Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy Holidays from ELM!

Wishing you a joyful and blessed Christmas Day!

Organization logo

"All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." (John 1:3-5)

May your light shine brightly this Christmas Day and in the New Year!

With gratitude and joy for all you do for the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Lutheran life and ministry,

The Covenant Circle, Roster and Staff of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lutheran Congregation breaks new ground with call to transgender pastor

Saturday, Dec 6, 2008, San Francisco – First United Lutheran Church, a congregation with a vibrant past is once again in the news after ordaining a transgender pastor. On Saturday, First United Lutheran Church celebrated the ordination of Pastor Jay Wilson, a transgender pastor who is the assistant director at the Welcome Ministry in San Francisco.

Wilson was removed from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) candidacy process due to his status as a transgender person even though there is no official policy against transgender clergy.

The ELCA bans gay pastors serving in the denomination unless they commit to a vow of celibacy. First United Lutheran became an independent Lutheran church in the 1990’s when the congregation ordained Jeff Johnson, an openly gay Lutheran pastor. The congregation prides itself on being a frontier church founded in 1886 that is still on the frontier of welcoming ministries.

Jay Wilson said, "Ordination means that I will be called by a congregation to serve as a pastor to the Welcome Ministry community. My interfaith pastoral care, teaching, and empowerment with the ministry guests will include the joy of Holy Communion, forgiveness, baptisms, and serving the church communities in new ways."

Wilson is endorsed by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM), a Lutheran credentialing body that is open to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. This is ELM’s seventeenth ordination of openly gay or transgender persons since 1990.

Wilson said, "Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is being the church where church is needed today, creating justice and accountability rather than waiting for it."

ELM’s seventeen ordinations are part of the changes shaping the ELCA. The denomination voted in 2007 for a "refrain and restrain" policy for bishops in the denomination when considering disciplining gay clergy in relationships. A recent draft sexuality statement to be considered at the 2009 meeting of the ELCA is ambiguous about the official direction for policies on gender identity.

"Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries recognizes Jay’s gifts for ministry," said Lois Voss, co-chair of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. "While we believe the Lutheran church will change its unfair policies and someday recognize the diverse talents of people called to ministry, until then, we will model faithfulness to the Gospel and a just way to serve the world and each other."

"We called and ordained Jay to the Welcome Ministry both in our congregation and on the streets as pastor to people living in our neighborhood who experience poverty and oppression," said Rev. Susan Strouse, pastor at First United Lutheran Church. "As Assistant Director at the Welcome Ministry in San Francisco, Pastor Jay will be part of providing a faithful response to homeless people by providing hospitality and food, as well as referrals for housing, health care and drug and alcohol treatment."

Wilson’s degrees include a Masters in Social Work from the College of St. Catherine/St. Thomas University and a Masters in Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. Previously employed at the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living in St. Paul, MN, as a disability rights advocate, Wilson also worked with religious communities and diverse organizations on cross-movement anti-oppression, sexuality and gender identity, the self-advocacy movement and community access.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We are on the move!
New ELM office address as of January 1st, 2009:

2649 N. Francisco Ave
Chicago, IL

Stop by and visit us in Chicago!
The Operations Coordinator, Rachael Johnson is in the office Tuesdays and Wednesdays!
Email her to arrange a visit at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Article on the Suspension of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Ontario, Canada.

Congregation punished for gay pastor
November 18, 2008
Mirko Petricevic, Record staff

A Lutheran congregation in Newmarket has been suspended for employing a married gay man as a pastor.

In a letter and telephone call on Saturday, Rev. Michael Pryse, bishop of the Kitchener-based Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, informed Holy Cross Lutheran Church it had been suspended by the Synod Council.

The suspension prevents the congregation from sending voting delegates to national and synod conventions. It also bars clergy and lay people from serving on church governing bodies.

In May, more 300 people attended the ordination of Lionel Ketola at Holy Cross. Ketola is openly gay and legally married to another man.

His ordination is not recognized by the national church. The denomination will ordain gay people, but they must remain celibate. The national church doesn’t perform marriages for homosexual couples.

Holy Cross employs Ketola as an associate pastor and “ambassador of reconciliation.” He advocates for more inclusive regulations in the church. He spoke at St. Mark’s Lutheran in Kitchener this month.

The ruling upset Ketola.

“I mourn the reality that our church is disciplining congregations which have the courage to minister in a relevant way,” he said in a brief telephone interview yesterday.

“I’m very proud of Holy Cross. One of the difficult things for me, one of the painful things, is to see a church paying the price for this.”

Rev. Dawn Hutchings, pastor of Holy Cross’s 220-member congregation, said her church is allowed one voting delegate to national conventions.

