A Brief History of Our Names and Amazing People

A Brief History of Our Names and Amazing People

Notes from ReconcilingWorks’ Early History

On June 16 and 17, 1974, five people gathered at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis at the invitation of Pastor Jim Siefkes. There were no cell phones, the only computers in existence were massive mainframes controlled by “priests and attendants” in government and large corporations, and there was only postal service mail and long-distance phone calls for not-in-person communication.

The Rev. Jim Siefkes, a straight ally, then Director for Discovering Ministries in the American Lutheran Church (ALC), had been given a grant by the ALC to hold a national meeting of homosexual persons and resource persons for the purpose of discussing their sexual orientation and its affect on their relationship with society and the church. The ALC’s purpose was to open a dialogue so that the church would become “less a source of oppression.”

Met in that meeting were Allen Blaich (student, University of Utah in Salt Lake City), Howard Erickson (Reporter, Minneapolis Star Tribune and contributor to The Advocate), Diane Fraser (Assistant Professor at Gustavus Adolphus University ), Marie Kent (Instructor in a Minneapolis home for the mentally-challenged) and the Rev. Jim Lokken (American Bible Society, New York).

By the end of the meeting, the group had founded Lutherans Concerned for Gay People (LCGP), run by a Steering Committee under bylaws typed out ad hoc in twenty minutes by Howard on a typewriter he found in the next room. The organization’s name was Allen’s idea. The first two Coordinators were Allen and Diane. Marie Kent became the Treasurer. Dues were three dollars. There would be a newsletter, The Gay Lutheran, that Howard would edit, of which The Concord is the grateful latter-day descendent.

Shortly thereafter, as the ALC intended, representatives of LCGP found themselves in dialogue with officials in the church. LCGP had an information table and provided hospitality at the ALC Convention in Detroit in October 1974.

Equally quickly, LCGP came under persistent and vociferous attack from conservatives, particularly the Lutheran News run by Herman Otten, founder of the current publication Christian News. The effect of his attacks was somewhat like “a book being banned in Boston”—it increased sales exponentially. Membership rose because of the wide distribution of Otten’s publication and the fact that he re-published the entire newsletter in order to foment about it, including the cut-out coupon to join LCGP. Help comes from the unlikeliest quarters.

The first logo was the Lutheran Rose, cut from a book by Howard Erickson. The first assembly of LCGP was in 1978. By then there were twenty-two Chapters across the United States, from New England and New York City to Atlanta and New Orleans, from Baltimore to San Francisco, from Indiana to Fargo, San Diego and Los Angeles, among others.

It was at the 1978 LCGP Assembly that the decision was made to shorten the name to just Lutherans Concerned because, among other reasons, some thought the longer name was cumbersome. Late in 1978, the United States Post Office granted non-profit status to Lutherans Concerned.

The name of the organization was further changed in 1980 to Lutherans Concerned/ North America, to make visible the continental reach Lutherans Concerned had achieved through its programs and influence. The shortened name, Lutherans Concerned, continued to be used as the working name except in more formal documents and press releases.

The 1980 name change reflected the international nature of the organization, with members, chapters and movement building within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Lutherans Concerned in Canada is independently-led, with its own board and officers, but also has voting representation on the main board of ReconcilingWorks.

The fish logo was created by Steve Broin and adopted by LC/NA in 1982. Steve also created the logo for the RIC program. The explanation of the fish logo has been part of the Concord. Elements of this logo are incorporated in the logo of ReconcilingWorks, as you can see in a companion article about how the new logo came to be.

In 1983, the Internal Revenue Service recognized LC/NA as non-profit organization under Section 501(c) (3). All of this brings us to ReconcilingWorks.