Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rev. Jay Wiesner received onto ELCA clergy roster

Rev. Jay Wiesner. Photo by: Richard W Garnett
On Sunday, December 12, Rev. Jay Wiesner was received onto the roster of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the ELCA. The service took place during an Advent celebration at University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation in Philadelphia, PA.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod posted a lovely recap of the service on their blog. Read it here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rev. Megan Rohrer featured on Living Lutheran

Rev. Megan Rohrer wrote an article featured on the ELCA sister site, 'Living Lutheran'. The article "The Body of Christ has AIDS" explores the connection between communion and remembering those living with HIV/AIDS.

December 1st is World AIDS Day-a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services. At ELM we keep those directly impacted by HIV/AIDs in our thoughts and prayers.

Rev. Megan Rohrer is an ELCA pastor and director of Welcome in San Francisco. ELM has supported Welcome with a Mission Partner grant for the past three years.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mission Grants at work: Eco-Faith Recovery

Rev. Robyn Hartwig
ELM has been supporting Rev. Robyn Hartwig's EcoFaith Recovery in the Portland, OR area for the past two years with a Mission Partner grant. EcoFaith Recovery was launched in 2009 with the assistance of  an ELM Mission Grant.  Since then, the project has grown immensely. Part of that growth has been the development of a website to connect supporters and share information about the project.

Check out EcoFaith Recovery's website here.

The program offers table talks, trainings and a number of workshops and interactive projects.

    EcoFaith Recovery is:
EcoFaith Recovery
        "A collaborative effort among Lutheran and other faith communities based in Portland, OR. EcoFaith Recovery develops and supports spiritual recovery from the addictive patterns of human life that contribute to the climate crisis, heighten social injustice, deprive people of spiritual meaning, and threaten life on earth. The means of fostering eco-spiritual recovery includes retreats, workshops, spiritual practices, institutional reform, and pilgrimages to reconnect with the natural world."
Rev. Robyn Hartwig serves as the founder and part-time developer of EcoFaith Recovery. Check out EcoFaith Recovery's blog here.

ELM Mission Partner grants fund ministry by publicly-identified LGBTQ rostered Lutheran leaders.  Since 1995, ELM has given away over $750,000 to support congregations and ministries. ELM will give away over $60,000 in 2011 alone.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Philadelphia Rites of Reception for ELM Pastors

Upcoming services:

Rev. Donna SimonRev. Jay Wiesner
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Bp. Burkat, Presider
Rev. Anita Hill, Preacher

Jay is originally from New Ulm, a small town of German descent in southwestern Minnesota. He graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota with a BA in religion. After college, he attended Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. During his senior year, he publicly came out to the faculty and students at Wartburg and left to take some time off. He finished his Master of Divinity degree in 2002 and immediately began work at Bethany Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as Pastoral Minister of Outreach. He was called to and ordained at Bethany on July 25, 2004. He served the congregation from 2002-2008.

Jay currently serves as pastor of University Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, an ELCA congregation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and he also serves as dean of the Central Conference of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod. He is also pastoral director of The Naming Project.

Rev. Jodi Barry Rev. Steve Keiser
Sunday, January 2, 2011

Steve Keiser is the pastoral associate at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion in Philadelphia. He was ordained at Holy Communion on January 25, 2009. He is a graduate of Wheaton College (1981, BA in Philosophy) and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (1999, M.Div). Prior to entering seminary, he worked in branch management for fifteen years for Bell Savings Bank and Meridian Bank (now Wachovia).

He has taught at Cabrini College, the Lutheran Seminary and for the Adventures Program at the seminary. He has also assisted Dr. Katie Day, a sociologist of religion who is studying the impact of volunteerism on churches burned as a result of arson. His ministry at Holy Communion includes working with young adults and establishing small group ministries. Steve shares the pastoral leadership of Holy Communion with Pastor Kari Hart.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bishop Hanson's "It Gets Better" video

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's response to recent suicides by young people who have been bullied.

Below is his video message, "You Are a Beloved Child of God" to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.


