Sunday, March 06, 2016
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.
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.
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.