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Welcome new ELM Program Director Olivia LaFlamme!

Friday, August 17th, 2018
Welcome Program Director Olivia LaFlamme! 
Dear ELM Community-
Join us in welcoming new ELM Program Director Olivia LaFlamme! Olivia (they/them/theirs) comes to ELM with a rich background of social justice work and spiritual practice, and we are excited to welcome them to the team. You can learn more from Olivia’s writing below, and read their bio. Olivia lives and works from Chicago, IL. Say welcome: olivia@elm.org
In Celebration,
Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson
Executive Director, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

“No Coincidences: Following Knowledge, Time, Ancestors, and Queerness”
By Olivia LaFlamme, ELM Program Director

I’ve made academia my home. The classroom was the birthplace of my intellectual curiosity, my understanding of my identities, and my passion for liberation. I felt like I could never

know enough, could never read enough, and always pushed myself to integrate every piece into my larger worldview; constantly evolving. Then it became time for me to shift to become a knowledge-producer. I had to ask myself what do YOU think? What are the connections YOU are seeing? How do you articulate something that hasn’t been said before? This process tested everything I thought I knew about myself. It was really hard. I realized that I didn’t trust myself or what I knew and I definitely didn’t believe that I had something unique to contribute (hello, imposter syndrome!).

 
It was around this same time that I began to build a relationship with my ancestors; inviting them to assist me and guide me. I asked them for confidence, inspiration, and motivation. I felt their presence, I saw signs, and I trusted that there were people who had my back at all times. With this energy, I began to critically engage the combination of queerness, time, and spirituality. How are queer people living out a different experience of time? What does engaging in an intentional relationship with the past (or those who have come before us) do to heal queer people today? Can spirits speak to us and can we speak to them?
 

It was like BOOM! One day I woke up and just realized that I have something important to say. Thanks to the faith that I have in powers bigger than this world, I know it was no coincidence. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries came to me on the coattails of that moment. I finally felt like I could say 100% yes, I have something to offer here and I’m confident in casting a vision. I’m still an academic at heart, but I think that takes many forms. Knowledge is everywhere, and I want to practice what I know in as many ways as possible. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn from ELM as well as contribute to its strengthening and growth. Thank you!


I’m excited to work with ELM because: I get to combine my professional life with my already fused personal and political commitments to centering marginalized experiences. I know it is my mandate to contribute to the movement for positive social change in any way that I can, and ELM’s work brings together faith and anti-oppression frameworks in powerful ways that I’m ready to learn from as well as be a part of building.
I’m inspired by: queer people of color that are blazing a trail in the name of our ancestors and demanding liberation and visibility! Intersectional queer feminist theory! Spiritual practice as self/communal-care!
These three things bring me joy: going to the beach with my partner, crafting for someone I love (knitting, crocheting, collaging, painting, anything really), and eating huge amounts of delicious food with friends and family.
When I’m not working, you can find me: listening to a true crime podcast, pondering good ideas for my next film, attending a lecture/book talk/discussion, or wandering around the contemporary or impressionist section of an art museum.

Bio: Olivia LaFlamme (they/them/theirs) 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. They are looking forward to working and building community with everyone involved in ELM.
 
Pictured: Proclaim Members welcome and bless Olivia at 2018 Proclaim Gathering
Photos by Emily Ann Garcia

Drumroll please… Announcing #Proclaim300!

Friday, August 10th, 2018

We’ve got news for you.

We’re fresh off the recent Proclaim Gathering near Baltimore Aug 5-8, 2018 bringing together over 60 LGBTQIA+ pastors, seminarians, and rostered leaders for a time of learning and community. On our final day, we announced big news we can now share with everyone.

Drumroll please… (click below video!)WATCH: #Proclaim300 Video 

Proclaim is approaching 300 members! And we’re kicking off a campaign to mark this momentum:

What is #Proclaim300?

Proclaim (ELM’s professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered ministers, and those preparing for rostered ministry who publicly identify as LGBTQIA+) is growing exponentially! In September 2015, we reached our 200th member, and just three years later in 2018, we are approaching our 300th member. Wow! 

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Together, we will mark this momentum with:

1) A three-month visibility and fundraising campaign August- October 2018, helping a wider community know about ELM, including opportunities to financially support the increased membership of Proclaim and future of ELM, with a goal of 300 gifts of $300.

