ELCA NEWS SERVICE
October 13, 2009
ELCA Director for Congregational Mission Addresses Lutheran CORE
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- "Will you be serious about mission?" is a question the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman asked in an open letter to members of the Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (Lutheran CORE). Bouman is executive director for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission.
Bouman wrote the letter from a personal perspective after attending a Sept. 25-26 meeting of Lutheran CORE, an organization of ELCA pastors, lay people, congregations and reform groups. Leaders and members of CORE discussed their responses to actions taken by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and discussed the possibility of becoming a "free standing synod." It ended its status as an independent organization affiliated with the ELCA during the assembly.
Lutheran CORE opposed the assembly's decisions on changing ministry policies, including a policy to allow Lutherans in lifelong, publicly accountable, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers. It also opposed parts of a social statement on human sexuality adopted by the assembly.
Bouman wrote that mission was either not mentioned or was referenced as an afterthought during the Lutheran CORE meeting. As the organization discerns whether to remain or separate from the ELCA, Bouman invited members and leaders of the organization to "walk together in the renewal of faith and mission of every congregation." One way to do that is to connect with a "local mission table" being created in each of the ELCA's 65 synods, he said.
"Mission is local, and your brothers and sisters, including many of you, are involved in prayer, study of Scripture and engagement in the community which is leading to new mission starts and renewed mission congregations," Bouman wrote.
If Lutheran CORE decides to separate from the ELCA, "please come to know and love the mission from which you will disengage or engage in new ways. I believe that we can do both (of) these important things together," he said.
First "make strong, conscience-bound witness around the issues which are tearing us apart," Bouman wrote. Second, "engage each other boldly in the Spirit's power around the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. The church, in all of its flawed and diverse forms this side of heaven, is about God's mission to the world if it is to be a church."
Bouman called his experience at the meeting "sobering." He said he attended the meeting to listen and to "make sure that unintended consequences of withdrawal from mission support as a means of protest do not hurt" the "precious missions of our church."
"I want to say as publicly and as strongly as possible that exactly the opposite is true," he said. "I want to beseech Lutheran CORE to build your witness and your organization around truthful conversation and not on caricatures of your church body or unfounded fear."
Bouman wrote that Lutheran CORE's DNA will be determined by the priority it places on mission. "The Old and New Testaments bear witness to the centrality of mission in the church," he wrote.
"Mission is joyful but it is also serious," Bouman wrote. "How will we hold on to one another in the mission of the church in these troubled times?"
"Mission is also how the world perceives the way in which we engage each other around serious issues and disagreements," he wrote. "If you are serious about mission, God will find ways for us to continue to support the outreach God has given us in the midst of our communal agony, anger and even sense of betrayal."
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The Rev. Stephen P. Bouman's letter is posted at http://www.elca.org/faithfulmission/bouman on the ELCA Web site,