Earlier this month, I attended the annual Proclaim Gathering, a conference for Lutheran pastors, deacons, seminarians, and first call candidates who publicly identify as LGBTQIA+. Proclaim is a part of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, an organization that believes the public witness of gender and sexual minority ministers transforms the church and enriches the world. Learn more about Proclaim and ELM at the link above and how you can support our work.
This year, we gathered in Milwaukee, in the days before the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, under the theme “The Church (un)Bound.” The intentionality of the “(un)” is evocative of the ELCA social statement on human sexuality, passed at its Churchwide Assembly in 2009, that officially removed harmful barriers that had kept LGBTQIA+ persons from serving in rostered ministry. That document uses the language of “bound conscience” to make four paths forward for congregations in 2009 — ranging from full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ leaders to maintaining the status quo of exclusion. You can read more, including the social statement itself, here.
The call to worship that follows was used at our opening eucharist. In it, I aimed to introduce our theme by naming the different ways the church is called to be both bound and unbound. Our readings came from Ezekiel 37, in which dry bones are re-bound together, and John 11, in which Lazarus is raised to life and unbound from his grave-clothes. I also incorporated aspects of an essay by Joel R. Workin, one of the “Berkeley Four” who came out as gay to his candidacy committee in the late 1980s, long before Churchwide Assembly 2009. Because of his sexuality, Joel was never ordained and able to serve the church as a pastor before his death in 1995.
You are welcome to use the call to worship as printed below, or adapt it as necessary to fit your local context, with attribution: The Call to Worship is written by the Rev. Josh Evans, based on the writings Joel R. Workin. Reproduced by permission of the author. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.
CALL TO WORSHIP
Blessed be the holy Trinity, + one God,
who forms us in love, renews us in mercy, and holds us in grace.
Now is the time to gather:
We come from many places,
with joys and sorrows, hopes and burdens.
Now is the time to center:
We come into this one space,
around word and meal, prayer and song.
(a brief time of silent reflection)
Let the church be unbound in freedom!
Now is the time to bring God’s good news to all.
Let the church be bound together in love!
Now is the time to care for the kicked-out, the run-away,
the imprisoned, the migrant, and the friendless.
It is time to celebrate what has already been done,
and it is time to remember that we are the church,
together, for the sake of the world, with work left to do.
As the church, we celebrate God’s gracious gifts,
and we proclaim the love and life of God at work within us.
We show the gracious power and glory that is ours
when we come out and declare:
We are here.
We are lesbian, bisexual, gay, pansexual,
aromantic, queer, and asexual.
We are transgender, cisgender, gender non-conforming,
intersex, and gender non-binary.
We are deacons, seminarians, first call candidates, and pastors.
We are the church.
We are God’s.
We are God’s kin-dom.
Now is the time to gather, to center, to remember:
The most precious grace God gives us is the grace to be ourselves.
Now is the time to let grace abound!
photo credit: Josh Evans (taken during Proclaim opening worship, August 1, 2019)