Pride Devotional: Proud Mary

From now through the end of Pride month, members from the Proclaim community (the LGBTQIA+ seminarians and rostered leaders in the Lutheran church) will be sharing songs that have evoked a sense of Pride in their lives. They will reflect on how these songs stirred their spirits, while celebrating God’s creation and offer a dash of Good News in their reflections. Please share these devotionals with your friends, family and spiritual communities!  
 

Proud Mary
by Lewis Eggleston
 
Every now and then, we like to do things nice…. and easy. These iconic words send chills down my spine while my heart readies itself for Tina’s five-minute intro that is almost as good as the song itself. 
 
I started performing “Proud Mary” in 7th grade with the pep band, where I would blat the baseline on my tuba at every varsity basketball and football game. As the years went by, I remember a time or two where I would dip the bell of the tuba and bring it right back up, mimicking Tina’s iconic dance moves, the only thing missing was a sequin number and some killer legs. Fingers crossed that, someday, my dream may still come true. 
 
Proud Mary. 
 
For queer folks, these are loaded words. 
 
As a child when I played this music I surely was not out or “Proud” but reflecting back on the lyrics & her performance of this song, Tina was preaching to me. 
 
I left a good job in the city
Working for the man every night and day
And I never lost one minute of sleeping
Worrying ’bout the way things might’ve been
 
As a queer person, that presumably comfy “good job or good life” meant living in a closet where society and the church would still see me as “good”, however working for the “Man”, playing someone I wasn’t, every night and day, is too much and as it turns out, I truly never lost a minute of sleep worrying about the way things might have been, had I stayed in that closet. To help bring this point home, in the words of Joel Workin, “The most precious grace God gives us is the grace to be ourselves. And now, it is time to let grace abound.” Amen!  
 
This Pride season, this Proud Mary will keep on burning & rollin’ on the river. 
 
Thanks be to God & Tina.

Lewis Eggleston (he/him) 
is the Associate Director of Communications & Development at Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. He lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany with his husband and dog-child Carla. He was recently approved for ordination for ministry in Word & Service. He spends his free time running/hiking/or singing to the German wildlife. 
 

An Earth Month Reflection

by Andrew Tobias Nelson
 
CW: police brutality
 
Dear officer:
I watched you watch yourself tackle that man
What are you doing to your brother?
What have they done to you?
I watched you cuff him and put him in an unmarked car, when he should’ve been locked in an embrace instead
Allowed to grieve
Allowed to rage
Allowed to heal
How have you distanced yourself from your own kin? Your own humanity?
 
Dear corporation:
I watched as you drilled for oil, dug up habitat, poisoned fresh water, and put the blame on kids who haven’t yet learned about recycling.
What are you doing to your mother?
What has she done to you?
I watched you enslave children to make cheap clothing that fills holes we have dug in the earth, when the land does not need filling, it needs rest
Allowed to breathe and fly
Allowed to swim and drink
Allowed to heal
How have you cut yourself off from your own kin? Your own humanity?
 
Dear God:
I heard the stories of your coming to your kin, in our own humanity.
What we did to you
What you keep giving to us
I watch as You bring the sunrise, the spring, the coming out, the dance, the embrace
Blessing the joy
Blessing the tears
Blessing the healing, however long this process may take
How you weep for our divisions and delight in our differences. How you continue to join us in our humanity, among all of our Earth-kin.
 
 

 
Today, for every gift made to ELM, we will plant one tree through the organization OneTreePlanted in honor of Earth Month. Or, you can click the link to donate directly and plant as many trees as you desire. Thank you!
 

Image Description: a child is holding a pinwheel in an open field with the words: Dear God, I heard the stories of your coming to your kin, in our own humanity.
What we did to you
What you keep giving to us
I watch as You bring the sunrise, the spring, the coming out, the dance, the embrace. -Andrew Tobias Nelson
Andrew Tobias Nelson (he/they) is a transmasculine, bi-vocational, spiritually curious minister living in Upstate NY with over 100 houseplants and their fiance, who is a druid in the local pagan community and a really good cook. Always on the lookout for sci-fi and fantasy novels by more diverse authors, trying to stay socially aware without getting overwhelmed. When it’s not covid times, Andrew sings with the Albany Gay Men’s Chorus and seeks out new trails for running in the capital district.

