Get Ready, Get Set...
In the next month, there will be two extraordinary ordinations in the ELCA--one in Chicago and one in San Francisco. "Extraordinary" in this case does not mean that these candidates are better than others who are eligible for ordination, in this case. No, the adjective modifies the "ordination", meaning "this isn't the way we usually do things". In fact, it is NEVER the way the ELCA does things--to allow a person who is completely qualified for ministry in every way, but who is GLBT and chooses not to be closeted or celibate, to be ordained "ordinarily". And so, the Extraordinary Candidacy Project was founded in 1993 as a project of Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries (more info at www.extraordinarycandidacyproject.org). They have found, in fact, that these candidates are extraordinary--called by God, gifted by the Spirit, and perfect for the congregations who have called them to be their pastors, at the risk of discipline and possibly expulsion by the ELCA.
The first extraordinary ordinations happened in January, 1990, in San Francisco. I was a first-year seminarian, and it was a scary and thrilling time to be in the church. As a seminarian, I felt somewhat vulnerable: could "someone" decide I couldn't be a pastor because of my support of GLBT ordination? I found it was worth the risk, and attended the satellite, simulcast service at church in Minneapolis. I even signed my name on a petition as being supportive of the ministry of these three newly and extraordinarily ordained pastors. I remember hearing a chapel sermon earlier that month by a visiting preacher, Rev. Barbara Lundblad, (who later became a mentor to me), who said, "...even if the church doesn't ordain these three, God does!"
Well, that was almost 17 years ago. I survived candidacy and have become a stronger and more vocal advocate for GLBT ordination. But the ordinations of those who refuse to remain celibate or closeted are still "extraordinary"--not the way we usually do things. And they continue to happen, despite the difficulty of getting a call or of mobility once one is ordained.
So, the "get ready, get set" title is a challenge to us who are part of faith communities, especially in the ELCA: we have candidates who are certified and educated and called to ministry, but where will they serve? Are there "extraordinary parishes" out there who will call "extraordinary candidates" so that the Church can be everything God intends it to be? Are there extraordinary call committees who believe that we are called to full participation in the church in our baptism, and that some, indeed, many, GLBT babies have grown in years and in faith to discern a call to ordained ministry? How shall we prepare our congregations for such ministry?
I write to you because I believe there are extraordinary people of God in the pew each Sunday, and you are among them. You are in congregations, worshiping, praying, eating any number of cream of mushroom-based hot dishes. Yours is the voice that can suggest, "Can we look at pastors from both rosters?" Yours is the life that can share stories based on GLBT people you have known who will make extraordinary pastors because they are faithful to the calling to which God has called them. Yours is the desire for wholeness that will not let the church remain broken, stuck on keeping some out and guarding those who are in.
The world is longing for a word from the Lord; this is no time to argue about the merit of the messengers, when the message can carry itself. If we but trust in God to guide us, we will discover there is room enough for all of God's people to live out their baptismal covenant. We will trust that God has indeed called many GLBT people, created in God's image, to pastor in this world. We will welcome all that is extraordinary about GLBT ministers of the gospel, and our lives will be richer for it.