Author Archives: Norma

WARTBURG SEMINARY INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY CONVOCATION 2014

Rev. Dr. Troy Troftgruben, WTS Assistant Professor of New Testament:

Welcome to our first convocation of the academic year. “Convocations” happen here at Wartburg at various times on topics that require—not simply disseminating information—but face-to-face conversation. These topics are typically not cut-and-dry issues, but matters of evolving, ongoing, dynamic conversation.

For many years Wartburg has hosted a convocation on “inclusive language.” This convocation is similar, but broader in focus. It entails not only concerns pertinent to inclusive language but also concerns pertinent to behavior and actions that foster genuine inclusion of “the other.”

Our language and our behavior do things, especially in community: by our words and actions, we consciously and unconsciously assume certain norms, characterize ourselves and our community ethos, and establish what is “normal,” acceptable, and appreciated. Sometimes we are deliberate about our words and actions, sometimes not so much.

This morning we have 6 individuals who will each speak for about 2 minutes on a particular issue that pertains to becoming an inclusive community.

- Hannah Benedict (concerning gender)
- Norma Cook Everist (concerning disabilities)
- Mack Patrick (concerning transgender)
- Stan Olson (concerning inclusive language for God)
- Gus Barnes (concerning race and sexual orientation)
- Susan Ebertz (concerning denominational backgrounds)

Afterward, we will dialogue with each other at our tables.

Hannah Benedict, Final Year M.Div. Student: 

I don’t think much about my gender. I don’t have a constant internal track going, “I-am-a-woman-I-am-a-woman-I-am-a-woman.” I say this fully aware that as I say that, I wear a particular piece of attire typically attributed to one gender–yep, high heels, those tortuous devices woman can wear. But I don’t wear high heels because of my gender. I wear them because of my 5’3″ height. It’s logistics folks! I truly don’t pay attention to my gender much, until a moment about which I’m going to tell you:

At the end of internship, a congregation member came up to me with what she thought would be a compliment. She said, “At first we didn’t know how a lady intern would do, but you did great, honey!” Her pleasant surprise was my harsh realization. Not only might I need to consider my gender, but that others could see my gender as a detriment.

She wasn’t the first to share such reactions. Others, mostly women and women my age, shared similar reactions, “You wanna be a what? Sweetie, don’t you know you’re a lady?”

It’s not that I don’t know my gender. I am fully aware of it and others of my kind. I’m one of three sisters, (an aunt two nieces; women outnumber men in my family). I attended a women’s college—go Suzies—and chaired the feminist group. I got that I was a woman, through and through. But what I didn’t get was how this somehow made me any less effective or valuable.

Being a woman never stopped me from doing all that God called me to do. Being a woman never stopped me from being compassionate, courageous, strong, determined, and dedicated. Instead, being a woman, surrounded and supported by them, taught me how to be all these and more. My gender provides a particular perspective, one no less important than any other. From this vantage point, I can see who God makes me through the Holy Spirit in Christ.

In Christ, we are no longer male/female, gentile/Jewish, enslaved/free. We are God’s.  Gender may be part of my identity but it is not all of it. Yes, I’m a lady—and a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and, occasionally I wear heels.  But I am first and foremost a child of God.

Rev. Dr. Norma Cook Everist, Professor of Church Administration and Educational Ministry: 

I’m Norma Cook Everist, addressing living together with our abilities and disabilities. We are all differently abled. Wartburg is a caring community where people try to live thoughtfully, respectfully and in solidarity with people with disabilities.

How can we do this even better?

By really seeing each person, rather than pretending not to notice. By asking, rather than presuming a person’s need: “What is helpful to you?”

By using person-first language: Not “a blind person” but a “person who is blind.” I have a disability; I am not my disability.

