Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director
October 11 was International Coming Out Day. For some, this is a day to help make the decision to start coming out about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. For many, the day becomes an annual ritual of “coming out” again. Visibility leads to understanding, to acceptance, to celebration.
Now we’re inviting you to come out and be proud about your support for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Many people say they support LGBTQ leaders in the church. We want to celebrate you for investing in these leaders and their ministries.
We’ve launched new Friends Circles to bear witness and give thanks to the wonderful people who sustain this ministry. These circles give us a chance to say thank you, and give you a chance to celebrate your work with ELM. We encourage you to share the good news of your support for ELM. We’ll thank our friends in our 2015 Annual Report and in new ways throughout the year.
- Extraordinary Friends – those giving $10+ monthly
- Faithful Friends – those giving $300 yearly (or $25 monthly)
- Fabulous Friends – those giving $600 yearly (or $50 monthly)
- Faithful & Fabulous Friends – those giving $1,000 yearly (or $84 monthly)
- Extraordinarily Faithful & Fabulous Friends – those giving $2,500+ yearly
Matthew 6:21 states it so beautifully: ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I also like the version in The Message: “It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”
When you invest your treasure in Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries…
- You help host the Proclaim retreat for a growing number of LGBTQ rostered leaders, candidates, and seminarians (now up to 170!).
- You help create resources like the candidacy guide, the call committee guide, and the First Call candidates handbook.
- You help address new trends, like a growing number of LGBTQ seminarians (currently 48!) through projects like the Proclaim Seminarian Team and Proclaim Seminary Advocates
- You help educate churchwide and synodical staff about the gifts LGBTQ leaders bring to the church.
You tell me it feels great to support this work. One long-time wonderful supporter was excited to find out they were now “Faithful & Fabulous Friends.” She told me, “I’ve been faithful before, but I’m not sure I’ve been fabulous!” We are thankful for ALL our friends!
Amalia Vagts, Executive Director, is thankful for a faithful and fabulous spouse who took part in a serious stewardship conversation and decided that he felt “extraordinarily” good about their decision to increase their monthly support.
|Rev. Jen Nagel (photo by Rev. Jayne M. Thompson)|
Rev. Jen Nagel will be received to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America clergy roster on Sunday, September 26.
The Rite of Reception will occur during a 10:30 a.m. worship at Salem English Lutheran Church, where Pastor Jen has served since 2003. Pastor Jen was ordained at Salem English Lutheran in January of 2008. Salem English Lutheran is located at 2822 Lyndale Ave S. in Minneapolis. This will be the third ELCA Rite of Reception for extraordinarily ordained pastors.
Salem English is a transformational and urban ministry in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Pastor Jen is trained in intentional interim ministry. She holds an M.Div. from University of Chicago-Divinity School, completed work at Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and at Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota. She has served at Central Lutheran Church and Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, as well as in Africa, Chicago, Michigan, and outdoor ministry settings. Jen has served as a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and the Minneapolis Area Synod Council. She is currently serving as Co-Chair of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Covenant Circle.
Earlier this year, Minnesota Public Radio interviewed Pastor Jen about the changes in the ELCA ministry policies. You can watch the interview here.
Pastor Jen and her partner, Rev. Jane McBride, live in Minneapolis with their daughter.
One year after the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Decisions, we take a look at how the actions affected one ELM pastor…
By Rev. Craig Minich
When I was asked to preach at Trinity Lutheran Church in Oakland (one of the churches who are part of the collaborative youth ministry, called the East Bay Lutheran Youth Program), I was unprepared for what was to unfold for me in the life of the church, my ministry, and my faith. I knew that I would be preaching on the first Sunday after Easter (an opportunity, as a youth pastor, I am offered consistently each year) and that the Gospel would undoubtedly be the ‘Doubting Thomas’ text. As an out gay man ordained Extra Ordinem on February 18th, 2001 and rostered by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) I had a pretty good idea what I would be focusing on for my sermon.
