Imagery of church-related people and places.

Moving to Midian: The Strife and Success of LGBTQ+ Seminarians Setting Out on Internship.

 

Proclaim Members Off to Internship.  Pictured (L-R, Top -Bottom): Jon Rundquist (photo by Emily Ann Garcia), Katy Miles-Wallace (photo by Emily Ann Garcia), Thomas Voelp, Laura Ferree (photo by Emily Ann Garcia).

By Dan Gutman
Proclaim member

ELM editor’s note:  This is the second of a two-part feature on Proclaim seminarians and internship. Like Moses who set out for the land of Midian (Ex. 2:11-20), a place where his identity was shaped by God and God’s people, so too do our seminarians make a home away from  home on internship, God building on their call so they might return to their home – their Egypt – equipped more fully for the work of ministry.  Last week we featured a Proclaim seminarian, Josh Evans, reflecting on his year as an intern in Omaha, NE. This week, we feature stories from seminarians who are about to embark on internship this fall with the intention of lifting up a multitude of experiences from across the Proclaim community.  In preparation for this week’s post, ELM sent a questionnaire asking soon-to-be-interns to reflect not only on their hopes and aphreneshions as LGBTQ+ candidates, but also on the overall process with their synods and their seminaries.  What came back was honest and, frankly, hard to hear in light of the overall struggle that LGBTQ+ persons in ministry continue to face.  And yet, it was important for us to lift up these experiences as a true reflection of what it means to be called to serve this church at this time.  Thanks to Proclaim member, and new intern, Dan Gutman, for contextualizing the experiences of our Proclaim seminarians.

 

Internship placement is a time rife with excitement and anxiety for seminarians.  For LGBTQ+ candidates in particular, fear and apprehension can overwhelm the process and resurrect our deepest insecurities.  Depending on relationships the candidate has with the seminary, the synod, and the potential internship sites, the overall process can be a continuous series of revelations that are reminiscent of that initial experience of coming out as LGBTQ+.  Candidates find themselves once again in the vulnerable position of being accepted and welcomed as their whole selves.

For some Proclaim interns, we are the first LGBTQ+ person people in the congregations have interacted with. Jon Rundquist is serving Living Waters Lutheran in Sauk Rapids, MN and Lutheran Church of Christ the Redeemer of Minneapolis.  “As an out transfeminine internI was one of the first trans folk that many in the congregation had interacted with.”   Initially, Jon was concerned whether these congregations would even allow a trans person to serve as intern.  However, as Jon settles into their sites, they are hopeful: “the growth that I achieve, the relationships I form, and the progress that is made – make it abundantly clear that God is calling me to lead a congregation in ordained ministry, and that God is at work in both [of my internship] communities, forming positive experiences so the reality is affirmed that a queer leader in the ELCA can serve wherever God is calling them.”

Recently, LGBTQ+ seminarians have run into a shortage of internship sites open to receiving them as interns. “I was essentially…put into a secondary search.”  For Katy Miles-Wallace the process was rough.  Only three of the available churches listed in the pool of sites offered to her would interview an LGBTQ+ candidate. Of those three, none were a good fit.  Katy feels fortunate to have had the support of the Proclaim Accompaniment Team throughout her application process and gives thanks for the people of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Dublin, OH who were willing to open their doors to an LGBTQ+ intern and have been incredibly generous and welcoming!

For many LGBTQ+ interns, internship is another point in the process where sexual identity is conflated with sexual activity and we, once again, feel punished for having healthy understandings of sexuality. For Thomas Voelp at St. Peter’s by the Sea Lutheran Church in San Diego, CA, internship has brought personal relationships into question.  Thomas feels supported by his supervisor and many in the congregation. However, when it comes to his desire to date while on internship, Thomas feels restricted by an either/or binary of what relationships look like and the process they take – the expectation that candidates be either single or married.  “I want to scream: ‘God does not despise sexuality or dating!’”

For a growing number of our Proclaim interns, the internship placement process is filled with grace and joy. “My hope for the process is that each candidate for internship may have an experience like mine.”  Laura Ferree, serving one of the only two RIC congregations represented in this article, Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Seattle, WA, was not without apprehensions in this process but says, “I felt supported throughout the entire process and as if my identity and safety mattered to my school and future internship site.”  Laura’s hope for the process is, “that other RIC congregations are willing to step up and create safe internship sites for LGBTQ+ candidates.”

ELM’s Accompaniment program walks alongside and supports candidates throughout their journey to first call. This program works to address many of the issues the seminarians in this article articulated so that more LGBTQ+ seminarians have an experience like Laura’s.

It’s encouraging to see the fruit of our work and the glimpses of hope each Proclaimer carries with them into internship. And yet, there is so much more work to be done until every LGBTQ+ candidate’s whole self is affirmed, supported, and warmly embraced by the whole church.