Homecoming

by Robin Lovett Owen
 
In your beginning, God scooped up humus – rich, dark soil – and breathed life into it, and called you, you. And God looked at this body, with all its sinews and muscles and rolls of fat, with your face, size, hair and skin, abilities, and God called this body good. This is your home: your body. And God placed you exactly where you belong: the garden, along with all the other animals – your siblings. This is also your home: God’s good Earth. One is not more your body than the other, because the soil and you are the same, really – humus.
 
But if this is the story of a beginning and a garden, there is also a story of exile. I don’t know what your exile from your body/earth home entailed, but I know that mine has been tied up with queerphobia – and that it is the earth, the garden herself, who has so often welcomed me back home.
 
Since a young age, I struggled with the gendered expectations placed on me – girly, delicate, demure. Even now, the femininity expected of me feels like a pair of pants three sizes too small. Perhaps this is why I have always struggled with disordered eating – I have always strived for something not quite right for my body. At every turn, whether it was because my body did not fit the androgynous cut of clothing I wanted, or because peace with my body at any size has proven elusive, my body has felt less like home and more like exile. And I know I’m not alone – queer people suffer from disordered eating at higher rates than our straight peers.
 
For me, queerness is about the journey home – the experience of coming to love this body home of mine. It is about accepting all the very good things God created in my body: the gift of sexuality, the joy of eating, the softness of my belly, or the bliss of joyful movement. These things remind me that just being is a gift of grace.
 
I’ve had many companions on this journey back home, including the queer community. But the Earth has been my dearest companion on my way back home. Whether in mountains or prairies, the Earth has reminded me that my creatureliness is not to be scorned but to be loved. The motherliness of male songbirds and the industriousness of female worker bees remind me that there is nothing unnatural about gender nonconformity. The trees bloom in the spring, the tides of Lake Michigan come in and out, the animals become fat before winter sets in – all remind me that my body waxes and wanes, and every change is good.
 
When I marvel at God’s good earth on this Earth Day, I remember that I, too, am fearfully and wonderfully made – just as I am, queer and whole. I am reminded that I need this good body/Earth home to heal.
 
Today, for every gift made to ELM, we will plant one tree through the organization OneTreePlanted in honor of Earth Day. Or, you can click the link to donate directly and plant as many trees as you desire. Thank you!
 
 

Image Description: Green grass background with the words: This is your home: your body. And God placed you exactly where you belong: the garden, along with all the other animals – your siblings. This is also your home: God’s good Earth. One is not more your body than the other, because the soil and you are the same, really – humus.- Robin Lovett Owen

 
Robin Lovett-Owen (she/her) is the intern at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Waukegan, Illinois and is eagerly awaiting first call. She is also an artist who makes queer Christian art, and her work can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Etsy @3Solas. If she’s not in the studio or at church, she can be found hiking with her spouse, Lee, and dog, Sophie.

A Statement from ELM

He was a son. He was a brother. He was an uncle. He was a father. He was a grandson. He was so much more, and he did not deserve this at all….I need everybody to know that he is much more than this…..He had a smile that was angelic. He lit up the room. He was funny. He played. He was an amazing son. And I can never get that back.” – Katie Wright, Daunte’s mother

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries denounces and laments the murder this week of Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center law enforcement, and the murder of Anthony J. Thompson, Jr. by Knoxville law enforcement, along with the lives of the at least 33 Black people and 23 other people of color killed by law enforcement so far this year. Every time Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives are ruthlessly taken by the hands of white authority, the wounds of the world grow deeper and their cries resound in God’s ears. 

In the Gospel, Jesus names the love of God as central for the work of justice, and teaches that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. By linking love of self, love of neighbor, and love for God, Jesus calls us to refuse a self-love that is rooted in supremacy and death. The white members of ELM’s board and staff name our own culpability in the ways we have not lived up to this Gospel call to uphold Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives as not only beloved of God – but also made in God’s image and worthy of life in abundance. We join our voice in naming and repenting of those ways we have clung to dehumanizing systemic powers that offer security for some while producing death and suffering for many. We renounce the idols of white supremacy, the demonic forces of racism, and the death-dealing violence that come as a result. 