The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LBGTQ youth by providing resources and a nationwide, 24-hour hotline.  If you are considering suicide or need help, call: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386). is a project of the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP) focused on providing tools and resources for youth, parents, teachers and mental health providers to prevent and address bullying.

It Gets Better Project
You can watch more videos at

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ELM pastor Lura Groen received onto Clergy Roster of ELCA

Rev. Lura Groen
On All Saints Sunday, November 7, Lura Groen will be the first clergy person allowed onto the roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod under new policy regarding LGBT clergy.

The Rev. Lura N. Groen is a graduate of St. John’s College in Annapolis MD and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Prior to seminary, Pastor Lura was a two-year member of Lutheran Volunteer Corps, serving as a case manager to homeless people in Baltimore MD and Washington DC.

Groen was active in community life during seminary, including serving as Student Body President. She received the Winters Scholarship for academic excellence and potential for ministry, the Traci L. Maul Award for leadership potential for ministry, active contribution to seminary life, and academic strength the Atonement-Asbury Park Preaching Award, and was on the Dean’s List. Pastor Lura completed her internship at Trinity Lutheran Church in Philadelphia, PA. Pastor Groen was extraordinary ordained at Grace Evangelical Lutheran on July 26, 2008.

“The Church is opening up” said Pastor Groen, “The Lutheran Church is more welcoming than most people think it is. I am proud of the ELCA for publicly celebrating the ministry of myself and so many other pastors who were excluded by the previous policy.”

"No Longer Strangers," a Service of Reception will be held at Grace Lutheran Church, 2515 Waugh Drive, Houston, TX 77006, at 4:00 p.m. November 7, with Bishop Michael Rinehart presiding. Everyone is welcome.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Rev. Jodi Barry To Be Received to ELCA Roster

The cake pictured at left was served on Thursday, Oct 28th at the occasion of Rev. Donna Simon's 10th ordination anniversary and reception to the ELCA roster in the Central States Synod. 

It's a fitting photo for tomorrow as well, when the Minneapolis Area Synod of the ELCA will receive Rev. Jodi Barry.  Tomorrow's service will be held at Grace University Lutheran Church.

Minneapolis Area Bishop Craig Johnson will preside at the service. The Rev. M. Susan Peterson is preaching. All are welcome at this service!

Grace is located at 324 Harvard Street SE in Minneapolis.  Parking is available across the street from the church in the AA parking lot.  Check back in a few days for a recap of both services.

The ELCA Rite of Reception is the formal rite developed by the ELCA to receive members of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster onto the ELCA roster.

(Cake made by Niki Williams, a member of Abiding Peace Lutheran Church in Kansas City, MO).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rite of Reception for Rev. Donna Simon

In a Lutheran Rite of Reception service on October 28, in Kansas City, a lesbian pastor will be officially welcomed to serve in the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

"We are so proud of this denomination, which has taken a major step toward the full inclusion of gay and lesbian persons," said Donna Simon, pastor of Abiding Peace Lutheran Church. "We are closer to the day when we can sing ‘all are welcome’ with gusto, knowing that our policies reflect our declaration.

“I must thank our bishop, Gerald Mansholt, who has encouraged me to be connected to the work of our region and the larger church. He has always treated me with dignity and respect, and I have only the same for him.

“I am excited to stand alongside my clergy colleagues now as a full participant in our church. It’s been a long wait, but I’ve had the support of the people of Abiding Peace and so many clergy colleagues. We look forward to continuing the work of preaching good news to those on the margins, the same folks whom Jesus invited to share prayer and supper with him.”

Simon had been barred from serving in the ELCA because of previous ministry policies that prohibited people in same-sex relationships from their rosters. She is currently on the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, which credentials openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rostered leaders. In August of 2009, the ELCA changed its policies to allow people who are in same-sex relationships to serve as rostered leaders.

The rite of reception was created specifically for people who had been extraordinarily ordained—that is, ordained outside the regular process of the Lutheran church. There have been seventeen extraordinary ordinations in the United States of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people. The service marks the ELCA’s official recognition of these pastors.

