An Update from the ELM Board of Directors!

Greetings from the ELM Board of Directors!

Thank you for the extraordinary support you continue to provide ELM and the LGBTQIA+ leaders we serve! Your ongoing commitment to our organization inspires and empowers us to continue in our belief that the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world.

No doubt, you will not be surprised to hear that 2020 has been a year unlike any in the recent history of ELM. Some of the plans and priorities we set at the start of this year have had to be paused or delayed in getting going as our Board and staff adapted to the realities of a global pandemic.

Canceling the 2020 Proclaim Gathering was a hard and sad decision to make — the staff and many of the Proclaim members and Spice (Spouses of Proclaim members) on the Board know how integral that event is to the sustained care and celebration of our community. We are proud of the ELM staff and volunteers for the ways they have continued to buoy our community through creative programming and unceasing advocacy.

This fall, the ELM Board of Directors made significant progress in our strategic planning efforts as we look to discern ELM’s mission and vision in our current time and context. We engaged a visioning consultant as well as strategic conversation partners to help our Board and staff articulate both who ELM is and how we engage our mission in the church and in the world today as well as into the next five years. We are excited to share the results of our work with you in the new year!

ELM is an organization that takes anti-oppression seriously and strives to be anti-racist in all of the ways we engage both our ELM community and the wider community of the church and world. As such, the ELM Board underwent the first of a two-part training on ableism at our fall retreat and we continue our efforts to interrogate and review existing policies and practices while at the same time creating new organizational documents that help to articulate our values and give shape to how we function as a staff, Board, and community.

We are thrilled that the ELM Endowment will be making its first grants this winter to ministry partners who share ELM’s commitment to lifting up and supporting queer ministries and leaders. The ELM Board anticipates receiving recommendations from the ELM Endowment Committee (Peter Beeson, Amanda Gerken-Nelson, Jim Kowalski — chair, Margaret Moreland, and Margarette Ouji) at our December meeting with announcements and grants offered in early 2021. Thank you to Blanche Grube and Joe McMahon, who rest in light eternal, for their love and shared belief in our mission that inspired them to set the foundation for this Endowment. And, our thanks go to all of you who have ELM as part of your estate plan who will continue to make bold, faithful, queer ministries possible for years to come!

Finally, our thanks to our fellow ELM Board of Directors for their dedication, passion, and wisdom which help to fan the flame of our movement and to ensure ELM remains the beacon of hope, liberation, and justice for all queer leaders we strive to be.

With joy,

Emily Ann Garcia, Co-Chair

Matthew James, Co-Chair

The ELM Board of Directors

Emily Ann Garcia, Co-Chair

Vancouver, BC

Matthew James, Co-Chair

Racine, WI

JM Longworth, Secretary

Rutland, VT

Jan Peterson, Treasurer

Omaha, NE

Kelsey Brown

Brooklyn, NY

Jessica Davis

Norristown, PA

Emily E. Ewing

Des Moines, IA

Jeff Johnson

Berkeley, CA

Margarette Ouji

Berkeley, CA

Suzannah Porter

Baltimore, MD

Clyde Andrew Walter

Glenview, IL

A Post-Election Pastoral Letter by ELM Executive Director, Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson

On Holy Saturday, when believers find ourselves in the liminal space of “Yes! And, not yet!” we have a tradition of gathering for a great vigil. With the elements of fire and water to accompany us, we allow the grief and unknowing of the moment to take refuge in the company of the communion of saints, as we, together, nestle into the great wonder and mystery of God.

It is in this tender moment when we retell the stories of our faith that remind us that it is God who created us into being! It is God who parted the seas and liberated her people! It is God who breathed new life into dry bones! It is God who saved Daniel in the den!

It is God who is the great, creative wonder of the universe that raised Christ from death to life!

We locate ourselves in this narrative not simply as a tonic for our temporary woes. We locate ourselves in this great narrative to settle into the truth of God’s reign, which is from everlasting to everlasting.

Throughout God’s narrative, there have been kings and rulers and presidents — some great and some greedy. And, none of them are the saviors of the world; that is Christ alone.

We should not seek to find Christ in Caesar’s palace — Christ has not and will never reside there.

Christ resides with the poor and the desolate. Christ marches in the uprisings for Black lives. Christ huddles with the caged children in their cells. Christ tends to the under-employed and uninsured. Christ dwells with those without house or home.

It is there we will find Christ in the world — where we will find real truth and hope and purpose. 

This neither dismisses our duty to vote nor our strong calling to participate in the systems that govern our daily lives — those are acts of Christian love that seek to ensure that the Christian values of radical love and justice are embodied in those systems which have so much responsibility and power over God’s people — the very people with whom Christ resides.

Embedding ourselves in the great narrative of God and reminding ourselves of Christ’s presence in the world is a practice not meant to admonish our actions but to ground them.

No matter the queen or ruler or president who resides in Caesar’s palace, “Our soul waits for the Lord; they are our help and shield. Our heart is glad in them, because we trust in their holy name. Let your steadfast love, O God, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” (Psalm 30:20-22)

“The Art of Enduring, For Holy Saturday” by Jan Richardson

This blessing

can wait as long

as you can.


