Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Reclaiming the "L" Word

Shrimp here. Apart from having "Evangelical Lutheran Church in America" set as a default for our Google News page, we're not sure when we would have discovered this any time soon. But Google gets the Windy City Times and we thought the headline "Partnered pastors lead Loop Lutherans" worth a closer look.
Kelly Fryer and Tana Kjos, the newly commissioned pastoral leaders of Christ the King Lutheran Church and partners in life, led worship last Sunday in the church's new summer home at the J. Ira & Nicki Harris Family Hostel on East Congress Parkway. Filling a second-floor meeting room at the hostel, about 30 worshipers sang to the music of Kevin Cline's jazz trio, prayed and celebrated Holy Communion.
Yes, that Kelly Fryer, whose latest book, Reclaiming the "E" Word: Waking Up to Our Evangelical Identity is being touted at Augsburg Fortress displays during this Synod Assembly season. Kelly Fryer, who the Augsburg Fortress website describes as...
...a missiologist with nearly twenty years experience leading congregations in renewal. She is the author of the best-selling Reclaiming the "L" Word: Renewing the Church from Its Lutheran Core (2003, 978-0-8066-4596-4) and Reclaiming the ''C'' Word: Daring to Be Church Again (2006, 978-0-8066- 5319-8), in addition to writing for the No Experience Necessary Bible study series. Kelly taught congregational leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and now serves as executive director of A.R.E.: A Renewal Enterprise, which offers keynote speaking, renewal events, organizational consulting, and leadership coaching.
The same Kelly Fryer who resigned as a professor at Luther Seminary and from the ELCA clergy roster. See her letter of 2 1/2 years ago which describes the "cataclysmic changes" of her life during her time at Luther Seminary which led to the ending of her marriage and the beginning of a lesbian (yes, the other "L" word) relationship.

More from the Windy City Times:
Christ the King Lutheran Church, founded in 1955, has always been a "church without walls," Fryer said, and moved to the Chicago hostel after needing to vacate its previous location at Old St. Mary's Catholic Church. Fryer, whose ministry has focused on renewing and redefining churches, moved to Chicago last fall, having served as assistant professor of congregational leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., since 2004.

She spoke privately after the service about the changes in her life that led her to the position at Christ the King: "When I got to that point where I was able to just be honest with myself about my sexuality, I knew that I had two choices: I could either stay and fight—and many pastors are choosing to do that, and I honor that decision—or I could just resign from the Roster of ordained ministers. And that was the choice that I made."

She said the reason for her choice was because "the same things that have always been important to me in ministry are still important to me, namely, to figure out how to do church and be church in a new way in this new culture. And I was really afraid that if I stayed and fought this battle [over being openly lesbian in the ministry] I would be unable to do that work. You know, that that would be the only thing everybody would hear, and they wouldn't hear all this other stuff, which I think people really need to hear."

As a result, she feels enabled to continue "in creative new ways try to get out the message about the God who really loves, with no walls, no lines … and that's what I'm trying to do."

Living with Kjos and their children in the Loop, they attended Christ the King Church, which lost its previous pastor at the end of last year. The parish was able to finesse the ban on openly gay clergy by naming them "pastoral leaders" with the full support of the Chicago Metropolitan Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bishop. So far, her new ministry has "been a blast," she said.

Fryer's fame in the ECLA for thinking about new ways of "doing church" is reinforced by her being invited to be the plenary session speaker at the Chicago Metropolitan Synod's 21st Annual Synod Assembly Fri., June 6.
Read the entire article here.

But did you catch that? The same Kelly Fryer who is the plenary speaker for this weekend's Metro Chicago Synod Assembly. Or Bishop Wayne N. Miller's working with the congregation and Fryer to "finesse" ELCA standards.

A bit more looking around reveals that she did announce it on her Reclaiming the F Word (now, now, she says it stands for "Faith") blog 2 weeks ago:
I don't think I imagined ever doing this again - for all kinds of reasons - but as of a week ago Sunday I'm on the front lines of the renewal effort in a scrappy little church right here in my neighborhood. I'm serving as one of two "pastoral leaders" (let's be careful about the language here) at Christ the King Lutheran Church (CTK).
Yes, let's be careful. We wouldn't want anyone to think she's an actual (ELCA) pastor, now, would we.
Hit the wall about 6 months ago when their pastor resigned and the Catholic church where they've been worshipping for the past several years asked them to move out by summer — they need the room, the office administrator said in her email notice to the council president.

My family and I had been worshipping at CTK for a couple of months, at that point.