“You have to weigh that against the value of Pastor Lionel’s ministry,” she said.

The congregation is suspended from voting at conventions and serving on governing bodies and committees, but it hasn’t been expelled from the denomination, Hutchings noted.

Hutchings was encouraged Pryse’s letter indicated the Synod Council will work toward changing the policies that prevent everyone from “full participation” in church life. She said her congregation is deciding whether to appeal the suspension.

ELM Response to the suspension of Holy Cross Lutheran Church

An Open Letter to the Members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Pastor Dawn Hutchins, Pastor Lionel Ketola and the Church from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” John 12:32. Grace and peace to you, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We write to express our solidarity with you at this time.

We are profoundly grateful for your witness and moved to remind you at this time of what you already know: that the authority by which Pastor Lionel was ordained came from you – the gathered people of God at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. We remind you that Pastor Lionel has been examined by and is credentialed through Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a community of mutual support and accountability. And we remind you that the ministry to which Pastor Lionel has been called is one of reconciliation. The pain of this day is a mark of the cross you have all been called to bear. God be praised for your ministry.

You have learned that Bishop Michael has chosen to suspend you. A suspension is the space between one place and another. In this sense, it is not Holy Cross that is suspended; rather it the Synod Council of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada which is suspended between the church as it is and the church as it should be. Holy Cross Lutheran Church has stepped out of suspension and into the ministry of reconciliation to which God has called you.
In the coming days you may feel more than ever the weight of the name you carry as a congregation. This Holy Cross you bear may feel particularly heavy today. But the good news of the gospel is that you do not have to bear this cross alone. The members of the community of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and many others are beside you, and we lift this cross with you as we walk along this road together. You have been suspended, but you have not been made invisible. The Holy Cross you carry will draw people from all walks of life and show others your ministry of reconciliation and your love of the gospel.

Bishop Michael and the members of the Synod Council indicate that they want their policies of exclusion to change. We celebrate the good news in this. The severity of their response reflects the reality of the current policy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. This is a policy that the church still has to live with. We join with Bishop Michael and the Eastern Synod Council members in their “expressed desire to responsibly work toward changing policies that preclude the full participation of all God’s people in our ecclesial life.”Pastors Lionel and Dawn and Members of Holy Cross Lutheran, we hold you in our thoughts and prayers. We walk with you on this road to reconciliation. We offer the shared experiences of those who have gone before you in facing discipline from the church as a result of their decision to follow Jesus’ call to stand with those the world passes by. We honor and applaud your commitment to being the church now as we continue to grow more fully into the reign of God.

In Christ,
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

Suspension of Holy Cross Lutheran Church:

Holy Cross Lutheran Church, a Reconciling in Christ congregation in Newmarket, Ontario has been suspended by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. This suspension is in response to Holy Cross' decision to call and ordain Rev. Lionel Ketola. Pastor Lionel is a member of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries Roster. Holy Cross Lutheran Church is also a 2008 Mission Partner grant recipient. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has given $18,000 to Holy Cross this year to support Pastor Lionel's call as an Ambassador of Reconciliation and has committed $20,250 to his ministry in 2009. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries partners in this ministry with Lutherans Concerned/North America.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

About Jodi Barry, no make that PASTOR Jodi Barry!

The Rev. Jodi Barry was ordained on Saturday, October 25, 2008. Jodi was called by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries to ordained ministry as a hospital chaplain. The ordination was hosted by Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church,where Jodi serves as part-time youth director in addition to her call as a hospital chaplain.

Jodi was the 16th person to be extraordinarily ordained, since the first ordinations of Pastors Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart and Jeff Johnson in 1990. Pastor Jodi is the 8th person to be extraordinarily ordained in the last two years. We called these ordinations "extraordinary" because they happen outside the "ordinary" process of the Lutheran church. Jodi identifies as lesbian and is in a committed partnership. The Evangelical Lutheran Church currently prohibits gay pastors from serving unless they abide by church policy requiring celibacy for gay pastors. The tradition of these ordinations stems from the early Reformation writings in the Book of Concord: "When the regular bishops become enemies of the Gospel or are unwilling to ordain, the churches retain their right to do so..."

You can read about the event in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune by clicking here.

The ordination was beautiful and moving, with over 200 people in attendance and several dozen clergy involved in the service. Pastors Mary Halvorson and Dan Garnaas from Grace and Pastor Anita Hill from St.Paul-Reformation Church (in St. Paul, MN) led the service.

