A Response from the Latino Ministries Association, ELM, and other partner organizations

O LORD, HOW LONG SHALL I CRY FOR HELP?
RESPONSE FROM THE LATINO MINISTRIES ASSOCIATION AND PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS OF THE ELCA TO THE “PRESIDING BISHOP’S REPORT TO THE CHURCH” REGARDING THE SIERRA PACIFIC SYNOD
 
We are deeply saddened and disturbed by Presiding Bishop Eaton’s report on Rev. Megan Rohrer, Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod.
 
In a culturally insensitive dereliction of duty, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has made public her decision to not bring disciplinary charges against the bishop for racist actions perpetrated against the community of Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina (formerly known as Misión Latina Luterana) but instead, simply asking for their/his resignation. This news was shared the same week that the horrible murder of 19 children and two adults in a predominantly Latiné area of Uvalde, Texas, took place. This decision was also shared before a national holiday, suggesting an intent to avoid drawing attention to the Bishop’s Report to the Church.
 
In this weak and compassionless statement, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton framed racist actions as “unwise decisions” and “unfortunate events,” completely ignoring the suffering of an entire community of color of the church-body she is called to serve. With this work left undone, Presiding Bishop Eaton is giving a white aggressor the opportunity to decide their/his own fate — a decision deeply rooted in white supremacy and systemic racism. Communities of color in this church should be concerned about the inability of the Presiding Bishop to support and protect them against systemic racism. Furthermore, all members of the ELCA should be concerned that the Office of the Presiding Bishop is so tentative to hold a synodical bishop accountable for conduct incompatible with the character of the ministerial office; not fulfilling her call by choosing to protect policies and procedures of the church above serving its people.
 
In light of the inaction of the Office of the Presiding Bishop to hold Bishop Megan Rohrer and the synodical leaders of the Sierra Pacific Synod accountable, the Latino Ministries Association of the ELCA and signing partners urge our church to take the following actions:
  • We urge Bishop Eaton to publish the report of the ELCA Listening Panel that was tasked with this investigation.
  • We urge the assembly of the Sierra Pacific Synod to bring a motion calling for the removal of Bishop Megan Rohrer.
  • We urge the Conference of Bishops to bring disciplinary charges against Bishop Megan Rohrer.
Bishop Megan Rohrer is the first openly transgender bishop of the ELCA, with their/his election presenting a significant step forward in the diversity of this church body. However, this advancement has been marred by their/his actions and subsequent reactions steeped in defensive white supremacy. In the wake of the events on December 12, 2021, our Association — alongside other Ethnic Specific Associations in the ELCA as well as LGBTQIA+ partner organizations — has been advocating on behalf of not just Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina but the greater ELCA Latiné community to publicly condemn the racist actions of Bishop Rohrer. Furthermore, we have been calling upon the Presiding Bishop to take disciplinary action against them/him immediately to avoid further harm to communities of color across the ELCA.
 
It is our duty and our Holy Responsibility to stand behind the diverse people of the body of Christ. We are disappointed that Presiding Bishop Eaton did not take disciplinary action to remove Bishop Megan Rohrer from the Office of Bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod and from the roster of ordained ministry. As a church, we are called by our faith to forgive Bishop Megan Rohrer, but forgiveness does not mean they/he is fit for ministry. We pray for their/his well-being and that the Holy Spirit will guide Bishop Megan Rohrer to confess their/his racist actions, seek repentance, and commit to reconciliation and reparations.
 
The ELCA has the goal of gaining 1 million new and diverse members by the end of this decade. The actions (and inactions) of Presiding Bishop Eaton have jeopardized this goal. In a single day, the trust of an entire community of faithful Latiné Lutherans was lost. We must fight together for the recognition of the wrongs done to our communities of color in the form of accountability toward racial justice in our denomination, and for a healing process with the Latiné community, to avoid any further pain in our church — particularly with our siblings of color.
 
At this time, we cry out an ancient prayer. . .
 
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
 
In Christ,
 
Latino Ministries Association of the ELCA
in partnership with
European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice (EDLARJ)
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
The Rev. Abel Arroyo Traverso, ELCA Estrategia Latina
Mary Campbell, ELCA Estrategia Latina
The Rev. Francisco Javier Goitía Padilla, Senior Director, Education for Leadership, Christian Community and Leadership Home Area, ELCA
The Rev. Maria Paiva, ELCA Estrategia Latina
Evelyn B. Soto, ELCA Senior Director, Resources and Relationships Christian Community and Leadership Home Area, ELCA
 
 
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world.The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
 
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America | Conference of Bishops
The ELCA’s Conference of Bishops comprises the 65 synod bishops from across the U.S. and the Caribbean as well as the elected ELCA Presiding Bishop and Secretary. The group gathers at least twice each year for worship, study, mutual sharing, and to conduct business. The conference advises the Presiding Bishop on matters related to churchwide planning and ecumenical relations.
 
About the Latino Ministries Association of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America | Asociación de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA
We are one body in Christ. We are called to live in one faith and one baptism. The Church of Christ is made up of people with different cultures, traditions, and languages. As Hispanic Christians faithful to the Lord, we cannot function apart, nor disconnect from ourselves, nor from the rest of the Body that is the Church. The purpose of this Association is to contribute to strengthening the proclamation of the Gospel to Latino communities, promoting the growth and consolidation of established and developing Latino congregations in the United States and the Caribbean, promoting inclusivity without assimilation and diversity without segregation, and combating racism in this church. Harnessing the diverse cultures in our church, we must fight and work for the union of all Lutheran members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
 

 
 
OH, DIOS, ¿POR CUÁNTO MÁS DEBO DE PEDIR AYUDA?
RESPUESTA DE LA ASOCIACIÓN DE MINISTERIOS LATINOS Y LAS ORGANIZACIONES ASOCIADAS A LA ELCA AL “INFORME DE LA OBISPA PRESIDENTA A LA IGLESIA” SOBRE EL SÍNODO DE SIERRA PACÍFICO
 
Estamos profundamente entristecidos y perturbados por el reporte de la Obispa Presidenta Eaton sobre el Reverende Megan Rohrer, Obispe del Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico.
 