This blessing

began eons ago

and knows the art

of enduring.

This blessing

has passed

through ages

and generations,

witnessed the turning

of centuries,

weathered the spiraling

of history.

This blessing

is in no rush.

This blessing

will plant itself

by your door.

This blessing

will keep vigil

and chant prayers.

This blessing

will bring a friend

for company.

This blessing

will pack a lunch

and a thermos

of coffee.

This blessing

will bide

its sweet time

until it hears

the beginning

of breath,

the stirring

of limbs,

the stretching,



of what had lain

dead within you

and is ready

to return.

Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) — Amanda has not missed participating in an election since turning 18. Amanda gives thanks to her elders and comrades who have paved the paths for her right to vote, for agency over her body, to live publicly out, to be legally married, and to start a family.

Faith & Politics: Rev. Matt James

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. (Romans 6.3-5)

We spend much our lives not knowing, well, much of anything really! Especially about our faith, that’s why they call it faith right?! But it feels like lately, and especially right now, as we look to what everyone is calling a historic election, I don’t know of anyone who feels certain about the outcome of the election and what it may bring, whatever the results may be, whenever the results may be…

And I don’t really have any wise words of counsel or deep words of wisdom to alleviate all that this unknowing brings.

So we remain in this state of uncomfortable unknowing. Unknowing about the future of the United States of America. Unknowing about the future legitimacy-by-the-state of many of our relationships. Unknowing about how or whether our beautiful Brown, Black, trans, non-binary, queer bodies will ever be fully honored, fully embraced, fully protected by our elected officials.

But in the midst of this unknowing, all I can do, all I can manage really, is to trust in what I do know: my life, my identity as one baptized into the death and resurrection of my sibling, Jesus Christ. God’s own, God in the flesh, God who came to walk with us, and live with us, and whom we die with right alongside. It is my Savior, my Redeemer, the God who has seen multitudes of my forebears through the full expanse of what humanity might experience: pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy; fear and gladness; life and death. This is a God, I know can, has, and will hold me through all the days of my life.

And so dear ones, as you gather together in your communities, in whatever form that means for you. As we, together, wait and watch for what the future holds, know that I hold you in gentle prayer, know that your God, your beloved Creator, Redeemer, and, yes, Sustainer holds you in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

As we wait and watch, let us pray:

Holy One, Loving Creator,

You name us, and know us, and love us down to the last atom of our being. In the uncertainties, and doubts, and fears that these days throw at us. We thank you for the sure and certain knowledge of your lovingkindness poured out on your whole creation. 

We commend all that we have, all that we are: our decision making, our candidates and elected leaders, our fears, our anxieties, our mental illness, our protest, our joy, our beloved communities; Our whole being, O God, we commend to you.

In these days ahead, send us your Spirit and keep watch Divine One, that we may know your gentle presence, your overflowing grace, and your fierce love, made real to us in your Beloved, Jesus Christ, our Sibling, and our Redeemer. Amen.


May it be so, dear friends, may it be so.

Matt James, Co-Chair, ELM Board

Faith & Politics: JM Longworth

Luke 13:31-33 (CEB)

31 At that time, some Pharisees approached Jesus and said, “Go! Get away from here, because Herod wants to kill you.”

32 Jesus said to them, “Go, tell that fox, ‘Look, I’m throwing out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will complete my work. 33 However, it’s necessary for me to travel today, tomorrow, and the next day because it’s impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’

I long for a spirit of love, kindness, and compassion to come upon our national discourse, because ultimately, without loving each other deeply, there can be no genuine movement towards the common good. As a student of American Government and the Constitution in college, I am profoundly aware that everything about our system was designed to slow things down, temper the passions of the day, and make change difficult through a series of interlocking and divided powers. Most of the substantial political and policy change in the United States was made through partisan wave elections where one party swamped the other, through triangulation where divided government meant that executives of one party tried to outflank the opposition by taking over their issues, or through constitutional crises where executives have invented new powers in times of emergency that allowed them to ignore the system of shared powers.

Our two-party system creates the illusion that American political life consists of a simple left-right binary and that this is the defining feature of our political landscape. I’ve included the diagram above to try and pull back to a broader view of our system and to illustrate some convictions that I have about my participation in public life that are grounded in my faith, my queerness, and the experience that I’ve never found binaries to be a particularly convincing narrative. 

My first conviction is that political systems include insiders and outsiders, and while these groups aren’t always the same, there tends to be a great deal of stability in this divide. When I think about this theologically, I am reminded that many of the key struggles in the scripture were not against individuals and their personalities, but rather against whole systems (slavery in Egypt, exile in Babylon, persecution by Rome) We live in a system that favors white, heterosexual, married, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical, men above all else. In the realm of political diversity, two people who fit this description have far more in common than not, regardless of their place on the binary. What often looks like a grand debate between different parts of the political spectrum is actually an argument inside the center of power. Sometimes this tug of war results in a public good that has an impact on both the center and the margins, for example, the widely popular programs of the Social Security Administration. More often, the outcomes look like the center engaging the margins with apathy, paternalism, or even outright hostility. In this understanding of our system, it’s possible for policy and legislation to be made that is broadly bi-partisan because there is a common understanding in the center about which groups in the margins it is acceptable to harm through government action without losing popular support. Let that sink in for a moment, we live in a system where some people and communities matter so little or not at all, and therefore it is possible to harm them without political repercussions. Which brings me to my second conviction.