The next day, I attended church at Grace. Many members of the congregation greeted me and thanked me for the work Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries has done to make Jodi's ordination possible. Pastor Mary Halvorson's sermon was about being "true," in the sense of "faithful." She referenced Saturday's reforming act of ordination in her message and the first prayer of the day was for Pastor Jodi and her ministry. At the end of the service, members got up to make various announcements. Jodi stood to thank people for Saturday. She introduced herself as "Jodi Barry." Several people called out, "no, PASTOR Jodi Barry!" and then there was rolling and sustained applause. Jodi talked about what the day meant to her. Another member, referencing the sermon, called out, "It was true!" And it was.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pastor Jen Rude Honored

In 2000, Windy City Times established an award to acknowledge the young movers and shakers of the LGBT community: the 30 Under 30 Awards. Thirty young activists, journalists, students, HIV/AIDS volunteers and performers who were each under the age of 30 were honored for their achievements in moving the LGBT community forward. Each year since, another 30 get their day in the sun.

Awards were presented at the Center on Halsted Tuesday, June 24, 2008. Please follow the links to read about this year's honorees.


Jen Rude is a 28-year-old Pisces. She knows all the 50 states in alphabetical order and has lived in six of them, having moved to Chicago three years ago. Although as a child she aspired to be the first woman president of the United States, she currently serves as associate pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Lakeview and on the Youth Outreach Team at The Night Ministry ( working with young people who are experiencing homelessness and queer youth ) . Rude was the 12th “extraordinarily” ordained queer Lutheran pastor in November 2007. She graduated from Augustana College in South Dakota, and then thought she would try a more progressive and queer-friendly area of the country. In Berkeley, Cal., she earned her Master's from Pacific School of Religion and learned why the city is affectionately nicknamed “Bezerkeley.” Her favorite things about Chicago include the lake, summer festivals, public transit and Midwestern friendliness.

DID YOU KNOW? A childhood gymnast, Rude has been sighted more than once doing cartwheels on the streets of Chicago. Her first job was at Dairy Queen and she continues to love ice cream and all things sugary. As for her childhood, although she doesn't remember it, surely her subconscious is still working through the trauma of the time when she was two and a half years old and she slept through the whole night with a dead mouse in the foot of her pajamas. She is not a fan of animals to this day.

Reprinted from:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bells and cameras, pavilions of joy

June 17, 2008

I just returned from six hours in West Hollywood on the first official day of same-sex marriage. The news has been full of it, and will be even more this evening and tomorrow, but I need to think and react as an individual to what I have seen and heard and done.

I came late to the party, so to speak, since marriage-hopefuls began lining up last night as early as 6:00 p.m. in order to be at the front of the line. (Fortunately, because I promised to bring hand-bells to ring, Councilman Duran's office got me preferred parking a few steps away.)

The newly-printed marriage licenses were being issued in the large community auditorium in West Hollywood Park, near the intersection where four years ago we reacted with anger when the Supreme Court voided our San Francisco weddings, and where so many other historic moments in our movement have been observed. These new forms now say Partner A and Partner B, rather than Bride and Groom.

The media literally swarmed Star Trek actor George Takei and his partner Brad Altman as they got their application, walked across the large hall to pay their $70.00 and get their license, and proceed to the park itself where they could be married.

The City of West Hollywood had gone all out, with several information and volunteer tents-one for officiants, one for the media, with plenty of food and beverages on this hot summer morning-one for, and six stylish pavilions covered in white gauze with chandeliers, be-flowered and decorated arches and flowing draperies where individual ceremonies were being held.

The park was not being mobbed, apparently, because many of the excited applicants pulled their marriage licenses and then left, apparently planning to have ceremonies elsewhere or on another day. I fully understand, since my partner and I intend to be married in the fall in a church ceremony.

To add to the festive atmosphere, a pastoral colleague and I rang English handbells repeatedly, under the trees, as couples came through the lines, and exchanged their promises before deputized officiants, including West Hollywood officials. The day was peaceful, almost mundane, with neighborhood children play on the swing sets in the park only a few feet beyond this festival of love and commitment.

I suppose as a result of the attention we received by being dressed in clerical garb and ringing the bells in repeated peals, I was interviewed, I think about eight times: by CBS, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, some others I don't remember or didn't ask, and by an independent lesbian film maker. Even my hands were videotaped as I rang the bells! I realized it made good visuals and interesting sounds for TV and radio.

Repeatedly I was asked why I was there and what the day meant for me. "Two things," I repeatedly explained. This is a historic day for the community, and for the legal progress that has been made in securing legal rights and public respect for lesbian and gay people, who want nothing more from society than the chance to accept responsibility for one another and to live their lives with dignity. "But secondly," I said, "My partner of 32 years and I fully intend to be married also." No one looked particularly shocked by that, even though I appeared to be your typical neighborhood Roman Catholic priest.