Dan Gutman (he/him/his) is just beginning his internship at St. John Lutheran Church in Celina, OH.  He is a member of Proclaim and is married to Mandy and they have the most adorable children you’ve ever seen, Sam (2 yrs) and Luke (2 mos).  Dan loves being outside, playing with his children’s’ toys, and drinking snooty beer (preferably all three at once).  Dan’s hopes for internship are to leverage the privilege he is ascribed by being in a heteronormative relationship to move the congregation toward a more affirming place with LGBTQ+ candidates.

 

 

 

There’s No Place Like Homy.

Augustana Lutheran during their RIC Service. Photo by Josh Evans.

by Josh Evans
Proclaim Member

Note:  To mark the start of the fall semester of the academic year, this is the first of a two-part feature on in-coming and out-going interns from our Proclaim community.

Internship is made up of experiences, many of them firsts: from preaching sermons to leading adult forum, from teaching confirmation to presiding at funerals and weddings, and so much more. And yet: No backdrop from my year spent at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, is more vivid than that of the Homy Inn.

Augustana Lutheran members at the Homy Inn. Photo by Josh Evans.

Just minutes away from Augustana, the Homy, as we call it, is the (un)official watering hole of the congregation I served for the past year. After midweek Lenten services, as the custom goes, the small but faithful crowd shuffles out the doors of the chapel and soon reunites around a table at the Homy. And as the weeks of Lent rolled on, so too our group grew larger.

I am convinced that on those Wednesday nights during Lent our liturgy did not end with the last notes of Holden Evening Prayer but continued in force at the Homy around food, drink, music, and fellowship — all elements familiar within stained glass-lined walls but reminders, too, that “church” happens even in “ordinary” or “secular” places.

For me, it was this sense of community at Augustana, embodied at the Homy, that continued to strike me throughout internship. The same community that intentionally sought out an LGBTQ+ intern and welcomed me with an extravagant welcome was also the community that coalesced in mutual support and celebration during parishioners’ life passages and the community that devoted themselves in service to its neighbors in the city and the world.

I remember that palpable sense of community, too, when I preached and led worship during our annual Reconciling in Christ (RIC) commemoration this past March. That Sunday, I preached my most personal sermon to date, telling my story and expressing my gratitude for a community built around inclusion and the ongoing work of reconciliation. After the service, at which members of the River City Mixed Chorus joined us to enhance our worship with song, I heard comments from our visitors and our regulars alike about how much they appreciated and needed to hear what I had to say. Humbling and inspiring feedback indeed.

Josh Evans preaching at Augustana Lutheran, July 2, 2017. Photo by Allan Stamler.

Years earlier, in my entrance essay, I wrote about coming out to the pastor of a church I had only visited a couple times before meeting with him. When that pastor welcomed and affirmed me without question or reservation and invited me into deeper leadership, I reflected later how part of my sense of call is rooted in a desire to be in some small way what that pastor was for me in that moment of vulnerability. I suspect I was able to do just that with my RIC Sunday sermon, and maybe even in other less obvious ways, during my internship year. As one friend, who identifies as queer, told me this year: “Even something as simple as seeing someone like me at the front of the church means a lot even after having been out for years.”

Had it not been for the welcome of that pastor and the church I soon called home, I may have never wound up in seminary… I may have never found Proclaim and ELM… I may have never been able to serve and be served by the people of God at Augustana… And yet, with the support of all these communities, here I am, a candidate for Word and Sacrament in the ELCA. Deo gratias!


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

Josh Evans (he/him/his) has just returned from internship at Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska, and is eager to embark on his final year of seminary at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago this fall. He is also a self-admitted bandwagon Cubs fan, probably drinks too much coffee, watches inordinate amounts of Netflix, and (usually) behaves himself for his four-legged children (cats Oliver and Sophia and dog Roscoe). You can follow/stalk Josh online at sermonsetcetera.wordpress.com.

Welcoming the Rev. Amanda B. Nelson!.

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, we warmly welcome our new Executive Director, the Rev. Amanda B. Nelson.

Amanda, through the Executive Director search process, incorporated the story of the prophet Miriam from the book of Exodus. Amanda highlighted the incredible joy and tambourine playing of Miriam and her Jewish sisters when liberation arrived; yet, Amanda also lifted up the journey that still lay ahead as the Hebrew people traversed the sands of the Sinai and held out hope for the promised land.

In a similar manner, Amanda acknowledges the incredible work that led the ELCA to affirmative votes in support of LGBTQ+ individuals, their families, and rostered leaders in 2009. There certainly was dancing and tambourine playing! Still the road is winding and there is much to be done before we reach the promised land.  Amanda feels called to step into leadership with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries during this time that continues to celebrate the work achieved for the LGBTQ+ community…and that holds out the promised land as a hope towards which we continue to work and journey.

