Imagery of church-related people and places.

Is this, in fact, the holy one?.

By Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson

Over the course of this past month, ELM’s blog has featured stories of “new-ness”:new ideas and goals for the new year, new members of Proclaim, new ELM staff members to help serve our growing community.

“Newness” as a theme and concept is not just a reaction to the start of a new calendar year as of January 1st – but also the anticipated advent of change and newness for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries as an organization as a whole.  

In my first year as Executive Director of ELM, I have often reflected on Phyllis Tickle’s book The Great Emergence. In the book, Dr. Tickle talks about how the Christian church has undergone a reformation approximately every 500 years (to read a brief description of Dr. Tickle’s ideas and a personal reflection from a Presbyterian colleague, click here). I have wondered if ELM has gone through our own re-formations approximately every ten years or so: from the first extraordinary ordinations and the formation of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project in 1990 and 1993, to the merger of these ministries which formed Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and the change in ELCA policy to allow LGBTQIA+ individuals to enter candidacy and serve openly in 2007 and 2009, to now: in 2019 we’re marking 10 years since the ELCA’s policy changed, ELM has an entirely new staff, and Proclaim has grown to over 320 members.

Perhaps, this theme of newness feels resonant to all of us because we are in a time of re-formation.

It wouldn’t be surprising, then, if in this period of change and newness we might find ourselves experiencing some disorientation and asking ourselves “is this the new place where we are called to be?” Or, like the Magi who visited the holy family in the stable–which we currently celebrate in this liturgical season of Epiphany–ask ourselves “Is this, in fact, the holy one?”

What has remained true for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries throughout the years and re-formations is our insistence on and deep belief and trust that the lives, bodies, and calls of gender and sexual minority leaders are indeed holy and beloved.

It is with great intentionality of living into that sentiment and with a deep reverence for what has come before us that our current ELM staff and board endeavor to explore, listen, and consider journeying down new paths in our programming and ministries.

We are living into our gospel mandate to look to the margins even within the LGBTQIA+ community to center the experiences of the most marginalized: those with identities that are still “taboo” in our culture and society, and those who carry in their bodies and lives a variety of identities beyond gender and sexual orientation that complicates and complexifies their oppression and which calls on us as an organization to think, act, and exist differently.

As we embark on this journey, we hope to continue to share with you all what we learn and what we’re hearing through this blog. Many of you have supported ELM for many years and through our previous re-formations–we are excited to share this new journey with you and with those of you who have more recently joined our community.

Our staff welcome your thoughts and reflections on what you hear and experience with us on this journey. And, we thank you for your continued support and encouragement!

Bio: Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) is currently in Texas avoiding the polar vortex. Upon her return to her home in Maine on Sunday, she looks forward to celebrating a Patriot victory and knows she will get hate mail for saying “Go Patriots!”

Remembering Extraordinary Saint Gordon Straw.

By Rev. Emily E. Ewing

 It’s hard to put into words the thoughts and feelings swirling inside me when I think of Rev. Gordon Straw.  He was a colleague, but more than that. A mentor and elder, but more than that. A teacher, a companion in the struggle, but more than any of those.

There was something about the way that Gordon lived and worked in the world—a spark of the Divine—that carried a deep compassion and thoughtfulness.  It was as if he slowed time down enough that decisions and statements weren’t made in haste, but instead carefully considered, taking into account the whole of Creation.  Rev. Mike Wilker, who was co-chair of the ELM Board during much of Gordon’s tenure on the Board, put it this way, “Gordon combined deep compassion for each person with a fierce passion for justice for all. As a board member he focused ELM on creative ministry in which every baptized person was liberated and called to share their gifts. He also led ELM to deeper understandings of the history of American Indian and Alaska Native ministries in the Lutheran churches of North America.”   

Gordon, as a member of theBrothertown Indian Nation, led one of our Board anti-oppression trainings focusing on Native history and theologies.  I wrote about some of what I learned on the blog after the training, though the wisdom he shared during the training continues to inform how I live my faith.  As an organization ELM now includes land acknowledgments at our in-person board meetings and as part of our opening worship at Proclaim Gatherings, reminding and grounding us in the lives and histories of the land we gather on and its peoples.  Gordon also wrote a guest blog on supporting Standing Rock in response to the Dakota Access Pipe Line.