A few reporters were interested enough to ask more of my personal background, which is not particularly unusual. We have been a part of this movement, I said, for decades. We have marched and demonstrated. We fought the Briggs initiative, and then the Knight initiative. We had a private religious ceremony in our living room many years ago, then filed papers for the California Domestic Partnership registry in 2002. Two years later, we were part of that lesbian/gay wave of humanity that rolled into San Francisco to be married in February 2004 in City Hall's grand rotunda. This is a historic day in California, but it is also a deeply personal historic day in our own lives.

More than a year after the California Supreme Court nullified our San Francisco marriage certificates, we were able to get an autograph on ours by Mayor Gavin Newsom himself during Outfest in Los Angeles.

Kerry Chaplin, the talented (and eligible) young interfaith organizer for California Faith for Equality, had all manner of talking points available for speaking to the media, and by the end of the day I realized that I had never had a chance to read through them in advance. As it turns out, I think, every single lesbian or gay couple who forms a legal marriage becomes a "talking point" against the pernicious proposed amendment headed for the November ballot which would end this summer of love.

Many of the couples participating were long-time couples, seeking to protect their families and their legal rights. But at the end of the day, I was approached by two young women, together as a couple only one year. They were both raised Catholic, they said, but wanted to have at least a Christian ministry preside over their ceremony. I was delighted to be asked, and touched by their depth and their excitement about this new day dawning.

If the excitement of it all, and concern for the legal maneuvers of the religious right, made me nervous, in the end it was the genuineness of these young women and their optimism about their new life together, which gave me a sense of deep peace. God bless them. God bless all of them!!

- Pastor Dan Hooper, Los Angeles

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fun Facebook Application Created

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries rosters qualified candidates
for extraordinary ministry and connects them with extraordinary congregations and ministries who are committed to the full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Lutheran life and ministry.

We just created a fun facebook application that enables you to send your favorite Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries pastors to your facebook friends:

Not only are all of these pastors "out" about their sexual orientations and gender identities, we are "out" about who they are and how our candidacy process works.

Learn about the faces and names on our roster

Learn about the high standards of our candidacy process.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Photo Journal: ELM Seminarian Reflects on the Roster Retreat

This was my first retreat. I was a bit nervous to go. I have met quite a few people on the roster at other events. I am fortunate to count two of the pastors as my mentors. A few months before the retreat I had been asked to help plan worship. It was a bit surprising to be asked, as I am just a seminarian and new. It was lovely to give the gift of a worship service to my new colleagues.

The service I worked on was the “Waters of Baptism.” I was delighted by the theme assigned to me. I like my church services interactive. I am afraid the roster got a taste of my love of congregational interaction! I hope you enjoy a few photos taken at the service.

The time at the retreat was spent learning about my new colleagues. I am stunned to have my name listed among these pastors. I have a deep amount of respect for the work that they do. I am fortunate to have been given such a community. I have come to realize that most seminarians do not have such a close knit community surrounding them.

I began learning how to move from parishioner and student to peer. My mentors in Minneapolis for the last four years have been Jay Wiesner and Jen Nagel (photo to the right). They have walked with me through the beginning of seminary.

It was strange to move from a parishioner/mentor relationship to a fledgling collegial relationship. It was also wonderful to feel like I was becoming their peer.

I don’t know what my status will be at the next retreat. I just received my paperwork for approval. We will find out what my home synod will do with the ELCA’s new policy. I also know that there are no guarantees in any candidacy process. I only hope and pray that at next year’s retreat I will be one of the newest names listed as approved and awaiting call. I am looking forward to joining folks on the roster as a fully credentialed colleague.

~Vicar Margaret Kelly

Margaret is a Seminarian at Luther Seminary and an intern in Washington, DC at Lutheran Church of the Reformation.

Photos (cc) Jay Wilson

Friday, May 16, 2008

Day Two: Ordination Day May 16th, 2008

What a wonderful day. Holy Cross Congregation (their church is to the right) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada ordained Lionel Ketola as their pastor. The first extraordinary ordination in Canada and the first extraordinary ordination of a legally married ELM rostered pastor.

Lionel's day began with talking to the media. In fact that's what's he's been doing for the last two weeks. He has appeared on most of the local news stations. You can watch the video of one of the local news stations here. I caught a picture of Lionel talking to the Finish press at a press availability held just before the ordination service.

Hopefully all of the attention will be wonderful evangelism for Holy Cross. We've heard that the press at several of the past ordinations has produced a number of new members and friends at the congregations of our newest ELM pastors.