En un abandono de su deber y en una forma culturalmente insensible, la Obispa Presidenta Elizabeth Eaton ha hecho pública su decisión de no presentar cargos disciplinarios contra el Obispe Rohrer por sus acciones racistas perpetradas contra la comunidad de la Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina (anteriormente conocida como Misión Latina Luterana), sino simplemente solicitarle su renuncia. Esta noticia se compartió la misma semana en que ocurrió el horrible asesinato de 19 niños y dos adultos en una zona predominantemente latina de Uvalde, Texas. Esta decisión también se compartió antes de un fin de semana feriado nacional, lo que sugiere una intención de evitar la visibilidad de dicho Reporte de la Obispa Presidenta para la Iglesia.
 
En este reporte débil y sin compasión, la Obispa Presidenta Elizabeth Eaton enmarcó acciones racistas como simples “decisiones imprudentes” y “eventos desafortunados”, ignorando por completo el sufrimiento de toda una comunidad de color del cuerpo eclesiástico al que está llamada a servir. Con este trabajo dejado sin terminar, la Obispa Presidenta Eaton le está dando a un agresor blanco la oportunidad de decidir su propio destino, una decisión profundamente arraigada en la supremacía blanca y el racismo sistémico. Las comunidades de color en esta iglesia deberían preocuparse por la incapacidad de la Obispa Presidenta para apoyarles y protegerles contra el racismo sistémico. Además, a todos los miembros de la ELCA les debe preocupar que la Oficina de la Obispa Presidenta sea tan tentativa de responsabilizar a un obispo sinodal por conducta incompatible con el carácter de su cargo ministerial; incumpliendo así con su llamado, al elegir proteger las políticas y procedimientos de la iglesia por encima de servir a su gente.
 
En vista de la inacción de la Oficina de la Obispa Presidenta para responsabilizar a el Obispe Megan Rohrer y a los líderes sinodales del Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico, la Asociación de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA y los aliados signatarios instan a nuestra iglesia a tomar las siguientes medidas:
  • Instamos a la Obispa Presidenta Eaton a que publique el informe del Panel de Escucha de la ELCA que se encargó de esta investigación.
  • Instamos a la asamblea del Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico a presentar una moción pidiendo la destitución del Obispe Megan Rohrer.
  • Instamos a la Conferencia de Obispes a presentar cargos disciplinarios contra el Obispe Megan Rohrer.
El Obispe Megan Rohrer es el primer Obispe abiertamente transgénero de la ELCA, y su elección representa un importante paso adelante en la diversidad de este cuerpo eclesiástico. Sin embargo, este avance se ha visto empañado por sus acciones y reacciones posteriores impregnadas en una supremacía blanca defensiva. A raíz de los eventos del 12 de diciembre de 2021, nuestra Asociación —junto con otras Asociaciones Étnicas específicas en la ELCA, así como organizaciones aliadas LGBTQIA+— ha estado abogando en nombre no solo de la Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina sino de toda la comunidad Latiné de la ELCA para condenar públicamente las acciones racistas del Obispe Rohrer. Además, hemos pedido a la Obispa Presidenta que tome medidas disciplinarias en su contra de inmediato para evitar más daños a las comunidades de color en toda la ELCA.
 
Es nuestro deber y nuestra Santa Responsabilidad respaldar la diversidad de las personas en el cuerpo de Cristo. Estamos decepcionados de que la Obispa Presidenta Eaton no haya tomado medidas disciplinarias para destituir al Obispe Megan Rohrer de la Oficina del Obispado del Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico y de la lista de ministros ordenados. Como iglesia, nuestra fe nos llama a perdonar a el Obispe Megan Rohrer, pero el perdón no significa que sea apto para el ministerio. Oramos por su bienestar y que el Espíritu Santo guíe a el Obispe Megan Rohrer a confesar sus acciones racistas, buscar el arrepentimiento y comprometerse con la reconciliación y las reparaciones.
La ELCA tiene la meta de ganar 1 millón de miembros nuevos, jóvenes y diversos para fines de esta década. Las acciones (y omisiones) de la Obispa Presidenta Eaton han puesto en peligro este objetivo. En un solo día se perdió la confianza de toda una comunidad de fieles luteranos latines. Debemos luchar juntos por el reconocimiento de los daños causados a nuestras comunidades de color en forma de rendición de cuentas hacia una justicia racial en nuestra denominación, y por un proceso de sanación con la comunidad latiné, para evitar más dolor en nuestra iglesia, particularmente con nuestros hermanos, hermanas y hermanes de color.
En este momento, solo nos queda clamar una antigua oración. . .
 
Señor, ten piedad.
Cristo, ten piedad.
Señor, ten piedad.
 
En Cristo,
 
Asociación de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA
en colaboración con
European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice (EDLARJ)
 
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
The Rev Abel Arroyo Traverso
Mary Campbell
The Rev. Francisco Javier Goitía Padilla
Evelyn B. Soto
 

 
A STATEMENT FROM THE ELCA LISTENING TEAM
REGARDING SIERRA PACIFIC SYNOD
 
The ELCA Listening Team was convened by Bishop Elizabeth Eaton to hear the narratives of people in the Sierra Pacific Synod in a time of turmoil, and to make recommendations for action. Sadly, the decisions that have been reached by the Office of the Presiding Bishop totally disregard the heart and intent of our report. We do not want it to be supposed that our work is aligned with or supports the proposed actions.
 
