person Board meeting and this summer’s Proclaim Gathering. Polyamorous families and individuals are looking to organizations like ELM for support and community as they navigate the candidacy process and the church’s restrictive teachings on human sexuality.

Like any congregation or community that is growing at such a significant pace, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is learning how to embrace difference, how to listen to each other in our disagreements, and how to navigate the challenging relationships between identity(ies) and faithfulness.

While we by no means consider ourselves experts or exemplars of church growth, we do believe that the queerness of our identities – as individuals and as an organization – has provided us with many tools for engaging and navigating this time of growth and change and maintaining our integrity and purpose.

In the midst of the grief and consternation which can accompany change – there is also great beauty and joy! Joy in knowing that Proclaim’s growth means that there are an increasing number of LGBTQIA+ individuals who not only feel called to ministry in the church – they are actively serving our church and bringing the good news to thousands of individuals across our nation every week. And that is a beautiful image of the kin-dom of God!

Thank you for the support, feedback, and engagement you’ve provided us at ELM this year! We look forward to what 2019 will bring and we are grateful to have you join us in the journey!

I wish you a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson, Executive Director

Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) is the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Her favorite thing about this role is getting to know the people and congregations who love and support LGBTQIA+ pastors, deacons, and seminarians across our country – and there are a lot of you! Amanda travels extensively for ELM and would love to visit you and your community . Please consider inviting her to preach at your church sometime!

My Own Personal Advent

By Meagan McLaughlin
This is the 4th liturgical Advent of my own personal Advent, otherwise known as Awaiting First Call. This year, I am spending Advent and Christmas as a Synodically Authorized Minister in a congregation—Halleluia!—while I am in the midst of what my Admin has called my “6-month job interview.” (Fun!!)As much as I have learned about being present and doing what is in front of me to do, none of that compares to what I have already learned in the few weeks I have been at Bethel!
A play in three scenes…
Scene 1: Grandmother of a baby about to be baptized, described as “handle-with-kid-gloves-altar-guild-president,” whose daughter is adamant that her child be baptized by a beloved former pastor of my congregation on a Saturday, approaches me after worship. We talk for a few minutes about the baptism and her daughter and grandchild, and she says, “Oh this was so good!” and asks for a hug.
Scene 2: Council member who initially offered to let me stay in her extra bed and bath (paid for by Bethel) approaches me and says, “I wanted to let you know I am not comfortable with you staying with me.”
Scene 3: At a table with several congregants in the Fellowship Hall, one asks how the commute is going, and says, “I have an extra bedroom in my apartment, you can stay with me anytime!”
As I drove home, I reflected on how easy it would have been during that Sunday after worship to have climbed onto my mental boogie board and struggled to ride the waves. I thought about how seasick I would have been, even if I had managed to succeed! But somehow, by the grace of God, I instead found myself in those few moments able to stay grounded and watch the waves swirl around me. I actually felt a sense of calm and peace in the midst of the storm.
One significant lesson I am learning right now isequanimity—steady presence and calmness, especially when encountering challenging situations. More than anything else I can do for them, my anxious, excited, hopeful, fearful congregation needs me to practice this, especially when they are attempting to ride and conquer waves of congregants coming and going, community members questioning the efficacy of the town’s first LGBTQ pastor, and the uncertainty of finding themselves in an unplanned extended time of pastoral transition.
Advent is a season of waiting, and also preparing. Reflection, and also action. With the waves swirling around me, and so many unknowns and wonderings about my call and living into who I am as a pastor, I am committing myself to waiting in hope for whatever is to come. Meanwhile, showing up each day to joyfully be my people’s pastor for this season. Really, that’s all I can do anyway. Thank our loving God for the Advent season that calls us to remember their loving promise!

After nine years of working at The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, Proclaim member Meagan McLaughlin (she/her/hers) studied at Luther Seminary and United Theological Seminary and graduated with her M.Div in December of 2015. She is currently serving as a Synodically Authorized Minister (SAM) at Bethel Lutheran Church in Little Falls MN while eagerly seeking first call. Meagan, her wife, Karen, and their three cats live in Minneapolis, and when they are not working, they enjoy hiking, camping, traveling, and spending time with their two nephews and niece.