It was in large part because of his leadership that so many of us in Proclaim introduced and advocated for the ELCA’s 2016 repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery at local synod assemblies as well as at the Churchwide Assembly itself, an important step for our denomination, though as another former ELM board member, Vance Blackfox noted, “more needs to be done to fulfill our promises.”

I’ve felt a deep resonance as I have been reflecting so intentionally on Gordon’s life these past two Sundays.  First, reflecting on the magi at Epiphany, I couldn’t help but think of the ways that Gordon continues to be a wise one in my life.  Then, as I prepared my sermon for the Baptism of Jesus this past Sunday, I was vividly reminded of Gordon’s emphasis on the many ways that God calls the whole body of Christ—all the baptized—into a life of ministry.

ELM joins the whole church in grieving for the loss of Rev. Gordon Straw’s leadership while giving thanks for his companionship in life and ministry.  We pray for comfort, especially for Evelyn and Amanda, and trust that Gordon now rests with the ancestors, even as he remains connected to all of us and all of Creation, all our relations. 

Rev. Emily E. Ewing (they/them/their) is a member of Proclaim and the ELM Board.  Emily grew up on land originally inhabited by the Ute, in the mountains they knew as the Shining Mountains, and currently lives and does ministry on land originally inhabited by the Ioway, Sauk, and Meskwaki peoples.  They’re grateful for the witnesses, wisdom, and patience of many of their elders, like Gordon, in journeying with them on the path of ministry.

Each and Every Line.

By Hannah Dorn

In my short time working in the nonprofit world, I’ve come to realize the importance of all the background work that needs to be done for an organization to function at its highest level. Data must be tracked, gears must be greased, lists must be created.

In college, I worked for a small nonprofit where one of my main duties was to seek out places willing to post event posters for us. I was charged with the managing of these places for future use. With each new place found, a new line on my growing list.

Later on, I worked for the Journalism Institute at my university. I tracked technology; meaning I ran around the building to locate and label each and every piece of tech the Institute owned. Each item becoming one more line on a seemingly endless list.

Now, at ELM, I have a new list; a list I hope will never end. My new list is you; the Proclaimers, the supporters, and the volunteers.  

Since I began in May, I have added 33 new faces to the growing list of Proclaim members, added nearly 500 new donors (thank you Facebook Fundraisers!), and logged countless new gifts. With each new person, a new account is created and a line is added.

While you could definitely say technology is complicated, nothing quite compares to the complexity any single human holds. These new lines hold more than any of my other lists before. These lines each represent a new face and a new story added to ELM’s mission. These lines represent one more reason for us to exist and to do the work that we do.

I get to see, firsthand, the growth that is happening within Proclaim and ELM as a whole. Each new name that comes across my screen fills me with joy as I know you are one more person touched by our work.

It is my honor to keep track of each and every one of you.  

There are so many creatures on this earth, and somehow God keeps track of each and every one of us. I’m glad that I only have to keep track of a fraction of that!

Hannah Dorn (she/her/hers) is ELM’s Program and Administrative Assistant. She is a self-proclaimed master of our donor database and delights in compiling useful information. She is an avid rock climber and cat mom of Pablo and Lana del Kitty.

Associate Director of Generosity and Good News.

By Vicar Lewis Eggleston

Who in their right mind would want to ask people for money for a living? 

My name is Lewis Eggleston (he/him/his), and I’ve asked myself that question many times now. Now is probably a good time to mention that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries recently hired me as the Associate Director of Development and Communications. Surprise! But do not worry, I have a plan. 

My struggle is that the word Development is a loaded word, and it usually makes eyebrows furl upward like perhaps I might have some agenda in our conversation. Development people get a terrible rap. Yet, every good and thriving nonprofit is thrilled to have us! Let’s unpack that.   I graduated seminary in 2015 with an MDiv from the Pacific School of Religion in

Berkeley, CA and I am currently on Internship through PLTS at Spirit of Joy in Seguin, Texas. Yes, there are gays in Texas and on Sundays I wear my boots and collar. 

