There’s a tradition in most (maybe all) synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to have an annual theological conference for rostered ministers. A little over a week ago Aimée and I had the honor of attending the Rocky Mountain Synod‘s 2019 Theological Conference in Estes Park both as congregational interns and as musical leaders. This was a first time experience for us but from what little I know of these events the Rocky Mountain Synod’s theological conference this year was special and hopefully not unique. The theme for the conference was “be transformed” and part of the event was a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women and the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women of color in our predecessor church bodies. The conference also commemorated the 10th anniversary of the policy change that opened the door to LGBTQIA+ ministers in committed partnerships. These commemorations formed the backdrop for the conversations and presentations given by Rev. Dr. Jennifer Leath, Bishop Karen Oliveto, Rachel Bass-Guennewig, Rev. Tracy Howe Wispelwey, and Bishop Jim Gonia.
There’s no authentic way to summarize the whole of this gathering, but I think it was the beginning of something, maybe just the roots of something, growing deeply that may one day flower. Aimée and I don’t know where the Wind may blow us after these internships, but I know we were blessed by being in this community of ministers… and like seeds we’ll carry this experience with us. On the drive back from Estes Park on October 10th I stopped to take a few short videos of snow falling on a stream and reflect upon the weeks experience. I’ve set these images to our song “I Will Not Let You Go” which was part of the closing worship service earlier that day…
What follows is a small glimpse into my experience of the week in photos. A brief but excellent piece of the conversation we had in Estes Park is also voiced in this May 2017 article by Dr. Leath titled Now on Sexuality in the AME Church.
In ways too numerous to count it felt like this theological conference was part of a conversation that many of my peers and theological siblings have been unable or unwilling to hold over the past couple years. For me this conference was the next step in those unfinished conversations and a healing balm. It allowed me to lament (which for me is always in the first few steps of any substantive change) where we have failed (and continue to fail) because the existence of these conversations shows what is possible when we recognize the Spirit of Christ in our midst, in one another, in all.