The evening service of welcome will be held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 3800 Troost Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri at 7pm.

Valorie Bratcher, council president at Abiding Peace says, “Pastor Donna has been the pastor of Abiding Peace Lutheran Church for the past 10 years. She has served her congregation in word and sacrament and with love and devotion. We have been enriched by her teaching, and led to service in our community. She has challenged us to live and do as Christ taught. We look forward to our continued relationship with the ELCA as they receive her onto their roster.”

Lutheran Bishop Gerald Mansholt will preside at the service. Rev. Susan Langhauser of Advent Lutheran Church, Olathe, Kansas, will be the preacher. Special music will be provided by Peter Mayer, Lutheran musician and guitarist for Jimmy Buffett.

Abiding Peace Lutheran Church has been a Reconciling in Christ church since 1993, and has been public in welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to participate fully in the life of the congregation. In 2000, the congregation called Simon, a 1999 graduate of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Simon became the first openly gay candidate ordained in an American Lutheran Church in over a decade.

Eleven members of the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries roster have been received or reinstated to the ELCA roster this fall. There are other rite of reception services scheduled this fall in Minneapolis, MN and Houston, TX.

We celebrate this joyous rite of reception!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ELM Roster member featured in a Houston magazine

Rev. Lura Groen
Outsmart, Houston's gay, lesbian, bi and trans magazine has featured ELM roster member Rev. Lura Groen. The article discusses Rev. Groen's relationship with the ELCA and highlights her upcoming service of reception to the clergy roster of the ELCA.
Her service of reception is titled “No Longer Strangers,” this welcoming service will be held at Grace Lutheran Church, 2515 Waugh Drive, at 4 p.m. on November 7.

Read the article here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Minnesota Public Radio story features ELM roster members

Rev. Ruth Frost & Rev. Phyllis Zillhart
Last month, Minnesota Public Radio reporter Sasha Aslanian interviewed Rev. Ruth Frost and Rev. Phyllis Zillhart in connection with their rite of reception to the ELCA clergy roster.  She was quite taken with their story and has continued to write on it. The radio story that Ms. Aslanian did for MPR was excellent, listen here.

The interview with Ruth and Phyllis was mentioned on the Krista Tippett on 'Being' show (formerly Speaking of Faith) and aired this weekend. Below is a link that helps you find out when the show airs in your area.

Krista Tippett on Being schedule:

Being Blog:  (you have to scroll down one story)

Facebook Page & Discussion (lively one is going on there now!)!/pages/Speaking-of-Faith/23639501875

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rev. Erik Christensen Received onto ELCA Chicago Metro Clergy Roster

On Sunday October 10, 2010, Rev. Erik Christensen was received onto the ELCA clergy roster in the Chicago Metro Synod.

The service was held at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Andersonville, a Reconciling in Christ congregation and strong supporter of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and ELM.  Rev. Patrick Shebeck, pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Chicago's South Side planned the service.  Area rostered leaders and congregants participated in the service of thanksgiving and reception. Bishop Wayne Miller presided and preached, reminding everyone that many things are simultaneously old and new.

In a brief address during the service, Rev. Christensen spoke about the present needs of the church--naming the homeless LGBTQ youth on the streets of Chicago and the recent attention to the high suicide rates among LGBTQ youth. Many longtime leaders in the welcoming movement for LGBTQ people in Chicago and members and friends from Erik’s congregation, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square attended.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

News article on Rev. Christensen's service

Rev. Erik Christensen
ELM co-chair and roster member Rev. Erik Christensen was profiled in an article by Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism writer Joel Withrow.

The article chronicles Rev. Christensen's journey to his service of Reception on October 10th. Read the full article here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rev. Erik Christensen To Be Received by ELCA on October 10

Rev. Erik Christensen will be received to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America clergy roster on Sunday, October 10th at 4:00 pm. The service will be held at Ebenezer Lutheran Church, 1650 W. Foster Avenue, Chicago, IL. ELCA Metro Chicago Synod Bishop Wayne Miller will preside.

