Dear Partners in Mission:
What a powerful assembly we had together this past weekend. The worship, learning, and time together was a gift after three years being online but not physically present in assembly.
I am humbled and affirmed by the assembly’s call that was extended to me for another term as bishop. Thank you for this trust.
As I stated in my report there are many great things happening in NT-NL. We are raising up new leaders, starting new ministries, and leading nationally with our lay education programs. We are also caring for and stewarding ministries as they make decisions about merger and sometimes closure. This is holy stewardship work and is an essential part of what we do together.
We also have significant challenges and as people of Law and Gospel we must be honest about the truth of where we stand. For more than two decades NT-NL congregations, along with the vast majority of Christian communities in American, have as a whole been in decline. We have half the membership today that we had when constituted in 1987. As the chart I shared demonstrated Baptisms, Worship Attendance, and Confirmations have been in steady decline for decades. So I affirm the assembly’s decision to forward the memorial to churchwide calling for a process to led to a reconstitution of the ELCA governance structure. We need, as was pointed out, architecture that fits our current reality both nationally and locally. Also we affirmed the LFI and LEAD programs, Coaching, and other ways that we are empowering congregations to be intentional in their lives together.
The reality is though that no structure or program is going to lead us into reversing this generational decline. What can make a difference as leaders, lay and ordained, who are passionate about sharing and inviting others to hear that God is for them. To know that while the law, the truth, is that we are alienated from God because of sin, God has taken the step across that divide and given Christ for us so that in the gospel we know we are claimed. And that we are called by the Holy Spirit to share that message of hope and transformation one person at a time.
As we move into 2022 and beyond I encourage you to take on that challenge personally and as a congregation. Who do you know who needs to hear that God is for them? One person at a time, one conversation at a time, we can and will fulfill our calling to share this good news. And we do so still…