...for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56:7)
Resurrection Lutheran Church proudly welcomes all people, regardless of status, gender, orientation, age, ethnicity, or other distinctions, as beloved children of God.
by Pastor Brian Hiortdahl
Frank Thomas, a faithful, funny, outspoken and insightful man, welcomed me warmly as the new pastor of his beloved congregation in 2001. Our conversations moved too quickly from his stylish apartment to his hospital room, where in the midst of his own physical pain Frank recounted his heartbreak for Richard, his beloved partner, as he watched him die slowly of AIDS. Today Frank and Richard are reunited in God's embrace. But before he died, Frank left us two remarkable gifts.
The first gift was a generous bequest which was instrumental in starting Resurrection's Mission Endowment Fund. The second gift was an equally generous comment to the new pastor he was teaching from his hospital bed. I don't remember his exact words, but it went something like this: "I joined Resurrection because it's not a 'gay church.' It's a church, with all kinds of people, a safe place where everyone, gay or straight or whatever, can be themselves...and the diversity makes it a richer place."
More than ten years after his death, he's still right. Frank's witness continues to bless us. ^ back to top
Our Church has been in the neighborhood before Boystown was “Boystown” and before East Lakeview was the diverse and mostly accepting area in which we find ourselves living today. As the idea of LGBTQ rights began to coalesce in the early seventies, Resurrection opened its doors to gay and lesbian groups who needed space to meet. On September 11, 1984, Resurrection Lutheran Church formalized the message of acceptance, becoming one of the first Reconciling in Christ congregations through Lutherans Concerned North America. As part of that process our church adopted an Affirmation of Welcome which was further revised in 2006. The current version is true to the original intent and states:
- We affirm with the apostle Paul that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female." Christ has made us one. We acknowledge that this reconciliation and unity include persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including but not limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer. That persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities share the worth that comes from being unique individuals created by God; that persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities are fully welcome within the membership and leadership of this congregation upon making affirmation of the Christian faith; and that as members of this congregation, persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities are expected and encouraged to share in the sacramental and general life of this congregation.
Resurrection takes our message of welcome beyond the doors of the church, marching with the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches in the annual Pride Parade. This is a commitment and a joy that the congregation shares as it reaffirms what we are as a church community and shows the wider community that God’s love is shared with all.
Resurrection also worked within the wider church to change policies regarding LGBTQ clergy. On November 17, 2007, Resurrection took the risky step of calling Jen Rude to be the assistant pastor. Jen was a candidate for ordination through Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, a wonderful organization which Resurrection continues to support. The decision to call Jen was approached in a thoughtful and prayerful way with the entire congregation's input. At the time the ELCA had rules prohibiting gay and lesbian persons in committed relationships from serving as pastors. While the possibility of discipline hung over the congregation, our community believed that Jesus' message of welcome and love for all outweighed human rules. It was also a principled stand against a system of discrimination that, thankfully, has since come to an end with the ELCA’s 2009 decision to allow gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as ordained ministers if a congregation chooses to call them.
Our history of taking a stand for what is right does not start and end with LGBTQ issues: Resurrection has a long, rich history of being at the forefront of social justice issues including homelessness; affordable housing; hunger and disaster relief; affordable medical care; sanctuary for refugees; preschool for all children; and before and after school care for neighborhood children with working parents. We are also living God’s message of stewardship for the environment by being the first church in Chicago to utilize solar panels for some of our energy needs. ^ back to top
Today, Resurrection is a vibrant community of young singles, seniors, couples and families of all sexual orientations that embodies our affirmation of welcome. This diverse mix exemplifies and celebrates our message of welcome as we continue to support LGBTQ inclusion in God’s church. It does not label us, but enriches our worship as we celebrate God’s love for all people as expressed by a few of our members:
- “RLC welcomed me as a single person and later welcomed my partner who seldom attends. There are no expectations on me for what a “normal” family must be.”
- “We appreciate the opportunity to show our child concrete examples that God’s love is boundless. There are families with two moms or two dads and that is just a normal part of life for him.”
- “Often when an LGBTQ person is single as I am, it's easy to feel lonely. Being at Resurrection gives me the opportunity to be a part of an extended family. Going to church at RLC is like going home.”
Our belief in equality for all is a cornerstone of our church community. But it is also a reminder that while there is inequality for anyone we are not living up to our potential as people of God. ^ back to top
Our accepting little church at the corner of Seminary and School strives to be a place where everyone feels welcome. It is a place where you can come and worship without fear or misunderstanding of who you are. It is a place where all who believe are welcome at the table and no one will be judged. It is a welcoming church and we invite you to share with us in Jesus' love. ^ back to top