Title: ELCA Presiding Bishop Expresses Thanks to Departing Church Leaders ELCA NEWS SERVICE
April 23, 2007
ELCA Presiding Bishop Expresses Thanks to Departing Church Leaders 07-069-JB
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), gave thanks to church leaders who will be leaving their roles this year and said he wished he could call the church into intensive prayer as new leaders are elected this spring. The presiding bishop also discussed a variety of other topics in his April 15 report to the ELCA Church Council.
The council is the ELCA's board of directors and serves as the legislative authority of the church between churchwide assemblies. It met here April 14-16. Assemblies are held every other year; the next is here Aug. 6-11.
Hanson expressed thanks for 12 synod bishops who will leave office this year, and for the life of the Rev. Margarita Martinez, who died of cancer March 11. Martinez was bishop of the ELCA Caribbean Synod, Dorado, Puerto Rico.
He thanked council members and ELCA board and committee members, who will leave office after the churchwide assembly, and leaders of the ELCA churchwide organization who will retire later this year.
Synod assemblies began April 19. Hanson noted there will be 27 synods that will re-elect incumbents or elect new bishops, and the 2007 Churchwide Assembly in August will elect a presiding bishop and secretary. Hanson had said earlier that he is available for possible re-election; the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary, had announced he will not seek re-election.
"I wish I had the power literally to call this church to slow down and be in intensive prayer," Hanson said of the multitude of elections. He suggested that each synod assembly should serve in the role of a call committee, engaging in prayer and reading the Scriptures. Each assembly should consider the synod's context, build on the strengths of the leader who is leaving, and "listen to the spirit speaking to them and through those lifted up as nominees," he said.
"I trust that the next four months will be that kind of time of prayerful discernment for this church. What a powerful witness it could be for us not to take on the rancor of the political climate and culture in which we live in the United States but model a different way to call people into leadership," Hanson said.
Commenting on the war in Iraq, Hanson told the council, "Sometimes it baffles me how little evidence I hear and see that (the) American people are even aware that we are a nation at war." He added that there appears to be growing evidence that U.S. citizens do not support the Iraq war.
"But we continue to send ... men and women who have paid an enormous price personally, (along with) their families and their congregations, to say nothing of the cost to the Iraqi people," he said. Hanson also expressed concern for the military men and women whose service tours in the Iraq war zone continue to be extended.
The presiding bishop said when he is with groups of professional church leaders he always asks how many congregations in the past four-and-a-half years have convened public conversations about the ELCA social statement, "For Peace in God's World," and considered moral, just ways to bring a peaceful end to the war in Iraq. Recently, Hanson said, he asked that question in a large gathering of ELCA professional church leaders, and none of the 200 leaders raised a hand.
The ELCA has a social statement and other resources to help guide conversations in congregations about the Iraq war, Hanson said. Among the resources is a Jan. 26 pastoral letter Hanson sent to the ELCA, "A Call to Conversation on Iraq." In that message, he asked for all congregations to discuss the Iraq war, engaging in "prayer and moral deliberation." The message proposed a number of questions and topics that members could discuss together.
On some other topics, Hanson said:
+ he visited with pastors, members and staff who continue to work along the U.S. Gulf Coast to restore communities following the destruction caused by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He expressed thanks for their work, and for the generosity of church members and thousands of volunteers who have responded. Hanson will soon convene leaders from synods and the churchwide organization to discuss how the church can be more responsive to the many needs in the wake of such a disaster.
+ he was encouraged in a recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other religious leaders about prospects for progress in peace efforts in the Middle East. Several Middle East religious leaders are expected to travel in October to Washington, D.C.
+ this is the 60th anniversary year for the Lutheran World Federation, of which Hanson is president. It is also the 100th anniversary year for Lutheran campus ministry, the 20th anniversary of the ELCA and the 10th anniversary of Lutheran Services in America.
+ he is "energized" when he meets with college-age young adults. Reflecting on recent visits with students at Dana College, Blair, Neb., and Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, two of the ELCA's colleges and universities, Hanson said, "They've absolutely got a passion for what matters in life. They've got a passion for faith and unquenchable curiosity to ask questions, (and) they have a desire to experience the world in its rich diversity and complexity. I'm so thankful for our 28 colleges and universities (and) the students, the staff, the faculty and the boards who lead them."
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