The word “racism” does not appear at all in “The Bishop’s Report to the Church.” Yet the Team’s finding was that racist words and actions caused trauma and great pain to many people of color in that synod. To characterize racist actions as simply “insensitive” or “misguided” is to validate the charge against the ELCA that we are blind to the pain we cause our siblings of color. When we do not name and confess the sin of racism in our institutions, we are doomed to continue in its power.
 
In order to address institutional racism, we need institutional courage. The compassion and justice work of individuals cannot by themselves bring about the needed transformation of an entire institution. All parts of that institution must look courageously through a gospel lens at their practices and policies in order to recognize the ways in which they are contributing to oppression. The ELCA has yet to find that courage.
 
From the beginning of our work, the Listening Team strongly recommended that the Presiding Bishop publicize the report and distribute it throughout the ELCA. We urge that this action be done as a step toward much-needed transparency. It will foster authentic partnership in the complicated situations that we face in our life together in a time of institutional distrust and continuing violence against people of color.
 
Our conclusions drawn from the many hours spent listening to what the Holy Spirit was saying through those whom we interviewed seem to have been set aside. We mourn with those who have been harmed, and now feel, once again, unheard by their Church.
 
Personally, we are embarrassed and distressed in our relationship with the members of the Community of Misión Latina Luterana. Despite our best efforts to communicate the depth of the abuse that the Misión Latina Luterana community suffered, it feels that our words have fallen on deaf ears. The people of the community entrusted their stories of trauma and pain to us with tears and with gratitude for our listening. They trusted that we could fulfill our promise that the ELCA truly cares about their Community, and will take action to remediate the wrongs done to it. We continue to hope that it will do so.
 
Abiding in God’s longing for justice –
 
The Rev. Margaret Payne, retired bishop of the New England Synod
The Rev. Constanze Hagmaier, bishop of the South Dakota Synod
Roberto Lara, president of the Latino Ministries Association of the ELCA
 

 
 
UNA DECLARACIÓN DEL EQUIPO DE ESCUCHA DE LA ELCA
SOBRE EL SÍNODO DE SIERRA DEL PACÍFICO
 
El Equipo de Escucha de la ELCA fue convocado por la Obispa Elizabeth Eaton para escuchar las narraciones de las personas en el Sínodo de la Sierra del Pacífico en un momento de agitación y para hacer recomendaciones para toma de acción. Lamentablemente, las decisiones a las que ha llegado la Oficina de la Obispa Presidenta ignoran totalmente la intención de nuestro informe. No queremos que se suponga que nuestro trabajo está alineado o apoya en alguna forma las acciones propuestas por la Obispa Presidenta.
 
La palabra “racismo” no aparece en lo absoluto en “El informe de la obispa a la iglesia”. Sin embargo, el hallazgo del Equipo de Escucha fue que las palabras y acciones racistas causaron trauma y gran dolor a muchas personas de color en ese sínodo. Caracterizar las acciones racistas como simplemente “insensibles” o “equivocadas” es validar la acusación contra la ELCA de que estamos ciegos ante el dolor que causamos a nuestros hermanes, hermanas y hermanos de color. Cuando no nombramos y confesamos el pecado del racismo en nuestras instituciones, estamos condenados a continuar bajo su poder.
 
Para abordar el racismo institucional, necesitamos valentía y coraje institucional. El trabajo de compasión y justicia de los individuos no puede por sí solo lograr la transformación necesaria de toda una institución. Todas las partes de esa institución deben mirar valientemente a través de un lente evangélico a sus propias prácticas y políticas para reconocer las formas en que están contribuyendo a la opresión. La ELCA todavía tiene que encontrar esa valentía y coraje.
 
Desde el comienzo de nuestro trabajo, el Equipo de Escucha recomendó encarecidamente que la Obispa Presidenta hiciera público el informe y lo distribuyera por toda la ELCA. Instamos a que esta acción se realice como un paso hacia la transparencia que tanto se necesita.
 
Fomentará una asociación auténtica en las situaciones complicadas que enfrentamos en nuestra vida juntos en un momento de desconfianza institucional y continua violencia contra las personas de color.
 
Nuestras conclusiones extraídas de las muchas horas que pasamos escuchando lo que el Espíritu Santo decía a través de aquellos a quienes entrevistamos parecen haber sido ignoradas y dejadas a un lado. Lloramos junto con aquellos que han sido dañados y ahora se sienten, una vez más, ignorados por su propia Iglesia.
 
En lo personal, nos sentimos avergonzados y angustiados en nuestra relación con los miembros de la Comunidad de Misión Latina Luterana. A pesar de nuestros mejores esfuerzos por comunicar la profundidad del abuso que sufrió la comunidad de Misión Latina Luterana, parece que nuestras palabras han caído en saco roto. La gente de la comunidad nos confió sus historias, su trauma y su dolor con lágrimas, pero también con gratitud por nuestra escucha.
 
Confiaron en que podríamos cumplir nuestra promesa de que la ELCA realmente se preocuparía por su comunidad y tomaría medidas para remediar los daños que se le habían hecho. Seguimos esperando que así sea.
 