I learned in seminary one can pick apart words at great length, which for some, can get tedious. I did this at some point in my career with every word that is in my new job title. Here are my findings. 

A few years ago I attended a faith-based development seminar where the whole room picked apart the word “Development.” My worlds of the intentionality of words, faith & praxis had collided, and it was glorious. While others in the room may have audibly groaned, I became fidgety with excitement.

Someone who shared my frustration with the term, said this, “I’ve quit calling myself the Director of Development, and now I call myself the Director of Generosity.” 

Her words set off a significant paradigm shift for me as it better articulated my inner belief system causing the Marketing side of my brain to explode too. Director of Generosity! The trait of being generous is a virtue to all of us, and I get to be a facilitator of people’s generosity towards a cause that can, and is, changing the world for the better. What a privilege! 

I love connecting people and to connect people to a purpose or mission gives me great joy. 

So for those still wondering, “What about Communications”?  Go with me here, if you think about Communications from a pulpit perspective, to me, Communications in ministry is nothing more than an extension of the Great Commission. Go and PROCLAIM the Good News! The ELM community has been doing this for years by overcoming tremendous struggles, at first with what seemed like zero power but with continued determination, Proclaimers continue to make an impact on the world. 

It will be my honor to share the Good News of every proclaimer out there who brings the Gospel to the world in bold new ways. What a joy! 

Associate Director of Generosity and Good News. Regardless of how you look at it, or whatever words work for you, I look forward to this journey with y’all as we continue together to transform the church and the world. Blessings my friends! 

Vicar Lewis Eggleston (he/him/his) is an Air Force spouse currently living in San Antonio, TX with his husband Mitchell and dog-child Carla. He’s been an advocate for children’s access to the arts through museum and symphony educational programming and has worked with homeless individuals and families for the past ten years. In his free time, he loves to attend musicals whilst fighting every urge to sing-along. 

New Year: Turning Resolutions Into Solutions.

By ELM Program Director Olivia LaFlamme

Resolution; a firm decision to do, or not to do, something.

The first thing we ask people when the new year arrives is “what are your new year resolutions?”

We expect lists of long promised changes and sacrificing of indulgences or vices.  We all seem to know that the newness of the year cycle starting over again means that change is in the air in a way that we can harness to make our lives better. We feel emboldened to be, do or say that thing that we haven’t had the capacity for in the years past.

A resolution is a firm decision; it is a stake in the ground and a line in the sand. But how many of us know that what starts off all hopeful and confident on January 1st, so quickly slips through our fingers and is forgotten; tucked away until next year. We all do that, right? And here’s the thing, that loss of steam around that list of firm decisions to do, or not to do, something makes perfect sense because it is missing something crucial. That list of declarations can never be fulfilled without a plan. What if, instead of just resolutions this year, we approach the newness, this heightened possibility of making positive change, with solutions on top.

Solution; a means of solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation.

Every day we are all coming up with solutions to the most mundane problems. 

Problem: I’m hungry.

Solution: Eat. 

That’s one way to put it, but it’s a little oversimplified. In order to eat, you had to find out what you had available (at your desk, in your kitchen, in your bag, etc.), then you had to choose something, then you may even have had to prepare the food (you know how many steps that could involve!) before you could actually just “eat”. The solution isn’t “eat”, it’s actually all those steps that lead up to you performing the act of eating. We do this constantly; following a series of actions that we know will lead  to our desired result. Somewhere in our minds we just know that is how things work. In order for something to happen, there we will be a bunch of other things that happen to make that a reality; let’s call that a plan.

Here’s the thing, “resolution” and “solution” have the same root word; “solve”. Both are seeking to find the answer to a question. What separates the two is simply the modus operandi. Resolutions are statements of intention (“I won’t”/“I will”). Solutions are the means, the way that you will make something happen; a plan. Setting an intention to leave something in 2018 and take something else into 2019 is purposeful and is productive. But let’s take it one step further and ensure our success just a little bit more this time. Let’s add a plan of action. How are you going to do it? Who do you need to talk to that can hold you accountable? What would it look like if you were able to do this thing? What do you need today to make that possible tomorrow?