Proclaim300: Abundance and Joy!

I am excited to share with you the good gifts that were given during our #Proclaim300 Campaign and Celebration! ELM has been blessedly overwhelmed at the abundant support it received as a result of this campaign.
Working with all of you, we were able to raise friends, raise funds, and raise up in celebration the growth we are experiencing in our Proclaim community and the growing impact LGBTQIA+ leaders are having on our congregations and communities. I give God thanks for such an incredible community and thank you for your participation and action. Here is just a brief snapshot of all of the good work we were able to accomplish together.
From the kick-off of the #Proclaim300 campaign at the annual Proclaim Gathering in August of this year to the final day of the campaign on Reformation Day (October 31st), ELM had over 200 new “likes” on ourFacebook page and celebrated the launch of our new Instagram accountwhich highlights LGBTQIA+ leaders in the church and helps spread the word of our extraordinary ministries.
In SeptemberELM hosted a #Proclaim300 Week on social media. During this week, we asked friends and allies to weigh in about the gifts they see in queer church leaders and asked Proclaim members to reflect on the challenges they experience in the church, the gratitude they hold for those who accompany them, and their dreams for the future. To see some of the posts, go to Facebook and Twitter and search the hashtag #Proclaim300.
On September 20, 2018, ELM announced its 300th Proclaim Member,Sergio Rodriguez and since then has welcomed members 301-319!
In October, ELM marked National Coming Out Day (NCOD) by sharing the stories of 19 LGBTQIA+ ministers and candidates in a special “Story Share.” Throughout the day, ELM staff and Proclaim members were filmed live, sharing their experiences, concerns, joys, and wishes for a better future.
And, over 300 individuals and families gave over $25,000 to celebrate #Proclaim300! Abundance certainly abounds!
Now, as we anticipate the birth of embodied love and grace, we cannot express enough our joy and appreciation for all of the ways you helped make this campaign a success. As a member of the ELM Development Team and co-creator of this campaign, please accept my deepest thanks for your enthusiastic support!
Peace to you,
Rev. Ben Hogue

Ben Hogue (he/him/his) is #blessed to serve as Associate Pastor at Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Thanks in part to the work of leaders across the church and in the region, Pastor Ben is the first openly LGBTQIA+ clergy person to be called by a congregation in the Metropolitan D.C. Synod. This time of year, Ben enjoys eggnog lattes, Christmas cookies, and making sure people are aware that yes, in fact, Mary did know.

God’s Infinite Love: A Reflection on Being Poly from a Proclaim Member

For the past year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ Board of Directors and Proclaim Community have been engaging in conversation around the topic of polyamory. For many in our midst, polyamory is a blessing and is something through which they have received great spiritual and personal fulfillment. There are also many in our midst for whom the topic of polyamory is quite different from their experience and understanding of healthy relationships. We recognize this tension within our community and encourage more conversation and understanding.

What follows is a reflection written by a polyamorous Proclaim member. It is not ELM’s intention to make a public statement about polyamory with this blog post so much as to continue the conversation and to share a personal reflection.

Content Warning: strong language and sexual imagery

“My boyfriend’s boyfriend is a pussy stunt artist.” There’s a lot to unpack there, but I’ll start with myself. I’m a seminarian who identifies as queer and uses various pronouns. I appear male/masculine and identify as AMAB (assigned male at birth). My boyfriend identifies as a FTM trans man. We’re in a polyamourous relationship. Aside from being highly involved in the queer/trans community where we live, he’s also a CODA (Child Of a Deaf Adult) and makes his living as a sign language interpreter. He had been dating his boyfriend for multiple months before I joined the mix. My boyfriend’s boyfriend is a performer who uses their pussy to do stunts on stage for money. They identify as genderqueer and use they/them/their pronouns.