Permaneciendo en el anhelo de justicia de Dios —
 
La Reverenda Margaret Payne, obispa jubilada del Sínodo de Nueva Inglaterra
La Reverenda Constanze Hagmaier, obispa del Sínodo de Dakota del Sur
Roberto Lara, presidente de la Asociación de Ministerios Latinos de la ELCA

A Message from the ELM Board Co-Chairs

Greetings, 
 
As we anticipate Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s decision regarding the actions of Bishop Megan Rohrer and the Sierra Pacific Synod Council on December 12, 2021, we, as the Co-Chairs of the Board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries want to remind our community of what led us to the decision to suspend Bishop Rohrer from the Proclaim and ELM community, our involvement with the Listening Panel that was convened by Bishop Eaton, and what the future holds for ELM. 
 
Pride
We acknowledge that Bishop Eaton’s announcement is expected to come as we begin the month of Pride in the LGBTQIA+ community. We grieve the timing of the anticipated release of Bishop Eaton’s announcement. The timing continues to reinforce what we have seen play out over the last several months in the ELCA, where BIPOC communities, specifically the Latiné community, have been pitted against the LGBTQIA+ community. This creates false binaries and can erase people who exist wholly in more than one of these communities. 
 
Pride began as a riot in NYC and was led by black and brown transgender women. There have been attempts in the secular world to erase the origins of Pride month, but the truth remains, that queer liberation is not possible without the liberation of our black and brown, LGBTQIA+ siblings. The anticipation of this announcement further reinforces the trauma that the Latiné, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ have experienced over the last several months. 
 
ELM’s Relationship with Bishop Rohrer
For much of 2021, ELM had struggled internally because of racist actions then-pastor Rohrer had made regarding the ELM board and staff members. These events all took place before Rohrer became bishop in September 2021. Internally, after individual conversations with Pastor Rohrer went nowhere to address these issues, ELM’s Board convened an Accountability Team composed of transgender, white, BIPOC, and neurodivergent members of ELM’s Board and the Proclaim community. Pastor Rohrer was invited to participate and co-create a process to address and repair the harm they had caused BIPOC members of ELM’s Board, staff, and Proclaim. 
 
In September, at Bishop Rohrer’s request, ELM sponsored a reception to celebrate their becoming the first trans bishop. In that same month, they informed ELM they would not continue to participate in the accountability process. 
 
After four months of deliberation, the Board came to the consensus that we would suspend Bishop Rohrer’s affiliation with ELM and its Proclaim community until they were willing to listen and talk about the harm they had done. Since there are over 400 members of the Proclaim community, we knew our decision to suspend Bishop Rohrer would be a public action so we crafted a public statement to Proclaim members and the broad ELM community. 
 
The weekend of December 12, 2021, the week before ELM’s regularly scheduled board meeting on December 16, we were coming to a consensus about the public statement and our process. Then on December 12, Bishop Rohrer and the Sierra Pacific Synod Council fired Pastor Nelson Rabell-González and harmed and traumatized Misión Latina Luterana and staff members of the Sierra Pacific Synod. In ELM’s regularly scheduled meeting, the Board affirmed our consensus to suspend Bishop Rohrer because they refused to participate in ELM’s internal accountability process.
 
On Friday, December 17, we informed Bishop Rohrer of the board’s decision, including a long, detailed personal letter from the Accountability Team, and gave them a copy of ELM’s public statement. They asked us to make a few changes to the public statement which we did. We released the public statement of the ELM Board decision the following week. 
 
Please read the full statement of ELM’s public response regarding Bishop Rohrer here. On Christmas Day, the Bay Area Reporter reported an interview with Bishop Rohrer in which they said they had “stopped participating actively in ELM in 2014” because they said ELM plagiarized their writing and dead-named people. Their statement was confusing because Bishop Rohrer participated in ELM events, retreats, receptions, and media since 2014–and because Board members that were involved in those issues thought they had been successfully resolved in 2014. 
 
The ELM Board Co-Chairs and members of the Accountability Team held Zoom meetings with the BIPOC and Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming affinity groups in Proclaim and one large group Zoom meeting for all Proclaim members in late December and early January to verbally inform them of the above actions. ELM board and staff members also responded to some calls and emails from donors. We noticed that many BIPOC Proclaim members and donors affirmed the Board action and announcement, while all of the complaints about the Board action were from White Proclaim members and donors–some of whom ended or suspended their financial contributions and affiliation. Other White Proclaim members and donors have responded with clarifying questions, requests for more information (some of which we cannot disclose), and some generous contributions. 
 
ELM and Bishop Eaton’s Listening Panel
At the beginning of March, Bishop Eaton convened a three-person Listening Panel to advise her about what actions she should take regarding Bishop Rohrer and the Sierra Pacific Synod Council. See the ELCA press release. The Listening Panel met April 1 and 2 and asked ELM to send two representatives to a 30-minute session. We had decided to send Pastor Kelsey Brown and Pastor Michael Wilker. As it got closer to the day of the meeting with the listening panel, the time was changed for ELM to meet with the panel. As a result, Pastor Brown was no longer available to represent ELM, and so Pastor Margarette Ouji, co-chair of the board, stepped in with Pastor Wilker. Before meeting with the Listening Panel, we wrote them a letter that can be found here
 
What is next for ELM? 
The Board commissioned a Communications Advisory group, made up of Board members and our Associate Director of Development and Communication Lewis Eggleston. The Communications Advisory group will help name and shape priority areas of content on behalf of the Board, to reflect and enliven ELM’s vision, mission, and values. They will be the conduit of the Board to more proactively, productively, and supportively address concerns and priorities in ELM communication. 
 
We will continue to listen deeply to our siblings in the Latino Ministries Association and the African Descent Lutheran Association and work together for a more liberated and equitable church. 
 
In August, Pastor Mike Wilker will step down from the board of directors of ELM. In November 2021, he was elected by the board to step in and serve for a short time. 
 