And by using inclusive language in worship. Our ELW does not say, “Please stand,” words hard to hear for those who cannot. Thomas Schattauer and Melissa Waterman encourage us to motion with our hands when the congregation is to stand. People with disabilities who were on the hymnal planning committee encouraged, “The Assembly stands,” an inclusive phrase which means the congregation stands for those who cannot. We’ve been doing pretty well this fall. It is important we remember as we are formed as leaders for an inclusive church.

Inclusive language matters: So we motion, or we say, “The assembly stands,” or we say, “Please stand as you are able.”

Nicholas Rohde and I conferred, discovering we’ve both been tempted to respond when we hear, “Please stand”: “No thank you, I can’t.” Let’s try that. I’ll say, “Please stand,” and you respond, “No thank you. I can’t.” [The people at tables did.] Now say after me: “The Assembly stands.” [“The Assembly stands.”] “Please stand as you are able”   [“Please stand as you are able.”]

Thank you very much.

Mack Patrick, 1st Year M.Div. Student:

To start this conversation off, one must understand a few basic things about transgender. The first is that transgender is commonly spelled as trans*; this is an important piece in the trans* experience. The asterisk represents that trans* is a spectrum covering a wide variety of experiences. Some are a bit more clear-cut than others. There is the complete change over: Female to Male or Male to Female, but there is also the non-conforming, non-identifying side of gender.

Along with recognizing that trans* is a spectrum—and you may not always know how someone fully identifies—it is important to realize trans* are still people. Asking if they have surgery, or inquiring more about their chosen gender, is not cool and rather offensive. No one cares about your private parts. You should not ask those questions of those who are trans*. That is a private matter.

Pronouns identify who we are on a paper form, but correct use of pronouns is also a good way to show someone that you care about them and want them to be included in a community. While society has focused on the popular pronouns of male and female, there are yet two other known sets of pronouns that someone may identify with. One of those other sets is the gender neutral set. It is commonly used with individuals who do not identify with a specific gender. [This set includes:] Ze (zee) commonly referred to as the subject, Hir (here) known as the object and possessive adjective, and Hirs (heres) for the possessive pronoun. While these are not commonly known and used, as the popularity and acknowledgment of the gender-neutral pronoun grows, they will be used more often. It is completely acceptable to ask people what pronouns they prefer.

For someone who identifies as trans*, asking about pronouns is a great first step. Admitting that you have no clue what to do or say is good, but first and foremost ignore their gender and focus on the person. I know that hearing the correct pronouns being used when talking about me, is huge, as acceptance is growing. Even though I identify as trans*, I feel full included and accepted in the Wartburg Community. Inclusion starts with the ability to recognize you may encounter individuals in your community that are different from you. Take the first step and get to know them as a person.

Rev. Dr. Stan Olson, WTS President:

My privilege today is to talk with you a little about language for God. The topic of this convocation is inclusive language. I could talk about inclusive language for God, pointing to the importance of speaking of God in ways that allow all to be included.

I’ve given that talk. However, over the years I’ve concluded that it’s far better to speak of expansive language for God or, simply, appropriate language for God. Speaking appropriately of God is an expression of faithfulness.

Sixty years ago, J. B. Philipps wrote a book titled, Your God Is Too Small. He challenges the reader to think more expansively about God as made known in Jesus Christ, to embrace the depth of meaning. The book was very important in shaping my early thinking. I recently reread it and can’t now say that I commend the book to you. I do, however, commend the title. Let that title push you firmly as you do theology, preach, teach, counsel, write, and pray—your God is too small.

To embed this push in your thoughts, I invite you to shift from the second person pronoun and use this as a response: Our God is too small. Say it with me now, Our God is too small, and then in response.

If we speak of God using only a few of the words and images available, Our God is too small.

If we use only the language of the New Testament, Our God is too small.

If we use only the language of the Hebrew Bible, Our God is too small.

If our talk of God uses only masculine images and pronouns, or only feminine images and pronouns, or only combinations, Our God is too small.

