Dear Partners in Mission,
In late 2018 a seminary friend of mine invited me to join the board of Lutheran Men in Mission (LMM). LMM was in a period of transition and they desired to have a representative of the conference of bishops on the board to build connections. I knew of the work of LMM, we have in NT-NL had active LMM groups, so I was curious what this transition might bring, what were the priorities going to be of LMM and how might that connect to our work in NT-NL.
What I have found is that LMM is committed to inviting men into lives of deeper discipleship while also being aware of and challenged as disciples of Jesus to face the systemic issues in our society. This is not an organization committed to simply preserving the status quo or ensuring traditional gender roles in the church. Instead it is moving into a transformational Men’s ministry that takes seriously the important role men play in their family and in the communities and wants to equip them to more effectively invite others into the way of Jesus. To be more active in the parenting and being a part of their families. To take seriously their health and have hard conversations about men’s health issues that too often we overlook (check out Project XII).
This is vitally important in a time when the life expectancy of men, particularly white men, in America is declining due to ill health, addiction and overdose, and frankly, a loss of sense of purpose. This is a problem the church must take seriously. But the goal of the church can’t simply be to pine for a different time or prop up patriarchy and white supremacy but challenge it and invite men into relationships and purpose that go far deeper. To recognize institutional systems of oppression that kill us all and focus on an identity in baptism that invites us to cross over borders and barriers. To listen to our neighbors of color, women, the LGBTQ community, and engage one another about our assumptions and how they have shaped our world views.
The LMM Bold gatherings the last few years have focused on bringing those sorts of issues to the forefront. I was honored to speak at the 2019 gathering in San Antonio about the freedom that comes with the call of God on your life in baptism. And the spring 2020 Bold Gathering, done virtually of course, in South Carolina was focused on racial reconciliation and the challenge of reaching across divides that have separated communities for generations.
Throughout 2021 I am going to challenging our congregations and institutions to think critically about their role in the system they reside in (for more info on Systems theory join us Jan 7th). To recognize we are not as individualized or independent as we might like or have been told we should be. To recognize we need one another and if our Lutheran witness in the territory of NT-NL is to bear fruit, it will only do so #InMissionTogether. I believe that LMM can be a partner for us in this work and I invite you to partner with them. In 2021 I challenge our congregations to take seriously the role that men can play in their communities as partners in mission and ministry and utilize the bible studies, resources, and other opportunities offered by Lutheran Men in Mission. To help our NT-NL Men in Mission synod group to be revitalized as a vital part of mission.
On this fifth day of Christmas I wish you a blessed celebration and a happy New Year.