ELM has contracted with an organizational coach for three months to help the Board and staff discern our work together as an organization. We will have more information about this work in the coming weeks.
 
We invite you to work together and with ELM’s Board and staff to continue to organize queer seminarians and ministers, confront barriers and systemic oppression, and value and celebrate queer leaders and their ministries.
 
In the crucified and resurrected Christ,
Rev. Margarette Ouji (she/her/hers) 
Rev. Michael Wilker (he/him/his) 
ELM Board Co-Chairs

ELM Pride Devotional: Cari States-Codding

Come, Join the Dance of Trinity: A Pride Devotional
By: Cari States-Codding
 
 

Because I’m a church nerd, I decided to pick a hymn that gives my little queer heart life, “Come, Join the Dance of Trinity”. Let me preface this by saying that I can’t dance. I’ve seen toddlers with better moves than me. But the concept of dance, the uninhibited celebration of expression and emotions, is what draws me to this hymn.

The idea of the Trinity dancing, of making a space for us formed out of love and hope, is something that especially resonates for me as a queer person. Love of God’s children, and hope in their potential, is what this queer nerd needs. And this dance is meant for us.

Much like the toddler I mentioned earlier, nothing can stop the dancing. And, as this hymn points out, not even death can stop the dance. The love, hope, the very potential of all of us is not only accepted by God but is encouraged and sustained by God.

I’ve faced situations when being queer and being a leader in the church seem antithetical, where it feels like there’s a lot of “weight and woe”; the last thing I feel like doing is dancing (even if I could).

I feel like telling the world what it can do with its opinion of me, and it’s usually not that “we are free to move”. But this reminder that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, that no person, thing, or organization has the right to restrict our joy, gives my queer self a little boost. As if this isn’t good enough, we are invited to participate in God’s creation, to shape our lives and to shape joy. How could we ever shape joy on our own? And what love God must have to dance with us, love us, nurture our joys and our passions, and claim us as God’s own children! 

 

Amen.

 
 
 
 
 

 
Cari States-Codding (Pronouns: any, if used respectfully) is a third-year seminarian, preparing for their capstone internship. Cari and their husband live with their two fur gremlins, Archie and Thor, and their three-member support staff has helped give them life throughout seminary. 
 

ELM Pride Blog: Alex Aivars

Life is a Dance Floor: A Pride Devotional
By: Alex Aivars
 
If God is a DJ,
life is a dance floor
Love is the rhythm,
you are the music
~ Pink
 
I love to go out dancing, which I’ve written about before in this blog space. This wasn’t always the case, however.
 
When I was first coming out in the mid-2000s there was a dancefloor at the first gay bar I ever went to. I remember my friends asking me if I wanted to dance. I firmly said no. Up until that point in my life, my experiences with dancing were awkward and weird, consisting of school dances where I danced with girls at an arm’s length. Dancing had no appeal for me.
 
As I started to come out to more people in my life, and get more comfortable with my gay self, I became less reluctant to go out on the dancefloor. If I was with a group of friends, and they wanted to dance, I would dance. But I would never be the first on the dancefloor.
 
After a few more years, and after I concluded that I could in fact be both gay and Christian, I was the one dragging my friends to the dancefloor. When the right song came on, at the right moment, with the right people, it was amazing. I felt the music to my soul. I no longer had to think or communicate with words; movement became my sole communication medium. The rest of the world would fade away as waves of music washed over me. These waves would then catch my soul and be translated back into the physical world into movement with my body. It was only my body, soul, and the music. It was my escape.
 
I deeply missed dancing that first year of the pandemic. Then almost a year after the pandemic began, I attended a virtual conference of queer Christians. A dance party over Zoom was scheduled for the last night of the conference. I was skeptical at first while I waited for the dance party to start, sitting there on my couch by myself in front of my computer screen. I planned to stay for 2 songs. The DJ then played the first song. I liked it. I started to move my head in time with the music. Then the next song came on, and my hands started moving as well. Soon my upper body started to move as another good song came on. Pretty soon I was on my feet, full out dancing. I was having a blast. An hour and a half later, the Zoom dance party came to an end. It was what my soul needed.
 
I hope everyone can find that place where everything fades away and you can be at one with your body and soul. It’s in those moments when we can fully and deeply hear God saying these words to us: You are my beloved. With you, I am well pleased.
 
Amen.
 

 

 
 

 
Alex Aivars (he/him) is currently starting his second call as pastor of Christ in Dewitt, MI. Since this is a part-time call, he also develops websites for businesses, non-profits, and churches. In his spare time he likes to dance, be outdoors, travel, and read.
 

ELM Pride Devotional: Caleb Crainer

Last time I went back to my small midwestern hometown one of my friends from High School asked, “do you still listen to weird music?” I assured him I did. Even though I don’t really think of it as strange, I knew what he was getting at. I grew up listening to an eclectic array of music since both my parents had cassette and record collections. My first Cassette was Beach Boys “Endless Summer” and my first CD was actually the Coolio album “It Takes a Thief” …which my parents promptly confiscated because of the inappropriate language. I went through a phase of listening to Contemporary Christian Music like you do. And then just whatever was on the radio. Often my friends and I would go to the Books/Music/Video store in my hometown and browse, which is where I found their “world-music” section! In a small city that’s a big deal.