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August of 2009 had passed a resolution to roster qualified gay and lesbian pastors who are in “publically-accountable, life-long, and monogamous relationships.” As a pastor who is gay and in a partnered relationship this was welcome news. As an out gay pastor, who has been doing ministry with the “yes” of ELM for 10 years while still standing in principled non-compliance against the ELCA’s policy of exclusion against GLBT pastors, their “no,” this day seemed like it would never come. In the midst of that astounding vote in August, even though I wanted to believe it, I found myself saying to myself, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” I know how slow the church can move, I know the institution can take a long time to codify it’s policies, and hence when dealing with the institution, I ‘don’t count my chickens before they hatch.’ I have been disappointed before, and I knew from experience that until the policy is officially changed, I had reason to be careful. I wanted to celebrate with straight clergy allies who came up to me effusively saying things like, “aren’t you happy!” and “great news, huh?” In those situations, I found myself only being able to smile tersely, all the while thinking to myself, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The road to policy change has long indeed. Shortly after the August Assembly in 2009, we were told that November was the date to look forward to when the Conference of Bishops would next meet. As November came and went, we were told that it would be March 2010 until a decision would be made at the next Conference of Bishops meeting. As the winter months passed, more and more colleagues congratulated me and said things like, “we did it! – the day is here.” Again, I would smile tersely and think to myself, “The day is not here yet… I’ll believe it when I see it.”
As the Bishops deliberated in March 2010 about requiring the ‘re-ordination’ of ELM pastors who had been ordained Extra Ordinem by ELM and their calling congregation(s), my “believe it when I see it” position was in full gear. “See,” I would say to myself, “see the day is not here.” And yet, as that meeting continued, word began to spread that transformation was occurring in their ranks and the offensive notion (and the theological contradiction) of re-ordination was off the table! Surprised and heartened by this unexpected change of course, I knew that this was simply a recommendation from the Conference of Bishops that would still need to be ratified by the ELCA Church Council meeting in April 2010, and I was not confident that that would happen either. My wounded heart which had been betrayed so many times by the ELCA, still echoed the phrase that Thomas uttered after Christ’s crucifixion in the presence of his Lord, “I’ll believe it when I see it”…
As those weeks spilled into April, still more people were anticipating celebration at the implementation of the change, yet I was still with Thomas “I’ll believe it when I see it.” So as I prepared my sermon the week after Easter, I knew exactly what I would preach. I would share with this congregation my experiences with the August resolution, the November postponing of decisions, the March transformation, and the April discussions at the ELCA Church Council. I would share with this – one of my five – congregations that I longed to celebrate the direction of changes in the ELCA in regard to gay and lesbian clergy who are in relationship, but that I had found myself over the last 8 months instead repeating my frustrated mantra “I’ll believe it when I see it.” As I finished preparing my sermon on Saturday morning which named that reality which I have just explained, and yet went on to proclaim my assurance of God’s love presence with me in my struggle, and by extension God’s presence with all of us in each of our struggles – God’s grace showered on us all – I read of the results of the ELCA Church Council.
They had voted to ratify the Conference of Bishops proposal and voted to implement the policy changes necessary to receive gay and lesbian clergy in relationship onto synodical rosters of the ELCA. I was stunned, I was dumb-struck… and I didn’t know what I was going to preach the following day.
I found myself throughout that day overwhelmed with emotion – this was the day and I indeed now I did believe it. I also prayed and prayed continually and found myself compelled to sing the song ‘This is the air I breathe” on endless loop in my mind. Throughout that day, into my dreams that night and into the next morning as I walked to the pulpit to read the Gospel, that is the song that did not cease. As I walked to the pulpit, I was again overtaken with emotion as I felt the weight of those GLBT pastors and seminarians who had gone before me, many of whom had been driven out of the church, and many others who were living half-lives in the Church’s closet. I found myself completely overwhelmed and humbled to have been called to serve in my ministry for the last 10 years with this and 5 other congregations who had said “yes,” in the face of the ELCA’s “no.” I found myself humbled to be called to proclaim the Gospel this day, to be asked to preach this day in the midst of such profoundly Divine irony.