At 7:30 the service began. And despite the letter from the bishop threatening discipline to any clergy that attend the service more than three dozen attended the service (and happily posed for a photo too). Those present noted that the Canadians have been working for this moment for more than 30 years. It has been 20 years since Lionel was first told that he could not be a pastor in the ELCIC because of his sexual orientation.

Today, Lionel's 20 years of faithful waiting and preparation ended. When all of these hands were laid upon him. In this moment, Lionel became the 14th person to be ordained extraordinarily.

Congratulations Lionel and the members of Holy Cross!

We hope to see you all in Houston in July for the ordination of Lura Groen.

-Rev. Megan Rohrer
Communications Chair

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Photo Journal May 15th: Ordination of Lionel Ketola

Day One: Traveling to Newmarket Ontario

I left San Francisco on a red eye and headed to Ontario. There was a very beautiful sunset at the airport.

In the morning I arrived in Buffalo, NY where I hopped in the rental car and headed to Canada. The boarder guard seemed a little suspicious that I would enter Canada to attend an ordination. I guess he didn't read the story in the paper about the historic ordination that will happen tomorrow in Newmarket!

Then I drove for about a half hour to stop at Niagara Falls. While it may be a bit cheesy, the rainbow in the falls made me smile and wonder if my journey was being blessed.

Before becoming the sign of GLBTQ pride in the modern day, ancient Christians associated the rainbow with gender queerness. They believed anyone who walked under a rainbow would recieve a miraculous sex change from God(dess)*.

After visiting the falls I set off to Newmarket. And settled in for some rest before the all the ordination activities tomorrow.

*I use God(dess) not only because the 4 congregations that called me name God differently (some use male pronouns, some female and some androgynous). But also to have a gender queer understanding of God(dess) that more accurately matches the greek/hebrew. This is a way of describing God(dess) as both male/female.

-Rev. Megan Rohrer
Communications Chair

Monday, April 21, 2008

First Extraordinary Call in Canada

Canada Congregation Votes to Call ELM Roster Member
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) is proud to announce that the members of the Newmarket Ontario, Holy Cross Lutheran Church (ELCiC) voted to call Lionel Ketola, which will result in the first extraordinary ordination in Canada.

Lionel first served at Holy Cross Lutheran Church as an intern, with the support of a grant from ELM (who was Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries at the time). Today the congregation voted to call Lionel as Associate Pastor, deployed as an Ambassador of Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21) in the ELCIC, to further the work of full inclusion in the ELCIC. Major funding for this position will come from a three year seed grant from Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. Learn more about Lionel

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Memoriam

Krister Stendahl, 1921-2008

“Since I cannot be with you at your ordination which—it seems—must take place extra ordinem, I want to send you a greeting affirming my conviction that the steps that your congregations and you are taking stand well before God.” – Excerpt from Krister Stendahl’s letter to the first extraordinary ordinands in 1990.

Krister Stendahl, the Lutheran pastor and bishop emeritus who first used the words “extra ordinem” and “extraordinary” to describe the ordinations of openly gay and lesbian clergy, died on Tuesday, April 15, 2008, at the age of 86 after several years of illness.

Stendahl was Bishop of Stockholm when St. Francis Lutheran Church and First United Lutheran Church called and ordained Ruth Frost, Phyllis Zillhart and Jeff Johnson. At a time when most church leaders were criticizing the action and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was placing the congregations on trial, Stendahl wrote to commend the congregations for their courage and leadership in supporting openly gay and lesbian pastors. Stendahl also participated in the Extraordinary Ordination of Anita Hill on April 28, 2001. In Stockholm, Stendahl was a noted reformer on issues such as women's ordination, gay and lesbian rights, and the relationship of church and state.

Stendahl’s words have been used throughout the history of the movement for ordination of people of all sexual orientation and gender identity in the Lutheran church and are central in the identity and name of the group leading this movement, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Stendahl chose the words because St. Francis and First United were acting “out of the ordinary” practice of the church. The founding documents of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries embrace his sentiment with these words:

If “ordinary” has come to mean “discriminatory,” we have chosen the adjective “extraordinary” deliberately to emphasize the “out-of-the-ordinary” nature of our community. In response to the urgent message of the reconciling and hopeful Gospel of Jesus Christ, we take seriously our responsibility to convey the message of reconciliation, unconditional regard and everlasting love to all people, especially those who have been left out of, or abandoned by the church that bears the name of Christ.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries remembers and celebrates the life of Rev. Krister Stendahl, remembers his family in our prayers, and honors the legacy his words and actions leave to those seeking justice for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the Lutheran Church.

A memorial service is planned for Friday, May 16, at 3 p.m. in Harvard's Memorial Church.