2) A week of celebration and gratitude September 17-23, 2018, sharing online about extraordinary gifts of LGBTQIA+ leaders, honoring those who have gone before us, offering prayers for a messy and beautiful community of God, naming barriers and triumphs faced by LGBTQIA+ people in the church, and inviting others to learn more about ELM and Proclaim.

What are our Goals for #Proclaim300?

#Proclaim300 has three main goals:

What are we asking you?

  • Celebrate your colleagues and partners in ministry. Thank a mentor, send love to a Proclaimer, enjoy this milestone!
  • Build our presence on social media by posting about #Proclaim300 and inviting others to ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Follow the daily prompts September 17-23 and encouragefriends and allies to join in! Reach both inside and outside the church and queer community!
  • Grow ELM! Ask organizations, individuals, and congregations to give $300 (or more!) to honor and celebrate this exciting moment. Or raise these funds by guest preaching, having a special offering in Worship, starting a Facebook fundraiser, or hosting a giving gathering.

When can you start? NOW!

Give online, mark “attending” on Facebook, share gratitude with Proclaimers, start a fundraiser, forward this email, and ask your congregation, friends, and self: will you help us reach our giving goal?

In deep gratitude and excitement,

Anna Czarnik Neimeyer, ELM Associate Director of Development & Communications

Ben Hogue, Proclaim Member, ELM Fund Development Committee


Bios:

Anna Czarnik-Neimeyer and Ben Hogue love ELM as an ongoing justice movement, and enjoy fearlessly asking people to be part of the movement with their time, talent, and treasure! The friends and colleagues each studied communications & PR, and like serving communion, high fives, puns, and service work; Ben was a Peace Corps volunteer and Anna volunteered at Holden Village.

 

Photos by Emily Ann Garcia 


 

Farewell from Program Director Asher: Anointed and Sent 

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

In Deuteronomy, when Moses is giving his final blessing to Israel, he said to the tribe of Asher, “Most blessed of sons be Asher… let him dip his foot in oil.” (Deut 33:24-25).

As a farewell, Barbara K Lundblad highlighted this passage as she led ELM’s Board of Directors in reflecting upon my namesake in the Bible (Asher means “happy” in Hebrew) and invited the group to share affirmations. After each affirmation, they all said together, “Thank God for Asher.” Then they all extended their hands (through their webcams) as they prayed blessing over me.

I felt as though my foot had indeed been dipped in oil.

As I wrap up my time serving as Program Director for ELM, it is remarkable to look back on all we have accomplished together over these past two years: We’ve doubled our presence at synod assemblies across the country. The average amount of time that our candidates are waiting to receive their first-call has decreased significantly. More bishops and synod staffs are acknowledging and using our resources to address the imagination gap that has held our candidates back from getting quality first-call placements more quickly. And as a community, Proclaim has reached nearly 300 members! It has been a joy to witness how all of the new members have strengthened us and helped us grow both more deeply into our roots and out towards the future.

My final day with ELM will be Friday August 17th and until then I’ll be running on all cylinders as we head into The Proclaim Gathering next week, and then setting everything up for the next Program Director the following week.

My new call will be to serve as pastor of Highlands Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado.

I do plan to remain a member of Proclaim. And while I’ll be stepping back from any leadership in the community to allow the new Program Director to lead, I do look forward to embracing the vision they cast and continuing in fellowship with the community.

It has truly been an honor and a joy to serve as your Program Director for nearly two years now. I will miss working with our fabulous staff and volunteers. And I am so grateful for all that I have learned in this position and will be carrying on with me to my next call. Thanks to ELM’s staff, Board of Directors, our supporters who make our work possible, and to all of the Proclaim members out there transforming the church. Serving with you has been a blessing – You have dipped my foot in oil!


 

 

Asher O’Callaghan (he/him/his) is super excited for ELM’s Proclaim Gathering which begins this Sunday, August 5th! Lately he has discovered the joy of making iced soy chai tea lattes at home in the afternoon as a little mid-day boost. He lives with his cat, Jack, in Denver, Colorado where he appreciates the late afternoon thunderstorms that this time of year offers.

