Imagery of church-related people and places.

One Proclaimer’s Story.

One Proclaimer’s perspective that may feel relatable to many LGBTQIA+ ministry leaders in the ELCA. 

Thank you Analyse, for speaking truth to power. 

Please take a minute to hear the Spirit moving through our sibling Analyse. 

 

In The Beginning.

January 20, 1990 was a monumental day for the LGBTQIA+ movement in the Lutheran church. In a letter, Bishop Stendahl affirmed the ordinations of Phyllis Zillhart, Ruth Frost, and Jeff Johnson. Bishop Stendahl said if the church will not ordain these individuals then they must be ordained “extra ordinem” or Extraordinarily. Thirty years later, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries continues to affirm and support LGBTQIA+ Lutheran rostered leaders, and those preparing for rostered leadership, while also engaging allied congregations and ministries to proclaim God’s love and seek justice for all.

As we approach the upcoming anniversary, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries will dive into our history with personal stories, including videos of the ordinations, reactions from Bishops, interviews with leaders in the movement, and words of hope for the future of ELM from our current Proclaim members. ELM will also be introducing several fundraising goals to help sustain the efforts and ministry of ELM. Our FIRST exciting fundraiser includes a goal to get 30 new monthly donors in the month of August! Click here to learn how to become a monthly donor to receive this  T-shirt! 

Thank you for your continued support of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. 

To kick-off the 30 Extraordinary Years campaign, we could think of nothing better than to show you this EXTRAORDINARY video from the day where three unique ordinations took place. Please watch and stay tuned over the next few months to learn more about ELM! 

Cassie Hartnett, 2019 Workin Scholar.

Each year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries names a Joel R. Workin Memorial Scholar to honor the life and ministry of Joel Workin. Joel was one of the three gay seminarians who were refused ordination in 1989 after “coming out” to their candidacy committees. Our world can sometimes feel like an unwelcoming place, where hope and inspiration seem in short supply. But prophetic voices like Joel’s, and all those who applied for this scholarship, continue to highlight that publicly identified LGBTQIA+ ministers and seminarians can be beacons of courage and powerful models of justice in action. Thanks to a generous endowment started by Joel’s friends and family, and other ongoing contributions, this award comes with a $6,500 scholarship for academic or spiritual study and is available for members of ELM’s Proclaim group who are studying to be rostered leaders in the Lutheran church.

We are thrilled to announce that this year’s Workin Scholar is Cassie Hartnett, a recent seminary grad from Union Theological Seminary.

Below is a letter from our Workin Scholarship Committee to congratulate Cassie on her achievement. 

Congratulations Cassie, and thank you for your prophetic voice!

Dear Cassandra, 

I am now writing to officially inform you of your selection as this year’s Workin Scholar. It was the Workin Scholarship Committee’s conclusion that your application, reflecting on Joel Workin’s essay “The Light of Lent,” stood apart from all the rest, not only for its outstanding writing, but for its sound theological reflection.

While referencing Joel’s thoughts on the comfort we take from darkness in our own lives, you revealed something of yourself, as a queer woman, who has struggled with her own “darkness” of anxiety and depression. The committee was particularly captivated by your imagery of this, and there was a lot of discussion about it and its relation to God’s grace. To quote your eloquent essay:

“…the depression-sweatshirt is so comfortable and familiar that something in us begs us to put it on, pull the thick hood over our head, and block out the world, surrounded instead in something that doesn’t make us happy and doesn’t allow us to connect with others, but nonetheless feels like the miserable, moth-eaten home we deserve… The good news of grace and truth and light and Christ is new and raw and scary and we don’t want to peel off our sweatshirts of sin and pretension and selfishness in order to stand shivering before the cross and the empty tomb.”