ELM recommits to an anti-racist identity at every level of the organization and implores white members of Proclaim, those who support ELM’s mission, and predominantly white communities of faith to the following calls to action:

Local Action

Donate to BIPOC activists on the ground in Minnesota and Knoxville: 

https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-sponsor-emt-training-for-poc

Venmo: @MNTeenActivists

https://venmo.com/Appalachian-CommunityFund

www.blackcoffeejustice.com

 *Check in with and care for your siblings of color. DO SOMETHING: call them, send them a care package, pay for their dinner/groceries. Make specific offers to redistribute resources and ask what support they need.

National Action

Commit to reparations in the ELCA: Click on the following link to make a contribution through Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle to the 66th Synod fund. The 66th Synod Fund is named in memory of the Alpha Synod and Jehu Jones and is devoted to helping elderly Black ministers survive after years of serving congregations without the ability to have adequately paid their pastors. The endowment is led by a Board of Black women in the ELCA.

Sign up for and take action in the Movement for Black Lives: https://m4bl.org/Movement 

Get mobilized on the nearly 300 local and state pending bills designed to keep black and brown people from the polls: track them through the Brennan Center, support the ACLU’s work, and get involved with the League of Women Voters’ efforts.

Pray with Us 

We pray for Black, Indigenous, People of Color experiencing relentless racialized trauma, and its ensuing exhaustion and grief, especially for those who are also LGBTQ2SIA+, disabled, or members of other marginalized communities. We pray fervently for the families of Daunte Wright and Anthony J. Thompson, Jr. and their communities. We, the white members of the board of directors and staff of ELM, ask God to give us the strength and wisdom we are lacking to start removing the sin of white supremacist thinking and ways of life from our hearts and minds. We, the BIPOC members of the board of directors and staff of ELM, pray that white people do more – stand up stronger, fight harder, and find the mettle to scream at the top of their lungs that Black, Indigenous, Latine, Asian and POC Lives Matter, and are beloved. We pray that the sacred divinity of Black, Brown, and Indigenous bodies be given the honor and reverence that our Christian faith demands. 


Image Description: Over a black background, the scripture verse from Jeremiah 6:14- They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. 

“God Made All This”

By: Deacon Ross Murray

My husband and I imposed a strict routine during quarantine. Some might say that we went monastic, with a rhythm of activity and rest.  We were so concerned about COVID-19, the only way we’d meet up with friends was in the park. We’d lay out a blanket, and sit in the shade, talking, eating and drinking. We scheduled three daily walks in our neighborhood, visiting the two closest parks on a daily basis, with the occasional further walks to other parks in our area.

During our daily walks through the parks near our home, we closely observed the life of the plants in the park. In the spring (two springs now), we eagerly awaited the appearance of crocuses, then daffodils, then tulips. Before we knew it, we were seeing the full bloom of purple, pink, yellow, before everything eventually settled into a luscious green for the summer. We watched the process reverse in the fall, seeing leaves start to turn the golden yellows, oranges, and browns, before noticing that the trees were bare for the winter again. And during winter, we watched the positioning of the sun, looking for hints that spring might be returning again.

Had I been rushing to work, there is no way I could have noticed the tiny hints that told me that the seasons were progressing, instead only noticing macro changes well after they were underway. Our continued return to the park, coupled with a hope for what was coming, made my eyes observant. 

Now that our world is opening back up a little more, I am worried that I’ll return to my old routine of rushing places without ever observing what is happening around me. I think of that for all of us. How can we keep a faithful recognition of the beauty of God’s creation all around us? How do we recognize the hints and signs that God is constantly doing a new thing in the world around us…and in our lives? 

One way that I’ve done that is through The Naming Project, an LGBTQ-youth ministry and summer camp. Church camps have easily incorporated God’s creation into their communities and programming. At The Naming Project, campers walk among the trees, play on the grass, get bitten by the bugs, and swim in the lake. Even when the focus isn’t on nature, it’s infused into what the program is about. 