For a full obituary, please visit the Harvard Divinity School’s website.

"I was there. I saw it."

“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!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Congregations, Communications & Hearts On Fire

New Ways for Congregation to Get Involved with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries:
The biggest NEW part of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community is the role of congregations. In this new organization, congregations are critical to the movement. Congregations have an opportunity to affiliate with ELM as a way to actively live out their commitment to full inclusion in life and ministry of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the Lutheran church. Here are a few ways your congregation can get involved:

Creative Communications- We Need Your Help
We believe that if more Lutherans knew about the exciting work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries that they would want to become a part of our movment. Help us reach out to Lutherans in all the ways we communicate by:

  • Joining us on your favorite social networking online: Facebook, Myspace and Tribe
  • Writing about our work and events on your blog
  • Forwarding our emails and inviting others to join us online
  • Sending us an email to join us in creating, writing and/or editing our newsletters, press releases, our website and other online materials

Join Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries at Hearts on Fire!
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries is proud to help underwrite Hearts on Fire. The Biennial Assembly and Reconciling in Christ Convention hosted by our coalition partner Lutherans Concerned/North America, Hearts on Fire is July 3-6 at San Francisco State University. Early registration closes March 15, so we encourage you to register today. Prices will rise after March 15 to the standard rate.

Many members of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries community attend these gatherings each year and look forward to connecting with old and new friends. If you have recently become involved with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, we hope you will join us at Hearts on Fire for a great opportunity to connect in person with others seeking the full inclusion and participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Lutheran life and ministry. Learn more and register.

Keynote speakers:

  • Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson
  • Rev. Kelly Fryer
  • Bishop John Selders of the Church of God
  • Rev. Gladys Moore.

The assembly also includes:

  • Training to use story telling to advance the movement to full inclusion
  • Sharing of best practices with others committed to full inclusion
  • Vacation Bible School
  • Child care
  • Bible study
  • Uplifting worship services
  • Spiritual counseling
  • Prayer
  • Fellowship

Pre-assembly events:

  • an event for couples
  • an event for rostered leaders
  • in-depth anti-racism training "Finding the I in the Middle of Racism."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Jen Nagel Ordination Highlights

Related Links:
Include ELM Pastors in Your Congregation's Call Process
View More Photos from the Event

13th Extraordinary Ordination held January 19, 2008

Hundreds of people braved sub-zero temperatures to gather at Salem English Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and ordain Jennifer Lea Nagel. Rev. Nagel is the 13th member of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster to be ordained extra ordinem because the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) does not allow the ordinations of individuals in same-sex relationships.

Nagel's ordination occurred almost exactly 18 years after the first extraordinary ordinations of Rev. Ruth Frost, Rev. Jeff Johnson, and Rev. Phyllis Zillhart in 1990 in San Francisco, California.

"Now 18 years later," Rev. Nagel told the congregation, "I experience awe in the witness of the Gospel alive in communities of faith, and frustration that extraordinary ordinations are even necessary."

She continued, "Our tradition's long history of reformation guides us as we stand with our hopes and prayers before God this day to participate in this extraordinary ordination. My heart is full of gratitude for your presence that mingles with the prayers of friends and colleagues far and wide."

Preacher Rev. Angela Denise Davis continued the theme, recognizing the extraordinary action Salem English Lutheran Church is taking and their response to the Gospel.

"Being extraordinary is being open and willing to how God brings people into the fold." Citing the story of Peter and Cornelius, she exhorted the congregation, "listen to Joppa; do work in Caesarea; and know there will be fallout in Jerusalem."

The ordaining ministers in the service included three retired ELCA bishops – Rev. Darold Beekmann, Rev. David Brown, and Rev. Lowell Erdahl, and around one hundred clergy. During the rite of ordination and throughout the service stoles from the Shower of Stoles Project served as a backdrop. The Shower of Stoles Project is a collection of over a thousand liturgical stoles and other garments representing the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered religious leaders. Jen wore the red stole that was originally presented to Rev. Anita Hill at her ordination in 2000 and which has been worn by six openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender pastors since then.

Following the Saturday ordination, Rev. Nagel was back to work on Sunday presiding at worship with Rev. Erik Christensen, co-chair of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, preaching.

"There is a sense of urgency," Rev. Christensen remarked, "with the acceleration of ordinations. More and more Lutheran Congregations, like Salem English, are recognizing that the best pastor for them may not be on the ELCA roster. They are standing in principled non-compliance against institutional policies that not only deny qualified people from serving as pastors, but also deny them the gifts of those pastors. It is an honor for ELM to work with these congregations and insure the credentials of the pastors they call."

