Reporter's Notebook: Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

In 1993, as a response to church policy, a group of Lutherans formed the Extraordinary Candidacy Project to ordain and credential openly gay and lesbian candidates for life inside the congregations. Some, like Mark Chavez,

don't like what they're doing.

Rev. Eric Christensen, pastor at St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square in Chicago was ordained through the extraordinary process. He currently serves as the co-chair of the organization. In this interview, he provides primer on their organization:

-Extraordinary candidacy process. Well, it would be helpful to know it is modeled after the ELCA, actually, it’s mirrored after the ELCA. We wanted a process that closely followed the existing process so the ELM roster will be able to join with the ELCA roster. Our sole exception is that we don’t require celibacy of LGBT seminarians.

-It is our firm belief and hope that this policy will change. It’s been a topic at the churchwide assembly every other year for the last 8 years.

-No. Not every candidate gets approved for ELM ordination. Currently, there are 45 pastors on our roster and 17 serving in ministry settings.

-The policy may go away soon. This policy will fall but won’t end the need for ELM. We will continue with education and advocacy and provide support to clergy and seminarians. But we won’t know our full role until the policy falls.

-Our work goes back to 1990. But as long as there have been clergy, there have been gay clergy.

-What was that famous quote by Martin Luther King Jr.? … Something like, "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

-No doubt in my mind. But I won’t lay odds in 2009 or five years from now…

-We take seriously the freedom of the Christian. A Christian is perfectly free and bound to be a servant to the world. We are not waiting but rather living in the service to the church.

-It’s clear we are living in a watershed moment. Just in the last twenty months, congregations are no longer basing themselves off the discriminatory policies of the church.

-We are conscience bound by the greater sake for justice. ELM hopes to provide a way and structure. We are not acting in a renegade way. We still retain the safety and protection that credentials provide. No one wants rogue pastors. That is not safe.

-We attempt to live with authenticity and credibility to support human life. We have a powerful opportunity to offer the public communities help on how to live with care toward each other. Margaret Kelly, a Luther seminarian featured in the story "All God's Children", is pursuing ordination through the extraordinary Lutheran ministries as well as ordination through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. "Might as well," she says.

Also, in the story we use the term "gay and lesbians." Although the current term is GLBT, we feel like acronyms take away a human element to any story. And one person in our story hated the word “bi-sexual.” She preferred the word queer. So we ditched the acronym altogether and settled with the words, gays and lesbians…

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