Had someone told me that I would be in love with a trans man, on the verge of going on internship, I would have laughed in their face. As I started seminary, I didn’t hold much hope in finding someone to fulfill my romantic needs. Dating a graduate student is hard, let alone one who is studying to become a pastor. Plus, to love me is asking a lot. I have baggage, an uncertain future, and I’m essentially taking a vow of poverty. These kinds of things aren’t the most marketable prospects in the dating scene. But with my boyfriend, it works.


Monogamy puts a lot of pressure on me. I start to panic once I realize that I might not meet the needs of my potential romantic partner but I’ve never had to worry about that with my boyfriend. I know that he’s capable of meeting his needs with other people, and that he’s not just settling for me. I don’t have the anxiety that I’m not willing and able to do everything that he wants in the bedroom (or living room, or hallway, or backyard, or streets of a major city). For the first time, I’ve been able to grow with my partner into something together. I think what clinched our relationship for us, is that we can just be ourselves around each other. We went from talking about important social justice issues around intersectional identities to a complete and utter giggle fit half an hour later. My boyfriend connects my heart, head, spirit and body in a way no one else has every come close to. This is a freedom I’ve never known before entering into this kind of relationship.

My pastoral care classes didn’t teach me how to navigate the dynamics when my boyfriend and his boyfriend broke up. How do I support my boyfriend in this difficult time without triangulating with his other boyfriend? How do I support his boyfriend through this as well? And what does the break up do to mine and his boyfriend’s relationship? We were never romantically involved yet I still care for them and want the best in their life. What do I do with my feelings of happiness that I can spend more time with my boyfriend now? Where do I put my joy now that we’re connected closer than ever?

Documents within the denomination place primacy on heterosexual monogamous marriages. As a seminarian, I never fully understood why the church and my candidacy committee had stake in what I did in my bedroom (or kitchen, or car, or darkened alley). Saying that monogamous relationships are the only relationships that foster trust and deep spiritual connection is patently false. My monogamous relationships have been my least trusting relationships. But there comes a time in my life that I need to be authentically myself and willingly break with doctrine and tradition.

Finally going all-in and joining a polyamorous relationship made me understand myself in a new way. It is like an affirmation of baptism for me. Baptisms have a revelatory function– wherein the newly baptized are joined into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. The ritual signifies a new dedication, a breaking of old ways and an invitation into a larger group. Not only do the newly baptized pledge to renounce sin, but the assembly gathered invest themselves in the formation, growth, and wellbeing of their new family member. Why can’t relationships be like this? Why can’t joining a romantic relationship be a holy act that connects us to the divinely infinite? Jesus is a bit of a slut; he loves everyone (we can’t even put a number on the people that he’s been inside). I would never expect him to turn his back on others just for my sake. Plainly put, Jesus loves infinitely, so why shouldn’t I?

#WontBeErased: Allies Stand Up

From ELM: November 12-19th is Transgender Awareness Week! An annual effort to celebrate and raise visibility for the transgender and gender non-conforming community as well as continuing the movement to end the violence so many face. November 20th is Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) that honors the memory and lives of transgender/GNC people who have become ancestors (many through acts of hate). In recognition of the importance of this week, ELM is adding on to our blog from 10/25/18 Wont Be Erased. This time, with specific instruction and call to action for allies to the trans/GNC community. Written by and for allies from the Proclaim community, we know that solidarity is powerful and protection is needed for those most vulnerable in our communities. Take heed, take notes, it’s time to step it up!
NOTE: While we encourage giving financial gifts to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, we especially lift up the missions of several excellent organizations specifically serving trans, gender-expansive, and intersex communities with both emergency response and sustained projects. We recommend Out Magazine’s  “7 Action Items to Protect Trans and GNC People” for a list of organizations.

It is our collective call to issue clear action directives to cisgender and straight allies, and see them through in solidarity. Below, find writing from ministers that are cisgender allies from within the queer community, collectively drafted by Rev. Lenny Duncan, Rev. Brenda Bos, and Proclaim Member Analyse Triolo.