The Rite of Reception service was developed for pastors who had been credentialed for ministry by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and who were extraordinarily ordained (ordained outside the regular process of the ELCA). There have been 17 such ordinations in the United States over the last twenty years. The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to change polices that previously barred partnered LGBTQ pastors and rostered lay leaders from serving in the ELCA, paving the way for the reception of pastors rostered with ELM.

Erik is pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church of Logan Square in Chicago, IL. He has been pastor there since he was ordained on October 21, 2006. Prior to receiving the call at St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square, Erik served as the Director of East Coast Operations with StandUp For Kids, a national non-profit organization working with and for runaway and homeless youth.  A graduate of Macalester College ('95); Candler School of Theology, Emory University ('02); and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia ('04), Pastor Erik brings a wide variety of interests and experience to his ministry with St. Luke's. Pastor Erik serves as Co-Chair of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Howard Erickson, founding member of LC/NA, Remembered

ELM extends our condolences to the friends and family of Howard Erickson, founding member of Lutherans Concerned.  Howard died early last Friday morning of a heart attack and stroke at age 73. His memorial service was yesterday at Hollywood Lutheran Church, in Los Angeles. 

We give thanks for the life of Howard Erickson and his early and dedicated lifelong commitment to an inclusive church.

Click here to read an extended obituary on the LC/NA website.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rev. Jen Nagel Received at Salem English Lutheran Church, ELCA

(Post by Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director).

I arrived for Rev. Jen Nagel's Rite of Reception this past Sunday and immediately felt energized by the colorful surroundings of Intermedia Arts, the temporary home of Salem English Lutheran Church. 

Bulletin from the service
This feeling continued as we entered the worship space, which is a theater. The sounds of the fabulous Salem jazz ensemble filled the room. Pastor Jen wanted her rite of reception to occur within a worship service at Salem, and many in the congregation were actively involved in the service. 

At the beginning, Pastor Jen welcomed all of us.  She made special note of a couple parishioners typically unable to attend worship due to health issues, but who were present that morning. Bp. Craig Johnson, Minneapolis Area Synod, was present for the Rite, and was also the special guest during Pastor Jen's lively kid's sermon. 

This was the third ELCA Rite of Reception for a pastor who was authorized for ministry by Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. The grand services in San Francisco and St. Paul were important events for the community of believers who have long worked (and continue to work) for the day when the ELCA would recognize publicly-identified lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer pastors.  

This Rite of Reception at Salem was a wonderful, local service held in Pastor Jen's own parish.  All of these services have been great examples of how this Church is widening its welcome to include all of God's children. Good news!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rev. Jen Nagel to be Received to ELCA Roster on Sunday, Sept. 26

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.

Monday, September 20, 2010

ELCA Receives 3 ELM Roster Members

The historic weekend service of Rev. Anita Hill, Rev. Ruth Frost and Rev. Phyllis Zillhart was a moving, joyful service. Thank you for all who attended, watched the live stream and ELM supporters over the years for making September 18 an amazing day. Below you will find links to various media and press on the event:

Photo credit: Joey McLeister, Star Tribune

Watch a video of the service here.

Bishop Rogness and Pastors Anita Hill, Ruth Frost and Phyllis Zillhart met with the press prior to the celebration. Watch the press conference here.

Minnesota Public Radio produced the piece "Lesbian clergy once expelled, now embraced"

CNN profiled the event in a video "Lesbian pastors join Lutheran clergy

Star Tribune, a Minnesota-St.Paul area newspaper ran this article about Rev. Anita Hill "ELCA to make groundbreaking minister official"

The Christian Post posted the article "ELCA Receives 3 Lesbian Ministers"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Three ELM roster members to be received onto ELCA roster

L-R: Rev. Ruth Frost, Rev. Anita Hill, Rev.Phyllis Zillhart
ELCA Rite of Reception to the roster of the ELCA for Rev. Anita Hill, Rev. Ruth Frost & Rev. Phyllis Zillhart will be held on Saturday, September 18, 2:00 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 285 N Dale St., St Paul, Minnesota.

