First Extraordinary Call in Canada

Canada Congregation Votes to Call ELM Roster Member
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) is proud to announce that the members of the Newmarket Ontario, Holy Cross Lutheran Church (ELCiC) voted to call Lionel Ketola, which will result in the first extraordinary ordination in Canada.

Lionel first served at Holy Cross Lutheran Church as an intern, with the support of a grant from ELM (who was Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries at the time). Today the congregation voted to call Lionel as Associate Pastor, deployed as an Ambassador of Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21) in the ELCIC, to further the work of full inclusion in the ELCIC. Major funding for this position will come from a three year seed grant from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Learn more about Lionel

In Memoriam

Krister Stendahl, 1921-2008

“Since I cannot be with you at your ordination which–it seems–must take place extra ordinem, I want to send you a greeting affirming my conviction that the steps that your congregations and you are taking stand well before God.” – Excerpt from Krister Stendahl’s letter to the first extraordinary ordinands in 1990.

Krister Stendahl, the Lutheran pastor and bishop emeritus who first used the words “extra ordinem” and “extraordinary” to describe the ordinations of openly gay and lesbian clergy, died on Tuesday, April 15, 2008, at the age of 86 after several years of illness.

Stendahl was Bishop of Stockholm when St. Francis Lutheran Church and First United Lutheran Church called and ordained Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart and Jeff Johnson. At a time when most church leaders were criticizing the action and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was placing the congregations on trial, Stendahl wrote to commend the congregations for their courage and leadership in supporting openly gay and lesbian pastors. Stendahl also participated in the Extraordinary Ordination of Anita Hill on April 28, 2001. In Stockholm, Stendahl was a noted reformer on issues such as women’s ordination, gay and lesbian rights, and the relationship of church and state.

Stendahl’s words have been used throughout the history of the movement for ordination of people of all sexual orientation and gender identity in the Lutheran church and are central in the identity and name of the group leading this movement, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Stendahl chose the words because St. Francis and First United were acting “out of the ordinary” practice of the church. The founding documents of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries embrace his sentiment with these words:

If “ordinary” has come to mean “discriminatory,” we have chosen the adjective “extraordinary” deliberately to emphasize the “out-of-the-ordinary” nature of our community. In response to the urgent message of the reconciling and hopeful Gospel of Jesus Christ, we take seriously our responsibility to convey the message of reconciliation, unconditional regard and everlasting love to all people, especially those who have been left out of, or abandoned by the church that bears the name of Christ.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries remembers and celebrates the life of Rev. Krister Stendahl, remembers his family in our prayers, and honors the legacy his words and actions leave to those seeking justice for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the Lutheran Church.

A memorial service is planned for Friday, May 16, at 3 p.m. in Harvard’s Memorial Church.

For a full obituary, please visit the Harvard Divinity School’s website.

"I was there. I saw it."

“You have been revealed, I was there – I saw it – you are children of God, bearers of the message that we are all children of God. I will tell the truth about that wherever I go, and you will tell the truth about what you saw and heard.”
Rev. Erik Christensen’s sermon on 1/20/08

“I was there. I saw it.”

These words were a sort of refrain in Rev. Erik Christensen’s sermon at Salem English Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 20, 2008, the day after they called and ordained Pastor Jen Nagel.

The gospel reading for that day (John 1:29-42) began “The next day….” But before we could really listen to what would come next, we had to ask what just happened.

We had all witnessed an extraordinary ordination, attended by hundreds of people from across the Twin Cities and around the nation. Jen Nagel was the 13th pastor since 1990 to be called and ordained by a Lutheran congregation that was standing up to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s policy against ordaining pastors in same-sex partnerships (or those in principled noncompliance to that policy). We gathered to be reminded of our baptism and to set apart for public ministry Pastor Jen Nagel. Pastor Jen was the 13th since 1990, but she was the 5th since October of 2007, showing the momentum among churches opening their pulpits to pastors of all sexual orientation and gender identity.

Even those who weren’t there are witness to the powerful work that is happening because of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Gifts to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries mean so much. We cannot operate with your support–ELM is funded entirely by individuals and congregations. We need your support now because this year we hope to do more than ever before.