The first step in destroying a group of people is to dehumanize them. Our government’s proposal to erase transgender identity is a depraved and evil step toward inviting and justifying violence and death. People of faith MUST say no, calling on our congregations to resist, vote against oppression, and become aware of the life and beauty of transgender, intersex and gender-expansive people in our midst. This is not a political statement, this is a LOVE OF ALL HUMANS statement. Our beloved trans, intersex, and gender-expansive friends are not lost and mistaken, they are people, created in God’s image, valued and honored. How can this even be up for debate? Shout it from the rooftops, proclaim it from your pulpits, tell everyone you can. Transgender, gender-expansive, and intersex people are fearfully and wonderfully made. Use their pronouns, speak directly and comfortably about gender diversity in everyday conversations, continue to lift up your friendships and respect for
transgender/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings. It matters.

Cisgender Ally/ Accomplice/ Co-Conspirator Statement of Renunciation
We co-conspirators/ allies/ accomplices of our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings in Christ renounce the abhorrent use of reductive, binary scriptural understanding often used to limit rights and protections of all God’s children.

We have watched with increasing horror as the current administration tries to tighten the noose around this community’s neck. The erasure of our intersex, trans, and gender-expansive siblings’ identities is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is grounded in the false paradigm that the only way to gain freedom in the church or in this country is through the oppression of the vulnerable. The obsession others claiming the identity of the church have with the destruction of an entire group of people is deeply disturbing and not our understanding of the narrative arc of scripture.

WE AFFIRM that our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings are wonderfully and fearfully made in the image of God. This same God that the scriptural witness tells us is a liberating God who has broken the chains of oppressed peoples throughout human history.

WE BELIEVE that grace is a disruptive force to the powers of empire which we define as rulers, tyrants, and leaders who gain power on the backs of the most vulnerable. We know the average lifespan for a Black trans woman is 35 years in this country. We have watched their public lynchings and the callous attitude much of the church has had to these horrific acts. We know that we worship a savior who was publicly lynched and received the same disdain. To codify in the policies and law of this land the continued hatred of our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings is unacceptable.

WE CALL on all called and ordained leaders, laity, and seminarians of the ELCA to speak with one voice. We do this out of love but also out of self defense. An attack on one part of the body of Christ is an attack on us all. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

WE ASK the faithful everywhere the following:

We ask you to profess your faith in Christ Jesus, reject sin, and confess the faith of the church.
We ask you to renounce this administration’s attacks on our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings, and all the forces that defy God.
We ask you to renounce the powers of this world that rebel against God’s grace being offered to all people.
We ask you to renounce laws and policies that are codified to attack our trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex siblings and the abhorrent sin of oppressing the vulnerable, because it draws us- a church and a nation- away from God.

Call to Action Ideas for Allies:
    1. Vote for leaders and policies that affirm the trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex communities.
    2. Lift up and amplify trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex voices and organizations.
    3. Name and call out transphobia and implicit bias against trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex people, including (y)our own.
    4. Take to the Comments section of supportive statements (like that of ELCA presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton) to address trolls who respond with hatred instead of God’s liberating love.
    5. Educate yourself on trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex issues and experiences. Encourage other cisgender persons to do the same.
    6. Follow trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex faith leaders and journalists, and signal-boost their work or sign up for their newsletters. And when you see articles about the trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex community appearing in mainstream media or faith contexts, hold them accountable by asking why a trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex person didn’t write or appear in the piece.
    7. Publicly renounce Trump’s proposed redefinition of gender and other discriminatory policies in personal and social media interactions.
    8. Give your spiritual gifts (think time, talent, treasure) to this movement. Some trans-led organizations include (from Out Magazine)Audre Lorde ProjectBrave Space AllianceCasa RubyFamilia: Trans Queer Liberation MovementFierceOrganizacion Latina de Trans en TexasSoutherners on New GroundSylvia Rivera Law ProjectTrans Latin@ CoalitionTrans Law Center, and Trans Lifeline. More comprehensive lists can be found at the Trans Justice Funding Project and Borealis Philanthropy’s Fund for Trans Generations.