Every new year promises change. Let’s encourage each other to get in on that opportunity to heal, grow, and expand our horizons in 2019 with intentions and plans. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Olivia LaFlamme (they/them/theirs) is the Program Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Olivia  is a Black queer feminist. They have an M.A. in Women and Gender Studies with an emphasis on queer theory and a B.A. in Comparative Women’s Studies with a concentration in Social Justice. Olivia is a budding filmmaker (focused in documentary) and their thesis project, entitled “Spirits Speak,” is an experimental documentary exploring queer temporality as it is demonstrated through ancestral/lineage projects (spiritual, archival and artistic). They have a background in organizing, administration in the university, and teaching. Raised in the Assemblies of God Christian church, they have since cobbled together several religious traditions that inform their own spiritual identity. Olivia views faith in the Supernatural as crucial to their ability to move through this world that would seek to destroy their gender non-conforming, Black and queer body. They have an amazing and supportive partner, three younger siblings, and loving parents.

2018 Year-End Reflection.

From ELM Executive Director Amanda Gerken-Nelson

I’ve often joked with Proclaim members and ELM supporters that if Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries were a church, we’d be on the cover of Living Lutheran for our outstanding growth and ministries!

For instance…

On September 20th of this year, Proclaim welcomed its 300th member! Now, with 319 members, Proclaim – ELM’s professional community of
publicly out gender and sexual minority seminarians and rostered ministers – has more than quadrupled in size since it’s inception almost nine years ago.

As Proclaim has grown, ELM has had to respond to the ever growing and changing needs of our community. And so, our staff, Board of Directors, and the leadership teams for all three of ELM’s ministries – Proclaim, Accompaniment, and Ministry Engagement – have worked to grow and diversify what we do and how we do it to more wholly support these vibrant leaders of our church.

For instance…

This fall, ELM’s new program director, Olivia LaFlamme, organized a Facebook group for Proclaim members who identify with a racial identity other than white. Olivia noted regarding the formation of this group: “I hope to use this space to cultivate community and support for those in Proclaim who face racial as well as gender/sexual oppression.”

To meet the growing needs of our community, ELM expanded our staff this year by adding a three-quarter time Associate Director of Development and Communications. By adding this new position and reconfiguring responsibilities between the staff, we have been able to provide more administrative support to our growing Proclaim community and have been able to give more time and attention to growing our volunteer and support base to help sustain the ministries that help our Proclaim members serve their congregations with vitality and enthusiasm.

New Proclaim members bring with them a multitude of identities and ELM’s staff and Board of Directors have engaged in education and anti-oppression training around gender and sexual identities that are either new to us or have challenged us – yes, even we need to be educated on gender and sexual identities!

For instance…

The ELM Board learned more about intersex and asexual identities at our spring in-person meeting when we decided to add the letters “I” and “A” to the “LGBTQIA+” acronym whenever it is used in ELM publications.

The ELM Board and the Proclaim community have had opportunities to learn more about polyamory through education sessions held at both the spring in-person Board meeting and this summer’s Proclaim Gathering. Polyamorous families and individuals are looking to organizations like ELM for support and community as they navigate the candidacy process and the church’s restrictive teachings on human sexuality.

Like any congregation or community that is growing at such a significant pace, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is learning how to embrace difference, how to listen to each other in our disagreements, and how to navigate the challenging relationships between identity(ies) and faithfulness.

While we by no means consider ourselves experts or exemplars of church growth, we do believe that the queerness of our identities – as individuals and as an organization – has provided us with many tools for engaging and navigating this time of growth and change and maintaining our integrity and purpose.

In the midst of the grief and consternation which can accompany change – there is also great beauty and joy! Joy in knowing that Proclaim’s growth means that there are an increasing number of LGBTQIA+ individuals who not only feel called to ministry in the church – they are actively serving our church and bringing the good news to thousands of individuals across our nation every week. And that is a beautiful image of the kin-dom of God!

Thank you for the support, feedback, and engagement you’ve provided us at ELM this year! We look forward to what 2019 will bring and we are grateful to have you join us in the journey!

I wish you a very merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!

Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson, Executive Director

Amanda Gerken-Nelson (she/her/hers) is the Executive Director of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Her favorite thing about this role is getting to know the people and congregations who love and support LGBTQIA+ pastors, deacons, and seminarians across our country – and there are a lot of you! Amanda travels extensively for ELM and would love to visit you and your community . Please consider inviting her to preach at your church sometime!

My Own Personal Advent.

By Meagan McLaughlin
This is the 4th liturgical Advent of my own personal Advent, otherwise known as Awaiting First Call. This year, I am spending Advent and Christmas as a Synodically Authorized Minister in a congregation—Halleluia!—while I am in the midst of what my Admin has called my “6-month job interview.” (Fun!!)As much as I have learned about being present and doing what is in front of me to do, none of that compares to what I have already learned in the few weeks I have been at Bethel!
A play in three scenes…
Scene 1: Grandmother of a baby about to be baptized, described as “handle-with-kid-gloves-altar-guild-president,” whose daughter is adamant that her child be baptized by a beloved former pastor of my congregation on a Saturday, approaches me after worship. We talk for a few minutes about the baptism and her daughter and grandchild, and she says, “Oh this was so good!” and asks for a hug.
Scene 2: Council member who initially offered to let me stay in her extra bed and bath (paid for by Bethel) approaches me and says, “I wanted to let you know I am not comfortable with you staying with me.”
Scene 3: At a table with several congregants in the Fellowship Hall, one asks how the commute is going, and says, “I have an extra bedroom in my apartment, you can stay with me anytime!”
As I drove home, I reflected on how easy it would have been during that Sunday after worship to have climbed onto my mental boogie board and struggled to ride the waves. I thought about how seasick I would have been, even if I had managed to succeed! But somehow, by the grace of God, I instead found myself in those few moments able to stay grounded and watch the waves swirl around me. I actually felt a sense of calm and peace in the midst of the storm.
One significant lesson I am learning right now isequanimity—steady presence and calmness, especially when encountering challenging situations. More than anything else I can do for them, my anxious, excited, hopeful, fearful congregation needs me to practice this, especially when they are attempting to ride and conquer waves of congregants coming and going, community members questioning the efficacy of the town’s first LGBTQ pastor, and the uncertainty of finding themselves in an unplanned extended time of pastoral transition.
Advent is a season of waiting, and also preparing. Reflection, and also action. With the waves swirling around me, and so many unknowns and wonderings about my call and living into who I am as a pastor, I am committing myself to waiting in hope for whatever is to come. Meanwhile, showing up each day to joyfully be my people’s pastor for this season. Really, that’s all I can do anyway. Thank our loving God for the Advent season that calls us to remember their loving promise!

After nine years of working at The Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, Proclaim member Meagan McLaughlin (she/her/hers) studied at Luther Seminary and United Theological Seminary and graduated with her M.Div in December of 2015. She is currently serving as a Synodically Authorized Minister (SAM) at Bethel Lutheran Church in Little Falls MN while eagerly seeking first call. Meagan, her wife, Karen, and their three cats live in Minneapolis, and when they are not working, they enjoy hiking, camping, traveling, and spending time with their two nephews and niece.


Proclaim300: Abundance and Joy!.

I am excited to share with you the good gifts that were given during our #Proclaim300 Campaign and Celebration! ELM has been blessedly overwhelmed at the abundant support it received as a result of this campaign.
Working with all of you, we were able to raise friends, raise funds, and raise up in celebration the growth we are experiencing in our Proclaim community and the growing impact LGBTQIA+ leaders are having on our congregations and communities. I give God thanks for such an incredible community and thank you for your participation and action. Here is just a brief snapshot of all of the good work we were able to accomplish together.
From the kick-off of the #Proclaim300 campaign at the annual Proclaim Gathering in August of this year to the final day of the campaign on Reformation Day (October 31st), ELM had over 200 new “likes” on ourFacebook page and celebrated the launch of our new Instagram accountwhich highlights LGBTQIA+ leaders in the church and helps spread the word of our extraordinary ministries.
In SeptemberELM hosted a #Proclaim300 Week on social media. During this week, we asked friends and allies to weigh in about the gifts they see in queer church leaders and asked Proclaim members to reflect on the challenges they experience in the church, the gratitude they hold for those who accompany them, and their dreams for the future. To see some of the posts, go to Facebook and Twitter and search the hashtag #Proclaim300.
On September 20, 2018, ELM announced its 300th Proclaim Member,Sergio Rodriguez and since then has welcomed members 301-319!
In October, ELM marked National Coming Out Day (NCOD) by sharing the stories of 19 LGBTQIA+ ministers and candidates in a special “Story Share.” Throughout the day, ELM staff and Proclaim members were filmed live, sharing their experiences, concerns, joys, and wishes for a better future.
And, over 300 individuals and families gave over $25,000 to celebrate #Proclaim300! Abundance certainly abounds!
Now, as we anticipate the birth of embodied love and grace, we cannot express enough our joy and appreciation for all of the ways you helped make this campaign a success. As a member of the ELM Development Team and co-creator of this campaign, please accept my deepest thanks for your enthusiastic support!
Peace to you,
Rev. Ben Hogue