When we were in the room, we brought attendance up to about 18.

It's been clear for quite awhile now that something needs to change.

And, when the crisis hit, they asked us to help.

We said, "Yes."

The bishop approved.

So, here I am. Trying to figure out what it means to help a new church emerge in an urban neighborhood at the turn of this postmodern, multi-cultural, institution-averse, spiritually curious century. Hands on. Again.

I'm still working my butt off at A.R.E. This gig at CTK is very part-time and, in fact, it's technically an A.R.E. job.
Read it all here.

Thrilled yet? The news also shows up on the Christ the King Lutheran Church (ELCA) website, where you can "Meet Our Pastoral Leaders":
Tana Kjos and Kelly Fryer, partners in life and in work, have been commissioned as the first ever "co-pastoral leaders" of Christ the King Lutheran Church (CTK), a faith community that for fifty years has committed itself to serving the loop/south loop. In addition to their work at CTK, Kelly & Tana are principals in A Renewal Enterprise, Inc., a consulting group that works with organizations of all types and sizes but specializes in helping progressive churches grow. Convinced that the people of CTK are serious about becoming a faith community that makes sense – and makes a positive difference — in this city and in the world, Tana & Kelly agreed to lead the renewal efforts of this "little church that could."

"We believe that all people — regardless of race, age, ability, sexual orientation, or anything else — are welcome at any party Jesus throws!" Tana says.

Tana has a background in design, a graduate degree in Congregational Mission & Leadership, and has spent over a decade in church renewal. Kelly served for fifteen years as a Lutheran pastor, seminary professor, and is a renowned author. Her books include "Reclaiming the C Word: Daring to be Church Again" (Augsburg Fortress, 2006) and "Dancing Down the Hallway: Spiritual Reflections for the Everyday" (Augsburg Fortess, 2001).

Kelly and Tana have three children (between the ages of 15 & 21!) between them, and an appropriately named cat, Blizzard...
and a link to the Chicago Free Press article, Lesbian couple leading renewal at Christ the King Lutheran
The South Loop-based Christ the King Lutheran Church commissioned Tana Kjos and Kelly Fryer May 11 as co-pastoral leaders. The two women, who have been a couple for several years, are taking up duties normally assumed by a minister and leading the congregation through a large-scale renewal effort....

The church serves a number of gay and lesbian members and Fryer expects, given their new home in the South Loop, there will be more.

"We see increasing numbers of gay and lesbian couples in the neighborhood," Fryer said. Services, she added, usually bring in about 50 participants.

Christ the King is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which Fryer said is "the most progressive of the Lutheran congregations." But she added the movement "is still divided" on its attitudes towards homosexuality.

"We spend so much time fighting," Fryer said. "But change is coming. Every time we have a national assembly, we move a little closer."
Glad to know that, aren't you. Read it all here.

Anyway, watch for this Augsburg Fortress/ELCA evangelism guru. And when you see her spiel being hyped, don't forget to check out the Shellfish reports and conversation on Kelly Fryer here and here. It's all about the "L" word, after all.

And you most likely read it here first. Shrimp out.


MrGrapefruit said...

It's interesting to see Augsburg Fortress promote an author who resigned her call as an ELCA pastor and professor. I know of ELCA theologians who have been published in numerous ecumenical journals, who have co-authored several books, and who are well respected among colleagues, who have never been approached by AF to write for them. The main reason seems to be that they are too orthodox. Meanwhile, someone who has left the ELCA is raised up as a "missiologist" and leading voice for the denomination.

Shrimp said...

In respect for "full disclosure," we should note that this was pretty much how Augsburg Fortress described Ms. Fryer when she was an ELCA pastor. It was as a star Augsburg Fortress writer that she came to Luther Seminary and the "cataclysmic changes" of her life (Shrimp thinks "scandalous" would be a more faithful description for her ever-changing life since leaving parish ministry) since then have not tarnished her shine at the ELCA's publishing ministry one iota. If anything, she is more highly valued and promoted than ever.

Of course, with sales of the new hymnal having tanked, she and the (as yet unproven-in-the-market) "Book of Faith" initiative seem to be about the only exciting things Augsburg Fortress has going.

Though we would be remiss in failing to mention that among the latest "Lutheran Voices" releases is Frank Senn's Lutheran Identity: A Classical Understanding. Pastor Senn represents well orthodoxy in the ELCA and has three other books -- including one widely used as an ELCA seminary textbook -- published by Augsburg Fortress. So it isn't completely true that the publishing house for orthodox ELCAers is Eerdmans.

Shrimp out.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...