The message we are trying to send to the young LGBTQIA+ people is to challenge them to look around and see what God is doing around them. We try to convey, “God made all this,” along with the message, “God made you too.”

Image Description: a smiling child*, Lewis Eggleston, on an airplane ride with the words-LGBTQIA+ youth are a part of God’s creation, just as much as the lakes, trees, and rocks, and they need to be reminded of that reality. God’s creation isn’t just “out there” but also inside each one of us. -Ross Murray *We have permission to use this image.

LGBTQIA+ youth are a part of God’s creation, just as much as the lakes, trees, and rocks, and they need to be reminded of that reality. God’s creation isn’t just “out there” but also inside each one of us. These two realities cannot be separated from each other, even though humankind has often favored one over the other.

Just as I observed the changing of the leaves, I get the joy to witness young people grow into who God made them to be, maturing and changing over time. I think this is just as awesome as the sight of the first crocuses in the spring. I write in Made, Known, Loved: Developing LGBTQ-Inclusive Youth Ministry that with some careful observance, and some nurturing, we all can see how young people are sending forth tentative shoots that will give us glimpse of who they are becoming. 

Creation is both the natural world around us and the people God has placed in our lives. Let’s tend to God’s creation, making intentional choices that demonstrate we think about a future for God’s creation. And let’s take time to stop and notice the hints about what God is about to do next in the world. 


Deacon Ross Murray is the Senior Director of Education & Training at The GLAAD Media Institute. Ross is also a founder and director of The Naming Project, a faith-based camp for LGBTQ youth and their allies. Ross contributed to two books focused on LGBTQ Christian youth: Queerfully and Wonderfully Made and Welcoming and Affirming. His forthcoming book, Made, Known, Loved: Developing LGBTQ-Inclusive Youth Ministry comes out in April 2021. Finally, Ross is a producer for the “Yass, Jesus!” podcast, a faith and sexuality affirming podcast that believes you don’t have to pick between gay and God.  He lives in New York City with his husband, Richard Garnett. 

Queer Easter by Guy Erwin

Is anything queerer than Easter?
 
Easter is the “queerest” holiday I know. Even as I child, I remember being astounded by the bunny rabbits, eggs, yellow chicks and all the other visual cues for Easter—they were so random, and so odd—and so bright. Easter is a color riot. And then the Easter clothes: stuff that you didn’t wear the rest of the year because it was so…colorful! I’m of course using “queer” in this sense as being contrary to expectations, or somehow far beyond the ordinary—and by that definition Easter was the holiday that mystified me most. But I didn’t let it worry me; I was basically into it for the chocolate.
 
But now years later, I’m a different person, and Easter is the most important day of the year for me—so important, in fact, that every Sunday is a little Easter. The empty tomb is at the very heart of our Christian faith—if Jesus didn’t rise, nothing else matters, and if he did, well…nothing else matters. But, I’m happy to report, Easter is still “queer” to me—it still confounds me, doesn’t fit in any box or category, and has not lost any of its astonishment. (Though I have now reconciled myself to the whole rabbit/egg/pastel thing as a high form of camp—my husband even has an amazing multicolor Madras plaid sport coat he could never wear any other day—and I have come to love the garish thing!)
 
Jesus’ rising from the dead makes no sense. It simply doesn’t conform to the way we know things work. It’s hard to understand—clearly the women at the tomb and the rest of the disciples had a hard time getting their minds around it. And it is precisely in this—in the challenge that the Resurrection presents to our logic and our senses—that the miracle comes forth: a murdered Messiah returns with a message of love and peace; someone who appears behind locked doors and vanishes just as suddenly can walk with friends and eat a meal—and at the same time sees into hearts, makes them burn, and scriptural mysteries suddenly clear in the instant of breaking the bread. None of these are “normal”—none fit in the usual categories of experience.
 