 

 

Behind the Curtain: Meet the Proclaim Gathering Dream Team

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

Each Year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries hosts The Gathering for members of Proclaim (the professional community for publicly identified LGBTQIA+ Lutheran rostered ministers and candidates) and their families, for a time of renewal, community building, and professional development. We come together and embrace what it means to be publicly identified (“out!”) leaders as we care for ourselves, build community, and learn together.This August 5-8, 2018, over 65 Proclaimers from around the country will gather at Pearlstone Retreat Center outside of Baltimore!

Rev. Elizabeth Edman, author of Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity will be our keynote speaker, featured alongside workshops, social time, music, worship, small groups, and more. You can help sponsor a Proclaimer HERE.

In addition to ELM’s trusty Program Director Rev. Asher O’Callaghan, a small and mighty team has been crafting the Gathering’s schedule. Thank you to the Dream Team for all you do. Check it out!


FUN TEAM

Co-Chairs: Brian Hornbecker & Laura Kuntz

My name is: Brian Hornbecker

My pronouns are: he/him/his

I’m co-chairing the Fun Team because: I think the opportunity to kick back, relax, and have fun with friends and colleagues is one of the best parts of the Proclaim gathering.

I’m excited for: the chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones at the Proclaim Gathering.

Who I am: I serve as Faith Formation and Communications Coordinator at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Eagan, MN, just south of Saint Paul. I graduated from Wartburg Seminary last year and am candidate for the diaconal roster (although that is a long and complicated story). I live with my spouse, Josh Moss, who is also a Proclaim member and a candidate for the diaconal roster, and our nephew Trent in the Twin Cities area. We just bought a house, so most of our “fun” time lately has been occupied with moving and everything that comes with that.

My name is: Laura Kuntz

My pronouns are: she/her/hers

I’m co-chairing the fun Team because: I enjoy coordinating social activities to build community.

I’m excited for: making new friends and be in a space where my queer identity is celebrated at the Proclaim Gathering

Who I am: My wife and I live in Lakewood, Ohio where she is serving a call and I am in an interim position. We’ve been coming to Proclaim gatherings since we were seminarians and look forward to them every year. I love fly fishing and playing in stonewall sports leagues.


WORSHIP TEAM

Co-Chairs: Kelsey Brown and Josh Evans

My name is: Kelsey Brown

My pronouns are: she/her/hers

I’m co-chairing the Worship Team because: I believe innovative and expansive worship are essential to Christian Life.

I’m excited for: all the fun you will have at the Proclaim Gathering, I’m sorry I can’t attend!

Who I am: Kelsey Brown serves as Vicar at St.Paul’s Lutheran Church in Santa Monica, California. She is originally from Long Island, NY but when she’s not in SoCal she calls Philadelphia and United Lutheran Seminary Home. She likes spoken word poetry, Drag Queens and dancing around her kitchen. She finds joy in lavender essential oils, Netflix binges and preschool laughter. 

My name is: Josh Evans

My pronouns are: he/him/his.

I’m co-chairing the Worship Team because: I am passionate about the church’s historic liturgy brought to life in new, vibrant ways, and I love experiencing the Body of Christ praying, singing, and communing together.

I’m excited for: worship (duh!) at the Proclaim Gathering — and also getting a chance to see so many wonderful people I haven’t seen since last year’s Gathering or haven’t met in person yet.

Who I am: I grew up in Michigan and I am a graduate of LSTC in Chicago, awaiting first call in the Metro Chicago Synod, and currently working as Interim Coordinator for Global Service Events at the ELCA Churchwide offices. In my precious free time, I enjoy reading, drinking coffee, enjoying all things Chicago, watching inordinate amounts of Netflix, and spoiling my two cats (Oliver and Sophia) and their canine sibling (Roscoe).


PROGRAM TEAM

Co-chairs: Peter Beeson & Reed Fowler 

My name is: Peter Beeson

My pronouns are: he/him/his

I’m co-chairing the Program Team: because I was invited.

I’m excited for: community, learning from the speakers at the Proclaim Gathering, and enjoying the nature (and organic farming) of the Pearlstone Retreat Center.

Who I am: Peter R. Beeson currently lives at work and has developed a newfound obsession with getting out of New York City, and finding mountains and trees. In his spare time he enjoys turning around declining organizations, fostering transparency, and teaching his toddler how to do chores.