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Preacher: Rev. Erik Christensen

Sunday Jan. 20, 2008 (Day after the Extraordinary Ordination of Jen Nagel)
Salem Lutheran Church in Minneapolis
Texts: John 1 29-42

Grace and peace be with you my brothers and sisters, in the name of Jesus Christ who calls to us from the future and bears it among us today. Amen.

“The next day…”

That’s how the gospel reading for today begins. “The next day…” So, before you can really listen to what comes next you have to ask what just happened. This seems like a question we can relate to here at Salem this morning. What did just happen? We’re here at church the morning after an extraordinary ordination, attended by hundreds of people from across the city and around the nation. This time yesterday you were setting up extra chairs and preparing to host a huge celebration – which you did very well, thank you very much. We gathered together in this space to be reminded of our baptism – the waters of God’s impartiality that hold us together and make one family out of all of us – and to set apart for public ministry Pastor Jen Nagel. It was an extraordinary day for you, Salem – and for the entire Church. And now it is “the next day.”

In the scriptures what has just happened is that the authorities from Jerusalem have come out to assess what John the Baptist is doing out in the wilderness. To observe his baptisms in the Jordan River, and to ask him who he thinks he is. This is becoming a theme, eh? Ministry is happening outside the walls of power and, as Pastor Davis reminded us yesterday, Jerusalem is going to want an explanation. Probably good for us to notice as well the humanity of that response. Yesterday we heard about how the early Christian church in Jerusalem was calling Peter to account for his baptism of the gentile Cornelius and his family; today we hear about the Jewish temple authorities calling John to account for his baptisms in the wilderness. There is something powerful happening in the waters of baptism – an ancient practice that the Christian church inherited from its Jewish roots and re-imagined as sign not of purity, but of belonging, which is why Peter and John are questioned by the authorities in their respective leadership – people want to know who they think belongs inside their community. We want to know who belongs here.

So… “the next day.” I thought it was just inspired that the texts used at Jen’s ordination yesterday were the same texts we heard last Sunday for the festival of the Baptism of Our Lord. Actually, my first reaction was to think, “you totally copped out!” Do you know how long some pastors spend deliberating on which texts to use for their ordination? Do you use the call passage from Jeremiah 1, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Or is that a little presumptuous? Maybe Isaiah 61, “the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; God has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” Or maybe that’s just a little too messianic? But Jen brings us all together for an ordination deferred almost a decade, and then she uses texts recycled from last Sunday? Jeez! Show a little effort.

But, of course she did – or whoever made that call did – they were the perfect texts for an extraordinary ordination. From Isaiah, “here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights…” (Isa 42:1); and from Acts, “I truly understand that God shows no partiality…”; and then, from Matthew, the story of the baptism of our Lord, another extraordinary setting apart where the rules of who will consecrate whom are turned inside out. John says to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” And Jesus replies, “let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” It is proper – Jesus says – for us to turn things on their head, to defy expectation, in order that the righteousness of God, which we are always discovering is so much larger, so much wider, so much more graceful and merciful and beautiful and generous than we’ve ever been led to believe, might be fulfilled.

Those were the texts for last Sunday, and for yesterday. Now it is “the next day.”

A couple of things happen on “the next day” that I think are important for us to notice. The first is that it inspires testimony. The second is that it inspires discipleship.

The gospel of John remembers the story a little differently than the gospel of Matthew we heard yesterday. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus comes to John to be baptized and they have a little conversation before the fact to discuss the significance of what they’re about to do. But here, today, in John’s gospel we hear the Baptist saying, “I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel,” and then he testifies, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him… and I have seen and have testified that this is the Child of God.”

Jesus enters the waters and is revealed to be a child of God. That, we come to understand, is the function of baptism – to reveal the truth about who we are, who we all are, children of God, all of us. Remember, this gospel – the gospel of John – in fact earlier in this very same chapter, is the one that begins “to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God…” (John 1:12). The waters of baptism do for Jesus then what they do for us, they reveal us for who we really are – children of the same God, branches of the same tree, held by waters that flow from the same source. In response to this revelation, John testifies, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove…”

Well, people of Salem, I am here to tell you – in fact, I and all the other visitors in this room who joined with you yesterday in laying our hands on Pastor Nagel and consecrating her for ordained ministry in the church, we are all here to tell you that as we worshipped together yesterday, as we assembled and were sprinkled with baptismal waters and heard the good news of God preached from the pulpit and were fed at the wide table of God’s welcome, we saw the Spirit descend – not just on your pastor, but on all of you, on all of us, we – the living body of Christ, the church, ordinary people made holy by God. We are here to testify to you that we saw it. It was real. And we traveled from great distances, many of us, so that we can return to our homes and tell them what we have seen. We saw it. It was real.