If we limit our language for God only to words actually used in the Bible and neglect the church’s rich history of devotion and thought, Our God is too small.

If we casually and carelessly use familiar hymnic and devotional language that conveys limited or false images of God, Our God is too small.

If the God we convey seems distant and unknowable for any to whom we speak, Our God is too small.

If we think that God is ours alone, Our God is too small.

If we ever allow ourselves to think that we have arrived at language that is finally and completely appropriate, Our God is too small.

God is not too small!

Gus Barnes, 3rd Year M.Div. Student: 

I am Gus Barnes Jr. I am one of a kind, created by God and my parents. I am a fifty-three year old man in seminary. I am a tax-payer. I am a product of the sixties. Here is the shocker surprise: I am an openly Gay African American man. In my time in this temporal place we call earth, I have had many doors shut in my face because of the things that describes who Gus is. Here at Wartburg Seminary I assume when people speak of Gus being Gay, it’s because often I am happy as Gus; I am welcomed here as Gus.

I am thrilled to have lived a lifetime to see a Black President in office, and this week I met the ELCA’s first openly Gay Bishop. The ELCA has struggled with sexuality issues. And after its decision in 2009 to be more open to gays and lesbians serving in ministerial leadership, it has lost many congregations. Sadly I am reminded daily when I look in the mirror as I prepare my day that I need to ask,”What doors will be opened, and which doors will be shut because of who Gus is?” Spend some time to get to know me and others. I promise if you stay out of my closet, I’ll stay out of yours!

Susan Ebertz, Director of the Reu Memorial Library and Assistant Professor of Bibliography and Academic Research:

I’m speaking on inclusion of a variety of denominational backgrounds. I think that there is only one student here who is not Lutheran and she is a TEEM student. I think I am the only faculty member who is not Lutheran. There are a number of the staff who are not Lutheran. I mention this because sometimes it is easy for some of us to forget that not all of us are Lutheran.

At one time we had more non-Lutherans here. The other faculty member and the students would talk with me about some of their experiences. I’m not at liberty to share those stories. It wasn’t a secret club but it did create a bond between us.

I don’t think that the difference in denominational backgrounds is as hurtful as other sorts of discriminations. If we all realize that not everyone speaks Lutheranese and not all of us believe Lutheran theology, we go a long way into including those of other denominations.

I know that some of you grew up in a different denomination and the transition to Lutheran theology may be difficult. I think it is important for you to know and understand Lutheran theology and to live into that. That is okay. That is not what I’m talking about.

Many of you will be ministering in communities where you will need to work with ecumenical partners. Understanding what they believe or how they “do worship” can be an important learning experience while you are in seminary. Figure out ways to experience that.

If you want to talk more, I welcome conversation with you.

Table Question for Communal Conversation:

  1. When have you experienced “exclusion” in a community or church setting?
  2. What practices have you observed to be some of the most helpful for facilitating authentic inclusion and openness in faith communities? How have they worked?
  3. As leaders, how can we go about being allies or advocates in the communities we serve for inclusion concerning some of the issues named this morning?
  4. As leaders, what do you think will be some of the most pressing issues of inclusion for which we will need to be advocates in our unfolding ministries?

You may also appreciate the following previously published posts:


IMMIGRANT LABORERS, a POEM, by Rev. Minna Quint, WTS 2014, Capital Hill Lutheran, Des Moines, IA

For hands
Covered in callouses
Bruised from rough labor
Dried by a scorching sun
My God where are you?

 For faces
Tired from long hours
Worn by the weather
Hardened by oppression
My God where are you?

 For stomachs
Starving for satisfaction
Longing to be filled
Growling
Growling
Growling
My God where are you?

 For jeans
Torn apart by physical labor
Stained with pain and disapproval
Bleached in the sun of unrighteousness
My God where are you?

 For wallets
Soggy from a day’s sweat
Empty
Old
Frayed
My God where are you?