My name is: Reed Fowler

My pronouns are: they/them/theirs

I’m co-chairing the Program Team because: I enjoy creative planning and creating space for introverts.

I’m excited to: connect with nature and other Proclaimers at the Gathering.

Who I am: Reed is a seminarian at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. In their downtime, Reed is at the pottery studio or hanging out with their partner, dog, and cats.

The Cost

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Each year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries names a Joel Workin Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel R. Workin, one of the “Berkeley Three” (bio below). This scholarship is open to seminarians who are members of Proclaim, ELM’s professional community for Lutheran pastors, rostered lay leaders, and those preparing for rostered leadership who publicly identify as LGBTQIA+. The 2017 Scholar is Ben Hogue. A list of previous years’ scholars can be found on our website.

Each year, seminarians are asked to reflect on one of Joel’s essays or sermons – Joel was a gifted writer and theologian. The following is Joel’s essay “The Cost.” This is the essay the Workin Scholarship Committee has asked seminarians to reflect on in their applications and it speaks powerfully to the issue of “coming out” which has been the theme of our blog posts this past month.

As a note: ALL seminarians who are Proclaim members are qualified to apply for the Workin Scholarship. The deadline to receive applications has been extended to June 15th. If you or someone you know is an LGBTQIA+ seminarian, please encourage them to apply! You can find out more about the scholarship here.

ITEM: The certificate was given to three gay seminarians in appreciation of “the Gifts of Time and Talent in Outstanding Service to the Membership of Lutherans Concerned/North America as a Model of Faith, Courage, and Integrity.” And with the certificate came sustained applause, wave upon wave of admiration, gratitude and respect, as 130 gay Lutherans rose to their feet, giving their version of a group hug.

ITEM: The news was in The Advocate (issue 514, page 20): “A Presbyterian minister who had tested positive for the HIV antibody shot himself to death in Tuscaloosa June 14.” And even if all Christendom were to clap its hands, and even if the Almighty Herself were to get down on Her knees and scrub, still nothing would be able to completely clean the blood-soaked carpet of that closet, whatever the closet — gay, HIV-positive, etc. — where that child of God lay dead, cold and stiff, unhugged and unapplauded.

As one of the “Berkeley Three” it has been an honor and encouragement to receive the support and even the accolades of many persons, particularly my fellow Gay and Lesbian Lutherans. The past months have been a time of kairos, and it seems that  a great part of what angers people is a recognition of the cost, the price of being “out” in the Lutheran church. The toll, both professionally and personally, is indeed very high.

Careers are ended, even before they are begun. Private life vanishes. Families are exposed to public attention. No one can pretend that being out is easy, that to follow the call to honesty and discipleship in this way is without a cross.

Yet, what is the cost of the closet? Over and over again, as people, many of them closeted, express their rage and sympathy over the price that three seminarians and many others have to pay for being out, I want to know — what about the cost of the closet?

How does one tally up the toll of living two lives, one of fear and the other of escape, one real the other false, one of tact the other of hiding, one of deceit the other of full-blooded reveling? How much does it cost? Twice as much?

How much energy does it take to every day, every minute, run from God and God’s grace and God’s gift of gayness, to run from families who wonder why the weather is the only topic of conversation, to run from oneself, which is the most basic thing God has given, and to hide out in well-constructed closets of success, excess, or numbness? How much energy does it take to keep the gospel, the Word, God’s own self, our true “created good” selves, at bay?

What pound of flesh is exacted from our very flesh by the closet? How many ulcers? How many headaches? How many heartaches? How many bodies dead in a pool of blood on the closet floor? How many persons sacrificed at the altar of political indifference or religious bigotry? How much flesh, how many corpses do blood-smeared hands need to stack against the closet door to make sure it will remain shut, even as we bury ourselves inside?

Or, literally, in real life, hard earned, greenback, dollars, bucks. What are the expenses involved in buying or renting two homes and setting up two different households, one for each of the lovers, mailing things in brown paper wrappers, driving far enough away to be somewhat safe, in always being denied the “couples rate”? What is the dollar cost of the closet?

Some people think that the three seminarians were very brave and courageous. (Some people think the three were foolish or demonic, and maybe we were a bit of each, perhaps.) But let no one think that we alone are paying the cost. Let no one think that those who “pass,” those who do not say anything are having an easy time of it. Let no one think that the choice is between paying the price or not paying the price. We do all have a choice, whether or not to come out, but we have no choice about the cross. We shall either take ours up on the way out of the closet or we shall be nailed, slowly and silently, to the one that hangs upon the closet wall. There is no way around it.