Bringing skills as an ordained pastor, a community organizer, and leadership in a small non-profit, the Board of Directors feels that Amanda holds an incredible set of gifts, an energetic presence, and a vision that will continue the work that has brought us to today and will continue to create a bright and bold future.  Having raised our tambourines and done a little dance in thanks for Amalia Vagts, our former Executive Director, and all who have charted the course toward life and liberation, we now begin this next chapter of the journey filled with hope and thanksgiving. And for this work and the years ahead the ELM Board of Directors is thrilled to welcome the Rev. Amanda B. Nelson as Executive Director!

Peace and Blessings,

The Rev. Dr. J. Elise Brown                                The Rev. Brad Froslee
Co-chair, ELM Board of Directors                    Co-chair, ELM Board of Directors

To contact Amanda:

Office: 312-465-1562
Email: amanda@elm.org
Office hours: Monday through Thursday, 9:00am – 6:00pm, CST

The Proclaim Gathering: Healing the Violence and Celebrating Fabulousness!.

Participants at the Proclaim Gathering. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

 

by Meagan McLaughlin
Proclaim Member

I flew to Chicago with my wife Karen feeling both excited and apprehensive about the Proclaim Gathering:  excited to delve into the theme, Healing from Violence. Excited to have Karen experience Proclaim. Excited to welcome new Executive Director Amanda Nelson, and bless outgoing Director Amalia Vagts as she starts seminary. And of course, excited because . . . . FABULOUSNESS!

Apprehensive because, to be honest, after nearly two years of seeking a first call, it can be difficult at times to celebrate the joys and challenges of ministry with others when waiting, interviewing, hoping, and rejection leave me discouraged, and worn out.

And so, excited and apprehensive, we arrived. We joined with 68 other Proclaimers and Spice (spouses and significant others of Proclaimers)—18 of which were on full scholarship, thanks to our generous donors—for three days of workshops, worship, fellowship, and fun.

Healing the Violence was incarnated by Chicago area ministers and

Rev. Rebecca Anderson presents at the Gathering. Photo by Josh Evans.

leaders.  Rev. Rebecca Anderson, storyteller, and Rev. Julian DeShazier, rapper, entertained and educated us. Community Renewal Society shared their ministry forming and organizing neighborhood leaders around issues of justice. Leaders of La Red challenged us to consider our own participation in violence affecting the Latinx LGBTQIA community. We explored community participation in the sanctuary movement. Proclaimers led conversations on the balance between prophetic and pastoral preaching, and we had the Queerest Text Study Ever—some had to preach when we got back!

Affinity Groups provided connection with others in similar circumstances—those serving in their first call, Sparkle (trans, gender non-conforming, and gender queer), Bi/Pan/etc, regional groups, and Spice gathered for conversation and support. I joined the Awaiting First Call group, and the weariness in me began to fade.

Amalia Vagts and Rev. Amanda Nelson. Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

Proclaim business was carried out . . . We celebrated Amalia and Amanda, and spent time sharing stories with ELM donors and supporters. We thanked outgoing Chaplains Rev. Amanda Nelson and Rev. Brenda Bos, and welcomed new Chaplains Rev. Chris Wogaman and Mandy Achtenberg (Rev. Jason Clifton and Rev. Susan Halvor will be staying on for one more year, and Amanda is of course moving on to become Executive Director). Amalia and others shared wisdom and enthusiasm around the impact that contributing to ELM has on their faith, and inspired us all to grow in our abilities to encourage stewardship.

And all along the way, Worship, Worship, Worship! Sermons, music, prayer stations, ritual, and communion were shared, all balm for the soul.

And then there was Fellowship, Fellowship, Fellowship! We explored neighboring restaurants and coffee shops, tie-dyed t-shirts, socks, and hats, walked by Lake Michigan, played games, and shared stories and laughter.

I left the Gathering grateful for learning, spiritual renewal, affirmation and encouragement in my journey. Grateful for those who let me ramble (you know who you are!). Grateful for those who shared their sacred stories with me. Grounded thoroughly in the queer community that is Proclaim.

The Gathering next year is August 5-8 next year in Baltimore! Fabulousness awaits!


Photo by Emily Ann Garcia

When she is not interviewing, providing pulpit supply and pastoral care, serving on (yet another) committee, or camping with her wife Karen, you will find Meagan in Minneapolis cuddling with her cats and binge-watching The Great British Baking Show.

It’s (Almost) Time To Say Farewell.

 I like to have closure when I say goodbye – I try to find the right words and often exchange a hug. Sometimes after going through the process, I’ll realize I left something in the house and have to return. Or sometimes you just happen to see the person again on the street moments after you say goodbye and you have to ask – do we do this again? Do we hug again?