Your gift to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries does the following:

  • Provides direct support to Mission Partners–openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutheran pastors serving congregations and specialized ministries.
  • Helps us reach out to new congregations, seminary students, and pastors not yet on our roster
  • Provides emergency response to pastors being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Raise awareness that God calls people of all sexual orientations and gender identities to ordained ministry in the Lutheran church.

Thank you for your support and for considering a gift!

Congregations, Communications & Hearts On Fire

New Ways for Congregation to Get Involved with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries:
The biggest NEW part of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community is the role of congregations. In this new organization, congregations are critical to the movement. Congregations have an opportunity to affiliate with ELM as a way to actively live out their commitment to full inclusion in life and ministry of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the Lutheran church. Here are a few ways your congregation can get involved:

Creative Communications- We Need Your Help
We believe that if more Lutherans knew about the exciting work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries that they would want to become a part of our movment. Help us reach out to Lutherans in all the ways we communicate by:

  • Joining us on your favorite social networking online: Facebook, Myspace and Tribe
  • Writing about our work and events on your blog
  • Forwarding our emails and inviting others to join us online
  • Sending us an email to join us in creating, writing and/or editing our newsletters, press releases, our website and other online materials

Join Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries at Hearts on Fire!
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is proud to help underwrite Hearts on Fire. The Biennial Assembly and Reconciling in Christ Convention hosted by our coalition partner Lutherans Concerned/North America, Hearts on Fire is July 3-6 at San Francisco State University. Early registration closes March 15, so we encourage you to register today. Prices will rise after March 15 to the standard rate.

Many members of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community attend these gatherings each year and look forward to connecting with old and new friends. If you have recently become involved with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, we hope you will join us at Hearts on Fire for a great opportunity to connect in person with others seeking the full inclusion and participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Lutheran life and ministry. Learn more and register.

Keynote speakers:

  • Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson
  • Rev. Kelly Fryer
  • Bishop John Selders of the Church of God
  • Rev. Gladys Moore.

The assembly also includes:

  • Training to use story telling to advance the movement to full inclusion
  • Sharing of best practices with others committed to full inclusion
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Child care
  • Bible study
  • Uplifting worship services
  • Spiritual counseling
  • Prayer
  • Fellowship

Pre-assembly events:

  • an event for couples
  • an event for rostered leaders
  • in-depth anti-racism training “Finding the I in the Middle of Racism.”

Jen Nagel Ordination Highlights

Related Links:
Include ELM Pastors in Your Congregation’s Call Process
View More Photos from the Event

13th Extraordinary Ordination held January 19, 2008

Hundreds of people braved sub-zero temperatures to gather at Salem English Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and ordain Jennifer Lea Nagel. Rev. Nagel is the 13th member of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster to be ordained extra ordinem because the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) does not allow the ordinations of individuals in same-sex relationships.

Nagel’s ordination occurred almost exactly 18 years after the first extraordinary ordinations of Rev. Ruth Frost, Rev. Jeff Johnson, and Rev. Phyllis Zillhart in 1990 in San Francisco, California.

“Now 18 years later,” Rev. Nagel told the congregation, “I experience awe in the witness of the Gospel alive in communities of faith, and frustration that extraordinary ordinations are even necessary.”

She continued, “Our tradition’s long history of reformation guides us as we stand with our hopes and prayers before God this day to participate in this extraordinary ordination. My heart is full of gratitude for your presence that mingles with the prayers of friends and colleagues far and wide.”

Preacher Rev. Angela Denise Davis continued the theme, recognizing the extraordinary action Salem English Lutheran Church is taking and their response to the Gospel.

“Being extraordinary is being open and willing to how God brings people into the fold.” Citing the story of Peter and Cornelius, she exhorted the congregation, “listen to Joppa; do work in Caesarea; and know there will be fallout in Jerusalem.”

The ordaining ministers in the service included three retired ELCA bishops – Rev. Darold Beekmann, Rev. David Brown, and Rev. Lowell Erdahl, and around one hundred clergy. During the rite of ordination and throughout the service stoles from the Shower of Stoles Project served as a backdrop. The Shower of Stoles Project is a collection of over a thousand liturgical stoles and other garments representing the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered religious leaders. Jen wore the red stole that was originally presented to Rev. Anita Hill at her ordination in 2000 and which has been worn by six openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender pastors since then.