by Lura Groen, Proclaim Member 
Initially published this in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016. We are reissuing an updated version with permission from the author.
My colleague the Rev Carolyn Albert Donovon took one of my recent Facebook posts, and turned it into this lovely liturgy. It’s intended to be used when the LGBTQIA+ community must gather to mourn and celebrate. I invite you to use it in its entirety as you wish, but request that you don’t omit our sex being holy. It is best if the leader is a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+, even if that is not the clergy person, but can be used in settings where that is not possible.
The leader will read the non-bolded text, which may then be repeated by the people gathered. If you identify as LGBTQIA+, you may choose to say “our” while those who do not identify as LGBTQIA+ may choose to read “your” at the beginning of each line. We do this not because cisgender, heterosexual folks are not holy in these ways, too, but because it is LGBTQIA+ people who have been told over and over and over that they are not, and these are days when we need to claim aloud that excluding LGBTQIA+ people from our understanding of the sacred has been and still is a violent lie – perpetuated for many long years by the church. We raise our voices to correct this lie.  We also honor those who choose to remain in silence.
My Beloved Queer Ones,
(y)our lives are holy.
(y)our lives are holy.
(y)our dancing is holy.
(y)our dancing is holy.Rev. Lura Preaching
(y)our protest is holy.
(y)our protest is holy.
(y)our grief is holy.
(y)our grief is holy.
(y)our rage is holy.
(y)our rage is holy.
(y)our community is holy.
(y)our community is holy.
(y)our gender identities are holy.
(y)our gender identities are holy.
(y)our gender expressions are holy.
(y)our gender expressions are holy.
(y)our gender journeys are holy.
(y)our gender journeys are holy.
(y)our bodies are holy.
(y)our bodies are holy.
(y)our sex is holy.
(y)our sex is holy.
(y)our love is holy.
(y)our love is holy.
(y)ou are holy.
(y)ou are holy.
We are holy.

Recapping the October Board Meeting

By Emily Ann Garcia and Matt James
Board Members who were present included Matt James (Co-Chair), Emily Ann Garcia (Co-Chair), Margaret Moreland (Secretary), Emily Ewing, Matta Ghaly, Jeff Johnson, and Brad Froslee. ELM’s Treasurer, Charlie Horn, was present as well.  ELM staff who were present included Amanda Nelson and Olivia LaFlamme.  Board members absent from the meeting included Barbara Lundblad and newly joined board member Angela Shannon.
This past October ELM’s Board of Directors met for one of two annual in-person meetings at the beautiful Nicholas Center in Downtown Chicago. Each meeting we endeavor to remind ourselves of who Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is by keeping our Explicit Practices before us, we share them with you now as a reminder of who you are as a Proclaimer, supporter, ally of ELM and the incredible LGBTQIA+ ministers that continue to transform and enrich the world.
ELM Explicit Practices:
  • We respond boldly to God’s love and call to justice in these ways:
  • We listen deeply.
  • We publicly claim our identities.
  • We work collaboratively.
  • We act transparently.
  • We ask, “Who is not here?”
  • We speak truthfully, even when it’s hard.
  • We laugh together.
With a fuller slate of staff, we all felt there is great energy and potential as God’s Spirit leads us into the future.
We spent time dreaming about where we might hope to see ELM go as we move forward together toward the edges of our work.
Guided by our Explicit Practices listed above, we asked ourselves:
  • What would ELM look like in five years if we lived into these edges?
  • What could we do, starting now, to help us get there?
We dreamed of how we might continue to support Proclaim members doing fabulous, ground-breaking ministry around the country and around the world.
We dreamed of how we might continue to be a beacon of God’s justice in-breaking into God’s world:
  • Continuing the journey of being an anti-oppression organization;
  • Providing fabulous opportunities for continuing education and professional development that speak to our community;
  • Supporting Proclaimers who are called to Mission Development/Redevelopment;
  • Continuing to reimagine what it means to be the community of Proclaim and how we might support those in myriad ministries in and around the church; and
  • Continuing to walk through the challenge of supporting the great work and ministry of ELM through fundraising and other resources.
These conversations will guide the board’s and staff’s work in the coming months as we live into our dreaming.
We also had the opportunity to meet with the President of ADLA (African-Descent Lutheran Association), the Rev. Lamont Wells.  ELM and ADLA got the chance to get to know each other, and start imagining what kinds of next steps we might take to work more closely together in the future.
The Board’s next meeting will be a conference call on December 20th.  The next in-person meeting with be held March 14-17, 2019 in Berkeley, CA.
Questions or concerns you may have for the Board may be directed to Executive Director, Amanda Nelson ( who will pass them along to the Board’s Executive Committee.