I have been saying goodbye to this community over the last few months. And because we are a dispersed group, there have been multiple opportunities. And then we all realize I’m not actually done yet, and we have the awkward moment of trying to decide if we say goodbye again.

Of course, there really isn’t a need for saying goodbye as I’m only leaving a specific role. I’ll be continuing as an avid ELM supporter and will soon become part of the Proclaim community. But relationships are changing. And so, I wanted to take a few moments today to say a final farewell and some words of gratitude as I prepare for my last day in this role, Friday, July 28.

It’s been wonderful this week to be with folks at the Proclaim Gathering. We’ve taken time to look back at the work we’ve done together and also forward at what is to come. It’s been especially good to be here with the Rev. Amanda Nelson, who will step into the role of Executive Director on August 1. Amanda’s gifts, passion, and experience for this next call have been readily apparent time and time again this week. I can’t wait for you to get to know her! And it was a joy to work with my colleague in ministry, the Rev. Asher O’Callaghan as he directed his first Proclaim Gathering – an exhausting and complex role that involves myriad moving parts and people. I’m so grateful for Asher’s steady presence during this time of change for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

On Sunday evening, as we kicked off the Gathering, we did something I’ve always dreamed of doing and invited supporters of  Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to join us for dinner and worship. A few folks shared incredibly humbling words about my work and I had the chance to thank our supporters, board members, staff, and the Proclaim community for their partnership in our mission. I was also able to give two personal thank yous. First, to Jim Kowalski, who has been my mentor in learning how to talk about giving and who along with his husband Bruce Jervis, have been passionate and joyful givers to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Second, to my dear friends the Rev. Daniel Ruen and Clare Tallon Ruen, who in addition to being generous givers and evangelists in their congregation about our ministry, have also been my Chicago home away from home. I have spent countless nights in their home and they have provided the kind of deep, nourishing friendship that we all need in our lives. At the end of the evening, I received a beautiful piece of art from the community and Board of Directors, which features a quote from Joel Workin that has been so central to me. And there was a most fabulous cake!

It feels right to be saying goodbye to this role now, knowing that the work is in excellent hands. I plan to focus on my candidacy and long-distance studies at Wartburg Seminary and my family and congregational life in Decorah. I’m looking forward to being present with my beloved spouse, David, and our family. David has been an incredible partner to me in this role, which has included a significant time away from home. I’m honored and grateful to share that I’m a recipient of an ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship, which will fully cover my seminary tuition for the next three years. This is powerful statement about Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries because (as I’m sure anyone reading this will know) my ministry with ELM was a central part of my application. I look forward to joining the Proclaim community and David and I are grateful to continue as enthusiastic supporters of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

This last decade is one words could never fully describe. I’m endlessly grateful for the experiences and friendships that have grown from this work. There could never be words to cover it all, so I will turn to the wisdom of Dag Hammarskjöld:

For all that has been — thanks. For all that will be — yes.

 

A Short History of Vision and Expectations.

Updated version to correct editing errors.

by Amalia Vagts
Executive Director

“One vision. Many expectations.”

This is a comment I’ve heard over the years in reference to a church document called Vision and Expectations (click to read the original, 1990, version). It’s said as a church-insider joke to address the fact that the document is often mistakenly called, “Visions and Expectations.”

Most Lutherans have never heard of Vision and Expectations (click to read the 2017 version). Those involved with the candidacy process are all too familiar with this document, which holds a complex and elusive role in the process of becoming a rostered minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

But few people know the way in which the roots of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Vision and Expectations are intertwined.

The Early Years

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries came about in part because four seminary students came out publicly as gay in the late 1980’s. This happened just as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was being formed. These two church events happened in the context of a changing society – gay and lesbian people had started “coming out” in record numbers and the AIDS crisis was ravaging communities and families.

The “Berkeley Four” came out to their candidacy committees in the late 1980’s: (front to back) Jim Lancaster, Jeff Johnson, Greg Egertson, Joel Workin

The moment could have been a prophetic one for the newly formed church. Instead, however, it was widely considered a “crisis.” (See Christian Scharen’s excellent book Married in the Sight of God for an eye-opening and thorough explanation of how theology is used in a perceived crisis. In this case, Scharen highlights how the ELCA candidacy process – and Vision and Expectations specifically – is used to create compliance with traditional views of sexuality).

Those who were in candidacy in the American Lutheran denominations in the late 1980’s and early 90’s will recall many ways this played out as the new ELCA sought to find ways to prevent condoning gay and lesbian relationships without condemning gay and lesbian people. Some seminary students remember that everyone was asked if they were “homosexual.” Heterosexual allies started refusing to answer in support of their colleagues.