I do not know how we each decide which price it is we are willing to pay, which cross it is we are willing to take. In many ways, it seems that coming out is the easiest path.

The Berkeley Three were maybe not so brave after all. They were just too wimpy to face life in the closet. That cross, constructed by the church and the world, was too much for them to bear. And if that is the case, then let me encourage us all to take the easy way out and go to the One whose yoke is easy and burden light. Who knows, you may even get a certificate and a stirring round of applause to go with it.

And if you are still not convinced that the closet has a price, then I pray that God, as She kneels in your closet, trying to get the blood stains out of the carpet, may reach over and scratch your callused hide a time or two, just to make sure you are not dead.

“The Cost” is part  of a larger collection – along with many other inspirational and challenging reflections and sermons from Joel – called Dear God, I’m gay…thank you! Which was edited by Joel’s dear friend, Michael Nelson, and may be requested along with a donation to ELM.

 

Joel Raydon Workin (1961-1995) was born in Fargo, ND, received his Master of Divinity from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, CA, and served as intern at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Inglewood, CA. In the fall of 1987, Joel came out publicly as a gay candidate for the ordained ministry and was certified for call by the American Lutheran Church (a predecessor body to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). 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. On December 30, 1988, Joel married Paul Jenkins, whom he loved. Joel was a member of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, North Hollywood. He and Paul were active in Lutherans Concerned/Los Angeles and Dignity/Los Angeles.

In the last weeks of his illness, Joel gave his friends and family permission to sponsor an endowed memorial fund in his name. The Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholarship Fund was thus 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, through the InFaith Community Foundation.

 

Embodying the Prophets

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

by Rev. Peter R. Beeson
Proclaim member and Pastor of St. Matthew’s – Trinity Lutheran Church in Hoboken, NJ

A year ago I came out to my congregation. 

           Not as the queer pastor they had always known I was,

                            but as the straight, white, geeky guy I have always been. 

It was a long time coming. 

Two years ago the Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer invited me to preach at the opening worship of the Queer Stories / Sacred Witness Proclaim Gathering in Northern California.  In the invitation they asked me to share part of my story about the invisible queer witness of being trans and pregnant.

I shared that sermon with a preaching partner and trusted colleague at St. Matthew Trinity, the congregation I serve, along with the note that I wasn’t yet ready to share it publicly.

Nine months later, during St. Matthew Trinity’s Stories of Resurrection summer story telling series, I was again at the Proclaim Gathering, this time Healing the Violence in Chicago; full of anxiety at being in a familiar place, while using a new name and wearing a new wardrobe.  It was then, while also in the midst of providing pastoral care and preparing for a series of funerals, I realized I had neglected to recruit a story teller for the Sunday after the Gathering.

It was in this way a parishioner, and one of the co-instigators of our summer story telling series, received her wish and got my story of resurrection for which she had been waiting.

Talking with new friends at the Proclaim Gathering it became clear the scripture from Matthew about the wheat and tares, the assigned lectionary reading for that Sunday, would provide the perfect frame for my story.  A flurry of phone calls ensued, as I spoke with Council members and other congregational leaders to share with them that I wanted to live and minister from a place of greater integrity.  Framing my story in the scriptures for Sunday, July 23, 2017 was the most natural way for me to share this part of my journey with others in the community.

Serving a congregation rooted in radical hospitality, the congregation was amazing.  After months of praying and talking we chose to share our story publicly, to be a resource for others and proclaim God’s mercy.  As part of publicly affirming and marking my journey, a team from the congregation worked with the Bishop of the New Jersey Synod to celebrate a renaming ceremony on Transfiguration Sunday.

Transitioning publicly, altering my body to live into this new reality, claiming being a white man who happens to be trans as a public identity, has provided space for honest conversation about how the church (both locally and nationally) must change or die.  Embodying the liminal space within which the church finds itself reminds me of Isaiah who spent three years naked, wandering around the city, embodying God’s message about the vulnerability and destruction of slavery (Isaiah 20).

