June 17th is ReconcilingWorks' 42nd Anniversary! To celebrate this rich history and remember our roots, ReconcilingWorks is making publicly available online, "Lutherans Concerned for Gay People: The Beginning." This history was compiled by Jeannine Janson, former Board Co-Chair in June 2008, in order to preserve and archive the organization's historical documents and tell the beginning of our story.
"Amen and Amen for the life changing and lifesaving work of ReconcilingWorks in the Lutheran church. A heartfelt 'Thank You' is due to past, present, and future volunteers, donors, board members, and staff. The imprint you have left on ReconilingWorks and the Lutheran Church is one that brings new joys and milestones each day! Let's take a day to celebrate our accomplishments of the past 42 years and then roll up our sleeves and dig deep into this work of welcome, inclusion, and celebration of LGBTQ people and their families," Aubrey Thonvold, ReconcilingWorks Executive Director said.
Make a donation today of $42 in honor of ReconcilingWorks' 42nd Anniversary.
The following is an excerpt of
Lutherans Concerned for Gay People: The Beginning:
The Beginning: The Bullet-Point Version
The 21st Century is a fast-food, bullet-point world of text-message abbreviations. For some, the personal reflections and reprinted articles that comprise this booklet may be too long, too much to read, to get to the "facts." So, following is a bullet point version of "the beginning."
- Lutherans Concerned for Gay People was founded as the result of a meeting held June 16 and 17, 1974, at the University of Minnesota, in Minnesota.
- The June 1974 meeting was made possible by the Rev. Jim Siefkes who, at that time, was serving as Director for Discovering Ministries of the American Lutheran Church (ALC). Pastor Siefkes secured a grant from the ALC "To enable at least one national meeting of up to twenty ALC homosexual persons plus 5 resource persons to discuss their sexual orientation and their relationship because of it, to society and their church; to the endo that they may address the church and the church might respond to them and become less a source of oppression to ALC and other persons with homosexual orientation."
- Present at the founding meeting were five Lutherans¹ and three facilitators from the gay caucuses of three other denominations.
- The Lutherans were:
- Allen Blaich, Student, University of Utah, Salt Lake City
- Howard Erickson, Reporter, Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Advocate
- Diane Fraser, Assistant Professor, Gustavus Adolphus Univeristy, St. Peter
- Marie Kent, Instructor in a home for the mentally challenged, Minneapolis
- The Rev. Jim Lokken, American Bible Society, New York City
- The facilitators were:
- Lousie Rose, American Baptist, Philadelphia
- Ron Mattson, Quaker, St. Paul
- John Preston, Episcopalian, Twin Cities
- By the end of the two-day meeting, the following had been decided:
- The organization would be called "Lutherans Concerned for Gay People" ("LCCP") Allen Blaich came up with the name, which was inspired by "Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam."
- LCGP would be run by a "Steering Committee."
- LCGP would have two "Coordinators" who could be "named," i.e., "out." The first two Coordinators were Allen Blaich and Diane Fraser.
- LCGP would publish a newsletter and the editor would be Howard Erickson.
- The LCGP newsletter would be called "The Gay Lutheran." Diane Fraser came up with the newsletter name.
- The LCGP Treasurer would be Marie Kent.
- Dues would be $3.00
- The LCGP mailing address would be a post office box in Salt Lake City maintained by Allen Blaich.
- "The Gay Lutheran" was circulated widely to religion news media, clergy, congregations, district, synod, and national church offices, college libraries, news bureaus, every list the founders could think of. It had an impact way out of proportion to LCGP's numbers.
- Quite soon after the founding meeting, representatives of LCGP were making presentations and meeting with church officials.
- The first brochure was green, was developed a few months after the first issue of the newsletter, and included "A Statement" that was addressed "To Our Church."
- The first Lutherans Concerned information table and hospitality suite were at the ALC Biennial Convention, held October 9-15, 1974, in Detroit, Michigan.
- LCGP was vehemently attacked by some conservatives, notably Herman Otten's "Lutheran News" (later renamed "Christian News"). Otten's attack gave "The Gay Lutheran" much wider circulation than it would have otherwise. Otten included the LCGP membership coupon in some of this reprints, garnering new members who clipped it from Otten's paper and sent it in. Very quickly LCGP chapter groups were organized in major cities.
- According to "The Gay Lutheran," the first LCGP Chapters were in the Twin Cities and Chicago. The Twin Cities Chapter met at the Univerity of Minnesota. The Chicago Chapter met at Hyde Park Lutheran church.
- By December 1978, there were 22 LC Chapters: New England; New York City; Philadelphia; Washington-Baltimore; Atlanta; New Orleans; Houston; Dayton; Michigan; Indiana; Chicago; Milwaukee; Twin Cities; Fargo-Morehead; St. Louis; Omaha; Phoenix; San Diego; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Portland; and Seattle-Tacoma.
- The Lutheran Rose was the first "logo" of Lutherans Concerned because, as Howard Erickson said, "We wanted something that said, 'We are Lutheran, we are not outside the church, this is our church, too.'"
- The Lutheran Rose that was used for "The Gay Lutheran," was cut out from a book Howard Erickson purchased at Augsburg Publishing, specifically to get the Lutheran Rose for the LCGP newsletter.
- The First Lutherans Concerned Assembly was held in Milwaukee July 7-9, 1978. The gathering featured a keynote speaker, workshops, a business session, and worship. They keynote speaker was Dr. Elizabeth Ann Bettenhausen, a Secretary for Social Concerns at LCA National Headquarters. The preacher was the Rev. Chuch Lewis.
- Effective December 28, 1978, Lutherans Concerned for Gay People changed its name to Lutherans Concerned.
- About the survival and longevity of Lutherans Concerned, Howard Erickson said, "Chalk that up to the Holy Spirit."
¹ A sixth Lutheran, Carl Griffin (also with the Minneapolis Star Tribune), attended the first day but not the second.