Following the Saturday ordination, Rev. Nagel was back to work on Sunday presiding at worship with Rev. Erik Christensen, co-chair of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, preaching.

“There is a sense of urgency,” Rev. Christensen remarked, “with the acceleration of ordinations. More and more Lutheran Congregations, like Salem English, are recognizing that the best pastor for them may not be on the ELCA roster. They are standing in principled non-compliance against institutional policies that not only deny qualified people from serving as pastors, but also deny them the gifts of those pastors. It is an honor for ELM to work with these congregations and insure the credentials of the pastors they call.”


Preacher: Rev. Erik Christensen

Sunday Jan. 20, 2008 (Day after the Extraordinary Ordination of Jen Nagel)
Salem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis
Texts: John 1 29-42

Grace and peace be with you my brothers and sisters, in the name of Jesus Christ who calls to us from the future and bears it among us today. Amen.

“The next day…”

That’s how the gospel reading for today begins. “The next day…” So, before you can really listen to what comes next you have to ask what just happened. This seems like a question we can relate to here at Salem this morning. What did just happen? We’re here at church the morning after an extraordinary ordination, attended by hundreds of people from across the city and around the nation. This time yesterday you were setting up extra chairs and preparing to host a huge celebration – which you did very well, thank you very much. We gathered together in this space to be reminded of our baptism – the waters of God’s impartiality that hold us together and make one family out of all of us – and to set apart for public ministry Pastor Jen Nagel. It was an extraordinary day for you, Salem – and for the entire Church. And now it is “the next day.”

In the scriptures what has just happened is that the authorities from Jerusalem have come out to assess what John the Baptist is doing out in the wilderness. To observe his baptisms in the Jordan River, and to ask him who he thinks he is. This is becoming a theme, eh? Ministry is happening outside the walls of power and, as Pastor Davis reminded us yesterday, Jerusalem is going to want an explanation. Probably good for us to notice as well the humanity of that response. Yesterday we heard about how the early Christian church in Jerusalem was calling Peter to account for his baptism of the gentile Cornelius and his family; today we hear about the Jewish temple authorities calling John to account for his baptisms in the wilderness. There is something powerful happening in the waters of baptism – an ancient practice that the Christian church inherited from its Jewish roots and re-imagined as sign not of purity, but of belonging, which is why Peter and John are questioned by the authorities in their respective leadership – people want to know who they think belongs inside their community. We want to know who belongs here.

So… “the next day.” I thought it was just inspired that the texts used at Jen’s ordination yesterday were the same texts we heard last Sunday for the festival of the Baptism of Our Lord. Actually, my first reaction was to think, “you totally copped out!” Do you know how long some pastors spend deliberating on which texts to use for their ordination? Do you use the call passage from Jeremiah 1, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Or is that a little presumptuous? Maybe Isaiah 61, “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” Or maybe that’s just a little too messianic? But Jen brings us all together for an ordination deferred almost a decade, and then she uses texts recycled from last Sunday? Jeez! Show a little effort.

But, of course she did – or whoever made that call did – they were the perfect texts for an extraordinary ordination. From Isaiah, “here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights…” (Isa 42:1); and from Acts, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality…”; and then, from Matthew, the story of the baptism of our Lord, another extraordinary setting apart where the rules of who will consecrate whom are turned inside out. John says to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” And Jesus replies, “let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” It is proper – Jesus says – for us to turn things on their head, to defy expectation, in order that the righteousness of God, which we are always discovering is so much larger, so much wider, so much more graceful and merciful and beautiful and generous than we’ve ever been led to believe, might be fulfilled.

Those were the texts for last Sunday, and for yesterday. Now it is “the next day.”

A couple of things happen on “the next day” that I think are important for us to notice. The first is that it inspires testimony. The second is that it inspires discipleship.

The gospel of John remembers the story a little differently than the gospel of Matthew we heard yesterday. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus comes to John to be baptized and they have a little conversation before the fact to discuss the significance of what they’re about to do. But here, today, in John’s gospel we hear the Baptist saying, “I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel,” and then he testifies, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him… and I have seen and have testified that this is the Child of God.”