It isn’t possible to create a human system of living arrangements without harm. If you’re a fan of the comedy The Good Place, you know that we can never get enough points to become totally good. While this is not an excuse to abandon the pursuit of the common good, to imagine that we can conjure the best outcomes for all people at all times is a beautiful and ultimately fruitless goal. Decisions have consequences, costs, unintended side effects, and in some cases, far-reaching consequences that we are terrible at predicting. Worse yet, we often focus most of our political discourse on intentions and proposals, while often ignoring the outcomes and the impact. We give ourselves over to the sin of staying with policies that are deleterious because they seem right in theory when in reality they are destructive. Controlling the political center means in large part controlling the amount and intensity of violence directed at the margins. Though sometimes the injustice reaches a point of changed consciousness. Conviction number three- people can have their worldview radically changed.

Changed consciousness takes different forms, but the theological framework for this process is conversion or repentance. Suddenly, something cannot go on any longer. It can look like marginalized people banding together, perhaps even with willing collaborators, and telling each other their story of being harmed, recognizing that it must stop, and putting direct public pressure on the center through protest, organizing, social disruption, boycotts, and even property destruction to raise the cost of the ongoing harm. The goal is often to push the center into recognizing that it is too costly to continue the harm. The larger the coalition and the more disruptive it can be to normal patterns of life, the larger the political cost of ignoring it. Sometimes the center is disrupted to the point where people in the center begin to disagree vehemently about whether certain forms of harm are acceptable. This can feel like a failure of the system, but I believe that it is the price paid for the new awareness. People in the center who experience this shift in understanding have a responsibility to be aware of their role in the system, an appreciation of how previous behaviors contributed to communal harm, and a willingness to make changed behavior (as opposed to doubling down, self-negation, or performative pity) one of their primary responses. It helps to be awake, it helps even more to get out of bed. This brings me to my final conviction, the Holy Spirit transforms my consciousness in order to transform my living and I am called to engage the system differently, especially where my identity puts me in the center.

The center has a lot of power to respond to people’s struggle against the harm being done to them. They can scapegoat the group, change the subject, create distractions and even increase the amount and intensity of violence with the hopes that this will break the spirit of the coalition. Sometimes, people in the center will focus on token acts of inclusion and attempt to co-opt the movement by drawing a small selection of people into the center, improving their treatment, and expecting them to become evangelists for the system instead of their own liberation. What’s more painful and deflating than the formerly marginalized minority scolding the unruly nastiness of the people who haven’t made it in yet? 

As a follower of Jesus who experiences some marginalization, but also a great deal of centering, I find myself wrestling with the dual temptation of avoiding invitations to be co-opted, and making such invitations myself. Part of what makes Jesus compelling for me is the way he embodies how the center should be- simultaneously aware of power and authority, and ready to face the cost so that his neighbors could know life, liberation, and love. The gift of the Cross is a revelation that God has broken the power of Sin, not the backs of individual sinners. I find myself challenged in my relationship with Christ and in my relationships with people I love to look for chances to practice costly solidarity- using my privilege to help dismantle and curtail the systems that are killing my neighbors and naming my marginalization and experiences of harm to support others who share these experiences. I try to approach voting, public speaking before government officials, letter writing, protest, material support for people in struggle, and even acts of resistance with this conviction firmly in mind. I hope that you find space for costly solidarity in your practice too, the movement for liberation needs collaborators far more than allies. I leave you with this prayer from Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM that we often use to begin our weekly time as street chaplains.


Oh Lord,

Take us where you need me to go.

Have us meet the people you need us to meet.

Tell us what to say.

And please, keep us out of your way.

In Jesus Name, Amen.


The Rev. JM Longworth, (they/them) OEF lives in Rutland, VT where they serve as the pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and co-pastor of Faith on Foot. Currently, they serve as dean of the Vermont/New York Conference of the New England Synod and as a member of the Core Team for New England Anti-Racism. They are a life professed member of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans.

Faith & Politics: A Reflection

By Elle Dowd

Psalm 146

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord, O my soul!

2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;

    I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

3 Do not put your trust in princes,

    in mortals, in whom there is no help.

4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

    on that very day their plans perish.

5 Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

    whose hope is in the Lord their God,

6 who made heaven and earth,

    the sea, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

7     who executes justice for the oppressed;

    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;

8     the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

    the Lord loves the righteous.

9 The Lord watches over the strangers;

    [God] upholds the orphan and the widow,

    but the way of the wicked [God] brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,

    your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord!

Many of us inherited the message growing up that our “faith should not be political.” But that idea fundamentally misunderstands both faith and politics. “Politics” is just another word that describes how we order our public life together. It is about how we act together, in community. It is about our relationships with one another. So although partisanship is often problematic, it is clear throughout scripture and in the person of Jesus Christ that faith is very much concerned with things like our public life, how we behave in community, and our relationships with one another. In that way, faith is inherently political.

