Churchwide Assembly Reflection 1 of 6
From Don Heller (Bethel, Avoca), Lay Male Voting Member:
One of the remarks I heard several several times at Church Wide Assembly is that we are the “white-est” denomination in the US, but that does not mean we do not have a diverse set of ideas or thoughts. As I watched, listened, and considered those many different ideas, I was struck with the realization that in spite of all of the differences, we are still one in the body of Christ. Who are these people which were the voting members with so many different ideas and points of view? If you were open to meeting and listening, it did not take long to find a story from many of them. I met a pastor who was born in Nigeria. He serves in a small, rural town full of people of European lineage in Eastern North Dakota. He is the only person of color in his church and probably his town. He has become so embedded in the town that when the local Baptist church lost their pastor, they asked him if they needed a funeral performed, would he do it? A man from Pennsylvania sat down beside me as I was trying out fried cheese curds for the first time. He was probably in his mid 70’s. As we sat there on our own perch at the bar enjoying some of the local brews, he explained that his church has a female vicar seminarian who has a female husband. He described her preaching, “She brought the law then followed it up with the gospel, solidly declaring the word just like Luther would!” He told her after service that God loves her; he loves her; and he is glad she is there. Then he hugged her. This has become a weekly ritual. With tears in his eyes, he related that some people have left his church because of her sexuality, but he experiences Jesus being proclaimed through her. He stands up for her. Still another one of those voices I met was the author, Lenny Duncan. His book is a brutally honest, gritty, love letter to his church, the church in which he is a pastor, the ELCA. He is a black man. I told him that his book was challenging me. I explained that we would not agree on everything. Clearly he was taking me out of my comfort zone. He was making me think. He smiled, shook my hand, and told me that he was glad to hear that. We did not have to agree but maybe his book could be part of something which could generate a much needed discussion in our church. The young 28 year old farmer in Southwest Minnesota who lost his dad to cancer before he could farm with him, had been on several mission trips overseas. He admitted that his point of view was vastly different from many of his neighbors, but he was more concerned about being in step with Jesus than his neighbors. The lady from Iowa, widowed after 22 years of a wonderful marriage explained that she is about to be ordained as a deacon to work in hospice as a chaplain. Several of the deaths in her family including her husband, called her into this office we recognize as Word and Service. She was another person through whom the Holy Spirit was working at the assembly… and in life. These and so many more are the people whose voices were lifted up at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. Their experiences and views are as different as the big toe is from the nose but all of them have been created in the image of God, marked with the cross of Christ in the waters of baptism, and are a part of the body of Christ who find a home in the ELCA.
How the Bible Actually Works
Wisdom and Reimagining God
In the book The Great Spiritual Migration, author Brian McLaren compares the evolution of thinking about God to that of a computer operating system, starting with the first release, God 1.0, and unfolding one version at a time to our current need for God 5.0. Paul R. Smith, in his book Integral Christianity, outlines the progression of what he calls stages in spiritual development, starting with the tribal and warrior phases, then moving to traditional, modern, post-modern and finally integral phases. Both of these frameworks are ways to think about how we have and continue to reimagine God.
Theologian Peter Enns argues that this kind of reimagining is a feature of the diverse books and voices that make up our sacred Scriptures. In How the Bible Actually Works, Enns writes that the Bible was never intended to be a rule book providing clear, straightforward answers for every decision and choice we need to make. Because the Bible contains distinct, ambiguous, and sometimes contradictory perspectives of people reimagining God, the Bible is an invitation to wisdom and discernment, not a source of neat and tidy solutions. Said another way, the Bible is not a book that reflects one point of view.
For example, you may have noticed the Bible contains more than a few unfortunate passages that connect God with ideas we no longer accept, things such as killing enemies in God’s name, child sacrifice, owning slaves and God thinking more highly of men than of women. It’s also possible to find passages of Scripture that imply that wealth is a blessing, and others that imply wealth is a curse. So which is it? Jesus himself reimagines God and the tradition by saying, “You have heard it said … but I say to you …”
In the end, reimagining God is nothing more or less than asking what God is like here and now. To further explore these ideas, check out the book How the Bible Actually Works or watch Peter Enns in his recent TheoEd Talk:
Blessed Tomorrow’s Moving Forward Guide
From our partners at Blessed Tomorrow:
As people of faith, we desire to serve God and our neighbors, to pursue peace in our communities, and to work toward a just society. Now our callings have an added urgency. Changes to our climate reach into communities across the United States and around the world. These changes touch us all, especially impacting the most vulnerable among us. That is why climate change is often called the greatest moral imperative of our time.