Jesus enters the waters and is revealed to be a child of God. That, we come to understand, is the function of baptism – to reveal the truth about who we are, who we all are, children of God, all of us. Remember, this gospel – the gospel of John – in fact earlier in this very same chapter, is the one that begins “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God…” (John 1:12). The waters of baptism do for Jesus then what they do for us, they reveal us for who we really are – children of the same God, branches of the same tree, held by waters that flow from the same source. In response to this revelation, John testifies, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove…”

Well, people of Salem, I am here to tell you – in fact, I and all the other visitors in this room who joined with you yesterday in laying our hands on Pastor Nagel and consecrating her for ordained ministry in the church, we are all here to tell you that as we worshipped together yesterday, as we assembled and were sprinkled with baptismal waters and heard the good news of God preached from the pulpit and were fed at the wide table of God’s welcome, we saw the Spirit descend – not just on your pastor, but on all of you, on all of us, we – the living body of Christ, the church, ordinary people made holy by God. We are here to testify to you that we saw it. It was real. And we traveled from great distances, many of us, so that we can return to our homes and tell them what we have seen. We saw it. It was real.

This testimony is so important. Now that we are living in “the next day” people are going to want to know what happened here yesterday. Sometimes they’re going to ask you, and sometimes they’re going to decide for themselves – even if they weren’t here to see if for themselves. After Pastor Jen Rude was extraordinarily ordained last November another group of Lutherans took to writing about her ordination using phrases like, “the so-called ordination of Ms. Jen Rude” – not Pastor Jen Rude, but Ms. Some people will do that, try to undermine the radical welcome of the baptismal waters that you have unleashed here at Salem by eroding the credibility of your pastor. But we were here, we saw what happened, we are witnesses who can and will testify to the power and the presence of the Spirit of God that is moving in this place. Not just in and through your pastor – but in and through all of you. It is all of you together that make up the church. It is all of us together that make up the church. We don’t even quite get it ourselves, just how wide the circle of God’s care is, but we are learning – it is all of us together. God was revealed in all of us together, here, yesterday. I will take that testimony back to Chicago and share it with the people of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square; and Jim and Bruce will take that testimony back to San Francisco, California; and Amalia will take it back to Decorah, Iowa. We will tell the truth about you, and you will tell the truth about us, and we will be revealed by the waters of our baptism for who we are – children of God, family together, all of us.

The second thing that happens “the next day” is a call to discipleship. After John’s testimony, naturally people want to know more about Jesus. They leave what they are doing, what they have known, the places of comfort and security, and they follow. Again, the gospel of John tells the story a little differently than we’re accustomed to hearing it. Jesus doesn’t go down the shore to call these men away from their fishing nets. In fact, he doesn’t approach them at all. Instead, John testifies to who Jesus is and others begin to follow him – a reminder to all of us not to doubt the power of our own testimony, or the effect it can have on others. The effect in this story is even kind of comical. So far Jesus hasn’t said or done anything, the action has all taken place with other people. Jesus walks by and some of John’s disciples peel off and begin trailing him, and when Jesus finally notices he’s being followed he turns and asks “What are you looking for?” and they, in turn, ask “Rabbi – where are you staying?”

“What are you looking for?” – a question, followed by “where are you staying?” – a question. No one is giving away too much here, the new disciples won’t even give Jesus a direct answer to his question, “what are you looking for?” Perhaps it’s because they don’t know yet what they’re looking for. Perhaps it’s because they want to know just how far from their familiar surroundings they’re going to be asked to travel. Whatever it is, they answer Jesus’ question with a question of their own “where are you staying?”

The irony is, Jesus isn’t staying. Jesus is going. Jesus is going to a wedding at Cana, then to clean house at the Temple. Jesus is going to share meal with his disciples, but then he is going to a trial, and an execution. Jesus is going to show us something about life that rises up in places left for dead. Jesus is going, not staying. But that’s a little too much to take in all at once, so Jesus simply says, “come and see.”

