Tag: ELCA

PREPARING FOR MYLE

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold…

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

[Matthew 17:4 NRSV]

delivering-the-keynote-address-pltsOn October 5, 2016, I had the distinct privilege of giving the keynote address to the Fall Conference of the Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) Program at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary (PLTS) in Berkeley, California.

TEEM is an alternate route to ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for people identified to provide pastoral ministry to emerging ministry contexts throughout the church, or to underserved communities, which include ethnic, multicultural, rural, inner city ministries and ministry with deaf communities.

Having entered ministry through the TEEM program, I have become somewhat of an anomaly in the church in that I was the first person to emerge from the program to be elected bishop. I’ve stated before that since becoming bishop in 2014, it seems that more people than I could ever imagine are interested in hearing what I’ve got to say. Two years into my call I am still somewhat surprised by that experience.

The theme for the conference was “Theologizing for the World.” The title gave me the latitude to take the address in multiple directions. Even though it was a keynote and not a sermon, I used the call to Abram, as found in Genesis 12, as a scriptural springboard. It is my conviction that the story of the call to Abraham offers us a lens through which we can understand our relationship with the living God. It is a reading that resonates with me on several levels. First and foremost, it is a call story. And I feel any talk of theology must start with a discussion of call.

As Abram was called and obeyed, I reminded the students that in much the same way, their candidacy for ministry in the TEEM program was God’s idea before it was theirs. None of us are where we are because we choose to be in that particular place. God calls us in the waters of our baptism to serve, to be a child of God, to become a member of a royal priesthood, a holy nation. It is my hope that my words inspired the students.

presiding-at-worship-pltsI was also honored to preside at worship at the Chapel of the Cross, a Eucharist service that was organized by a group of students from the seminary community and at which the Rev. Shauna K. Hannan, Associate Professor of Homiletics, preached.

After a potluck lunch, I was treated to a tour of the campus by the director of the TEEM program, the Rev. Moses Penumaka, and accompanied by our Northeastern Ohio Synod Director for Evangelical Mission, the Rev. Terrance Jacob.

This tour was significant in that it will be most likely my first and last time ever on the Berkeley campus of PLTS. In August of this year, PLTS announced that it has decided to relocate to downtown Berkeley starting in fall of 2017. The decision puts PLTS closer to social and civic life, closer to public transportation, to become not only in but also of Berkeley.  It will be a 15-minute walk to Graduate Theological Union, a partner in the ministry of PLTS, and blocks away from the University of California Berkeley campus.

The current location at the top of the hill, with its beautiful campus with inspiring views Spanish colonial era buildings has been home to seminarians since 1952.

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Having been there for only a day, I can’t begin to imagine the difficulty involved in deciding to leave. As I observed the stunningly breathtaking scenery from the top of Sawyer Hall, I was reminded of the scene at the Transfiguration with Jesus, Peter, James and John. [Matthew 17; Mark 9]. I jokingly said to Moses Penumaka, and Terrance Jacob, “It is good for us to be here. I will make three dwellings, one for Moses, one for Jacob and one for Abraham.”

All the changes taking place in the church and in the world have had a transfigurational effect on our ELCA seminaries. They are being challenged to become creative in the ways of doing theological education in order to prepare leaders for the ministry to which Christ calls us. Pacific’s move is just one of several that have taken place in recent times. The seminaries in Philadelphia and Gettysburg announced a merger earlier in the year. A few years ago, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina, became a part of Lenoir-Rhyne University in North Carolina.

The lesson of the Transfiguration has not been lost on the leadership of PLTS. As Peter and the disciples learned, ministry happens in the valley, not on the mountaintop. I pray for PLTS and all of our ELCA seminaries; that this decision is pleasing to God and bears fruit for the future of PLTS, the church, and for the mission of God in the world.

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.

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