If we are called to support the most vulnerable, to work for justice, and to care for creation, then we are called to respond to climate change. The solutions are within reach, and Blessed Tomorrow is here to help.
Our Moving Forward: A Guide to Climate Action For Your Congregation and Community provides you with information and resources to reduce energy use, to build resilient houses of worship as refuges from a changing climate, and to encourage support for policies that better care for creation.
And the ELCA has created a webinar to walk us through this guide:
Featured Resources for September
And many more!
The ELCA offers a place of welcome for all seeking a congregational home. Your congregation can extend an invitation to neighbors and the surrounding community through the use of these customizable communications tools for Christmas in English and Spanish. Download and use these free tools today.
Save the Date
You are cordially invited to the 2019 NT-NL Mission Endowment Fund’s “Seeds That Change” FUNdraiser and Celebration!
The theme is “Share the Harvest.”
➢ You’re guaranteed a fun evening, complete with a meal of heavy hors d’oeuvres and beverages of your choice, including beer, wine, and soft drinks.
➢ Meet grant recipients and see the good the MEF does!
➢ Participate in live and silent auctions!
➢ Win drawings, gift cards, and prizes throughout the night!
➢ Be entertained by the exciting ethnic dance company Mexico Lindo!
All this for a single admission of $35, or a table for 8 for only $250! For tickets or to donate: https://www.ntnl.org/ministries/mef/seeds-fundraiser/.
Recent Blog Posts
(https://www.ntnl.org/remembering-sept-11th-remembering-the-world-god-loves/ – published Sep. 11)
(https://www.ntnl.org/golfing-for-jesus/ – published Sep. 14)
(https://www.ntnl.org/crossing-borders-and-boundaries-mesquite-dallas-and-texas-football/ – published Sep. 17)
Where in the world is?
- Sep. 25: Fall Seminarian Assignment Process
- Sep. 26-30: Fall Conference of Bishops Meetings
- Sep. 23-25: First Call Pastors Retreat, Lutherhill Camp & Retreat Center, LaGrange, TX
- Sep. 28-29: Trinity, Miles
- Sep. 24-25: Pórtico pastoral project, Minneapolis, MN
- Sep. 26: Meetings at synod office
- Sep. 27-29: LATINX Conference Couples Retreat, JellyStone Park, Burleson, TX
- Sep. 27: 2019 Symposium: Suicide Prevention in Faith Communities, Dallas, TX
- Sep. 28: Panhandle Conference: Mental Health and Faith, Lubbock, TX
- Sep. 30-Oct. 2: 2019 Stewardship Kaleidoscope, San Diego, CA
- Oct. 3: The Ninth Annual Herbener Lecture: Reading Romans in the Face of Economic Injustice, Dallas, TX
- Oct. 7-9: Engaging Anti-Racism for the Wholeness of the Church: 2019 NT-NL Leadership Convocation, Argyle, TX
- Oct. 11-13: 2019 W-ELCA NT-NL SWO Retreat, Merkel, TX
- Oct. 12: Public Witness Team monthly meeting, Arlington, TX
- Oct. 13: Festival of Church Music, Dallas, TX
- Oct. 13-16: National Council of Churches Christian Unity Gathering, Hampton, VA
- Oct. 13-18: Ministerial Flourishing: Exploring the Meaning, Means and Practices, Possum Kingdom Lake, TX
- Oct. 19: PLMA, Fall 2019, Course 2, Argyle, TX
- Oct. 19: MEF “Seeds That Change” FUNdraiser and Celebration, Arlington, TX
- Oct. 28: Upbring Golf benefiting Foster in Texas, Irving, TX
- Oct. 28-30: Region 4 Deacon Gathering, New Braunfels, TX
Access our full online Calendar here. Updates made regularly.
Do you have news or announcements to share? Please submit to Jason (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consideration for upcoming NT-NL News.