The Rev. Peter Rogness, Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod of the ELCA, presiding. The Reverend Barbara Lundblad, Union Theological Seminary, New York, preaching. 

Clergy and rostered leaders are welcome to vest and process. Green is the color of the day. Please arrive by 1:15 p.m. to join the procession.

Celebration Dinner/Dance at the Saint Paul Hotel begins with conversation and cocktails at 6 p.m. Dinner served 7 p.m. with brief program followed by dancing.

This ticketed event will benefit the Wingspan Ministry of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, Lutherans Concerned/North America, and ELM. For tickets go here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rev. Dale Poland on his reinstatement

“Over the last 11 years, as a parish pastor and then a hospital chaplain, I have devoted my life to the faithful service of God, this Synod, the Church, and those in need. I have diligently sought to offer the grace and mercy of God to all. I have loved and continue to love the Church as the instrument of Christ’s activity in the world. But I can no longer faithfully and in all good conscience serve a Church that willingly and actively oppresses and condemns a significant proportion of the population that is gay or lesbian, like myself”…

With these words, I officially resigned from the ordained roster of the ELCA in 2002 and entered a form of “ecclesial exile”. I had received a phone call from my bishop in West Virginia the week prior requesting my resignation because I was living openly in a same sex relationship. At the time I wrote my letter of resignation I had no idea where I would go or what I would do in the future. I only knew that the ELCA would no longer be the place I called my spiritual home – not because I had abandoned the ELCA but because the ELCA had abandoned me. I never questioned by sense of call from the Spirit to Word and Sacrament ministry, I simply questioned where I would live out that call.

A year later I found the Extraordinary Candidacy Project and a group of pastors and lay people who offered me incredible words of affirmation and support. This welcoming Lutheran community allowed me to live out my call to ordained ministry as a hospice chaplain and to bring the God’s grace to others at the end of their lives. A few years later when the ECP became the Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries I was proud to be the first ELM pastor to apply to the Association of Professional Chaplains for accreditation as a professional chaplain with the support and encouragement of my colleagues in ELM.

Following the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, I was surprised and overwhelmed by a flood of personal emotions. Did I really want to go back into the ELCA? Could I trust the leadership of the ELCA to fully welcome me again? Had the ELCA truly changed in the last seven years? After discussing the issue at length with my ELM colleagues and admittedly with some trepidation I decided it was time to find out. In the spring I met with the Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod, + Allan Bjornberg, and the Assistant to the Bishop for Candidacy, Madelyn Busse. They encouraged me to apply for reinstatement to the ordained roster.

On August 20 I met with the synod’s Candidacy Committee. My partner, Mauricio, came with me to the meeting. What I experienced from the committee was nothing less than an unqualified welcome. I was overwhelmed by their grace and hospitality. We had a fruitful discussion about my previous journey in the ELCA, the pain that was associated with my resignation, the ministry I have been doing since leaving the ELCA, and my sense of call now. Indeed the Church (or at least my corner of it) had changed significantly in my exile and for that I am so very grateful to the work of the ECP/ELM, Lutherans Concerned – North America, Good Soil, Wingspan, Soul Force, and other groups and individuals who worked and advocated tirelessly on behalf of the GLBTQ community to bring about this remarkable move toward greater justice and equality.

To be sure there is still work to be done – we have not reached full equality and sadly, as I learned from one of my ELM colleagues this week, there are parts of the Church that are still resisting the work of the Spirit. But the Church IS moving. I look forward to rejoining the ELCA ordained roster and I hope that I can continue to work along with many others to keep the Church moving toward even greater inclusion.+

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Rev. Craig Minich: Believing It

One year after the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Decisions, we take a look at how the actions affected one ELM pastor... 

Rev. Craig Minich
My reflection on my experiences on the first Sunday after Easter, 2010.