I gravitated to music without words or with lyrics in non-English languages. Something about New Age music like “Deep Forest”, Renaissance music like “Brumel”, and World Music like “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares” resonated with my whole being. My friends thought my music was odd, but I didn’t care. One day a friend came over and shouted, “You HAVE to listen to this song.” She played me a song called “Alane” by Wes Madiko, an artist from Cameroon. I had never heard anything like it before. It starts out with soft rhythmic chanting that turns into a lively dance track with a soaring chorus that elevated my spirit every time. I had no idea what the song was about, but I immediately downloaded it on Napster. The next day I went to the world-music section at the store and miraculously found the full album called “Walenga.” Why was it here in my town? Was this meant to be? A sign from God? Yes, obviously. Each track was a whole glorious journey in itself, or so I imagined. (btw, I saw the music video for “Alane” years later on YouTube and it’s pretty fantastic.) I played it on repeat for weeks.

Apparently “Alane” had been somewhat of a hit in Europe, which is why it was available in the middle of Kansas. And why, if you were sitting on Main street in 1999, you might’ve heard it blasting from a pickup truck going by. Don’t get me wrong, I also loved Savage Garden and Shania Twain like everyone else, but I had this special connection to songs that most of the people in my life didn’t know. A special playlist of rhythms and sounds that seemed to speak just to me. 

The internet eventually gave me the power to look up the translation to “Alane.” The chorus means “Come on and dance in a love song, All together, forever.” When so many songs were about straight people’s “hearts going on,” this had been a love song for me and my queer self. Wes’ “Alane” was my glimpse that the world out there was so much bigger and more fabulous than I could ever imagine. 

 


Caleb Crainer (he/him) serves as Pastor at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, California, as the Dean of the LA Metro Conference in the Southwest California Synod, and as the First-Call Accompaniment Coaching Convener in Proclaim. His favorite parts of ministry are having his congregation sing in different languages and the grace they show each other when things are mispronounced.

Time After Time: A Pride Devotional by Lewis Eggleston

 
WWJD. What would Joel Do? I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately. I’m not yet in the Pride spirit. In fact, I feel quite the opposite. I’ve been re-reading Joel Workin’s essays this week desperately looking for his wise words for inspiration for the current events happening in ELM and the larger ELCA body. I feel the weight and added pressure as a Proclaim member and now one of the few ELM staffers to continue the platform on which the queer Lutheran movement has operated on for the past 30 years. I wish the church and my community felt the same urgency for equal rights today as Joel did when he attended the 1987 March on Washington. As the chief fundraiser for ELM, I am afraid our queer movement will not be funded at the level it requires for much longer. 
 
Because of that, to be “Here I Stand” honest, I feel like some of those who supported Joel and the Berkeley 4 are now abandoning me and my generation of queer clergy. 
 
For some- pastors, lay leaders, long-time supporters – who have quietly stepped to the back of the room- they feel the work is now finished for them in their now well-established call & congregational life, or if not finished, then ultimately they are undone by the fact that the ELM Board would defend its BIPOC board and staff members rather than looking the other way when a Bishop caused harm- ignoring too the inner turmoil this caused to the leaders advocating for queer Lutheran ministers to hold a queer “family” member accountable. I admit there is great nuance in what I just said, but at the end of the day, financial support was pulled because of this singular action.
 
ELM is committed to the work of intersectional analysis and uplifting anti-racism as a necessary partner to queer advocacy and inclusion.
 
To that point, I must also rejoice that some saw this action like the long-awaited prodigal child returning home- to witness a Lutheran organization confront power & call out racist actions- for some this was the quintessential spirit of Lutheranism & ELM maturing into a bigger bolder entity. As a result, more persons of color joined Proclaim and some donors increased their giving, joyfully. Countless others maintained their giving to ELM, acknowledging their committment to our queer movement. Thank you. 
 
The reality is however, ELM has seen a decrease of 20% in overall generosity compared to last year. The staff is shaken, yet resolved to continue the work. The board will need to make big decisions, and prayers would be appreciated. 
 
All this does not strike Pride in my heart. 
 
However, one undercurrent that continues to inspire the board- Liberation is not liberation unless it’s liberating for everyone. 
 
Personally, that is enough for me. 
 
When I celebrate Pride- it is because I know I’m working to create a space that looks like the kin-dom of God. 
 
So with a heavy but determined & hopeful heart, I’ll leave you with some of Joel’s words to inspire us- and of course below Joel’s words is my Pride music video selection of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” covered by Sam Smith. 
 
On the one hand, being, in my instance, white, male, gay, middle-class American, etc., makes no difference; being God’s makes all the difference and that is the central focus of my life and ministry. On the other hand, being white, male, gay, middle-class American, etc. makes all the difference, too. God does not make use of persons or means of grace ‘in general’; God uses the particular, the specific. My particulars have given me a keen sense of experience of the not yet-ness of the church, a feeling for and connection with those who are not yet ‘in’. I am committed to and convinced of my own and the church’s need to be always reforming, daily dying and rising, on guard against too easy identification of God’s obvious ways and answers. More than this, however, I am utterly committed to and have been transformed by the great yes’ of God. My story, other’s stories, the story of the world, are all, in the last analysis, in faith’s analysis, stories of grace. These are stories of a relentless, loving God who will not take ‘no’ for an answer, not my ‘no’ nor your ‘no; not the church’s ‘no; not the world’s ‘no!
 
Amen.


 

 
Lewis Eggleston (he/him) is the Associate Director of Communications & Generosity for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. He lives in Kaiserslautern, Germany with his husband and their dog-child Carla. He is and approved for & awaiting ordination in the Ministry of Word & Service. 




 

An Earth Day Reflection by Dane Breslin

Approaching the intersections of queerness, ecology, and theology is daunting to me. Though I hold a degree in environmental studies, have worked seasons on sustainable farms & orchards, taught stream restoration, and have always loved gardening; I still feel as though I know very little about how the organic systems which sustain our lives actually works! My queerness is also mysterious to me- it has been a constant revelatory process that defies the many binaries I thought were the only options and invites me into another way of being. My life is far more sparkly than I thought it would be- there is a saturation of color I did not anticipate. All of this exists within the major question of my heart: what the hell is this all about? What is reality about? What is real? Or, what is Divinity?
 