Ben Hogue (he/him/his) is #blessed to serve as Associate Pastor at Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Thanks in part to the work of leaders across the church and in the region, Pastor Ben is the first openly LGBTQIA+ clergy person to be called by a congregation in the Metropolitan D.C. Synod. This time of year, Ben enjoys eggnog lattes, Christmas cookies, and making sure people are aware that yes, in fact, Mary did know.

What is “Young, Gifted, and Black in the ELCA”?.

By Rev. Lenny Duncan
It is a clarion call to the whitest denomination in America. A warning shot across the port bow of the inherent white supremacy of this church. More practically, it’s the follow-up to the first film I co-directed with Jason Chesnut and Ankos films called “Do Black Churches Matter in the ELCA?” That first film, which is available on YouTube, dealt with the historical and systemic conditions that Black Lutheran churches have been under since our very first Black Lutheran church (St. Paul’s, in Philadelphia PA). In “Young, Gifted, and Black in the ELCA” we wanted to draw a comparison of #blackjoy #blackqueerjoy and #blackclergyjoy against those same realities.
There are two Proclaimers featured in the film, myself and Kelsey Brown (she/her/hers). If you have never noticed that I’m a part of the Proclaim community, there are two reasons for that. A: I have only recently joined and B: it’s an overwhelmingly white space. White spaces center whiteness and will do that overtly or inadvertently and it doesn’t matter about the intent or the hearts of the people in the community. Unless there is a specific intentional effort to dismantle whiteness in a white space it is dangerous for people of color (PoC). That’s the cunning thing about white supremacy, it doesn’t need you to be actively racist to operate or function; it actually prefers if you aren’t because then it is less likely to be exorcised.
This film is an attempt to center stories in the ELCA of young black leaders. I thought it was important to have a 2-1 ratio of Black women to Black men. Did you know that a woman of color waits, on average, over half a decade for a call in this church? I thought it was important to embody their stories, their sincere love for this church, and the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. Honestly, that is impossible to do with just three stories, but our hope is that we are pointing towards a larger and often silenced narrative within the ELCA and mainline progressive churches in general. So we offer this small glimpse into three lives of those who, despite all that has happened and all that’s been thrown at them (us), are still here.
We are still here and willing to spill our lives out for the community we love.

Lenny Duncan (he/him/his) is a follower of Jesus Christ and is in a passionate love affair with Grace. March 2018 he was issued a call to serve the people of Jehu’s Table from the Metro New York Synod of the Evangelical Church in America as a mission developer (church planter.)  He is also a frequent voice on the intersection of the Church and the cries of the oppressed. He pays special attention to Black Liberation movements in his work, but lifts up the frequent intersection with other marginalized peoples.  He believes that the reason the ELCA has remained so white is a theological problem, not a sociological one. He  holds a Master of Divinity from United Lutheran Seminary. 

God’s Infinite Love: A Reflection on Being Poly from a Proclaim Member.

For the past year, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries’ Board of Directors and Proclaim Community have been engaging in conversation around the topic of polyamory. For many in our midst, polyamory is a blessing and is something through which they have received great spiritual and personal fulfillment. There are also many in our midst for whom the topic of polyamory is quite different from their experience and understanding of healthy relationships. We recognize this tension within our community and encourage more conversation and understanding.