Bio: Emily Ann Garcia and the Rev. Matthew James are the Co-Chairs of the ELM Board of Directors. Emily resides in Vancouver, British Columbia and is a Proclaim SPICE (spouse of a Proclaim member). The Rev. Matthew James lives in Chicago, IL and is the Director of Admissions at LSTC. He and his husband, John Weit, are both Proclaim members.

Linda Christensen, Saint

By Margaret Moreland and Bennett Falk
We met Linda Christensen only twice: once at her son Erik’s extraordinary ordination in 2006; the other at Erik’s wedding to Kerry. She was so excited about both events.
I (Margaret) had heard from Erik about Linda several times before I met her. Whenever Erik talked about his journey to ordination, he always mentioned that his mother had been instrumental in nudging him toward the Extraordinary Candidacy Project.
Erik describes the first nudge this way:
“I was past college and considering seminary, but had no sense for how that would work as someone who’d come out in college and had no intention of being closeted. Mom mentioned a small church in San Francisco that participated in the “extraordinary” ordinations of three gay and lesbian clergy … and they had a cookbook: “Those People at That Church.” I remember her showing me the cookbook, and flipping through the pages,wondering who those people were.”
Linda remained a friend of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries: a regular financial contributor who, with her husband Larry, helped organize the Goodsoil Singers at the 2007 Churchwide Assembly and staffed the ELM information table at the 2017 Southeastern Iowa Synod Assembly.
Former ELM Executive Director Amalia Vagts remembers:
“Linda mailed a hand-written check each month for all the years I worked for ELM. Each month she wrote “Gratefully” in the memo of her check.”
Linda was truly a “friend of ELM,” but that barely hints at what there is to celebrate in Linda’s life.
Linda Christensen was a champion of what can only be called “tenacious love,” love that does not give up.
Tenacious love is not “safe.” It is not admiration of the already successful. It is risky; it is love for those who are pushed aside, left behind, ignored. It is love that does not acquiesce to injustice, love that is never embittered.
Tenacious love is not easily confined to the home or the classroom (or, for that matter, the church). In May, 1998 the Des Moines City Council considered (and ultimately rejected) an amendment to add “Sexual Orientation” as a protected class to the city’s Human Rights ordinance. In a contentious 2-hour meeting, Linda spoke: “I didn’t know how to have a relationship with God where you hate the sin but love the sinner, because having lived with my son for 18 years and knowing him, there was no part of my child I could hate.” Tenacious love speaks its mind.
More than a year later, when Iowa’s governor signed an order to protect LGBTQIA+ people from hiring discrimination in the executive branch of the state government, opposition forces rallied in Des Moines to demand that the order be revoked. The Des Moines Register reporter who had covered the 1998 city council meeting recalled Linda’s words and quoted them again: “The world needs a lot more Linda Christensens.”
On July 31, 2018 Linda passed away at her home in Des Moines, Iowa surrounded by the family she loved so dearly.
We give thanks to God for the life of Linda Christensen, and we pray for the strength to be agents of tenacious love.