This practice and others were soon dropped and the church turned to creating policy. How and why policies were developed relate in part to the various agreements made among leaders of the Lutheran church bodies (the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches) whose merger created the ELCA. Policies consistent between the church bodies carried over to the ELCA, but in cases of inconsistency, the ELCA would have no policy on the matter until it created one. This meant the ELCA had no policy forbidding the ordination or calling of a pastor in a same-sex relationship. And they now had candidates approved for ordination (by the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America, prior to the merger) who were publicly identifying as gay. This multi-layered process, combined with the decision at the time to exclude gay and lesbian people from ministry, led to the convoluted and insincere process which continues to impact the lives of candidates for ministry today.

Vision and Expectations, 1990

A first draft of a sexuality policy related almost entirely to “homosexuality” was circulated and then rejected during an ELCA Church Council discussion in 1990. A new document based on the four questions asked of candidates in the Rite of Ordination emerged and covered a range of topics: from being a “faithful steward of time, talents, and possessions” to being “exemplary stewards of the earth’s resources.” The question relating to “holy living” delved into the sexual lives of ministers. Single ministers were expected to live a “chaste” life. Married ministers were expected to give “expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful.” Ministers “homosexual in their self-understanding” were expected to “abstain from homosexual sexual relationships.”

This document was called Vision and Expectations. It was adopted by the ELCA Church Council in October, 1990.

Vision and Expectations

One person who was an ELCA Church Council member at the time said, “I think everyone on the Church Council knew Vision and Expectations was written to forbid ordination of gay and lesbian people in the ELCA rather than about care of elderly parents or avoiding excessive spending.”

That early observation was confirmed time and time again by the way that Vision and Expectations was used almost exclusively until 2009 to remove gay and lesbian people from candidacy, despite many other specific provisions in the document. As one colleague commented, “The ELCA never refused ordination to someone because they didn’t recycle” (As noted above, Vision and Expectations requires “exemplary stewards of the earth’s resources”). And while single and heterosexual candidates could be (and occasionally were) removed from candidacy for sexual activity, there was not widespread enforcement of this, as there was for people identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

The introductory letter to Vision and Expectations states that the document is “offered” to leaders “to inform their lives of service, their discernment and deliberation.” The story about Vision and Expectations has always been that it is not a “disciplinary” policy (unlike the document it was based on, Definitions and Guidelines, which is a similar document and which is a stated disciplinary document for rostered leaders).

But as it is experienced by candidates, Vision and Expectations is used as a tool of compliance around matters of sexuality. Those who do not comply are delayed or removed from candidacy.

Like other church conversations about sex, the document is veiled in a sense of euphemism and secrecy. The ELCA’s webpage for discerning candidates contains a number of documents, but Vision and Expectations is not one of them. The Candidacy Manual lays out the entire process of candidacy. But the very first mention of Vision and Expectations occurs on page 18. Tellingly, it’s referenced in the following context: “When working with an applicant or candidate who is in a same-gender relationship, the Candidacy Committee will follow the same processes for discernment and evaluation as with all other candidates and will use the standards of this church and the Vision and Expectations document.”

The seeds of euphemism and secrecy around sex that were laid with Vision and Expectations came to fruition in the 2009 human sexuality statement discussions. The 2009 policy decisions opened the doorway for people who were in what policymakers awkwardly (and politically) called “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.” But the church did not use the 2009 decisions to explicitly welcome the gifts of LGBTQ+ people for ministry, did not equally support committed relationships, and specifically did not recognize relationships between LGBTQ+ people as “marriage.”

Vision and Expectations, 2017.

In fact, even to this day, all persons entering candidacy must agree to “uphold an understanding of marriage that is biblically informed and consistent with the teachings of this church.” The footnote to this statement reads, “This ‘Vision and Expectations’ document uses the terms ‘marriage,’ ‘marry,’ and ‘married’ to refer to marriage between a man and a woman.”

As one of the very first steps of the process, a potential candidate for ministry is asked to check a box next to each of the following questions:

Are you familiar with the document “Vision and Expectations?”

Do you intend to live in accord with its standards of conduct as a candidate and as a rostered minister in the ELCA?

At this point, checking the boxes is optional. And the significance of the document often won’t be made clear until later in the process. Direct questions about sexual activity are typically not asked, but those who have entered or gone through candidacy can tell you it is omnipresent throughout candidacy via references to Vision and Expectations.

The final reference appears as part of the final approval process and the ambiguity ends with these words, “At approval, candidates will be asked and must state a clear intention to live and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with Vision and Expectations” (page 63 of the recently revised ELCA Candidacy Manual).

For gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons, the answers to those two questions ended candidacy for many until 2009 as Vision and Expectations required them to choose between following a call to ministry and following a call to relationship. Candidates of all sexual orientations today continue to view the document as relating primarily to the sexual activity of ministers.

Author R.W. Holmen provides a rich overview of the early days of Vision and Expectations (and its companion policy, Definitions and Guidelines) in his book Queer Clergy, noting that once adopted, the document “would serve as denominational policy preventing LGBT ordination for the next nineteen years.”

Dr. Jeremy Posadas, who served as part of the Goodsoil Legislative Team organized by ReconcilingWorks, was centrally involved with others whose hard work led to the changes in Vision and Expectations that now allow LGBTQ people to serve in ministry. Posadas reflects on the irony of the interconnected history of Vision and Expectations and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries:

The decades of movement work demonstrate how much the ministry of the Gospel always transcends and exceeds the juridical limitations humans attempt to put on it. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project and Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries before them) manifests the Gospel in word and in deed. In many ways, Vision and Expectations had the very opposite effect of what was intended: it occasioned hundreds of LGBTQ candidates and ministers (and the congregations who have supported and rostered them) living more fully into the whole vision of ministry from which Vision and Expectations sought to keep them out.

A New Prophetic Moment

Vision and Expectations was created in response to a perceived crisis. It was drafted primarily to bar gay, lesbian, and bisexual persons from becoming pastors. Present day conversations about Vision and Expectations should include awareness of this and how its history and roots relate to today’s candidacy process.

The actions of 2009 opened the door to ministry for LGBTQ+ people. The hundreds of LGBTQ+ people who are new serving, preparing for, or considering ministry are the beautiful result. It is problematic and disheartening that the church continues to use and create policy that does not invite the experience and perspective of LGBTQ+ people.

Our church has a new prophetic moment to consider these questions. How will we engage in new conversations about healthy, just, consensual, life-giving sexuality? What are new ways by which our church could express its vision and expectations for rostered ministers?

In closing, I offer one more passage from Vision and Expectations, this one appearing in the original and present versions:
 
Ordained ministers are expected to acknowledge the church’s past and present failures and to lead the church in its repentance and renewal.

ELM believes that the public witness of LGBTQ+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. This connects to our own vision and expectation – that, by being our true selves, we invite others to be their true selves, a bold and public witness that meets a need in the church right now for truth-telling and action.

What has your experience been? I invite others to share their perspective as we create a dialogue about this moving forward. I welcome your comments or submitted guest posts.


What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, 
proclaim from the housetops.

                                                                                            —Matthew 10:27


Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Amalia Vagts, Executive Director of ELM (until July 31!), is extremely grateful for the many folks who reviewed and contributed to this piece as it evolved, and has been carrying a now dog-eared copy of “Married in the Sight of God” around with her for months now.  And don’t even get her started about what V & E has to say about hospitality . . .

Faithful, Fabulous, Extraordinary (Sometimes All at Once!).

We like to proclaim what we believe!

by Amalia Vagts
Executive Director

Beginning three years ago, we implemented two new ways of saying thank you to those who support our mission through financial gifts – Friends Circles and our annual report.

Friends Circles
We launched our new Friends Circles, putting our own mark on it with words that seemed most fitting – Faithful, Fabulous, Extraordinary – and sometimes using them all at once. This was a new way for us to invite our supporters to be public witnesses about their investment in rostered ministry by LGBTQ+ people. And it’s been great fun for me ever since as supporters tell me they like being faithful, fabulous, and extraordinary!

A glimpse at ELM’s Friend Circles –

Extraordinary Friends – those giving $10+ monthly
Faithful Friends – those giving $300 – 599 each year
Fabulous Friends – those giving $600 – 999 each year
Faithful & Fabulous Friends – those giving $1,000 – 2,499 each year
Extraordinarily Faithful and Fabulous Friends – those giving $2,500+ each year

Annual Report
Second, we began publishing an annual report. This year’s annual report is on its way in the mail to supporters and is now posted on our website where you can check it out.

Through our annual report, we update you, our supporters, and others about our work and finances in the preceding year – giving thanks to our wonderful friends who made it possible. We want to share how we are funded, how we are using your support, and help you see the work that you are making possible through your gift of $10, $100, or $10,000.

In 2016, 513 individuals, families, congregations and foundations sat at their kitchen table or computer and made a gift to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. It’s humbling and inspiring to receive your gifts throughout the year. And it is joyful and awakening to experience the results of our collective work.

Our work is about public witness and boldly proclaiming. We believe the public witness of LGBTQ+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world – we see it happening every day. Here’s an excerpt from a letter one Proclaim member received this year following his internship:

You also, as a gay man coming into ministry, gave flesh to my belief, already long-held, that GLBTQ+ people should have the opportunity to be ordained and be in congregations and pulpits in the ELCA, and elsewhere.