During this year that celebrates Stonewall 50, we were also impressed by your reference to the times in which Joel lived and wrote. It was certainly note-worthy that you, as a young seminarian, strove to identify with him and related his life experience to the present day. Joel wrote that “the light unfailingly shows us where we must die” and your response to that was most moving:

“Joel Workin would have known something about death, even when he spoke these word in his mid-20s. The AIDS epidemic had begun, and suddenly young, previously healthy gay men were watching their friends sicken and die instead of fall in love and make mistakes and raise families and learn new things and create beautiful art. For him to say that God’s light shows us where we must die was not a throwaway line…For gay men like Joel, and for queer people even now who watch as trans women of color are killed in the streets, as young gay men and their friends are shot during a night out dancing, or as queer youth are bullied into self-harm when school is supposed to be safe, death does not feel so far away.”

This was an insightful connection to his life and times.

On behalf of the committee, I congratulate you on a splendid essay and becoming this year’s Workin Scholar. As you continue to pursue the ministry of Word and Sacrament, may you continue to strip away your own sweatshirt of darkness and despair and, to paraphrase Joel, embrace the light which was does not require perfection, only your presence.

Cassie Hartnett (she/her) grew up on the Connecticut shoreline and graduated from Union Theological Seminary in May 2019, where she studied psychology and religion, and wrote a new play for her thesis project. Previously, she studied at Barnard College and spent two years in the Twin Cities serving with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, including work with ReconcilingWorks. Cassie will begin her internship year at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Parkville, MD this August. In her spare time, she practices ballet and yoga, bakes excellent cookies, and can recommend a great queer young adult novel.

More then Parachutes and Combat Boots.

By Chelsea Achterberg

In February I spent a month learning how to jump out of airplanes, build relationships, and even do marital and personal counseling! Most people want to hear about jumping out of planes, and why not, it’s sexy, adventurous, dangerous. What people need to hear about is caring for people, asking about their careers, families, faith, and the heartbreaking reality that other chaplains might refuse to care for them.

We live in a culture that says, “if you don’t agree, walk away.” A divestment culture — not only monetarily but also relationally. The church is no exception, as members of Proclaim or an advocate for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries we have lived this. Our wrestling as a Church, with divestment in instances of injustice, military chaplaincy can get caught up in debates around the military as a whole. As a result we discourage military chaplaincy and have allowed for exclusionary voices to take the lead in chaplaincy.

See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves

When I counseled a newly married military lesbian couple, hearing their stories of the struggles of distance, marriage to another soldier, and adjusting to married life, I couldn’t help but be reminded, these women will face many chaplains who will not care for them. When many chaplains hear “my wife” they are going to politely but firmly say unless they want to “repent” of their sin of homosexuality they will have little to offer. Many denominations are known to tell chaplains who they are allowed to counsel and who are allowed to lead services. This is the price of divestment from chaplaincy. The face of siblings who will navigate spirituality, sexuality, and marriage without a spiritual caregiver.

There is a great need for more welcoming and affirming chaplains, and we as LGBTQIA+ pastors and seminarians bring a special witness, in addition to all of the gifts we bring as Lutherans. We have felt this pain in our own Church and many of our congregations and seminaries and we are blessed to bring that experience, along with our own identities and affirmation to those we care for. We have the opportunity to live into a vision and hope of the Gospel that many can scarcely imagine yet alone have seen.

The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

What can you do about all of this?

Resist the call to divest relationally from military chaplaincy. It is an imperfect institution but God’s children who serve deserve spiritual support from chaplains who will support them, not turn them away and cause spiritual harm.

Consider if God might be calling you (or someone you know) to military chaplaincy. If you desire adventure, are active, have a heart for people on the margins, and an eagerness to learn a new way of life, then chaplaincy might be for you!

Join the conversation. Be engaged in the work and needs of ELCA chaplains across the federal government in their care for service members, veterans, and those in prison. Meet with those local to you.

Pray for service members and their chaplains, especially our ELCA chaplains who have answered the call to care for God’s people.

If you are attending the 2019 Churchwide Assembly in Milwaukee, look for military chaplains in uniform on Tuesday (Aug. 6) and have a conversation about their work!


Bio: Chelsea Achterberg (she/her/hers) is a Chaplain Candidate, allowing her to serve in the Army Reserves while continuing to work towards ordination. She is married to Proclaim Chaplain Mandy, together they have a house rabbit Mosby. Chelsea is enjoying a return to parish ministry as a Pastoral Intern at Holy Trinity in Charlotte, NC after two years serving in hospital chaplaincy.