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. 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Rev. Jenny Mason Reinstated to ELCA Roster

I am very happy to the share the news that Rev. Jenny Mason (pictured at right) has been reinstated to the ELCA roster of ordained ministers.

Rev. Jenny Mason served as an ELCA missionary in Santiago, Chile before being removed from the ELCA clergy roster in 2001 because she was an openly lesbian woman in relationship. Jenny then served as Associate Pastor at Central City Lutheran Mission (CCLM) in San Bernardino, California, which was disciplined by the Synod for installing Jenny. This resulted in the loss of both funding and official ELCA status as a congregation in development for this unique social ministry and active worship community.

Jenny holds a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, OH, and a Doctorate of Ministry in Proclamation from the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago. Jenny moved to the Twin Cities in 2005 to live with her partner, the Rev. Jodi Barry, and now works as a Congregational Partnership Organizer for a faith-based developer of affordable housing.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rev. Dale Poland Reinstated to ELCA Roster

It is with great joy that Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries announces that Rev. Dale Poland (pictured at right) has been reinstated to the ELCA roster of ordained pastors!

Please check our blog later this week for a personal reflection from Pastor Dale about the experience of being reinstated to the ELCA roster.

Rev. Dale Poland was ordained in 1991. He was removed from the ELCA roster in 2003 because he is gay. Rev. Poland has been a member of the ELM roster since then, serving for two years as chaplain to the roster. Rev. Poland serves as a hospice chaplain in the Boulder, CO area and is a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Denver, CO.

Monday, August 23, 2010

ELM featured on Minnesota Public Radio

Minnesota Public Radio is featuring stories about the ELCA 2009 vote titled 'A Church Divided, Together:

"We explore the effect of the August 21st, 2009 vote allowing gay pastors to serve as clergy in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America through the stories of Lutherans in the Public Insight Network."

ELM co-chair and pastor Jen Nagel is interviewed here about the ELCA one year after the historic vote. ELM's Executive Director Amalia Vagts is featured in a story here.

This project will have ongoing articles about ELM so expect more updates soon.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sept 18 Saint Paul Area Synod Rite of Reception

Three pastors rostered with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries anticipate official reception to the ELCA Clergy Roster. Rev. Anita Hill (left), Rev. Phyllis Zillhart (bottom left), Rev. Ruth Frost (right)

Saturday, September 18, 2010, 2 - 4 p.m.; Party to follow
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer
285 North Dale St, Saint Paul, MN
Presider: Rev. Peter Rogness, Bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod
Preacher: Rev. Barbara Lundblad, Union Theological Seminary

Service hosted by St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church.
Clergy and Rostered Leaders are invited to vest. The color is green. Please arrive by 1:15 p.m. to join the procession.

A Ticketed Dinner & Dance benefiting Wingspan Ministry, Lutherans Concerned/North America and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries will be held at 7 pm that evening.

Extraordinary Meeting

Sunday, July 25 was extraordinary for a number of reasons, as you've read here previously. An unexpected happy occurrence was an unplanned gathering of all 8 founding members of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project.

From left to right-Jack Elliott, Mari Irvin, Sherry Mattson, Jeff Johnson, Margaret Moreland, Stan Olson, Greg Egertson, Elizabeth Thompson.

The group gathered for an impromptu photo shoot and a few shared memories. It was quite amazing for all gathered to see this group together. This group's prophetic work to credential and authorize gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people for ministry in the Lutheran Church has meant that openly LGBT people have been able to follow a call to ministry for nearly 20 years in the Lutheran church. Amazing work! Amazing people!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

St. Francis Begins Process to Rejoin the ELCA

Amalia Vagts, ELM Executive Director

There are so many storie
s 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 congregat
ion 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 Min
istries 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...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sermon from Sierra Pacific Synod Service

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints a Lutheran emerging church in Denver, Colorado. They describe themselves as a group of folks figuring out how to be a liturgical, Christo-centric, social justice oriented, queer inclusive, incarnational, contemplative, irreverent, ancient - future church with a progressive but deeply rooted theological imagination. Nadia blogs at Sarcastic Lutheran and at Jim Wallis' God's Politics blog. Her writings can be found in the Christian Century, The Lutheran and

Below is her sermon at the Sierra Pacific Synod Service, Sunday July 28, 2010.