For me, whose previous life has exploded with the death of a beloved friend & spiritual sibling, who is still reeling from the rapid change of divorce, I can’t approach the queer-eco-theological intersection with the brain but only from the mystical space of the heart. When I speak from my heart what emerges is poetry: so below is a poem which I hope speaks to this profound intersection from my limited and privileged perspective.
 
The Body Earth
 
When you see your body
Do you see a body that is the Earth?
When your lovers kiss your skin
Their lips touch glacier, grassland, desert sand
 
Gaze into an open eye
And gaze into the eyes of the wetland!
Sing to the rafters of this old Cathedral
And join the chorus of creation! 
 
Do not strive to be stardust
But to be the kin of the sunflower
The dogwood, the ancient beetles,
(And, of course, the sacred honeybees)
Who have watched eons pass
Who are content right here, on Earth
 
Do not desire to leave this place
Instead, desire to stay rooted right here
Belong right here, as you always have and will
On this mantle of soil which gave birth to you
The origin and destination of your bones
 
To you and I, and all that moves
(Even the wild asparagus in the ditch)
We are One & We are Different
The Unitive & The Particular
Always, always, all at once
 
YES- the whole of creation is beautifully queer
So, may we dissolve the binary which divides
Parses us into “humanity” and “the environment”
This is an illusion…
 
For, we are not separate from nature
Nature brought us into being!
We are Nature
We are kindred
We are one body.
 

 
Image Description: An image with a toddler’s hands playing in the dirt with the words: Do not strive to be stardust. But to be the kin of the sunflower, the dogwood, the ancient beetles, (And, of course, the sacred honeybees) Who have watched eons pass who are content right here, on Earth. Do not desire to leave this place. Instead, desire to stay rooted right here. Belong right here, as you always have and will. On this mantle of soil which gave birth to you the origin and destination of your bones. By Dane Breslin
 

 
Dane Anthony Raphael Breslin (he/him) lives with his toddler son in the homeland of the P’Squosa (Wenatchi) people in Central Washington. He is a candidate for ministry of Word & Sacrament in the ELCA. Dane is a queer poet, artist and plant enthusiast who works to move faith communities to support queer youth, to plant sustainable gardens and joins them in unlearning colonial and racist patterns/beliefs/behaviors in heart/body/mind.

Easter Devotional: Bishop Brenda Bos

An Easter Reflection
By: Bishop Brenda Bos 

I am so angry. Angry about the state of the world. Angry about the state of the church. Angry that racism and homophobia and sexism and ableism and all the other ‘isms’ that divide us are having a field day in the ELCA. As a bishop, I’m angry that I have not found the way to talk about this publicly. I’m angry that I have to think about this all the time – who will I offend? Who will I abandon as I take a stand? Where am I complicit? I have power, more than I think, less than I think, and there are no clear guidelines on how to use it. 
 
I am so sad. Sad that people I love have hurt each other. Sad that some people in power have the privilege of looking the other way. Sad that committed leaders have shown their weaknesses in painful, public ways. Sad that people of color in the ELCA are crying out… again. Sad that LGBTQ people in the ELCA are crying out… still. Where will we find solace? 
 
I am so confused. As a queer bishop (it’s a small group, if you were not sure) serving a synod with diverse communities, I do not know where my guiding principles should take me. Gospel first, YES, but what does that mean exactly? Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World? The first shall be last and the last shall be first? Seek ye first the kin-dom of God? Beware the tax collector? Jesus looked at the crowd and had compassion on them? Therefore there is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free? Which gospel text is supposed to guide me in these murky waters? Because Jesus says a lot about love and forgiveness and says a lot about hypocrisy and self-righteousness and apparently there is supposed to be a clear message I can follow, but I cannot find it. 
 
Anger. Confusion. Grief. Words we have used constantly in the past two years and again now, as the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community tries to find its way forward after suspending a member from the historic roster on charges of racism. Anger. Confusion. Grief. As our siblings of color tell us over and over how difficult it is to find a place in this church. Anger. Confusion. Grief. As leaders of the ELCA do not have a clear path forward, especially when it comes to reconciliation and renewal. God help us. 
 
Anger. Confusion. Grief. We think of the disciples after Jesus was arrested, as He stands trial without them, as He is executed by the state without friends nearby. The disciples were so angry. So confused. So devastated. They had trusted Jesus, had committed their lives to Him and now He was destroyed. Their ministry was destroyed. Their identity was destroyed. 
 
Christians like to believe those feelings were dissipated the moment Jesus was resurrected. My mourning was turned to dancing, the psalmist writes, and Christians love to cling to that dance. We are Easter people, we proclaim. Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Everything is coming up roses. Or lilies, if you go to church.
 
But consider the story, really. Mary does not recognize Jesus in the garden. Why? Her grief, her confusion, her anger had blocked her. Later Jesus appears to His disciples, several times, but in sporadic ways. They could not trust Him to show up at a certain time or place. His revelations were random, which, in my mind, would make it more stressful. Would He stay forever, or was He abandoning them slowly, like a lover who keeps texting even after breaking up with you. Christians like to believe those first weeks after Easter were exciting, but I believe they were excruciating. I think Jesus was preparing the disciples for the rest of life on earth. Confusing, infuriating, sorrowful. A constant search for Jesus.
 