Queer theology is to me this wonderful irrationality, the dramatic paradox of a God who comes to us as a human—and who lives and dies with us, and then lives again. A human who delights breaking the rules other humans had made to hang on to control, can set us free from the things we fear the most. We, who have been told so many times and so many ways that we are not as God intended, and yet know the deeper truth that we are indeed precisely who God made us to be, and for whom Jesus lived and died and rose again—we know what it means to have a Savior who “queers” everything—even death and life. And we can wear the loudest plaid we want, and wear the frilliest and sparkliest hat, and shout for joy to the God who loves us so extravagantly, wildly—and queerly!
 
Happy Easter to you all!
 
 
 

Image Description: photo of Proclaimer Guy Erwin in a blessing with young adults: with his words “Queer theology is to me this wonderful irrationality, the dramatic paradox of a God who comes to us as a human—and who lives and dies with us, and then lives again.”- over the image. 


 
 
Guy Erwin (he/him) is the president of United Lutheran Seminary in Pennsylvania, and in 2013 was elected as the first out gay bishop in the ELCA and the first gay male bishop in any Lutheran church. He dresses very soberly, but loves bright vestments, his husband, his parrot, and Easter.

Holy Fools: Insufficiency and A Resurrection Story

By John M. Brett

 

Image Description: photo of Proclaimers washing feet- with the words-I have discovered that when I am called in fellowship to show up, I do, and that’s something I have in common with the women in my family. I don’t feel foolish about it. -John

I believed the women in my family thought Christianity meant serving cookies. My grandmother and my mother were quick to show up when they were called to do so by the church’s Fellowship Team. For one month each year, for four or even five Sundays, they dutifully and enthusiastically provided sugary treats in between our congregation’s two services. They delighted to pour coffee and fruit punch with a smile and a side of small talk, along with morning pastries. Then Grandma and Mom disappeared for the rest of the year, unless called upon again to serve as greeters. All in all, they did their part, and attended as a family for Christmas and for Easter. They showed up to church when asked. It was their way. Nevertheless, I, so quick to judge, thought them foolish. I thought their brand of Christianity insufficient.

Eager, earnest, as I grew up I sought religious and spiritual meaning, though it mostly escaped me, as the ineffable tends to do. Just like many other eager, earnest, and seemingly able-bodied, tall young men, elder members of my congregation encouraged me to go to seminary. It was an invitation I considered, and even felt called to accept, though I demurred. However self-delusional I may have been, I also knew I was gay, and even a little bit queer. My church had no gumption to support such a candidate for ministry, and I knew it. I was not so foolish as to accept their entreaties. The church’s brand of Christianity I suspected insufficient.

Yet, somewhere in the laughter of my heart, which beats with its own kind of power, I listened to another way. After years and years of a journey’s seeking, I did finally go to seminary. The walk has been and continues to be halting, laborious. It is my own faith I too often find faulty. Only fools rush in, I’ve told myself, as I have wondered if I am trustworthy for the call. Thanks to the church, and the teachings from which the church itself now begins to heal, I’m prone to judge my own queer self insufficient.

The sociable smiles of my grandmother and mother perhaps offered more trustworthy instruction, and more clearly so, than the church once did. When people expressed a need, my family’s women showed up. Women of perseverance who, like all of us, faced hardships, alcoholism and the death of children amongst them, I imagine they needed a bigger God than the church was ready to provide. They found God elsewhere most of the time, and found a way to smile anyway while serving cookies. We each needed a church not so small-minded as to judge anyone insufficient.

I lament on this Holy Week, this April Fools, that I was once the foolish one. What the church taught, I believed. I judged others; I judged myself. I left no judgment to God alone. Thankfully, I now embrace another foolishness entirely, and so does my church. As 2021 began, my baptismal congregation, Grace Lutheran–Wenatchee, WA, became a Reconciling-In-Christ congregation, affirming the full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ people. Easter came early this year, for it was a long awaited resurrection. My heart now laughs with a powerful delight that tastes like fellowship, with cookies at the ready.

As I prepare to lay my grandmother to rest on Holy Saturday, to say my goodbyes, my mother’s death waits not long behind. When the pallbearers carry my grandmother to her interment, I will read a poem of my crafting in her honor, an exploration of her faith life that had little to do with the church’s liturgies. I will bless her brand of spiritual witness, as I continue to envision and live out my pastoral work with the queer community of San Francisco. I have discovered that when I am called in fellowship to show up, I do, and that’s something I have in common with the women in my family. I don’t feel foolish about it.