Public witness, living boldly, loving deeply, risking greatly, allows us as LGBTQIA+ rostered leaders and seminarians, to create space that fosters transparency.

There is power in owning and claiming one’s own story.

In claiming our wholeness, in living into and constantly becoming the people God has formed us to be, we have the power to hold space and proclaim God’s mercy for all those living at the margins, regardless of their identity.   

Thanks be to God.

 


 

Rev. Peter R. Beeson (he/him/his) is a pastor, prophet, and parent.  In his free time you may find him geeking out over budgets in Excel spreadsheets, working for affordable housing, exploring parks with his toddler, cleaning house, and vacillating between disgust and delight at his emerging beer belly.

 

 

 

Photo at top: Jim Kowalski

Bio Photo: Provided by author

 

Freed to Abundant Life

Thursday, April 19th, 2018

Freed to Abundant Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

The Holy Gospel According to Coming Out Stories

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

The Holy Gospel According to Coming Out Stories

by Rev. Amanda Nelson
Proclaim member and Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

 

Benson Kua Wikimedia Commons CC 2.0

In college, a dear friend of mine did her senior thesis on the coming out process for LGBTQIA+ individuals. To write her thesis, she interviewed many of our classmates and friends who had already bravely come out, and some who were not yet ready to do so publicly.

At the time, I had not yet come out to her and had only started to give myself permission to even think of the possibility that I wasn’t straight.

I remember talking to her many times about her interviews and finding myself fascinated with what she was learning. One of the major points of her thesis, something that sticks with me even to this day, is the role of vulnerability and fear.

I asked her again recently to clarify this point for me and this is what she said: [when you come out] you lose control of how people will view you because that view could change. When you don’t come out, you retain the power and control: you are keeping this idea to yourself, no one can judge what they don’t know. The moment you tell people, you lose control as you don’t know how people will react/respond/change their views on you.”

There is so much truth in this! In my life and in my work, I encounter countless individuals for whom their relationships did change drastically when they came out.

Some relationships changed for the worse: communication was cut off, closeness was replaced with distance, and depth replaced by superficiality. At its worst, coming out can inflict physical, mental, and spiritual violence from those we thought loved us.

And!

And, many of my peers who have come out have experienced relationships that changed in truly beautiful ways: fear of acceptance from our family and friends was met with unconditional love; fear of being able to express our identities in public through dress, speech, or displays of affection were quelled by the celebration of Pride in our communities; and, suffocating silence was transformed by safe, brave spaces into liberated voices of joy in our churches and schools.

At its best, coming out can mediate reconciliation of body, mind, and spirit.

To be honest, it’s not an “either, or” – you either have good experiences in coming out or bad ones – because what things in life really are binary? It’s more like a circle or a spiral of different reactions and experiences. It is a spiral we experience the first time we come out…and it is a spiral we experience the one thousandth time we come out.

It is this spiral that can hold many people back from ever fully expressing their identities.

When I am experiencing the hurtful phase of the spiral, I can deeply understand why people choose not to come out. And, when I’m experiencing the joy-filled phase, I feel as tho I have been lifted into a holy embrace with God and I want to shout it from the rooftops.

Fear and vulnerability are such powerful forces in our lives, and, they are transformational.

Brene Brown, who writes so beautifully on the subject of vulnerability, has said, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

In this season of Easter, of resurrection, I am finding gospel “good news” in the coming out stories of my peers and colleagues. Throughout these next two months, we are excited to share many of those stories with you.

Thanks be to God for those who serve our church publicly out, and for those who help to ensure that gender and sexual minorities experience a holy embrace from our church in celebration of those identities!


Photo from Amanda’s Installation on March 10th by Emily Ann Garcia

Rev. Amanda Nelson (she/her/hers) is Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. When she told her friend that she was gay her friend laughed and said “uh huh, yeah”…because many people had jokingly “come out” to her because of the topic of her thesis. When she realized Amanda was serious, she apologized and was perfectly loving and accepting. Amanda is grateful to her friend, Elena, for her unconditional love.

 

Love Lives Again in ELM’s New Endowment

Thursday, April 5th, 2018

by Rev. Amanda Nelson

Proclaim member Executive Director of ELM

I never had the good fortune to meet Blanche Grube – she died soon after I started as Executive Director at the end of last summer. But, I had heard about her from ELM’s previous Executive Director, Amalia Vagts, as well as from Proclaim members and members of our Board.