Our faith is also concerned with our public witness – the way we live out our beliefs – particularly in the way that it affects the most vulnerable among us. Voting is one of many opportunities we have to reflect the love that we have for God and our neighbor. God asks us to order our lives with a concern for the needs of the most vulnerable among us. This includes our tax structures, our institutions, our social safety nets.

We are citizens of God’s kingdom, a reign that is breaking in and taking hold all around us, and a reign that has not yet fully come. But being citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t mean that we are indifferent with the material realities here on earth. Quite the opposite. Jesus’ ministry on earth was full of examples of providing for the physical, fleshy needs of people.  Jesus’ ministry wasn’t just about lofty, heady ideas – it was rooted in the day to day lives of real people. It was a feet on the ground, dirt under the fingernails kind of ministry. Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, welcomed children, and proclaimed freedom to prisoners. It was Jesus’ radical and embodied prioritization of those on the margins that threatened the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was concerned with Making Rome Great. God cares about casting down the mighty and lifting up the poor and oppressed, like the prophet Mary, Mother of God taught us in her famous protest song in Luke 1.

Voting is in part about the beliefs and ideals we hold. It is about dreaming about a society that aligns with its stated ideals. But it is more than that, too.  These are not abstract concepts. They are not hypotheticals. The decisions we make (or don’t make) have real effects on the daily lives of flesh and blood people. Our collective decisions can bring us closer to a Kingdom “on Earth as it is in Heaven” or they can draw us closer to the fascist Hell on Earth that many people in our ICE detention centers, prisons, slums, underfunded schools, and divested neighborhoods are already experiencing. There are real life and death implications of our choices, for both human and nonhuman nature. As a queer person and as the mother of Black teenagers, these choices are not philosophical questions. They have power to change the lives of me and the people I love, for better or for worse.

When I vote, I ask the people who cannot vote what they would have me do. I reach out to young people under 18, undocumented people, people whose status as an incarcerated or formerly incarcerated person makes them ineligible in their state. I vote in solidarity with the stated interests of people who are most affected by these choices yet have the least amount of say. There are prophets all around us who have been in our streets directing us towards freedom if we would only pay attention.

Our ultimate liberation will not come through elections and no politician or political party is our savior. Elections are one tool we have at our disposal in ordering a society that reflects a passionate concern for the lives of our neighbors. Running for office or supporting issue campaigns is another. Protesting and unionizing and organizing is another. Mutual aid and alternative economies is another.

God’s kingdom is more expansive and revolutionary than any political party in our country. I vote with the hope that even as we remain trapped in our current political system, we can preserve the life and liberty of as many people as possible until God’s day of liberation comes fully.

Let us pray,

God of All People, your borderless kingdom is more powerful and eternal than that of any earthly king. As we discern our decisions this election season, align our hearts with your care for the most vulnerable among us. Liberate us collectively and individually from systems that bind us; capitalism, the cis-hetero patriarchy, and white supremacy. Enable us to attend to the prophets in our midst pointing to the way forward. Open our minds and embolden our creative spirits, that we may dream up new ways of being in community that reflect your boundless love and mercy. In the name of your Son, our President, the slaughtered lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God now and forever. Amen.

Elle Dowd (she/her/hers) is a bi-furious recent graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and a candidate for ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 

Elle has pieces of her heart in Sierra Leone, where her two children were born, and in St. Louis where she learned from the radical, queer, Black leadership during the Ferguson Uprising. 

She was formerly a co-conspirator with the movement to #decolonizeLutheranism and currently serves as a board member of the Euro-Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice, does community organizing in her city as a board member of SOUL, writes regularly as part of the vision team for the Disrupt Worship Project, and facilitates workshops on gender and sexuality and the Church in both secular conferences and Christian spaces. She is publishing a book with Broadleaf about her conversion from a white moderate to an abolitionist to be released summer of 2021, with pre-sale orders going live in January. 

Elle has interests in queer and feminist Biblical interpretation and liberation and body theology. 

Elle loves spending time with the people she loves and on weekends when there isn’t a global pandemic, she tours the city of Chicago in search of the best Bloody Mary.

To get in touch with Elle and to keep up with updates,  you can visit her website and subscribe to her newsletter. You can also see her online ministry via or follow her on Twitter/SnapChat/Insta @hownowbrowndowd or on TikTok @elledowdministry

Operations Support – Part-time

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
Operations Support, Part-Time

Position Description

The Organization

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) is a self-funded social ministry organization that believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. ELM does this work through three main programs: Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement. Learn more at

The Position

The Operations Support position performs and organizes tasks to bolster ELM’s programs, fundraising, and communications and provide general assistance to our staff.

ELM expects that all its staff members will…

  • Cultivate an organizational culture rooted in faith, grounded in radical love and hospitality, clear with purpose, dependent on collaboration, and transparent in motives.
  • Speak to the intersectionality of injustice and oppression, calling ourselves, our community and the larger church to greater awareness of injustice and commitment to ending oppression.