You make this extraordinary work possible. Thank you!

I invite those who have not given yet this year, or haven’t given before, to join other friends who support LGBTQ+ ministry and its leaders. You can make your gift on-line here or mail your gift to: ELM; PO Box 14317; Chicago, IL; 60614-8503.


Photo credit: Emily Ann Garcia

Amalia Vagts would like to devote this week’s blog biographical sketch to saying “Happy Birthday!” to her father, Jerry Vagts, and her mother-in-law, Shirley Vaughan Lester who were both born on the same day, same year some time ago! Dad and Shirley, I hope you are reading this. Just like the annual report, your cards are in the mail…

Rev. Amanda Nelson Named Executive Director of ELM.

Rev. Amanda Nelson. Photo: Emily Ann Garcia.

It is with great joy and excitement that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries announces that the Rev. Amanda Nelson (she/her/hers) has been selected as the new Executive Director! Amanda brings a breadth of experience and personal connection to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries that leads her to be well equipped to further the mission and vision of ELM.

As Executive Director, Amanda will provide vision, direction, and leadership to ELM by partnering with the Board of Directors, managing staff, and guiding program implementation. She will also lead fund development, as well as operate as an ambassador for ELM, developing partnerships and relationships. Amanda begins in early August and will work from New England.

Search Committee co-chairs Rev. Dr. Elise Brown and Lois Voss write,

“This has been a Spirit-filled process. The caliber of candidates who applied affirms ELM’s strength as an organization and points towards a very strong future. Amanda was the unanimous final choice for the search committee and was affirmed by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors. Amanda has the passion, competency, development skills and executive abilities to lead Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries into the strategic directions we have worked on together. We are energized by the vision and passion she brings to our mission.”

The two-month search was lead by a team selected by the ELM Board of Directors. In addition to co-chairs Rev. Elise Brown and Lois Voss, the team included Emily Ann Garcia, Mack Patrick (Proclaim Seminarian), the Rev. Jeff Johnson (Proclaim), and Ben Hogue (Proclaim Seminarian). The committee conducted five web and three in-person interviews with finalists before making their final recommendation.

Amanda writes,

“I am overjoyed at the opportunity to serve as Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and to give back to an organization whose ministries have supported me and helped me in my own journey to be a proud, publicly out, queer minister in the ELCA.

The people of ELM – from the members of Proclaim to the many individuals, families, and congregations who support our ministries – are what get me most excited about this position! If you’re looking for hope in the future of the church; for energetic, enthusiastic, creative, and deeply considerate leaders; and for a glimpse into God’s awesome Kin-dom, look no further, it’s right here!

In stepping into this role, I know I do so on the shoulders of giants. I was humbled to be counted as their colleague when I joined Proclaim six years ago, and now I look forward to the milestones we will accomplish together for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of LGBTQ+ leaders in our Church.”

A graduate of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, Amanda grew up on the East Coast and considers herself a true New Englander at heart. She attended Wheaton College in Norton, MA, majoring in International Relations and German Studies. After college, Amanda worked at a Domestic and Sexual Violence agency before following her call to the ministry of Word and Sacrament. She comes to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries from Faith Lutheran Church and the community of East Hartford, Connecticut where she served as Pastor. Amanda is a member of Proclaim and served on ELM’s Fund Development Team as well as a Proclaim Chaplain.

This is an exciting next chapter for ELM and we are enthusiastic Amanda has said ‘Yes!’ to this new call. We’re thankful to you, our wonderful supporters, who make it possible for ELM to do ministry in the world. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries believes the public witness of LGBTQ+ ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. Your support allows us to live out that belief through Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement – thank you!

I Always Knew I Was Destined to be Erik Christensen’s Father.

Linda Christensen representing Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries at the Southeastern Iowa Synod Assembly

 

Guest post by Larry Christensen
ELM supporter and Proclaim parent

If you go to the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Home page, look up at the right-hand upper corner. That guy in the blue clerical shirt and zipper sweater is my son, Erik. He is why his mother and I got involved in full inclusion actions, participated in marches, spoke at panels and forums, got arrested a couple times, and led “sing-ins” at the 2006 Churchwide Assembly in Chicago. We were also the go-to referral when parents had a child come out: “You should meet the Christensens.” Finally I got to be a voting member at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly when the policy changed. It is all Erik’s fault, and for that I am forever grateful.

That is how Linda and I ended up getting asked to sit at the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries information table for the 2017 Southeastern Iowa Synod Assembly this May. We had never done it and did not know what to expect. I took reading material in case business was slow, but there was no need. We had wonderful conversations with a variety of people. Some folks, naturally wondered if there was still a need for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries given the change in the ELCA’s policy, and that was probably our most meaningful work – to help people understand that the work is far from over. We were actually helped by the repeated pleas in the general sessions to recruit people for ordained and diaconal ministry. The clergy/deacon shortage and the availability of wonderful candidates was a natural case-in-point.