10 Years Ago- The Day the ELCA Opened the Door to LGBT Pastors.

Special thanks to Currents in Theology and Mission (www.currentsjournal.org) for allowing Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to share this excellent resource with our wider ELM community! Click their link to read other great articles from this quarterly publication. 

 

 

Proclaimer Lectionary Series– PDF File 

“Dancing Queen” by ABBA.

Devotional by Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson

It all started in her red Pontiac Sunfire. 

My aunt would come and pick me up in her “cool car” and we’d head to McDonald’s to get some frenchfries. Then, we’d roll down the windows, blast ABBA on the radio, and we’d be off – licking our salty fingers along the way! 

When the musical, “Mamma Mia” came out, my aunt saw it at least 10 times – any time it came to town, she was in the audience…twice! 

When “Dancing Queen” came on – at the musical or on the radio – suddenly an imaginary piano appeared just above my aunt’s head in time for her to play “ching-ching, ching-ching, ching-ching” along with the piano part in the song – mimicking the choreography of the main characters.

Since my aunt died eight years ago, all too suddenly from complications with her Lupus, every time “Dancing Queen” comes on the radio, I am reminded of her love and playfulness.

And when it comes on at the gay bars, suddenly an imaginary piano appears above my head just in time for me to play “ching-ching, ching-ching, ching-ching.”

And in that moment, I am connected to my wholeness.

God of all love, enfold your beautifully diverse creation in your peace and pride this month as we celebrate our wholeness. Thank you for the gift of loved ones who show us your all-encompassing grace through their love. Amen.

Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) is pretty good at the air piano and at emphasizing “leee-berty” with her brother Paul in the ABBA song “Fernando.” This weekend, as the LGBTQIA+ community celebrates World Pride, Amanda also celebrates her one year wedding anniversary to Tasha. She is grateful to all who have paved the way for her and all gender and sexual minorities to even have a legal option for marriage and a church which would bless her partnership. 

“Chocolate Jesus” by Ben Sollee.

Devotional by Rev. Paul Clark

I can picture my mother-in-law wrinkling her eyebrows in discomfort as she harrumphs the brazenly offensive lyrics of this song. How dare a chocolate confection be compared to the Savior? What a mockery of Jesus!

For many Christians like her, faith is a battle. Christ calls on us to defend him from the secular world. Following Jesus then becomes the work of building walls around, and imposing false binaries on, everything from gender identities, to marriage, to Jesus himself.

Thanks be to God, Jesus is bigger and better than this. He cannot be contained by any walls. And he certainly can handle the absurdity, irreverence, and whimsy of Chocolate Jesus.

This song, in its own silly way, reminds me that no walls or labels imposed by others can change the fact that I belong to Christ. And he most certainly can handle the absurdity, irreverence, and whimsy of a person like me.

There is more than enough room for all of our fabulous selves, literal and figurative chocolate Jesuses in hand, at Christ’s table.


Rev. Paul Clark ( he/him/his) was unwillingly dragged by the tenacious Holy Spirit from Minnesota to California, where he served in Lutheran Campus Ministry for five years. He currently lives in Bakersfield with his husband, and spends his time preaching at Episcopalian congregations, making coffee with his Chemex, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

“All That We Let In” by The Indigo Girls.

Devotional by Rev. Miriam Samuelson-Roberts

“We’re better off for all that we let in.” –Indigo Girls, All That We Let In

I grew up in Atlanta, where the Indigo Girls got their start, so their presence loomed large there. I remember one summer–the summer before I came out as bi–they headlined a free concert for Pride and my friends and I, home for the summer from college, went together.

As they sang their song “All That We Let In,” tears welled up in my eyes. “I don’t know where it all begins / and I don’t know where it all will end. / We’re better off for all that we let in.” I was better off for letting in the stories of people who lived fully into who they were, and I was better off for letting in acceptance for myself exactly as I was.

My wish this Pride month is that we might each let in the stories of others, and the knowledge of God’s unconditional love. My hope is that those of us in the LGBTQIA+ community might let in the love and affirmation of God, who created us holy and beautiful. My call for those who support the LGBTQIA+ community is to let our stories into your own, and be changed by them.