Primary Responsibilities

Program Support: In coordination with Program Director 

  • Coordinate annual Proclaim Gathering registration and site logistics in partnership with Program Director and Gathering Planning Team
  • Facilitate program-related mailings (i.e. synod assembly materials, Proclaim & ELM banners, promotional materials, etc.)
  • Maintain internal and external Proclaim member records 
  • Attendance/assistance at the annual national Proclaim Gathering
  • Provide basic admin support for program-related tasks (data entry, email outreach, etc.)

Communications & Development: In coordination with Associate Director of Development & Communications

  • Format and publish ELM weekly blog “the inter-MISSION” (email & website) 
  • Update ELM’s website (WordPress)
  • Maintain and manage donor database (eTapestry) 
  • Deposit checks and prepare weekly and monthly reports for Executive Director, Associate Director of Development and Communications, and Treasurer
  • Enter financial and in-kind donations into database (eTapestry) and send gift acknowledgements
  • Engage with donors directly regarding sensitive financial information pertaining to their giving.

Administrative Duties: In Coordination with Executive Director 

  • Acknowledge office phone calls and respond to inquiry emails.
  • Support ELM Board Secretary in coordinating meeting materials and logistics for Board of Directors in-person meetings (twice annually)
  • Collect and process mail, 
  • Participate in Board of Directors and team meetings as needed
  • Special projects as assigned


Prior Experience

  • Experience working in an administrative support role required
  • Donor Database/CRM experience required (eTapestry experience preferred)
  • Anti-oppression training and/or deep cross-cultural experience preferred

Personal Skills and Attributes

  • Highly motivated self-starter, comfortable working remotely as part of distributed staff
  • Effective written and verbal communicator
  • Comfortable with communication and productivity technology, such as video-conferencing programs and task management tools (i.e. Asana)
  • Demonstrated competency of issues facing LGBTQIA+ persons
  • Excellent time management with the ability to prioritize tasks
  • Finds joy in daily life and work
  • Passionate about justice and full inclusion for gender and sexual minorities
  • Must be legally able to work in the U.S.

Work Demands

  • This position is based in Chicago
  • Part-time, 18-hours per week within regular business hours during the work week. Weekly schedule set in consultation with the Executive Director 
  • Mobility Note: need to be able to physically go to a local Post Office to retrieve and send mail, must be able to lift packages (max approximately 50lbs), and work from a second-floor office in a non-ADA compliant building without Air Conditioning.
  • Must work regular hours the last week of December to process year-end donations


To apply, send your resume and a cover letter to  

The deadline for applications is October 23, 2020.  


The Operations Support position shall be paid at a competitive hourly rate of $20 per hour. 

Equal Opportunity Employment Policy

ELM is committed to providing equal employment opportunities to and actively seeks to employ all qualified individuals and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, marital status, veteran status, parental status, or any other basis prohibited by applicable law.

National Coming Out Day:  A Reflection

By Lewis Eggleston
My undergrad degree is in Political Science and I have a Master of Divinity degree, which means, if the expression is true about discussing religion and politics, I’m not allowed to speak at any dinner party.
We’ve all experienced the results if we do talk about these things, however, discussing politics & religion around the dinner table is as old as time. Remember Christ’s first miracle at the Wedding at Cana? I often wonder if Mary was listening to a political or religious debate around her table when she told Jesus, in her best mom voice, “Jesus, please make some wine”. For myself, I know wine did help with the most recent political debates.
Like many LGBTQIA+ folks, I have cherished childhood memories of my extended family around the dinner table at holidays & weddings that I thought would continue on forever, but all that changed when I came out. Going forward any extended family function I would need both Jesus & wine, and like Mary, I made my way through the event because I knew Jesus loves me too.
Do we all wish our friends and family would listen to our prophetic words and insights based on scripture, our experience, and discernment with the Holy Spirit? Of course! But also remembering, as Christ said, no one is accepted as a prophet in their hometown. Meaning, the family members who witnessed our growing up, who changed our diapers, saw us fall down and get hurt, and say some not-so-smart things will most-likely not trust our Gospel message as much as their straight (probably white male) pastor’s message. Christ understood this! Keep preaching the Good News regardless. 
Deciding to be our full authentic selves, similar to articulating our call to ministry, accepting & living into where God is calling us, is a political act. Christ never said, “I came to maintain the status quo. Keep doing everything you’re already doing.” The Gospels are stories about people with changed hearts & minds, and they point to a God desiring abundant lives for all of humanity. Faithful, authentic, honest, gracious, loving people who desire to walk-arm-in-arm with the least of these.
Let us pray,

Gracious God, our spirits are heavy. Our minds comprehend the scripture verse, “there is nothing new under the sun,” that disease, tyranny, & racism have existed and decimated our world before. God of Creation, we ask for the strength to soften hardened hearts, that minds may be opened to the beauty of the earth and of your creation that is still being created. May we enter the voting booths with Love, Joy, & Hope for a future that is abundant & fruitful for all your creation and let us all come out of the voting booth, like Christ came out of the tomb, with a desire to share the Good News and make the world a better place. We ask these things in your Holy name, Amen.

Lewis Eggleston (he/him/his) is the Associate Director of Development & Communications for ELM. He is a candidate for the Ministry of Word & Service and he resides in Kaiserslautern, Germany with his husband Mitchell and dog-child, Carla.