Bio: Margaret Moreland and Bennett Falk 
have been “the newlyweds” since their marriage in 1971. Margaret is secretary of the ELM Board. Bennett is known for Goodsoil Radio and Lutheran True Confessions (

#WontBeErased Statement and Stories

From ELM: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.

It is ELM’s practice to boldly confront the barriers experienced by LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, plus) ministers and candidates. We confess with lament and righteous anger that both our Church and our World are built on systems that do not honor and protect the full humanity of gender and sexual minorities. In many cases, these systems seek to harm, shame, erase, and even kill LGBTQIA+ people, especially trans, intersex, and gender-expansive people, interlocking with racism and white supremacy, classism, ableism, sexism, and other modes of domination and exclusion.

We boldly proclaim: NO!

This is NOT God’s vision of the Kin-dom as modeled in the prophetic justice of Jesus Christ. As news circulates that the current U.S. administration seeks to erase trans, gender-expansive, and intersex identities through defining people (and the legal protections they receive) in a false binary of either male or female, many are echoing with us:

NO! Our intersex, gender-expansive, and trans siblings in Christ #WontBeErased!

It is our collective call to:

Center & amplify the stories and platforms of trans, gender-expansive, and intersex communities.

Issue clear action directives to cisgender and straight allies, and see them through in solidarity.

Utilize our unique faith-enriched ministry tools and practices toward radical reframing and healing.

Over the past week, members of our community have been speaking out in powerful ways. We have been in dialogue with ten collaborators: pastors, vicars, and lay leaders across the gender spectrum striving for relationship, conversation, and solidarity. In the next several blogs, contributors will address the above calls. We begin by hearing directly from those in the trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex community.

Join us,

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

NOTE: While we encourage giving financial gifts to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, we especially lift up the missions of several excellent organizations specifically serving trans, gender-expansive, and intersex communities with both emergency response and sustained projects. We recommend Out Magazine’s “7 Action Items to Protect Trans and GNC People” for a list of organizations.

It is our collective call to center & amplify the stories and platforms of trans, gender-expansive, and intersex people. Below, find writing from within the trans/ gender-expansive/ intersex community.

God is Still Creating You

“In the beginning, God created day and night. But have you ever seen a sunset!?!? Well trans and non-binary people are kind of like that. Gorgeous. Full of a hundred shades of color you can’t see in plain daylight or during the night.

In the beginning God created land and sea. But have you ever seen a beach?!?! Well trans and non-binary people are kind of like that. Beautiful. A balanced oasis that’s not quite like the ocean, nor quite like the land.

In the beginning God created birds of the air and fish of the sea. But have you ever seen a flying fish, or a duck or a puffin that swims and flies, spending lots of time in the water and on the land!?!? Well trans and non-binary people are kind of like that. Full of life. A creative combination of characteristics that blows people’s minds.

In the beginning God also created male and female, in God’s own image, God created them. So in the same way that God created realities in between, outside of, and beyond night and day, land and sea, or fish and birds, so God also created people with genders beyond male and female. Trans and non-binary and agender and intersex, God created us. All different sorts of people for all different sorts of relationships. Created from love to love and be loved. In God’s image we live.”

God is still creating you. You are no less beautiful and wild than a sunset or a beach or a puffin. You are loved. You have a place here.”

-Rev. Asher O’Callaghan, Proclaim Member

Coming Out Forever

“The hardest part about coming out as non-binary is that I feel like I have been coming out forever– like there is no end to coming out and I am sick of being required or expected to come out to everyone in my life. Because part of the way I live into my non-binary identity is by using they/them pronouns, I constantly have to navigate to whom and in which contexts it is safe to be out and then who and where it is safe to correct when someone messes up. Particularly as a pastor, it is difficult to dance between pastoral care, self care, financial sustainability, and the justice at the heart of bringing my whole self to ministry contexts.

The best thing is that there are people in my life who celebrate with me the constant exploration and revelation that is my identity, who journey with me, who question with me, who invite me into deeper discernment around my own individual identity and communal identity. It has also been a joy to more openly live into the fullness of my queerness and celebrate and affirm the ways that it informs my theology and my vocation.”

