ELCA NEWS SERVICE
March 6, 2007
ELCA Presiding Bishop Announces Evangelism Grants to Synods
GALVESTON, Texas (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), told the ELCA Conference of Bishops that each of the 65 ELCA synods will be sent a one-time $10,000 grant from the churchwide organization to be used for "evangelical outreach." Hanson made the announcement in his March 2 report to the conference.
The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church, consisting of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary. It met here March 1-6.
The funds, from the church's 2007 churchwide budget, are being distributed in collaboration with the Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission program unit, Hanson said. The funds were available because of advance grants made from the 2006 budget to help fund new starts this year.
"This does not jeopardize what we still have in the '07 budget funds for 50 new starts," Hanson said.
"I suppose one of my greatest frustrations in six years as presiding bishop is, it just feels like we haven't been able to turn around what I think is a deep ambivalence and resistance in this church to being what we claim in our name, and that's evangelical," Hanson said. Such resistance won't change quickly, and it won't be overcome by a program or campaign, Hanson said. It requires a "deep, fundamental cultural change," and it must be led by the bishops, he said.
The one-time grants will be delivered immediately, Hanson said. "We want you to use your imagination," he said, suggesting that the funds could be used for evangelism, training, transformational mission or to help synods fund new mission starts.
The presiding bishop addressed several other topics, including the ELCA's full-communion relationship with the Episcopal Church, Middle East peace efforts, a conversation with leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, and upcoming leadership changes throughout the ELCA:
+ Full-communion relationship with the Episcopal Church: Hanson urged the church leaders to reach out to Episcopalians. "We continue to pray for a church body that's experiencing incredible tensions, challenges and opportunities," he said. "I hope that you're reaching out to your Episcopal bishop colleagues for personal support, and I hope you're continuing to convene conversations (about) how we can be in mission together. ... This is not a time to pull back from a church that's facing issues not unlike those we face, but it's a time for remaining together in full communion."
+ Middle East peace efforts: Hanson reported on a recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about U.S. engagement in the Middle East peace process. Hanson attended the meeting with five other leaders representing Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups. He characterized the meeting as "lively and helpful."
"We need you to continue to do your piece of this," Hanson said to the bishops. He urged them to get to know local Muslim and Jewish leaders, and discuss the issues. Hanson also urged the bishops to continue to pray for and support Palestinian Lutherans and other Christians.
+ AME Zion conversation: Hanson said he participated recently in a conversation in Chicago with leaders of the AME Zion Church. Hanson thanked the Rev. Leonard H. Bolick, bishop of the ELCA North Carolina Synod, Salisbury, for helping to facilitate the meeting. Hanson said they discussed each church's history, and "our future and our understanding of what God is calling us to be about in Christ's name in ministry and mission." Conversation is expected to continue this fall, Hanson reported.
+ Hanson noted that many of the bishops will be leaving the conference this year because of retirement or because their terms will end, while others will be available for reelection. Key leaders in the ELCA churchwide organization plan to retire. Hanson said he wasn't looking forward to the spring 2007 conference meeting, but that doesn't mean he opposes change. "I do hate change when it comes to long, abiding, deep relationships, and that's the kind of year we're facing. We're facing change in deeply held, greatly appreciated, faithful relationships with colleagues," he said.
The presiding bishop also expressed thanks for recent elections of new bishops -- "gifted leaders" -- who will continue to lead the church.
"My heart is thankful, and I will continue to offer prayers of thanksgiving for you," Hanson said.
Audio of comments by the Rev. Mark S. Hanson are at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/070305d.mp3 on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com
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