Image Description: A picture of the shadow of 4 people holding hands against the side walk, with the words, “I am challenging us all to find Jesus in each other. The resurrected Jesus: unrecognizable, strange, illusive. Holy. Maddening. Demanding. Loving. Present. Difficult.” – Bishop Brenda Bos
A strange message for Easter, isn’t it? I focus on Mary – she did not recognize Jesus. Her grief may have obstructed her ability, but I suspect Jesus was not recognizable. I suspect Jesus is not recognizable now either. I am so angry that places and people and organizations which used to look like Jesus do not anymore. Or is it me? Is it them? Or is it Jesus, transforming into random, irritating, beautiful things? 
 
I wonder if this is the problem. We have stopped perceiving Jesus in each other. We have been devastated by the human condition, no doubt. We have hurt each other, absolutely. I ask forgiveness where I have hurt you, I ask for sacred power to forgive you when you have hurt me. I am not asking anyone to forgive too quickly. But I am challenging us all to find Jesus in each other. The resurrected Jesus: unrecognizable, strange, illusive. Holy. Maddening. Demanding. Loving. Present. Difficult. Friends, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. My prayer this Easter is that we can truly acknowledge, truly experience Jesus in each other. He is disrupting us, and in that disruption, He will heal us.
 

Brenda Bos (she/her) is the first openly lesbian bishop elected in the ELCA. She serves the Southwest California Synod, whose territory sits on the homeland of eleven indigenous peoples and includes the Hollywood sign, “The Valley”, coastal cities, farmland and urban deserts. She and her wife Janis spend their free time hiking with their dogs and making their house more fun for their young granddaughter. 

Lenten Devotional: “The stones will cry out” by Carla Christopher

 

I will stand on your city steps 
and call out the lies of your leaders
I will feed the hungry without permits
I will heal without license
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
I will block traffic and shut down streets
I will ride a donkey through your parade
of tanks and soldiers 
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
I will cherish sex workers for their work 
and mystics for their visions
I will embrace homeless wanderers
and give them keys to my every hidden secret
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
I will drink in public
and eat forbidden fruit, licking juice from my fingers
I will strip naked
and caress the feet of beautiful men
while women twine their hair around my toes
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
I will greet disease with a kiss
I will dismiss bribery with scorn
I will laugh at your critique
I will teach what you have banned
I will break criminals out of prison
I will die to resurrect before I cower
 
Even if you silence me
the stones will cry out
 
*and a blessed Triduum and Easter to you all!*
 
The table laid,
a Sunday made of palms intertwined
and sweetest wine.
A breeze of rising bread and 
the caress of rich spice
that carries memories of woman’s hair
and paradise-warmed skin.
We wait for you,
heart and hand and door open.
Enter us with your spirit,
Consume us with healing fire,
surrender as a gift.
We lift my eyes to the morning,
receiving you as
the sun/Son.


 

 
Image Description: a warm colorful sunset over water with a rocky beach scene with the words: I will stand on your city steps and call out the lies of your leaders. I will feed the hungry without permits. I will heal without license. Even if you silence me the stones will cry out. -Carla Christopher
 

 
Rev. Carla Christopher (she/hers) is Assistant to the Bishop in Charge of Justice Ministries for Lower Susquehanna Synod in central Pennsylvania and a multicultural Black woman who adores being a queer lesbian-ish femme.

ELM Lenten Devotional: Kristen Rice

The Patience of Love
By: Kristin Rice

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also.
For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my misery, and my bones waste away.
 
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.
– Psalms 31:9-10, 14-16
 
 
My mother tells me that when I was an infant, just a few months old, I would have night terrors. And she couldn’t comfort me in the midst of them. All she could do was take me out of my crib and put me on the floor to thrash it out so that I wouldn’t hurt myself in my crib. My arms would flail and I’d kick at the air to get it all out of me. When it seemed I was done, she’d pick me up and snuggle me back to sleep. 
 
I guess I’ve always struggled to let other people comfort me when I’m in the thick of something disturbing my sense of being. It’s both the source of my power as a chaplain and pastor,  and the source of my struggle that is very often feeling lonely, different, and unlovable.
 
It’s a fine line of being overwhelmed with loneliness and sadness while also being constantly amazed at the incredible power of people who have loved me through many, many seasons of loneliness and sadness. They continue to show me they are the hands of God because they love me when I can’t love myself. They remind me I am called to serve and called to love the world greatly, even when I can’t see it for myself. (Need a good song recommendation? Pentatonix “Love Me When I Don’t”.) They stand watch while I thrash out my despair and distress, and comfort me back into life. Even though I may feel lonely, I am not really ever alone. (Note to self: remember this, again, for next time.)
 
 
 “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from grief, my soul and body also…But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’” We trust in God’s promise lived out, that we belong and we are worthy of love, even when we are troubled and in distress. We trust God’s love to hold us and empower us into hope even when it feels hopeless. We can be God’s promise of love for one another, even if it means standing by and waiting until that love can be best received.
 
Goodness Gracious, God. Your mercy and love overwhelms me, and your patience with me is unceasing. Thank you for looking out for me and giving me courage and strength to work things out on my own. Thank you for picking me up and loving me into being, yet again.  Amen.


 

 
Image Description: The background of the image is a chalkboard with a flower banner with the words: “We trust in God’s promise lived out, that we belong and we are worthy of love, even when we are troubled and in distress.” – Kristin Rice
 

Kristin Rice (she/hers) is an ordained pastor in the ELCA. She currently serves as the part-time community chaplain for the Attic Angel Community in Madison, Wisconsin. Kristin spends her non-ministry time with her fluffy overlord Blessing taking many weekend walks through dog parks and playing hours of fetch. Kristin also takes pride in the level of coffee snobbery she has curated over the years.