June is Pride Month! We are excited to affirm and embrace everyone in the church, and to amplify the voices of our ELCA siblings in the LGBTQIA+ community. Today we are speaking with Tess Faust (she/they).

How are you connected to the ELCA?
I first started going to ELCA services through campus ministry at [the University of Nebraska-Lincoln], through the Lutheran Center. The Lutheran Center had an event called “Queerness and Christianity” that I attended with a friend, and after that event I started going to the Lutheran Center regularly.

How does your faith shape and affirm your person/identity?
My faith serves as my hope and patience. When things are going wrong or I start feeling despair, I try to take a moment to breathe and ask God for guidance. My faith reminds me that we are all connected and that we are all equal in God’s eyes. We are all made by him. Every one of us is loved by God, and it would serve us better here on earth to treat each other as such.

 How can the ELCA better support and uplift the LGBTQIA+ community?
The church currently struggles with intersectionality. All parts of who I am cannot be separated. I am a queer Indigenous woman. A church must recognize and celebrate all parts of my identity for me to be welcome.

 What advice would you give pastors, deacons, bishops or other leaders in the ELCA who are hoping to see more of the LGBTQIA+ community feel affirmed and accepted in the church?
Let the community know they are safe, loved and welcomed within the church walls, but let the individuals be seen holistically. Do not ignore key parts of an individual’s identity, but at the same time don’t tokenize them for it.

What gives you hope?
People give me hope. My friends, when we are sitting at someone’s apartment, all laughing over a stupid joke; a co-worker turning to me at just the right time to ask if I want coffee; everyone humoring the millions of photos of my dog I send out; and much, much more.

 What do you pray for?
I pray for all those who are displaced.
I pray for queer people who are without a sense of home and belonging.
I pray for Indigenous communities exiled from their homelands.
I pray for the unhoused.
I pray for everyone to find their place and sense of belonging.

Kelly Wilkerson
Kelly Wilkerson is a content strategist for the ELCA. She is a former worship minister, creative arts director, and youth and family director, and has been working in full-time ministry for her entire professional career. Kelly is using her passion for storytelling, art, design and social media to serve in the Office of the Presiding Bishop on the Strategic Communications team. She is also an ELCA coach and currently resides in Columbus, Ohio, with her fiancee and their 80-pound bernedoodle.

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