“and everyone calls me

an old name

as i follow out

laughing like God’s fool

behind this Jesus”

from “the calling of the disciples” by lucille clifton


John (he/hym/hys) grew up on a wheat farm in North Central Washington State, far from his current home in metropolitan San Francisco. He’s a seminarian and works as LGBTQIA+ Program Director and as a chaplain with San Francisco Night Ministry <https://sfnightministry.org> alongside the city’s unhoused folk, and the street and LGBTQIA+ communities. He’s also a proud oblate with The Companions of Dorothy the Worker. <https://www.companionsofdorothy.org>  Prior to seminary, John completed his BA in Spanish and Performance Studies at Dartmouth College and served as the Executive Director of a regional legal aid program in Washington State. His favorite ministry experience to date involves offering spiritual care while in drag at a taco truck. Watch for the launch of Drag Church–San Francisco and the National Drag Church Network later this year.

Hosanna!

By: Rev. Laura Kuntz

Hosanna! Within this word exists many possibilities. We hear this word shouted from the crowds as Jesus rides into Jerusalem. Within this word we hear the cries of the people who needed Jesus to save them. We also hear it as a word of praise as people place their trust in where Jesus is headed. Within our worship reflect these means within this one word alongside thousands of other words used to express our heart to God. 

We debate about what words we use very strongly. Words are important, but the meaning behind them and the actions behind them make them real. We can and should embrace the words we need to use to describe our experience. We can claim the word queer as part of our identity even though it was once used against us. We can use a person’s correct pronouns and validate their whole selves. We can name the sins of homophobia, white supremacy, and patriarchy. 

This year on Palm Sunday as I say Hosanna, I’m praying for God to save us. To save our world from the racism that keeps all people from experiencing the kin-dom of God. To save us from this pandemic that has disrupted the lives of many and harmed the most vulnerable. To save us from feeling hopeless when we aren’t optimistic about the future. I’ll also seek comfort in that same word and use it to praise God because I believe God is working on our world. When we feel defeated by what is going on in our lives and in the world we know God is there. God is listening. 

God hears our cries and knows our struggles. Despite the ways we seem to habitually mess things up, God believes that the whole world is worthy of love. God came to earth because of this love. To preach, teach, and heal because we are God’s beloved. We can call out to God in whatever way we need and God is there. We can remind each other of this love when we don’t feel it ourselves. It has been with us in past struggles and will be present into the unknown of the future.

 

Hosanna in the highest,

We cry to you for help with such a great list of needs. Can you handle them all? Is there an end in sight to a pandemic, and all the injustice in our world? 

Hear our cries, our questions, our concerns. 

Help us to remember your promise to be with us. 

We ask that we could feel your presence in our world. 

Save us from both ourselves and the injustices of this world. Help us to see your kin-dom. 

Amen. 


The Rev. Laura Kuntz (she/her/hers) is serving as interim pastor and lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her wife and two dogs. Something that brings her joy is being a part of the Buy Nothing Project in her neighborhood, where people give to their neighbors out of their abundance. Her favorite items she has received were a small Ikea greenhouse and a box of old trophies she used to make a hat hanger for a friend. She loves to give away plants and anything that someone has a need for.

Disobediently Devoted

By: Melissa May

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way/ To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey…

When I hear people gleefully singing this hymn, I know I’m theologically not in for a great time.

It’s not that I don’t delight in God’s counsel or in being carried by the wind of the Holy Spirit—far from it! But associating obedience with my relationship with God gets me cringing. It feels like you can’t question authority or dialogue with the divine. And that’s inauthentic to my experience.

When God has called upon me to trust in the divine, it seems to be when I’m most broken down: hiding behind a seminary chapel in grief over interpersonal turmoil; questioning the label of my sexuality; dejectedly wondering how long I would have to hold my tongue around homophobic leaders; having an emotional breakdown in a GMC Yukon in the Arctic hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, after the local teens tell me during our icebreaker-youth-group game how many illegal drugs they have tried. 