What follows is a reflection written by a polyamorous Proclaim member. It is not ELM’s intention to make a public statement about polyamory with this blog post so much as to continue the conversation and to share a personal reflection.

Content Warning: strong language and sexual imagery

“My boyfriend’s boyfriend is a pussy stunt artist.” There’s a lot to unpack there, but I’ll start with myself. I’m a seminarian who identifies as queer and uses various pronouns. I appear male/masculine and identify as AMAB (assigned male at birth). My boyfriend identifies as a FTM trans man. We’re in a polyamourous relationship. Aside from being highly involved in the queer/trans community where we live, he’s also a CODA (Child Of a Deaf Adult) and makes his living as a sign language interpreter. He had been dating his boyfriend for multiple months before I joined the mix. My boyfriend’s boyfriend is a performer who uses their pussy to do stunts on stage for money. They identify as genderqueer and use they/them/their pronouns.

Had someone told me that I would be in love with a trans man, on the verge of going on internship, I would have laughed in their face. As I started seminary, I didn’t hold much hope in finding someone to fulfill my romantic needs. Dating a graduate student is hard, let alone one who is studying to become a pastor. Plus, to love me is asking a lot. I have baggage, an uncertain future, and I’m essentially taking a vow of poverty. These kinds of things aren’t the most marketable prospects in the dating scene. But with my boyfriend, it works.


Monogamy puts a lot of pressure on me. I start to panic once I realize that I might not meet the needs of my potential romantic partner but I’ve never had to worry about that with my boyfriend. I know that he’s capable of meeting his needs with other people, and that he’s not just settling for me. I don’t have the anxiety that I’m not willing and able to do everything that he wants in the bedroom (or living room, or hallway, or backyard, or streets of a major city). For the first time, I’ve been able to grow with my partner into something together. I think what clinched our relationship for us, is that we can just be ourselves around each other. We went from talking about important social justice issues around intersectional identities to a complete and utter giggle fit half an hour later. My boyfriend connects my heart, head, spirit and body in a way no one else has every come close to. This is a freedom I’ve never known before entering into this kind of relationship.

My pastoral care classes didn’t teach me how to navigate the dynamics when my boyfriend and his boyfriend broke up. How do I support my boyfriend in this difficult time without triangulating with his other boyfriend? How do I support his boyfriend through this as well? And what does the break up do to mine and his boyfriend’s relationship? We were never romantically involved yet I still care for them and want the best in their life. What do I do with my feelings of happiness that I can spend more time with my boyfriend now? Where do I put my joy now that we’re connected closer than ever?

Documents within the denomination place primacy on heterosexual monogamous marriages. As a seminarian, I never fully understood why the church and my candidacy committee had stake in what I did in my bedroom (or kitchen, or car, or darkened alley). Saying that monogamous relationships are the only relationships that foster trust and deep spiritual connection is patently false. My monogamous relationships have been my least trusting relationships. But there comes a time in my life that I need to be authentically myself and willingly break with doctrine and tradition.

Finally going all-in and joining a polyamorous relationship made me understand myself in a new way. It is like an affirmation of baptism for me. Baptisms have a revelatory function– wherein the newly baptized are joined into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. The ritual signifies a new dedication, a breaking of old ways and an invitation into a larger group. Not only do the newly baptized pledge to renounce sin, but the assembly gathered invest themselves in the formation, growth, and wellbeing of their new family member. Why can’t relationships be like this? Why can’t joining a romantic relationship be a holy act that connects us to the divinely infinite? Jesus is a bit of a slut; he loves everyone (we can’t even put a number on the people that he’s been inside). I would never expect him to turn his back on others just for my sake. Plainly put, Jesus loves infinitely, so why shouldn’t I?

Extraordinary Callings: Holy & Queer Resistance in the Lutheran Church

2019 marks 10 years since the doors were opened to LGBTQIA+ leaders in the ELCA! In recognition of this milestone, the Bade Museum located at the Pacific School of Religion will be displaying the historical archives and artwork of ELM and its Proclaim members. To learn more about this exhibit and to contribute to ELM in honor of this landmark decision, please click here!