I could not get the first word out, my grief and tears welled up so quickly. I sobbed my way through the Gospel reading, a reading that seemed to take ages, and I cried as I confessed at it’s conclusion, that “I was OK, no one has died.” I jettisoned my prepared sermon, and I preached from the depths of my heart, sharing what had happened the previous day (which most people had not heard about yet), sharing my surprise, and sharing that what I had intended to preach, was no longer the case. A new day had come, one that I had a hard time embracing at first, and yet here we were, we were at this day and their was no denying it. I could experience the change in the ELCA and feel their welcome in a new way, believing that this day had finally arrived, but more important than that, I shared that all along my journey to get to this day, I had seen the risen Christ like Thomas along the way, and I indeed, like Thomas, believed.
Rev. Craig Minich who serves the East Bay Lutheran Youth Program was received onto the ELCA roster of ordained ministers on Sunday, July 25.
There are so many stories from last Sunday it’s hard to know where to start. If I go chronologically, I’ll begin with the vote at St. Francis. St. Francis was voting whether or not to accept the invitation of the Sierra Pacific Synod to restore their relationship with the ELCA.
Sunday’s vote didn’t mean the congregation was rejoining the ELCA, rather it meant the process would begin. With so much news about congregations leaving the ELCA, it may have caught a few people’s eyes that this one was talking about coming back.
Why did they leave? Well, St. Francis is where it all began for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries–St. Francis and First United, both of San Francisco. These two congregations issued calls to openly gay and lesbian pastors in 1990, beginning a chain of events that led the ELCA to where it is today. It was the birth of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries movement: congregations willing to extend calls to gay and lesbian pastors that the ELCA refused to recognize, and LGBT pastors who gave up official recognition from the ELCA in order to live as openly LGBT people. The congregations were removed from the list of ELCA congregations in 1995 as a result of these actions.
Earlier this year, Bp. Mark W. Holmerud and the Sierra Pacific Synod passed a synod resolution inviting the two congregations to rejoin the ELCA. The vote on Sunday was about accepting the invitation.
After some lively debate, the question was called and with a sense of joy and anticipation in the room, the votes were cast. The result was 69-1, and it was announced to resounding applause.
In the photo below, former pastor Rev. Jim DeLange (pastor at the time of the calls) and St. Francis member Deb Cote (on the call committee for Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart and crucifer for their ordination), react to the vote with smiles and applause. And this next part of the journey begins…
“You have been revealed, I was there – I saw it – you are children of God, bearers of the message that we are all children of God. I will tell the truth about that wherever I go, and you will tell the truth about what you saw and heard.”
—Rev. Erik Christensen’s sermon on 1/20/08
“I was there. I saw it.”
These words were a sort of refrain in Rev. Erik Christensen’s sermon at Salem English Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 20, 2008, the day after they called and ordained Pastor Jen Nagel.
The gospel reading for that day (John 1:29-42) began “The next day….” But before we could really listen to what would come next, we had to ask what just happened.
We had all witnessed an extraordinary ordination, attended by hundreds of people from across the Twin Cities and around the nation. Jen Nagel was the 13th pastor since 1990 to be called and ordained by a Lutheran congregation that was standing up to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s policy against ordaining pastors in same-sex partnerships (or those in principled noncompliance to that policy). We gathered to be reminded of our baptism and to set apart for public ministry Pastor Jen Nagel. Pastor Jen was the 13th since 1990, but she was the 5th since October of 2007, showing the momentum among churches opening their pulpits to pastors of all sexual orientation and gender identity.
Even those who weren’t there are witness to the powerful work that is happening because of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.
Gifts to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries mean so much. We cannot operate with your support–ELM is funded entirely by individuals and congregations. We need your support now because this year we hope to do more than ever before.
Your gift to Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries does the following:
- Provides direct support to Mission Partners–openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Lutheran pastors serving congregations and specialized ministries.
- Helps us reach out to new congregations, seminary students, and pastors not yet on our roster
- Provides emergency response to pastors being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
- Raise awareness that God calls people of all sexual orientations and gender identities to ordained ministry in the Lutheran church.
Thank you for your support and for considering a gift!