ELCA NEWS SERVICE
October 6, 2011
ELCA presiding bishop says building trust is key work of this church11-127-MRC
CHICAGO (ELCA) - The task before leaders of this church is to build communities of trust among people of faith, said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He said ELCA members and leaders have a unique opportunity to make this their evangelical witness in a world that continues to be "a breeding ground" for suspicion and distrust.
In his Oct. 1 report to the ELCA Conference of Bishops, Hanson said that for the past two years his leadership and that of the 65 synod bishops has been about building communities of trust. "It's the work and the witness of this church at this time," he said.
The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church that includes the ELCA's synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary. It met here Sept. 29-Oct. 4.
While working to build confidence in all relationships of this church, "we are also making witness to cultures of mistrust that are all around us," Hanson said. The danger there, however, is that such "analysis can end up being just one more example of finger pointing, blaming and shaming that end up contributing to [that] culture. ...."
Hanson offered four dimensions necessary for trust to occur: conceptual congruence, personal integrity, emotional resonance and life-relatedness.
When all four dimensions work together and there's coherence, Hanson said the whole is greater than the sum of any of its parts.
"The distinctive evangelical Lutheran witness is to declare what God is doing for Jesus' sake to make all things right, making us a new creation (and) not holding our sins against us," he said, "reconciling us to God and to one another, and entrusting us to the message and ministry of reconciliation."
As an example of this evangelical witness, Hanson highlighted the vital work of the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly this past summer.
"Over and over we said we are a people 'freed in Christ to serve.' We belong to Christ, and we believe God calls us by name. There is a place for you in this church," Hanson said.
"Over and over we experienced our unity in Christ, and that unity comes through word and water, bread and wine. Over and over we said we're called to discern what the death and resurrection of Christ means for us, our witness and our common life in the world. We continually heard people say, we share a living, daring confidence in God's grace. We're called to do God's work, restoring and reconciling communities, so we roll up our sleeves and get to work on solving problems," he said.
The official launch of the ELCA Malaria Campaign illustrates how ELCA members plan to live out its vocation in mission, he said. Together with companion churches in Africa, the ELCA will work to decrease the number of deaths related to malaria by 2015.
This church's relationships with global companions, ecumenical and full communion partners, dialogue partners, councils of churches and The Lutheran World Federation -- all of whom greeted the assembly and were warmly received -- is an example of the "deep bonds of trust" that have formed, despite some disagreement with the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
For the ELCA, inviting Sayyid Syeed from the Islamic Society of North America served as a "powerful witness in a culture and world where religious differences so often breed cultures of distrust," Hanson said.
The presiding bishop also highlighted the strengthening of relationship between the ELCA and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which has its roots in conversations among leaders of both churches for the past five years. This dialogue culminated in a festive, meaningful joint worship service and summit with members of both churches "proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, living, reconciling and setting us free," said Hanson.
"We have a marvelous moment to continue to make this our evangelical witness in (the) world," Hanson said as he concluded his report.
- - -
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with approximately 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@elca.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com
At least for the moment.