Faith & Politics: Cary Bass-Deschênes

by Rev Cary Bass-Deschênes
“Pastor, I wish you would preach more about the gospel and less about politics.” 

The first Sunday morning I heard this refrain it felt as if I had joined a club, one of which many of my colleagues in areas outside my “liberal” enclave of Berkeley, had long been members. But the sermon the Holy Spirit directed me to preach that Sunday morning was about the divisiveness within the community of Christ, focusing on the calling of Christ to treat one another with love and kindness. 
“You called someone ‘racist’” 

Now wait a second! I most certainly did not call anyone racist in a sermon. The only time I’ve described anyone as ‘racist’ in a sermon would have been first and foremost, myself, in how I benefited from white privilege and was oftentimes negligent in viewing how my non-white, and in particular my Black colleagues regularly experienced discrimination in ways that seemed so subtle to me but were so obvious to them.

So the word ‘racist’ was not in my sermon, and I don’t think I said ‘racism’, did I? However, I could see where this was going. I contextualized a belief I held about why we were where we were: that much of our electorate chose our leaders under the misguided guise of a hierarchal system anointed by a Creator that upheld patriarchal, white supremacy as its standard for the ordering of humanity. That wasn’t simply something I read in a Pathos blog, it was something I experienced firsthand; and not in the comments section of a Time magazine article about the president.  It was in reading the comments on a Facebook post of a first cousin once removed.

Indeed, that was what it was in my sermon that triggered that response from this particular parishioner, who was longing for a message of good news, but instead felt called out by an association with being white. They were so tired of being forced to experience white guilt yet again. Yes, the president is awful, and yes, black people are still the victims of discrimination, but we’re doing the best we can, pastor? I came here to hear that Jesus loves me, not that I should flog myself for being white!

I’ve been a part of my own people’s fights.  I marched on Washington in 1987 after a Supreme Court decision failed to decriminalize sex between consenting men, and marched again in San Francisco in 2008 when voters in California decided to define “marriage” as solely between “man” and “woman.” Around 2008 I also began joining in the struggle for trans rights, hoping to ensure accessibility, acceptance and safety for trans folx. I have personally experienced discrimination, and feel even more disconnected since the current administration came to power in 2016.

But, in many ways, I’m in the best years of my life. I’ve experienced more personal growth since I turned 50 years old, spiritually as well as emotionally; I’ve come to a level of comfort and acceptance about my age, my gender identity, my sexuality, and how that aligns with God’s plan for me. God has created a wonderful being in me, and as I love God, I have come to love God’s creation as it exists within myself. And while, imperfect as I nevertheless still am, it’s not always easy to love myself, when I actualize it, it’s a very good feeling to have finally reached that after so many years of self-spite and self-doubt.

I’ve also come to acceptance of my whiteness, that while I can make conscious efforts to deconstruct it, no matter how much anti-racism or whiteness examination work I do, I will always bear the privilege of it in new spaces and will often be greeted with suspicion by new individuals. Bearing guilt about it is neither constructive, nor asked for. Awareness of it is, and using that privilege to bring about positive change for people is the best way that I can exemplify Jesus’s call in Matthew 22:39 to love my neighbor as myself.

But whereas God’s love is unconditional, my love seems to have boundaries. To me, this upcoming election is serving to emphasize such seemingly irreconcilable differences within our society, differences that extend well beyond the borders of our own now dysfunctional nation. That my values of social justice and equity and racial equality, which for me come directly from the Gospel, seem to be at odds with others’ values of justice.  The hostility that seems to be concentrated within the current administration and one political party toward me in my sexual and gender identity and people of other races and national origin has enablers, those that consistently vote to put those people back into power and control over public policy.  And it is not some tiny minority of voters who are among them, but a large and vocal minority that comprises not less than 1 in 3 of our nation’s population.

Matthew 5:43-45 tells us to love our enemy.  The Greek understanding of the word ἐχθρός (echthros) is of an individual that would seek to cause you mischief or do you harm.  I grew up in a time where children pledged their allegiance to the United States, and that we had a clear enemy, the Soviet Union. Since their collapse, our government has been striving to demonize nations in order that we have a clear and present danger, but as presidential administrations rise and fall, so do these categories of enemies. Today it is easier for us to look within at our cousins, our parents, our siblings. Maybe even our own children. Not just our families of blood but also those that Jesus has called us together: “these are my siblings”, Christ says. And now, my sibling in Christ is also the one who seems to be personally bent on causing me mischief or wishing me harm.

But Jesus tells me to love these people and pray for the ones who persecute me. November 3 seems like it’s the most important election of our lives, but, according to the polls, my vote will be fully canceled by someone whose effect is to persecute me. If this is not my enemy, my echthros, then who is? And while my cis-male-appearing, white, middle aged self is saying, you must do as Jesus says, my queer, non-binary, HIV positive, neurodivergent self is crying out “that’s easy for you, someone with privilege, to do!”