Blanche’s legacy of loving ELM and the LGBTQIA+ leaders we serve well preceded her – and her legacy will now transcend the boundaries of life and death.

Blanche did something extraordinary before she passed away: Blanche added ELM to her will.

Blanche wanted to make sure that the gender and sexual minority ministers who she so valued would be able to flourish even after she was no longer here to send her annual gifts.

We are thrilled to announce, that, thanks to Blanche’s generosity, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ endowment is now active!

Over the next few months, ELM’s Board will be creating an Endowment Committee to discern the governance and vision for this endowment – ensuring the gifts made to ELM’s Endowment are stewarded with the utmost care and the funds are used to celebrate and support LGBTQIA+ leaders in innovative and necessary ways.

I will also be working with this Endowment Committee to expand our planned giving efforts and look forward to speaking with many of you about this opportunity!

In this season of resurrection joy, we dance to the hymns that proclaim: “Now the green blade rises from the buried grain, wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain; love lives again, that with the dead has been; love is come again like wheat arising green.”

We mourned the loss of our dear friend, Blanche, when she passed last summer. And now, we dance with her in this resurrection glee and give thanks for her generosity which surpasses the bounds of this worldly life.

We wouldn’t be where we are now without the support of donors like Blanche!

Please keep our Endowment Committee in your prayers as we embark on this new journey. And, please join us in giving thanks for Blanche Grube!

 



Rev. Amanda Nelson (she/her/hers) is Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. She is thrilled that it is okay once again to shout “Alleluia!” and lifts her voice in “Alleluias” for Blanche! Her favorite thing about Easter is Starburst jelly beans – she keeps a bag in her car this time of year for emergencies. 

 

 

 

Photo at top: from the obituary for Blanche posted on Dignity Memorial’s website.

Bio Photo: Provided by author

Why Do We Fear Mystics?

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

 

by Reed Fowler

Proclaim member and
MDiv student at LSTC

In this time of Lent as we follow the call to journey into the wilderness, we also remember our ancestors in faith who went before us. To help us in doing that, several Proclaim members will be reflecting upon the mystics in their blog posts here during the month of March.

Why do we fear mystics?
Why do we delegate those who feel deeply and without restraint to psychiatric wards, allow those who experience visions and speak of them to roam without shelter or care, create a culture that is so scientific and reason-based that any moment of Divine unity is best experienced and then filed away – only to be shared in hushed tones? Why is it that the wildness of nature is one of the few spaces where we are allowed to express holy and mystic awe, and yet those spaces are constantly threatened and encroached on?

The industrial structures that are the fabric of United States are based on the lie that we have to seek outside of ourselves and community to fill spiritual needs. Marketing is designed to trick us into believing that we aren’t enough. That we don’t have the capacity to encounter the Divine in our very cells, but that we need to be supplemented by things that we buy and consume.

“You can’t exist in your body as it is, you need to change it…”

“You can’t reach the Divine unless you subscribe…buy…”

What could our world be if more people lived into the reality that we already have what we need spiritually in ourselves and in community? To lean into our dirt-creaturehood and realize that we are Good and made for the delight of the Divine?

There is a power in being receptive to mystic happenings, because it requires vulnerability and openness, and a counter-culture belief in experience. It’s also a muscle that can be trained. Artistic practice helps to develop those muscles in my embodiment and daily life. It’s hard for me to be still and quiet in traditional meditative forms, but while weaving or throwing clay, I can center.

Dorothee Söelle is a mid-century German mystic, who proposes that mystic experience can be an act of resistance, a balance point. “But if I need both, the inner light of being at one with every living thing and the resistance against the machine of death, how do I get them together?”* The artistic impulse is to react from your gut with a ‘yes’. Yes, things are messy and rough right now. Yes, God is still near. Yes, we are holy and can experience the Divine.

 

*Söelle, Dorothee. The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2001. pg. 5

 


Reed Fowler (they/them/theirs) is a seminarian at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a candidate for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. They are invested in interfaith collaboration, holding space for witness and tenderness, and centering alternative and artistic expressions of the sacred. They spend downtime knitting, queering faith + domesticity, gardening, and snuggling with their ever-increasing menagerie.

 

 

 

Photo at top & Bio Photo: Provided by author