 For hearts
That struggle to be loved
Screaming at inequality
In a country that shouts
“The land of the FREE”
My God where are you?

INTERCESSORY PRAYERS FOR IMMIGRANT LABORERS by Rev. Minna Quint, WTS 2014, Capital Hill Lutheran, Des Moines, IA

For hands that work all day and night on property they will never own
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For backs that are twisted and bent working in fields that just go on and on
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For fingers that are red and swollen from picking a harvest they will never consume
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For shoulders that carry burdens which reside in their muscles leaving knots that cannot be untied
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For brows burning in the heat of an unforgiving sun begging for a single cloud
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For knees that ache so heavily night after night they prevent any chance of sleep
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

For ears that refuse to listen and turn away another’s plea
For eyes that choose dominion over every creature they see
For minds that cannot understand what it means to have equality
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer

“REFLECTIONS ON INTERNSHIP, WEEK 2: I AM PETER” By Carina Schiltz, M.Div Intern, Milwaukee, WI

Sitting in my white-walled office,
there is always a bustle outside
in the hallway, yet
I still feel safe here.
It’s home base.
Galilee.
I’m with the seemingly popular
and victorious Jesus, who
teaches and feeds and heals.
I know who he is–The Messiah
The Son of the Living God.

But then he told me that
we’re going to Jerusalem.

And that I have to leave my office.

He talked about death and a cross,
and naturally I said, “No.”
But we’re going. Crosses as our yokes,
slogging one foot in front of the other toward…something.

Next week we’re doing a neighborhood
clean-up, and today
in the church parking lot there were
wrappers, and
used
condoms
snaking along the pavement.
Someone will have to pick those up.
What will they say to their children
who will inevitably ask, “Mommy, Daddy,
what’s that?”

What does this have to do with following you, Jesus?
I walk past the filthy parking lot,
carefully avoiding the empty Magnum wrappers
and snaky plastic,
and I listen to sad stories
and frumpy individuals who have everything wrong
with their lives, and I drive to the next,
almost-closed-up church
on this road to Jerusalem, and the cross.

As powerless as I feel
I am pulled like a magnet toward
peoples’ sorrows, and they tell me,
and I can’t fix it.

Sometimes I deny you, Jesus, and
I do try to fix it by myself. Sometimes
I doubt that you know what you’re doing.

I mean, look around.
It’s bleak here.
But you say to follow, so I do:
out of the office and into the neighborhoods
where I sometimes lock my purse in the trunk,
my brain making judgments until I am
paralyzed with fear,
but people live here everyday
and you are there among them.

The ugly and the beautiful all
wrapped up into one.
And sometimes I am unwilling to see you in it.

Pessimistic.
Judgmental.
Glass not even half-empty.
But here I am.
The rooster is about to
crow again, isn’t it?

CHANGE THE WORLD BY EDUCATING GIRLS: THE FILM GIRL RISING By Carina Schiltz & Mytch Dorvilier, 2nd year M.Div. Students

Reviewed by Carina Schiltz and Mytch Dorvilier 2nd year M.Div. Students

 Girl Rising is a film and a global movement to educate girls as a means of breaking cycles of global poverty. The movie was released in March 2013, and Wartburg Seminary recently held a screening, sponsored by the Global Advocacy Committee. Girl Rising, directed by Richard E. Robins, and Academy Award nominated, is a global action campaign for girls’ education as well as a moving and inspiring film to raise awareness about the importance of girls’ education to global prosperity and peace. After the film, the audience engaged in meaningful discussion, lessons, and were encouraged to think about important political, cultural, historical, economic, and geographic issues tied to educating girls — and about their responsibilities to their own communities and their role as global citizens.