The Spirit is there in my stubbornness and anguish, in my impatience and self-sabotage. Being “happy in Jesus,” as the song says, is about experiencing the freedom of abiding in Christ’s way, in the law of God’s love.

The writer of Jeremiah proclaims the new covenant which the LORD will make with the house of Israel, and God will put God’s law within us and “will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33).  

We’ve been unchained from sin, and unfettered from the power of the Law, and that’s the Gospel truth.  And yet paradoxically, with divine law etched within us, we can freely sing to God with the psalmist: “‘With my whole heart I seek you” (Psalm 119:10) and “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (119:16).

My obedience looks a lot like sullen protest and ugly crying, especially at first. But as I recognize the presence of God—who did not abandon me behind the chapel, in toxic heteronormativity, or on the lonely tundra—that trust becomes more like the grace of peace in the pain. And for me, “there’s no other way.”


Melissa May (she/her) is the daughter of a pastor and a youth director, and grew up in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. She attended Susquehanna University and Gettysburg (United) Seminary, where she earned an M.Div. but confused everyone by going into diaconal ministry. For four years, Melissa served as a curriculum writer, volunteer coordinator, and Bible Camp teacher with On Eagle’s Wings Ecumenical Ministries in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut in Canada. Discerning a call to change to congregational-based ministry, she became ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament and served at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Nome, Alaska. Melissa is on leave from call, but celebrates new developments: she recently joined the Proclaim Community, and this is her first public declaration of being a queer child of God!

 

ELM’s Response to Pope Francis Statement

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries weeps with our queer Catholic siblings over Pope Francis’ words and the church’s refusal to bless queer love. Over the centuries, the Christian Church has committed and continues to commit atrocities against queer and marginalized communities: favoring cherry-picked scripture that, through a patriarchal and white supremacist lens, has inflicted real harm including suffering and death. 
 
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries celebrates the beauty and belovedness of all queer identities and the many ways queer families are formed. We claim the Theology of the Cross as a queer gift of grace: radical honesty about the world in which we live, radical love that holds our wounds along with our joy, radical liberation that centers the marginalized and stigmatized, and radical affirmation of our true identities as the beloved of Christ made in God’s image.
 
We also need to point out “the log in our own eye” by acknowledging that the church in which many of our leaders are called and ordained, the ELCA, is not exempt from similar statements, beliefs, and actions regarding queer children of God. The ELCA continues to enact policies that keep queer people from answering God’s call to ministry and subject them to harm.*
 
In his essay, “The Prodigal Church,” queer Lutheran saint, Joel Workin, imagines the church as the wayward prodigal child who returns home to the forgiving parent: the queer community. As the queer family waits expectantly at the mailbox at the end of the driveway for the church to come home, Joel finishes this imagery with these words: 
 
Childish as the church may seem and act, it is not a child. LGBTQ Christians, therefore, await a Church that comes home as an adult. Not happily perhaps, not jumping and skipping, even with some fear and concern, but of its own will and confessing with its lips and heart that “I have sinned against you and against God.” 
 
The queer community is still expectantly waiting like a loving, patient parent for these words of confession. In the meantime, ELM and the queer leaders we organize continue to communicate and embody the Good News of Christ’s radical love by boldly advocating for marginalized communities and loving our neighbors — and celebrating who they love.
 
We join our queer Lutheran voices with those of our Roman Catholic siblings in boldly declaring “queer people are God’s beloved!” 
 
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries anticipates a church in which queer leadership is valued, empowered, and celebrated: where queer-led ministries are dynamic and thriving; all marginalized communities are liberated and honored, and justice flows from the sacraments as they overwhelm us and bring us to life.

* “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” adopted at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2009, continues to define marriage in heteronormative terms (i.e. between a man and a woman, a husband and wife, etc.) and through a teaching called “Bound Conscience,” makes space for ELCA Lutherans to claim that “they believe same-gender sexual behavior is sinful, contrary to biblical teaching and their understanding of natural law…They therefore conclude that the neighbor and the community are best served by calling people in same-gender sexual relationships to repentance for that behavior and to a celibate lifestyle.” (p. 20)