Bio: Rev. Miriam Samuelson-Roberts (she/her/hers) is Associate Pastor at Westwood Lutheran Church in St. Louis Park, MN. She identifies as bi/queer and is grateful to all the Lutheran LGBTQIA+ leaders on whose shoulders she stands. Miriam lives in Minneapolis with her husband Daniel and their daughter Esther.

“Made of Love” from Steven Universe Performed by Estelle.

Devotional by Rev. Laura Kuntz

I’ve had the lyrics “I am made of love, and I’m stronger than you” in my head lately and it’s been making me smile. They are from a song in the cartoon Steven Universe. Steven is a crystal gem who is a lot like a superhero and is learning from three other gems as they preserve and protect the Earth. The show includes non-binary and queer characters and one named Garnet that is actually a fusion of two different gems, Ruby and Sapphire. When they fused a long time ago most other gems rejected them, but they loved each other and chose to stay together. An opposing force separates them, but Garnet comes back together and sings the song “Stronger Than You.”

When I heard the song I couldn’t help but think about similarities in the relationship of the Trinity and the mystery and wisdom that comes from God loving God’s self. We are all made of love and made in God’s very image and that love is stronger than anything that tries to tell us otherwise.    

This music video shows the artist Estelle who plays [is the voice of] Garnet’s character performing the song and hundreds of young fans singing along which brings me so much joy! I didn’t grow up with LGBTQIA+ people to look up to and I’m proud to think of all the affirming role models out there now – from cartoons to church leaders – and I am humbled to be one myself.

We are all made of God’s love and stronger together!


Rev. Laura Kuntz (she/her/hers) is always eager to curl up with her dog Toby to watch some good TV after spending her time fly fishing, going on a family walk, or cultivating her bonsai garden. Her spouse Sara thinks the show Steven Universe is a little too strange, but that’s ok.

“True Trans Soul Rebel” by Against Me!’s Laura Jane Grace.

Devotional By Jon Rundquist

CW: Language, Self-harm, Weapons

“Does God Bless Your Transsexual Heart?”

This poignant question comes from Laura Jane Grace the leader of Against Me! Laura Jane’s question comes from the perspective of both a transwoman and someone who was once a teenage boy kicked out of a Florida church. She later wrote in her autobiography, “When a church turns you away, it feels as though God himself is rejecting you, saying you are damaged beyond His help.”

This song “True Trans Soul Rebel” has been on repeat in my mind all throughout my journey in seminary and afterward. Yes, this question of God loving my transsexual heart has appeared as well. Or God’s Church. More specifically, the rural congregations of the ELCA. Long before I mostly knew that I was trans, I knew that I was called to serve the rural church. As any similarly called LGBTQIA+ leader in the church, I knew that most calls for such leaders would be offered for urban-suburban congregations, due to the (generally) more frequent occurrences of affirming congregations.

I remained committed to the idea of a rural call, even (twice) committing to candidacy in a rural synod. I was going to be that “True Trans Soul Rebel”. Rogue One’s “Rebellions are built on Hope” has been plastered on my Facebook every time I sit in front of my candidacy committee. The first (and only) tattoo I have is that of a Star Wars rebellion symbol, colored as a trans flag (right). My version of True Trans Soul Rebel.

My most recent joy brought by this song is my 3-yr old singing, “Who’s gonna take you home, tonight / Who’s gonna take you home” every now and then. God’s got this. Wherever this leads, God’s gonna take us home. Coming out of the closet is nothing short of rebellion, and leading God’s church as an out LGBTQIA+ person is truly divine.


Jon Rundquist (he/her/theirs) is a non-binary trans/genderqueer rebellious preacher of the rural Northwoods, where they are a stay-at-home parent and an occasional electronics team member at Target. Jon has many loves, including his wife and two children, and an affinity for sci-fi/fantasy Star Trek/Wars/Gate. Yes, that’s six slashes. She hopes to one day serve in ordained ministry for the God and Church she loves. Rebellions are built on hope after all.