The documentary, created in partnership of girls and writers follows the stories of nine girls from Peru, Haiti, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, and Cambodia. It highlights the lives of nine young girls striving beyond circumstance and overcoming nearly insurmountable odds to achieve their dreams:  Sukha the Phoenix, Ruksana the Dreamer, Suma the Emancipated, Yasmin the Superhero, Senna the Warrior, Azmera the Courageous, Amina the Hopeful, Wadley the Undaunted,  and Mariama the Catalyst. The film shows challenges they have faced in their daily lives that bar the way to education, safety, and integrity. Some stories end in hope, but not all.

Educating girls is crucial because this results in safety, health, and independence. The  entire world is positively affected: their own children are more likely to be educated and communities thrive. Education helps provide a way to stay out of forced marriage, domestic slavery, human trafficking, and childbirth, which is the number one cause of death for girls ages 15-19.

Access to education is a basic right, however, around the world, 66 million girls are out of school. What are they doing instead? Many do not have a choice. They are working and earning money for their families. Often sons get priority to attend school rather than daughters. The girls may be married very young, already have children to care for, or they have been sold into domestic slavery. Thirteen girls under the age of 18 have been married in the last 30 seconds. In the time it took to read this paragraph, another thirteen girls around the world were married rather than being in school.

Educating girls raises national GDP which will continue to increase because educated people are more likely to send their own children to school, creating a cycle of prosperity and innovation. But the benefits of educating girls are not just in the future: some benefits happen right away. When girls and boys are educated together, studies show that conflict in those countries is reduced.

The film features voice over from Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchet, Selena Gomez, Liam Neeson, Priyanka Chopra, Chloe Moretz, Freida Pinto, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Alicia Keyes and Kerry Washington. The film could be used for Sunday school, confirmation class, and other groups to introduce students to the issues surrounding girls’ education in the developing world, and it’s transformational power.

Want to change the world? Advocate for girls’ education. Reduce poverty, sexual violence, and increase health and prosperity for girls, their communities, and the world.

 

MYTHS & FACTS ABOUT SEXUAL ASSAULT By Laurel Duncan, 2nd Year MDiv

Men should be ashamed.  Men should be ashamed of the way our culture blames women for rape.  Saying: “she should not have been _____ (wearing that outfit, in that place, having a drink)” is blaming the victim for the crime of the perpetrator, as though it is up to the woman to avoid being raped because it’s natural for a man to rape.  As though men cannot control themselves and must rape a woman whom they find attractive.  Men, stand up for yourselves.  Don’t let our culture spread these negative assumptions.  It is not the natural state of a man to rape.  Put the blame where it belongs.  The one who rapes is the one to blame, not the victim.  Victim-blaming must end.  It is a culturally pervasive myth that rape is the fault of the victim by what they wore or where they were or what they did.  Let’s shatter this myth.  While we are at it here are a few more myths in need of shattering:

Myth: Men are the rapists, women are the victims.

Fact: While the highest number of sexual assault cases are of a man against a woman, women can commit rape and men can be raped.

Myth: Most sexual assaults are committed by a stranger.

Fact: About 80% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim such as a relative, friend or acquaintance.  Rape can also occur in relationships and marriages–being married does not imply automatic consent.  Each person in a relationship has the right to say “no” to sex at any time and have that no respected by the other person.

Myth: Rapes are committed in dark alleyways.

Fact: According to the FBI database 70% of sexual assaults reported to law enforcement happen in the home of the victim, offender, or another individual.

Myth: Only homosexual men rape boys.

Fact: Most men who abuse boys define themselves as heterosexual.

Myth: Sexual assault is something that happens to pretty, young women

Fact: Sexual assault is about power and control.  Offenders look for people who are the most vulnerable to attack or who they believe they can have power over.  Victims can range from very young to very old.  61% of rape victims were assaulted before 18 years of age. 34% of sexual assault victims are age 12 or younger.