"Grace peace and mercy to you from the crucified and risen Christ. Amen. To say that it is an honor to be your preacher today would be an embarrassing understatement. So I will just say thank you.

I bring you greetings on this festive occasion from the people of God at House for all Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado a mission church of the ELCA. House for All is a liturgical, Christo-centric, social justice oriented, queer inclusive, incarnational, contemplative, irreverent, ancient - future church with a progressive but deeply rooted theological imagination. At least that’s what our website says.

You may not realize this, but this little mission church is kind of the spiritual granddaughter of many churches represented here today. Churches like St Pauls and St Frances. So I’d like to thank you and the ELM 7 for your faithfulness to the Gospel despite countless obsticles and say that you almost certainly have no idea how your witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ has rippled out into this hurt and broken and beautiful world.

Let me explain - many of the folks at House for All have been hurt by the church in one way or the other. Several have been victims of so-called ex-gay reparative therapy at the hands of Christians, some have been told they are not up to snuff in the eyes of God and needless to say, the vast majority of the folks at House were not regularly attending a church when they joined us.

In other words they were just like me in the Spring of 1996. It was 14 years ago that I walked into a Lutheran church for the very first time. I had not entered a Christian church for 10 years and when I finally did, it was St Paul Lutheran Church in Oakland. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Well, here’s the thing: I had no desire to be Christian. I don’t like Christians and they don’t like me. See, I was raised in a sectarian and fundamentalist tradition called the Church of Christ. Not the gay-friendly liberal United Church of Christ. Nope. The Church of Christ - which can only be described as, like, “Baptist-Plus”. Women in this tradition were not permitted to pray out loud in front of men much less be pastors. I left that kind of exclusion in the name of God behind me and was perfectly happy about it.

And yet, despite my mis-givings about the church, that Sunday in 1996 I found myself with tears in my eyes. When I walked into St Paul’s Lutheran church it somehow felt like I was walking into the kingdom of heaven - there were young people and old, gay and straight, black folks and white folks and folks who used wheelchairs. And the worship was so beautiful. I had never experienced liturgy. I had never heard that kind of language used to speak of God. I had never heard… the Gospel.

After that first Sunday I unexplainably found myself thinking “I want to come back next week and hear those things and do those things and say those things again” And before I even knew what was happening I started going to Pastor Ross Merkel's adult confirmation class. I could not believe I was choosing to spend my Wednesday nights in the basement of a church of all places…yet there I was.

I had at this point been clean and sober for 4 years following just the tiniest little drug and alcohol problem. God had literally interrupted my life and plucked me off one path and put me on another bringing life out of the death of this Sinner/Saint. So when Pastor Merkel taught me that God brings life out of death, that we are all simultaneously sinner and saint; when he said that no one is climbing the spiritual ladder up to God but that God always comes down to us; when he said that God’s grace is a gift freely given which we don’t earn but merely attempt to live in response to…well, when he said all of this, I already knew it was true.

I had undeniably encountered God’s grace when I got sober and now I was hearing a historically rooted beautiful articulation of what I had already experienced to be true. It’s what we like to call Lutheran Theology. And It changed everything.

Those classes… and Ross Merkel’s gracious acceptance of me… and my hearing the gospel …and receiving the Eucharist at St Paul’s was how God again simply came and got me. It felt like the Kingdom of Heaven and I fell in Love with this whole Lutheran thing. It was like that 5 minutes of a movie where the couple is gloriously ignorant of each other’s short comings and are vapidly skipping hand-in-hand through a field of wildflowers ….because you know as the viewer that as soon as the montage ends some kind of awful is gonna happen. The Lutheran church was so different from the conservative Christianity of my youth and I was so happy to have discovered something so beautiful – and so different from the church of my upbringing.

