The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Jeff Johnson

This is Pastor Jeff Johnson:
Don't you just want to know him? He just looks so friendly. Normally, you'll see him in an outrageous bow tie and unreasonably pointy alligator shoes. He's the pastor at University Lutheran Chapel here in Berkeley, and he rules.

Jeff was our "guest speaker" in Living Tradition class today, though Moses (our professor, not the Israelite) gave him merely 15 minutes to talk. [We had to listen to an hour and a half of the ridiculous missionary, and only got 15 minutes of the most captivating individual to ever grace the Lutheran church. Boo.] Jeff was one of the pastors "illegally" ordained during the time when openly gay, sexually active LGBT clergy could not serve in the ELCA. He's been fighting for 20 years to have the right to preach and teach people about the God he loves. As though you weren't sure of my opinion on the subject, Jeff is a perfect example of why sexual orientation ought have nothing to do with anything, let alone ordination, and why being a gay member of the church has made Jeff radder than any other pastor I know. Because of the heresy of the church's former position on gay clergy (the August 2009 general assembly finally overturned the embarrassing rule), Jeff is more in tune with our justification and redemption in Christ. Because he and his community have been so oppressed and so alienated by this world, country, and church, he is aware of the real power of Christ. He has needed the grace, assurance, and accompaniment of God more than any member of the majority could ever understand.

Jeff's 15 minutes of passionate, frenzied words this morning were more sermon than lecture. That 8am class is a killer, because it's usually devastatingly boring. But those last few minutes today were engaging, fascinating, and brought me to tears. It is simultaneously uplifting and heartbreaking to hear Jeff speak. Those with whom he has been waging this war for the last 20 years have claimed the authority of the future -- the work of God in this place is not a thing of the past. Dwelling on theologians who write of conserving traditional ways of thinking is taking us backward. Radicals like Luther (and like Jeff) are the people who move us forward.

We talk a lot in our classes about how confining the church can be and how we have to abide by all of these rules sent to us from Chicago (ELCA headquarters) without question. But Jeff is the most beautiful living proof that sticking it to the man is the way to be. It is through experiences of Jeff that I am confident that the ELCA is a place where I can effect change.

If you're ever in Berkeley at 11am on a Sunday, stop by University Lutheran Chapel, and let Jeff change your life.

Holy Holy Holy

Missionaries make me nervous.