The disciples want to know where Jesus is staying so that they can decide where to make their home. Where to settle so that they can be close to him. This reminds me of the opening to St. Augustine’s confessions where he writes, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” We live in a world that makes us restless for the homecoming God offers, the return to the source. We long to rest in a place that can see us and love us and welcome us as we are. The irony is, in a world like ours, that means we have to get up and go – not stay put – because we don’t live in that world. We are not citizens of a nation that has thrown its doors wide open to all the peoples of the world. No, we’re actually considering building walls along our borders. We’re not members of a church that welcomes all people, and I’m not talking just about LGBT people, I’m talking about the ways that our religiosity still spends so much of its time trying to draw lines that separate instead of setting tables that invite. Our heart is restless until it rests in God, and, ironically, to rest in God means not to stay put – but to go where God is going because God is on the move and is reaching out to draw us in, to call us home to one another. Jesus issues the invitation “come and see” and it is an invitation to re-imagine the very meaning of the word home. We will not find our rest in a place, but in a person, in relationship with God, which is to say in relationship with each other.

It is not at all hip to admit, especially in a church that boasts of a really excellent jazz combo like the one you’ve got, but this calls to mind a song from my childhood by Billy Joel called “You’re My Home.” He sings:

Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Indiana’s early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

That is the challenge of “the next day.” Something extraordinary took place here yesterday. You might be tempted to stay put, to revel in the afterglow of what was a barely imaginable and long-awaited day. But that day was yesterday. You are living in “the next day” which carries its own demands – for testimony and for discipleship. You have been revealed, I was there – I saw it – you are children of God, bearers of the message that we are all children of God. I will tell the truth about that wherever I go, and you will tell the truth about what you saw and heard. And we will be each other’s home. We will answer the call to follow, to come and see, until we find our rest in the one who is our home.


Getting Greener – Radio – Photos

Help Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Get Greener

“We are also called to be stewards of God’s creation, to live more sustainable, responsible lives with others in the world.”ELM Vision Document

Something about this holiday season and the way the letters E-L-M come together has got us thinking about trees and our commitment to be “stewards of God’s creation. As you read this, the latest newsletter of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is on its way to your front door. Each newsletters was printed on paper and transported by plane and truck to your front door. If you are willing and able to recieve your newsletters via pdf delivered to your email, please let us know so we can be better stewards of our precious resources. You can also save paper for envelopes and checks by making your donations online. As we continue to work on becoming greener, we will let you know more ways you can help.

ELM Radio Feature:
Amalia Vagts Talks about Clergy Debt Relief
Listen to a short clip from an interview of ELM Development Director Amalia Vagts that aired on Decorah’s 100.5. Hear Amalia talk about the seminary debt costs for pastors who chose to be honest about their sexual orientation and gender identity. You will also hear some songs from the ELM Benefit Album, Out of the Extraordinary that seeks to raise awareness of the issue, with 100% of the proceeds to debt relief for ELM seminarians and roster members.

Photos from Chicago Posted Online
Jen Rude became the first pastor to be ordained in the newly formed Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) and the first official challenge to the new ELCA policy of “Refrain and Restraint” that was passed at its biennial assembly August 6-11 in Chicago. View the photos …

Roster Member Called and Workin Scholar Announced

Transformational Minneapolis Congregation Votes to Call Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Pastor

(Minneapolis, MN) Seeking to speak the language of their neighborhood, in 1889 Salem English Lutheran was one of the first Lutheran congregations west of Chicago to worship in English; on Sunday November 11th it also became one of the first Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregations to call a member of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) roster.

Jen Nagel has been serving as the Pastoral Minister of Salem Lutheran for four and a half years, and on January 19th she will be ordained and installed as a minister of Word and Sacrament and become their Pastor. Nagel will be ordained in an “Extraordinary Ordination” service January 19. The service is called such because it is performed outside the ordinary guidelines for Lutheran ordinations. Learn more…

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Awards Scholarship to Seminarian Matt James

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) announces the 2007 Joel Raydon Workin Memorial Scholar. This year’s recipient is Matt James. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries provides the $1,000 scholarship annually to Lutheran sexual and gender minority seminarians who, in their living and loving, embody a gospel-centered passion for justice and devotion to faith in Jesus Christ.

“Matt is an exceptional candidate, whose passion and gifts for ministry uphold the faithful integrity and courage that was central to the life and writings of Joel Raydon Workin.” Greg Egertson, Workin Memorial Scholarship Chair. Learn More…