Sunday, March 06, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Joshua 5:9-12

Psalm 32

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

[2 Corinthians 5:17 New Revised Standard Version]

We’ve had a couple of really productive days at the Conference of Bishops discussing the future of the church, guided by the overarching question of what God is calling this church to be.

Ideas from discussion groups
Ideas from discussion groups

Friday, we engaged in a process of spiritual discernment, planning and decision making which we will now take back to our respective synods and reach out to members and church leaders in order to involve them and make this a living process across the ELCA.

We’re not trying to reinvent the church, but rather to find a more effective way to bear witness to the Gospel among all people. We have a voice; we have an identity, but it doesn’t get experienced.

I am excited and encouraged. My hope for our synod and for the church is that we can conduct conversations with people in all our congregations and synods, encourage their input, gather their views and together, strive toward becoming an inclusive, diverse church that is inspiring and relevant in different communities.

Saturday we sat with the presidents of all eight of our ELCA seminaries and discussed our relationship with their institutions. We spent the afternoon envisioning what it would look like for synods and seminaries to partner well about nurturing of new students, from recruitment work through candidacy process; supporting the seminaries as a key player within theological education; and assessing what theological education “produces,” both in graduates and scholarship. That was more than enough to cover in our two-hour time limit, but there were some productive conclusions that resulted from the conversation.

Sunday morning worship at Conference of Bishops [Photo: Bishop R. Guy Erwin]
Sunday morning worship at Conference of Bishops [Photo: Bishop R. Guy Erwin]

The bottom line is that we need to do something differently. We have a culturally embedded idea of what a seminary education should look like and what it should bring into being, but is that relevant for this day and age in which we have far too many pastoral vacancies and far too few pastors to fill them?

Again, this is just the start of the process, and you and your ideas are very much a part of it. You will hear more about this process in the weeks to come. Together, with the help of God, we will strive to make our church a new creation.

5 comments

  1. I don’t think we need more than 2 or 3 sems with campuses of their own. The cost of the infrastructure is too great. LTSS model should be carried. Our sems could be the theology faculty at some of our colleges and U’s. It works in Germany and in South Africa. Share the campus and building costs with a larger institution.

  2. Pastor Lauterbach,
    This is exactly the sort of feedback needed in this process. At some point in the near future, we will be asking your input on this and other topics. Stay tuned…

  3. Thanks, Bishop Abe, for letting your people know what was discussed at Council of Bishops and what is expected to come of that work. It refreshes my heart to hear you say “we have far too many pastoral vacancies and far too few pastors to fill them.” I’ve been putting that question to every bishop I have met for over 19 years now. They all reassured me not to worry. Glad the topic made the agenda. Now to look at the reality end–of ministering well to congregations who need to close or merge. God bless you and the Northeast Ohio Synod in your future conversations!

  4. I would welcome such conversations. May they be more frequent than once a year, and occur in many places in the synod.

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