Email this page to a friend.

Pro-GLBT Lutherans

—seeking funding even from non-Christians, in $2 million fund drive

by Betsy Carlson (Editor, WordAlone Network)

News: March 9, 2006

Supporters of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender causes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America say the denomination is at a "tipping point, a critical juncture" for "full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities" and so are asking for major donations as part of a four-year campaign.

Based on an email sent out by ELCA ministers in and near New York City to potential donors and synod pastors, three pro-gay, -lesbian, -bi-sexual and -transgender support groups are working together to raise $2 million to further their cause for change in the denomination.

They have already garnered $1 million in pledges.

The three organizations working together in a "joint strategic initiative—One Voice" are Lutherans Concerned/North America, Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries and Wingspan Ministry of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church, St. Paul, Minn.

"They certainly have the right to raise funds, but the lead-in to the invitation is obviously appealing to people outside the ELCA who 'may not be Lutheran or Christian' to support the campaign," said Pastor Mark Chavez, WordAlone Network director. "This is evidence, to me, of a movement inside the ELCA looking for support to those in the larger, secular pro-GLBT campaign whose ultimate goals are not just blessing of same-sex relationships but also approval of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender behaviors and relationships."

The New York email started: "I am making a special appeal to those of you I know are concerned about the greater churches' need to be more inclusive in welcoming gay/lesbian members and clergy. Even though some of you may not be Lutheran or Christian, if you support GLBT causes, you probably recognize that organized religion cannot remain a hiding place for sexual discrimination."

The email asked recipients to come to a meeting Wednesday evening, March 8, at the parsonage of Pastor Phil Trzynka of Trinity Lower East Side Lutheran in New York City. The invitation was signed by Trzynka and several others including: Barbara Lundblad, associate professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary; former Metro New York Synod bishop "Jim" Sudbrock; Pastor Ann Tiemeyer, director of Camp Koinonia.

"We are at a tipping point, a critical juncture of change within our church, where increased financial support will help us move boldly into the future;" the email said, "we invite you to participate with us in an historic collaboration to reform the Lutheran Landscape. We have a common vision of the Lutheran communion that embraces and actualizes the full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities."

Chavez also said, "This is a good example that GLBT activists will keep pushing the ELCA to ordain people in same-sex relationships and to bless same-sex relationships. The votes on these issues at the 2005 churchwide assembly were a smoke screen of ambiguity."

A report on the One Voice campaign in the November 2005 issue of the Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries newsletter, "the mission," said the campaign had "reached the halfway mark in contributions and pledges." It notes that most of the pledges came through "concentrated efforts" in the Twin Cities, Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay Area and that the campaign was "gearing up" in New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and Los Angeles. Other areas of the country would be contacted over the next six months, it said.

The pledges were to be filled during a four-year period from 2004-2008, according to "the mission" newsletter.

"Pledges are being sought in amounts beginning at $5,000 ranging up $100,000. Donors are being asked to make their pledges over and above what they are already giving to the three organizations," said the newsletter article.

WordAlone point of contact in the Metro New York Synod, Pastor Eric Swensson, said Wednesday that the fund-raising email showed how a "minuscule percentage of people, mainly revisionist clergy and lay activists, has brought a 4.9 million member denomination to the point of division, charges of heresy and at least one congregation leaving each month."

He urged ELCA members in an email of his own to write their bishops and the Church Council with concerns about the pro-GLBT campaign.

Swensson wrote: "For the sake of the faithful in the pews in Metro NY and the rest of the ELCA, begin taking action. The time for action has come. If the theologically orthodox let this small, incredibly well financed group change the history of the denomination forever, I suppose we deserve it."