MDiv Student Madelyn Anderson on Justice, LGBTQIA+ Inclusion, and Choosing LSTC

Incoming MDiv Student Madelyn Anderson (center) with her pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Iowa
Incoming MDiv Student Madelyn Anderson (center) with her pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Iowa.

For Fund for Leaders Recipient Madelyn Anderson, the road to LSTC for her MDiv began long ago. “I grew up in a tradition that didn’t ordain women,” Anderson recalls, “but I knew I wanted to work in the church world. That’s always been super clear to me.” With the call to ministry clear but the pathways to working as a pastor for a congregation blocked, Anderson kept her heart open and took advantage of faith-based opportunities that allowed her to connect with people of different traditions. 

“When I was a senior in high school, I went to a women’s retreat at a camp and the speaker introduced herself as Pastor Steph,” Anderson remembers. “I was like, ‘Women can be pastors?’ It blew open my entire world.” From then on, Anderson took an intentional approach to exploring different denominations that would allow her to be a pastor. It was clear, she says, “I couldn’t stay where I was.” 

After some research, ELCA Lutheranism, and Wartburg College, an ELCA college, seemed to be the best fits for Anderson, who was looking for a progressive community that would support her vision of working as a pastor and focusing on LGBTQIA+ inclusion and justice. Once at Wartburg, Anderson took advantage of the pre-Sem offerings, making fast friends with like-minded students and diving into academic and faith-based opportunities as they presented themselves.

Two key moments at Wartburg led Anderson to LSTC: the first was meeting Dean of Student Services Scott Chalmers, who was at Wartburg visiting an old friend. “He came and visited Wartburg because one of my religion professors attended LSTC with him…he just happened to be hanging around so I talked to him, and he was like ‘you really should come for a visit.’” After the visit, and having visited two other ELCA seminaries, Anderson found that she agreed with Chalmers: LSTC was the perfect place to grow in faith and commit to a ministry of justice. It was also the perfect environment to support Anderson’s goals of working with the LGBTQIA+ community in transformative ways. “As a queer person myself, I think LGBTQIA+ inclusion is super important… moving towards queer inclusion necessitates education, but it also necessitates celebration. We have to celebrate everyone, because everyone is the child of God,” she says. It seemed clear that LSTC understood these fundamental truths.

Questions still abounded, especially questions of financing the seminary experience. That question led to the second key moment at Wartburg that created the opportunity for Anderson to comfortably attend LSTC. She learned from other students about the ELCA Fund for Leaders full-tuition scholarship that supports students attending ELCA seminaries with the intent of becoming a rostered minister of either word and sacrament or word and service. “I heard about it from some of my peers that were a couple of years ahead of me…they were like, ‘Madelyn, this is your thing. You have to apply. So I did.” 

Being awarded the scholarship means that Anderson will be able to focus on her studies full time, work more fully in communities she’s interested in, and explore new passions, like working with new mothers and families. “The more I reflect on the scholarship, the more I think how it signals that I have the support of the church behind me and that I’m not alone in this,” Anderson says. “And I think about how it shows that the ELCA cares, and the Fund for Leaders Alumni care, and just I am held ultimately by this beautiful community.”

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