-Anonymous Pastor, Proclaim member

My Joy #WontBeErased

“It’s so hard to not shut down, not turn off, not run away. Because that’s what oppressors want to have happen. “If we get them numb enough, they won’t fight back.” I feel sorry for the oppressors that hate us because there is so, so much fear that’s being felt and not being addressed in healthy ways. And fear is what separates us. Fear is used to control. Fear is the work of the devil.

The kingdom of God is all joy, all love, all the time. Joy is the place where I choose to dwell. My fight against oppressors is joyfully being my truest transgender self. And that isn’t always easy. The most visible joy I’ve been practicing is glamorously sunbathing shirtless, showing scars from my recent gender-affirming surgery. Joy is how I resist oppression. Joy is where I am in relationship. My joy #WontBeErased.”

-Vicar Drew Stever, Proclaim Member

Radical Reformation: First RIC in Our Synod

By Rev. Rachel Knoke, Proclaim Member

From ELM: October is LGBTQIA+ History Month and Reformation Month! October is also the final month of ELM’s #Proclaim300 campaign, celebrating reaching 300 members of Proclaim, ELM’s professional community for publicly identified LGBTQIA+ ministers & candidates. In October, ELM is running a blog series on “Radical Reformation”: ministries led by Proclaim members doing prophetic work that is out of the ordinary! Read on from Pr. Rachel Knoke:

I like to say that Trinity Lutheran is the largest church you can drive right by and miss completely. Thanks to the movement of history, what used to be the front of the church (you know, the “pretty” side) is now the back and the back (the flat “ugly” side) is now the front. Which means, our building is really easy to drive right by without even noticing.

And as funny, and sometimes frustrating, as that is, it’s also a pretty appropriate image for our church. Our “pretty” side isn’t always what people see first. At first glance, we look an awful lot like every other nondescript, Midwest Lutheran congregation. We’re really white, getting older every day, and we’ll just say that vibrant, lively worship is not our greatest spiritual gift.

But this same community is still the first (and one of only two at the time of this writing) Reconciling in Christ congregation in our synod. And with zero hesitation, this same church opened up the doors to house a new group for Somali immigrants and an after-school program for neighborhood kids. For years we have run a food pantry out of our basement and we have a hand in a dozen or so other places of need around town. Our building may not be pretty, but it is a building with open doors.

When I was invited to contribute to this blog series highlighting, “churches led by Proclaim members that are doing prophetic justice work out of the ordinary,” my first thought was, “That’s not us.” I wouldn’t call this community exceptionally progressive or cutting edge. We’re not really on the forefront of anything. In fact, I think we secretly kind of like flying under the radar. But this is a church that is trying to follow Jesus. This is a church that is trying to throw the doors open for others in the same way God has thrown the doors open for us. For all of us.  

When they called me as their pastor, not only was I their first gay pastor, I was their first female pastor. From the get-go, I expected to have to prove myself and my gifts, prove my right to exist and to thrive as a member of this community and a child of God. As it turns out, my expectations were wrong.

I’d like to think I’ve brought something good to this community, but more than anything, I know that this church has brought something good to me. This church has helped to bind up my own broken heart and shown me, once again, how much grace abounds in imperfection. And how much life grows when you give it away.

Like so many Lutheran churches, our future is questionable. But what I do believe is that if and when we die, we’ll die giving ourselves away for the sake of the world. And rumor has it, that’s not such a bad way to go. How’s that for a radical reformation hope?



Rachel Knoke (she/her/hers) is a first call pastor among the “frozen chosen” in Green Bay, WI. A Midwesterner by birth and recent resident of the Pacific Northwest, Rachel has enjoyed moving back to an area with four distinct seasons – “Packers season”, “post-season let down”, “June”, and “Packers pre-season”. She currently lives with her wife, Erin, their 3-legged monster/dog, and a spunky teenage daughter. Go, Pack, Go!