So yes, it’s really hard to love my enemies. But maybe loving them means hearing what they have to say about issues, understanding how they reached that opinion, knowing that they’re nevertheless human beings beloved by God and saved by grace without accepting their opinion about human rights, the climate, reproductive rights or social justice as Christ-centered or inspired by God. Being able to “agree to disagree” with them, all the while knowing that the Good News of Jesus nevertheless commands me to call out injustice, name White Supremacy for what it is and declare demonic the post Great Awakening evangelicalistic idea of a hierarchal order of humankind and to name humanity as poor stewards of God’s gift to us, the creation, the world. And preach that Jesus loves all of us, along with our brokenness. 
It may sound like politics when I preach, but maybe the Good News is there too.

Cary Bass-Deschênes (they/them) has been the lead pastor at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Berkeley, California, since 2015; a small congregation with big works; serving the homeless and food-insecure community of San Francisco’s East Bay with meals and a Food Pantry.  They live with their husband, Michael, in their home in Richmond, with their two dogs, Luna and Esby.  They have recently published their third short story, “The Chaos Artist” in the graphic novel A Matter of Right by Variance Press, due out in late Fall, early Winter 2020-21 under the name, Cary Michael Bass.

Faith & Politics: WWJD?

by Rev. Amanda Nesvold
As it turns out, WWJD does not stand for “what would Jesus do” in my life.
I discovered this a few months into my time at my first congregation, one night while streaming an old favorite on Netflix. Indeed, as a pastor, and, as I’ll explain shortly, as a voter, my WWJD will always be “What would Janeway do?”
Star Trek: Voyager premiered when I was seven years old. When I started watching it again at age twenty-seven, I was surprised to see so many of my own leadership habits and values reflected in Captain Kathryn Janeway’s leadership. Her determination, confidence in herself and her crew, and her compassion for even the most aggressive adversaries are all traits I ascribe to myself in my pastoring. (Not to mention actual facial expression reflection: I have a habit of visually reacting to a meeting after walking into the hallway where no one can see, which is also a habit of Captain Janeway’s.) Of course, much more than one show has shaped me: we are all shaped by the stories we encounter in our lives and how they are told to us. Stories of leaders and those they inspire, stories of problems to be solved and adventures to be had, stories of inspiring others and bringing together communities… these are the stories that shape us and shape our understanding of how the world could and should work.
When it comes to pastoring, these stories have shaped my leadership by shaping how I empathize with others, how I hear the stories of those I serve, and how I troubleshoot diplomatic encounters. Now, pastoring rarely involves interplanetary trade negotiations, but it does involve council meetings, budget meetings, and helping communities to come together for a common purpose.
When it comes to voting, these stories have shaped my sense of leadership by informing my leadership judgment system: how do good leaders inspire, direct, and serve their people? The question before us on every ballot is simple: which candidate would make the best leader for each position? The complexity comes in assessing for ourselves what “good leadership” looks like, what it looks like in different positions, and how different leadership styles can (or cannot) work in each position on the ballot.
But what about being a gay pastor? Does that impact who I think makes the best leader for each position on the ballot? Does having faith and being part of the LGBTQIA+ community impact how I interpret someone’s leadership and therefore if they are fit for public office?
Yes, being a person of faith impacts how I interpret leadership. Some of this impact comes from Biblical examples of leadership: Whose leadership is praised by God and whose is derided? Whose leadership helps to multiply leadership, and whose refuses to share power even when it would be for the good of the whole? Some of this impact comes from ecclesial and historical examples: Martin Luther was a prolific theologian and preacher, but was he a good leader? Who in the Church do I look up to for their servant leadership and whose legacies can I appreciate while wondering at their methods? (Of course, bad examples can teach us a lot as well, and I have also learned by negative example from both biblical and historical leaders!)
Yes, being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and being a woman also impacts how I interpret leadership. Issues of inclusion, welcome, and gender equality directly impact my life and the lives of many in my communities. If a candidate will not speak to these issues, will not enter into conversation with communities about the issues they are facing, or will not consider me and those in my communities to be worthy of their time, then their leadership style is not one that matches what I look for in public servants.
And, yes, being a nearly life-long fan of Star Trek: Voyager has impacted how I interpret leadership, how I myself lead, and how I vote. Neither starships nor pastoral offices are run by democracy, but starship captains, pastors, and elected officials all must lead by serving all, not just all who agree with them.

Pastor Amanda Nesvold (she/her/hers) is an ELCA pastor and redeveloper, most recently serving in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Passionate about liturgy, missional experimentation, and fiber arts, she is a member of Proclaim and the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians. She is currently on leave from call, and while awaiting whatever is next, she is serving as a governess and tech support to two children whose parents work full-time but whose school is 100% online.

Faith & Politics: Rev. Joseph Casteñada Carrera

We all know the routine. A person on the internet questions your belief, misinterprets the Bible to contradict Christian teachings. They argue that we should let the hungry starve, kick the downtrodden, rob from the naked, and turn off the neon welcome signs of our hearts to marginalized folks.

You disengage, knowing you are right, you unfriend, mute, snooze the person on social media. 

The routine continues, you reach out to a supportive echo chamber of people who completely agree you had no part in the conflict – they ignore any potential nuance you could rethink, and reduce the experience to “you’re right, they’re wrong.” The tempting routine feels so cozy with support that you are right. 