Some people wanted to know more about how to become an Reconciling In Christ congregation, and that was a referral to the table next door to visit with the ReconcilingWorks folks. Others simply wanted a chance to talk about how things were going in their congregation back home, and always we encouraged them to work now so that the next time they are in a call process there might be a conversation about a wider search for candidates. “You are from a rural community? Some of our ELM pastors grew up on farms you know.” The ELM materials are great and wonderful conversation points.

There was also another category of conversation which was in its own way sweet and maybe therapeutic. That was the retired pastors and church members reflecting back on the journey that they and the church had taken. It has been a pilgrimage to be sure, and we have all been changed. To be honest, I needed that time at the ELM table to heal a bit, to absorb the change, and enjoy the new wine and wineskins.


Larry Christensen was raised on a farm in Eastern Nebraska, then became a music teacher, then a church youth worker, and finally a church musician. Larry was a “Lay Professional” in the LCA, and “AIM” in the ELCA, and now, in retirement, would guess that he is a “Deacon” – all without additional schooling or degrees. He is married to a wonderful woman, Linda (pictured at right), who is unrepentantly decent, loving, and spiritual, and they are the parents of two children: Erik, who went into the family business and is a gay, Lutheran pastor in Chicago married to Kerry, and their Thai, adopted daughter, Tara, who has been dating a 6’4” car nut for seven years. Larry and Linda live in Des Moines, Iowa where they enjoy their home, yard, and the wildlife that cohabitates with them.

Announcing the 2017 Joel R. Workin Scholar.

Photo by Emily Ann Garcia.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is pleased to announce that Benjamin Hogue is the
2017 Joel R. Workin Scholar!

Workin Selection Committee Chair Michael Price Nelson writes,

In this 500th year of the Reformation, it strikes me that if LGBTQ+ Christians are to help in the ongoing reformation, then surely Ben’s voice is one that needs to be lifted up. I speak for all the committee when I say we pray that, as a Workin Scholar, Joel’s witness will continue to shine and sparkle in Ben’s life and ministry throughout the years.

Ben’s resume illustrates the breadth of his experience, from a commitment to youth, the marginalized, multiple justice issues, and experience outside the Church. Ben’s essay was striking for its elegant prose, thoughtful reasoning, and the ease with which it integrates not only Joel’s writings, but thoughts from Martin Luther and Mother Teresa as well.

Each year ELM names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel Raydon Workin. Joel was one of the three seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after coming out to their candidacy committees. Upon his death, Joel’s parents, Ray and Betty, and other family and friends created the scholarship fund in his name to keep his prophetic voice part of the movement. This past November, Betty’s life was honored through many memorial gifts to the Fund after she passed away from cancer. The award comes with a $2,500 scholarship for academic or spiritual study and is available for members of Proclaim who are preparing for rostered leadership in the Lutheran church.

Upon hearing of the decision, Ben wrote,

I am so sincerely humbled and honored to be the 2017 Joel R. Workin Scholar and am grateful for Joel’s family for carrying on his legacy, as well as the selection committee for this honor, and the ministry of staff of ELM and the Board. Thank you!

During my time at PLTS and throughout candidacy, Joel’s words have accompanied me and will continue to impact my ministry. Through his sermons and essays, Joel has become in some ways a saint-mentor and I am so grateful for his witness.

It is not lost on me that I am receiving word of this award one year after the Pulse Night Club tragedy. This year has been difficult, especially for the LGBTQ+ community, communities of color, and those with intersectional identities. The anniversary of Pulse allows us to come together to do the hard work of existence, resistance, and persistence. Joel’s words remind us that death will not win, nor keep us from God. ‘God’s love, and I say this by faith and not by fact, is the mightiest thing in all creation and nothing will keep it from us.’ I hold that dear to my heart.

Ben is a candidate for ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and a seminarian at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California. Ben is from Grand Junction, Colorado and graduated from California Lutheran University in 2010 with a degree in Advertising/Public Relations and Sociology. Ben served with Peace Corps Ukraine, in the small village of Kolky from 2010-2013, teaching English, leadership, and country studies, and also helped to organize and run teacher and youth camps.

Ben has been an active member of the Proclaim community, attending the annual Gathering, and serving in various capacities, most recently as the Proclaim Seminarian Outreach Team Convener this past year. Ben will be on internship beginning this fall at Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C., where ELM board member Rev. Michael Wilker is lead pastor.

Learn more about the Joel R. Workin Endowed Scholarship here.