Dear Partners in Mission:
As of July 1st I began my second term as your bishop. The last six years have been incredibly eventful both for us as church and in our communities. It was just six days into my first term that five law enforcement officers were murdered in Dallas as they protected a peaceful protest. That tragic day, along with too many days of gun violence in the years that have followed, continue to challenge us to ask hard questions. Why is this our reality? And can we, in our deeply fractured political and cultural nation, come to any solutions? Can we do more than wait for the next tragedy and offer “thoughts and prayers”? In the face of this and many other adaptive leadership challenges, what do we expect of our elected leadership?
Adaptive change requires different thinking. It requires learning and being open to a solution we may not have initially desired. And frankly, adaptive change is at the core roots of our faith. Throughout scripture we see God working this sort of change in God’s people. The freed Hebrew slaves walking in the wilderness could only see a return to Egypt as a solution for their hunger. God instead provided manna that required them only to gather enough for one day. To trust that God would provide. Jonah didn’t think the people of Nineveh were worth trying to save. God, to Jonah’s frustration, thought otherwise and they repented.
Time and again God has shown us that to be faithful we must be open to being moved, changed, challenged. And God is doing that to us as a church today and like Jonah, we may not really be excited about it. We like our routines, the way things were. We pine for an idealized past that never really existed. But the realities of our time, the continuing Covid-19 pandemic, technological advancements, instant communication, will not make that possible. The church is and will continue to be changed now, and this change will come ever faster as our communities change.
All this can be frightening, but rooted in our Lutheran confessional theology this should not scare us. Our theology grounds us in God’s faithfulness. Not to an institution, human traditions, the bricks of a building, or a plot of land. But to the faithfulness of a God who creates, redeems, resurrects, and calls us to proclaim that to a dying world. In the midst of those who profit from fear, we proclaim hope and promise. God’s adaptive solution to death, new life in Jesus Christ.
So as we move into this second part of 2022, and as I as bishop lead into this second term, I call on us to seek the foundation that Luther sought when he wrote “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” To be open to new ways of being, to let go of those that keep us from following, and to seek out those who need to hear this saving Word.
In Mission Together,