But being right may not be helpful. The choir of support will make you feel better, but may rob you of an opportunity to decolonize our lives, our religion, our world. Perhaps, you need an election year intervention. I believe conflict and tension are an essential. We can’t dread conflict, just like we can dread the air we need to breathe. It is an inevitable task if you care to faithfully create change

Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it is not worth ignoring another person’s humanity or transformational engagement. God nudges us impatiently. I think that often disengaging from conversation and having friends who never invite reflection can be a misuse of privilege. I’m not calling anyone out, but rather calling us all in to consider if we are abandoning conversations from which our privilege will protect us. We may be making these conversations the responsibility of people who need to escape them for survival. Personally, I need a community that can remind me that even though I am queer, brown, and quirky that I still have privilege.  

The nuance of intersectional identity cultivates responsibility and pushes us to hard conversations. Because whiteness matters. Presenting masculine matters. College education matters. Speaking without an accent matters. Citizenship matters. There is no oppression competition and there is still responsibility in privileges even if you also identify with a group that is marginalized.

We can push more by having intentional community.

A good friend of mine, Rev. Matt Keadle, and I were venting, lamenting, about people who dangerously have behaviors and habits rooted in racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and other -ISMs.  

When I get worked up, I feel urgent about issues,  talking way too fast and too much, and finding relief in constantly offering context that I am too emotional. It is a bad habit that implicitly asks for understanding or forgiveness for being upset over oppressive behavior. I want to be right.

Matt balances the conversation and the pace of our thinking; he takes deep thoughtful pauses to consider different perspectives and allows his heart to remember the vast number of different people it holds; he doesn’t speak if he is unsure; he can be angry and sad while still engaging his values and resisting an urge to be petty. 

Sometimes, Matt really bothers me by having no natural pettiness. At times, talking to Matt is not fun or indulgent of my feelings. 

But conversations with Matt are God-filled, essential for our shared work, wellbeing and sustainability in this work. Matt keeps me angry, honest, and clamorous in my expectations of God. I’d like to think that I help the Holy Spirit stir up Matt. I make him uncomfortable at times by just being and talking with the assuredness that nothing I can say would break the friendship, and that I can feel when he wants to say something and I make an awkward, pressuring space for him to say it. 

To be honest with readers, Matt is white and also straight. He is cisgender too. Oh yeah, Matt is also from the midwest. Nothing about the richness of either of our individual intersectional identities dictates that we should be friends.

But we reach out to one another because we are different, we don’t go right to making each other feel better about a tough experience. We ask each other to be reflective, to know we both can be wrong, hurtful. We trust our values are rooted in God and love, but not in being right. We see when disengagement is about survival and when we are trying to hide away privilege and responsibility to avoid discomfort.

Maybe, you want to avoid “feeling bad” when changing and transforming. For many, it’s sad and true, but we can practice discomfort and still survive, which may mean that being right is only about a stubbornness and commitment to being right according to the whiteness and patriarchy we have been taught is “normal” and comfortable.

Get a friend who won’t rush to make you feel better without thinking. 

Get out of posting in social media groups where you know everyone will agree with you. 

Stop playing through the same routine. 

It’s not helpful. It’s played out. Be fresh. Be bold. Be bothered. Engage.

Survive, for goodness sake, survive! But lean into the discomfort during this season of change. Wander in the desert for a little while to find deeper wells.

I am Joseph (he/him – they/them), child of Yolanda, who enjoys radical laughter with our Creator. Child of George, who creates intimate, rooted music alongside our Creator. I have her curiosity & wild sense of humor and his insatiable desire to connect and to love always more deeply. They gave me my first and longest family, & they taught me how to form new family and community. I end my emails with, “Blessings & warmth, Rev. Joseph Castañeda Carrera, MPP,” but I never introduce myself this way in-person. 
I make art that notices people and the world longing for God’s abundant presence and aching for the sacred joy of God’s inclusion, diversity, innovation, connection, creation, and compassion. One of my greatest commitments is discerning the same people who long as I serve as pastor. I balance being a pastor of beloved people in outrageously different contexts and reaching for the vision of being one church together; when it gets difficult, I laugh or I cry. Since 2016, I have served as pastor developer of ADORE LA, a queer faith community experiencing God in unconventional ways and Hollywood Lutheran Church since a year later. I have served as a coordinator or member of many synod, churchwide, and community committees and boards over the last decade, including the Strategic, Authentic Diversity Task Force, the Authentic Diversity Advisory Team, the McCune Foundation’s Community Organizing Institute planning team, Oxnard’s Community Relations Commission, and Latino Lutheran Network for Diversity. 
Prior to ordained ministry, I have worked beside many different people to stir up change in the world, failing and succeeding throughout the journey. I served as executive director and in various positions for over ten years at El Centrito Family Learning Centers, an organization committed to multilingual and multicultural education and community organizing. And prior to that had many experience in other nonprofit organizations as well as serving in the Peace Corps in Ecuador. I am an alumni of UCLA, CSUN, PLTS, and the University of Birmingham (England).
I have two lovely, sassy dogs, Remy and Pippy. My spouse Jaffa and family make life better and an adventure of discovering mystery and responding to God’s Will.