We live in a rape culture.  Women are told to dress attractively for men but if they get raped it’s their fault.  Jokes about rape and degradation of women are common place.  Our society holds up the “boys will be boys” mentality allowing men to abuse with little consequence.  Many of our swear words have a sexual nature; most of those speak specifically to sexual violation.  In movies, TV shows, and video games the idea of sexual assault has become so common place that in some video games a player can be rewarded for raping the enemy.  The myths this society believes about rape, the blame that mostly lands on the victim and the trivialization of rape all work to perpetuate the occurrence of sexual assaults in our world.

To borrow from the Alcohols Anonymous 12 step program, first we must admit we have a problem.  Awareness is the first step towards a better future.  Each person can become more aware of the areas in our society that trivialize and normalize sexual assault.  The first step is seeing: seeing how sexuality is portrayed in the media.  Being aware of the images you see on a daily basis can help you to take a step back and recognize what messages are healthy and what messages are harmful.  Next listen to the way sexual is spoken of both in the media and in daily life.  This can help you become more aware of your own language.  It seems like a minor thing but using sexually violent language trivializes sexual violence.  Using sexually violent language perpetuates sexual violence in our culture by turning it into a joke.  We may not be able to make the world perfect but we can certainly make it a safer place for our children by bringing awareness to issues like sexual assault.

The statistics in this article come from the Riverview Center which is a crisis center for victims of sexual assault in Dubuque, IA.  For more information visit www.riverviewcenter.org.

WOMEN CALLED TO CONNECT, BOND, AND HEAL IN A BROKEN WORLD By Tammy Barthels, M.Div Intern

I had the privilege to hear Edwina Gateley speak at the Women of the ELCA Wisconsin River Valley Conference Spring Event. Edwina founded the Genesis House – a house of hospitality and nurturing for women involved in prostitution in Chicago IL. The Genesis House until 2006 became a model program for women recovering from prostitution in the Midwest. Sophia’s Circle, an offshoot of Genesis House, provides ongoing support to help the women sustain their recovery through retreats, counseling, small emergency loans and sisterhood. Edwina is also the founder of The Voluntary Missionary Movement which sends missionaries to work in the developing world. She has authored 14 books, 3 CD’s and a DVD. Edwina has also been featured on CBS’s “60 Minutes” and “48 Hours.”

Edwina explored with enthusiasm and awe how God as lover and healer invites people to new possibilities and to believe in their potential to make a difference in our world.

She began the event by giving statistics such as:
7 million children go hungry everyday in the USA
1 in 3 girls will be abused before the age of 18
2% of the world’s population hold all its wealth

Edwina then said that she believed the definition for sin is “being out of balance.”

“We are the Mothers, Birth Wives, Daughters called to do what we can to balance things. Compassion and Love are the fundamental messages of the Gospel. Our call is to keep going and to never give up.

“God is inviting us to wholeness, to new possibilities and to open up and take action. We need to stand up and look fear in the face. We as women need to do what we think we cannot do. We are blessed at this time to speak the wisdom from deep within. Faith can’t be taught but only caught by the fire within us that God has given us. Our light must shine.

“Now is the time to speak our truth and to stand up for injustice. We are not to be the cheerleaders but the doers. The ones who will reach out with compassion; 96% of change and transformation happens with compassion. Change does not happen with war or legislation but with love. How hot is your love for justice? How will you fan the fire and make a change today?

“We are all called to be Mothers of God, to give birth to something new. It requires courage to be passionate and to go against the status quo. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: ‘Courage in women is often mistaken in women for insanity.’

“In a world of fear and imbalance we as women, midwives, and daughters must not give up. We must speak to the young and offer them alternatives to war and hatred. We must not be part of the diminishment but be part of the change. Blessed are they who never compromise their faith or their integrity. We must be so connected to the Gospel that we will not be compromised.”

The ongoing violence against women continues, the cycle of anger and violence continues because there is no love. The Church must be a holding room of intense love and compassion. We cannot fix it all, but we can be an intense place of light and love. How will we as women of the church fan the fire of love and compassion today? It is a conscious journey. How will we respond?