So when I was soon told that Ross Merkel had actually been removed from the clergy roster because of a policy in the ELCA prohibiting partnered gay folks from serving as pastors I was devastated. It felt like the rug of hope that the church might actually be something beautiful and redemptive was pulled out from under me. This Lutheran thing isn’t what I hoped after all. Because these Lutherans are just as bad as everyone else. Yet in his humble wisdom Pastor Merkle reminded me that God is still at work redeeming us and making all things new even in the midst of broken people and broken systems.

For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. You already know how the rest of the parable goes. The landowner goes about hiring whoever happens to be hanging out at the marketplace all day. And when everyone is paid the same wage, when the landowner makes the slept-till-noon new hires equal to the upstanding early risers who worked all day in the scorching heat, well…things get ugly.
You gotta love a kingdom of God parable in which the citizens who make up the kingdom of heaven are completely unlikable and entitled and whiney.

Don’t you picture the Kingdom of Heaven as more like a thing where everyone wears sandals and flowing white linen? Wouldn’t people in the kingdom of God appear more, I don’t know, spiritual? Wouldn’t people in the kingdom of God have that sheen of serenity and calm which is not unlike having taken a couple doses of xanex? Nope. Apparently the Kingdom of God is like a cruddy work place filled with type A personalities whose sense of entitlement would rival that of Paris Hilton working alongside slackers who take smoke breaks and earn what money they have through scratch tickets.

What kind of off-brand kingdom is made up of this kind of people?
God’s kind. Because here’s the thing: what makes this the kingdom of God is not the quality of the people in it. The kingdom of God is like a glorious mess of a kingdom where Paris Hilton and Hilton Perez and Fred Phelps and Fredrick Beuchner and ELM pastors and Core Lutherans all receive the same mercy we never saw coming because we were too busy worrying about what everyone else is doing.

What makes Lutherans blessed is not, as I thought, that they’re somehow different from the people in the Church of Christ where I was raised. What makes us all blessed is that God comes and gets us, dumb as we are; smart and faithful as we are; just as we are. Because the kingdom of God, is founded not on the quality of the people in it but on the unrestrained and lavish mercy of the God who came and got us.

Our gospel text for today is not the parable of the workers. It’s the parable of the landowner. Because what makes it the kingdom of God is not the worthiness or piety or social justice-yness or hard work of the laborers…it’s the fact that the trampy landowner couldn’t manage to keep out of the market place. He goes back and back and back interrupting lives…coming to get his people.

Like a parent throwing a wedding feast God goes out into the street and just grabs up any old wretch. Like a sower who just wantonly, wastefully casts handfuls of seed, God just CAN’T seem to be discerning. Like a father who runs out into the street to embrace his wasted betrayer of a son, God simply insists on coming to get us. Insists on making all things new, insists on ripping out our old hearts and replacing them with God’s own.

And anytime we think that this kingdom of God is just for the nice people, or the ones who are ethnically Minnesotan or the ones who really really believe it; anytime we think this thing is just for the liberals who are open and affirming or the ones who protect the Confessions, we become blind to God’s making all things new work. Work like the unexplainable fact that I am now in a clergy small group with a Church of Christ preacher who is my brother in Christ and friend and colleague.

This is the kingdom of heaven breaking in on us. A kingdom where yes, the people are somewhat questionable, but which is defined by the mercy of a God who is revealed in the cradle and the cross.

And so, Paul, Jeff, Craig, Dawn, Megan, Sharon and Ross… know this: The Kingdom of God is also like right here right now. The kingdom of God is like this very moment in which sinners are reconciled to God and to one another. The kingdom of God is like this very moment where God is making all things new…even this off brand denomination of the ELCA. Because in the end, your calling, and your value in the Kingdom of God comes not from the approval of the other workers but in your having been come-and-gotten by God. It is the pure and unfathomable mercy of God which defines this thing. And nothing. nothing else gets to tell you who you are."