From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Council Hears Presiding Bishop's 'Ambivalence' Concerns

Date Mon, 19 Apr 2004 14:35:49 -0500


April 19, 2004

ELCA Council Hears Presiding Bishop's 'Ambivalence' Concerns

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), asked a
series of questions of the ELCA Church Council focusing on what
he termed "ambivalence" within the church.  He suggested one key
answer to ambivalence is to "unabashedly declare the Easter story
of the Resurrection."
     The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and
serves as the legislative authority of the church between
churchwide assemblies.	The council met here April 17-18.
Assemblies are held every other year; the next is Aug. 8-14,
2005, in Orlando, Fla.
     In his report to the council, Hanson asked: "Are we a church
body filled with a growing sense of ambivalence, and, in such [a
climate], how do we lead?"
     He prefaced his remarks by saying that he hoped the council
would "hear of my profound gratitude to God for this church" and
that his questions were not intended to diminish his appreciation
for the council, churchwide staff and his colleagues in
     "I am absolutely convinced we are a church that is blessed,"
he said.  "For all of this, I say thanks be to God.  Yet, amidst
my thanksgiving .. I am left to wonder."
     Most church members don't begin their day ready to share the
"good news of Jesus Christ" and are not talking with children
about Jesus, a sign of ambivalence, he said.
     He asked if Lutherans are ambivalent about being Lutheran or
ambivalent about what the Lutheran "theology of the cross" means
in a culture preoccupied with possessions, power and authority.
     "Many in this church themselves aren't ambivalent about
being Lutheran.  They just suspect the rest of us of being
ambivalent, especially those of us in leadership," Hanson said.
"How many view the ELCA as 'someone else' . in Chicago, or at a
synod assembly, at a council or in the office of bishop?"
     He asked the council if there is ambivalence in the ELCA
about being a multicultural and anti-racist church.
     "If there is a growing sense of ambivalence, what do we do
in leadership?" Hanson asked.
     Hanson suggested a series of answers to his own questions:
build relationships within the church; "tenaciously resist the
temptation to exert domination in our global relationships" and
"accompany" others; lead boldly; listen to God's Word;
"resolutely declare" that the ELCA's commitments for
implementation of its mission and vision statements permeate the
organization; work creatively and continuously to communicate
with people within this church; and pray for renewal of the ELCA
and for renewal of creation.
     "In the face of growing ambivalence, we grow in God's
amazing grace," he concluded.
     Hanson addressed a few other items in his report:
     + He thanked the Rev. David L. Miller, editor of The
Lutheran, the magazine of the ELCA, and the magazine's staff for
their work in producing the May 2004 issue.  That issue
highlights the ministries of the churchwide organization and
encourages gifts to the ELCA's "Vision for Mission," an annual
offering that supports churchwide ministries.
     + Hanson noted an expansion of a Division for Global Mission
program through which young adults serve the church abroad.  He
said at least 32 young adults are in the program this year, and
the number could rise to as many as 50.  Last year, 15 young
adults were in the program, he said.
     + Hanson welcomed the Rev. Raymond Schultz, national bishop
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).  In a brief
address, Schultz told the council that his visit to the ELCA
council meeting was a follow-up to the Lutheran World Federation
assembly held last summer in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  In return,
Hanson will visit an upcoming meeting of the ELCIC council.
Schultz said the ELCA and ELCIC will "develop an agenda on how
the churches can relate more."	He said the ELCIC is in the midst
of a strategic planning process, and it has identified three
strategic directions for the church: to be a public voice of the
Lutheran church speaking to significant social issues; to re-
energize the ecumenical movement in Canada; and to raise up
models of "apostolic leadership" beyond the congregation.

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