This testimony is so important. Now that we are living in “the next day” people are going to want to know what happened here yesterday. Sometimes they’re going to ask you, and sometimes they’re going to decide for themselves – even if they weren’t here to see if for themselves. After Pastor Jen Rude was extraordinarily ordained last November another group of Lutherans took to writing about her ordination using phrases like, “the so-called ordination of Ms. Jen Rude” – not Pastor Jen Rude, but Ms. Some people will do that, try to undermine the radical welcome of the baptismal waters that you have unleashed here at Salem by eroding the credibility of your pastor. But we were here, we saw what happened, we are witnesses who can and will testify to the power and the presence of the Spirit of God that is moving in this place. Not just in and through your pastor – but in and through all of you. It is all of you together that make up the church. It is all of us together that make up the church. We don’t even quite get it ourselves, just how wide the circle of God’s care is, but we are learning – it is all of us together. God was revealed in all of us together, here, yesterday. I will take that testimony back to Chicago and share it with the people of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square; and Jim and Bruce will take that testimony back to San Francisco, California; and Amalia will take it back to Decorah, Iowa. We will tell the truth about you, and you will tell the truth about us, and we will be revealed by the waters of our baptism for who we are – children of God, family together, all of us.

The second thing that happens “the next day” is a call to discipleship. After John’s testimony, naturally people want to know more about Jesus. They leave what they are doing, what they have known, the places of comfort and security, and they follow. Again, the gospel of John tells the story a little differently than we’re accustomed to hearing it. Jesus doesn’t go down the shore to call these men away from their fishing nets. In fact, he doesn’t approach them at all. Instead, John testifies to who Jesus is and others begin to follow him – a reminder to all of us not to doubt the power of our own testimony, or the effect it can have on others. The effect in this story is even kind of comical. So far Jesus hasn’t said or done anything, the action has all taken place with other people. Jesus walks by and some of John’s disciples peel off and begin trailing him, and when Jesus finally notices he’s being followed he turns and asks “What are you looking for?” and they, in turn, ask “Rabbi – where are you staying?”

“What are you looking for?” – a question, followed by “where are you staying?” – a question. No one is giving away too much here, the new disciples won’t even give Jesus a direct answer to his question, “what are you looking for?” Perhaps it’s because they don’t know yet what they’re looking for. Perhaps it’s because they want to know just how far from their familiar surroundings they’re going to be asked to travel. Whatever it is, they answer Jesus’ question with a question of their own “where are you staying?”

The irony is, Jesus isn’t staying. Jesus is going. Jesus is going to a wedding at Cana, then to clean house at the Temple. Jesus is going to share meal with his disciples, but then he is going to a trial, and an execution. Jesus is going to show us something about life that rises up in places left for dead. Jesus is going, not staying. But that’s a little too much to take in all at once, so Jesus simply says, “come and see.”

The disciples want to know where Jesus is staying so that they can decide where to make their home. Where to settle so that they can be close to him. This reminds me of the opening to St. Augustine’s confessions where he writes, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” We live in a world that makes us restless for the homecoming God offers, the return to the source. We long to rest in a place that can see us and love us and welcome us as we are. The irony is, in a world like ours, that means we have to get up and go – not stay put – because we don’t live in that world. We are not citizens of a nation that has thrown its doors wide open to all the peoples of the world. No, we’re actually considering building walls along our borders. We’re not members of a church that welcomes all people, and I’m not talking just about LGBT people, I’m talking about the ways that our religiosity still spends so much of its time trying to draw lines that separate instead of setting tables that invite. Our heart is restless until it rests in God, and, ironically, to rest in God means not to stay put – but to go where God is going because God is on the move and is reaching out to draw us in, to call us home to one another. Jesus issues the invitation “come and see” and it is an invitation to re-imagine the very meaning of the word home. We will not find our rest in a place, but in a person, in relationship with God, which is to say in relationship with each other.

It is not at all hip to admit, especially in a church that boasts of a really excellent jazz combo like the one you’ve got, but this calls to mind a song from my childhood by Billy Joel called “You’re My Home.” He sings:

Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike
Indiana's early morning dew
High up in the hills of California
Home is just another word for you

That is the challenge of “the next day.” Something extraordinary took place here yesterday. You might be tempted to stay put, to revel in the afterglow of what was a barely imaginable and long-awaited day. But that day was yesterday. You are living in “the next day” which carries its own demands – for testimony and for discipleship. 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. And we will be each other’s home. We will answer the call to follow, to come and see, until we find our rest in the one who is our home.