ELCA NEWS SERVICE
November 22, 2010
ELCA Presiding Bishop Responds to Members in Third 'Town Hall' of 2010
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In his third online "Town Hall Forum" with members this year, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) addressed a variety of ELCA topics and concerns, such as outdoor and campus ministry, immigration reform, contemporary worship, the place of people who are gay and lesbian in the church and interfaith relationships.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson answered 21 questions in the hour-long forum Nov. 21, which was broadcast live on the ELCA website. Questions were posed by online viewers, many of whom were watching in congregational viewing parties, and by an audience with the Hanson here at the Lutheran Center.
Maintaining vibrant campus and outdoor ministries in the wake of recent budget and staff reductions was a key topic Hanson addressed at the forum. Questioners pointed out that many of this church's professional leaders first began to consider a vocation in an outdoor or campus ministry setting.
Hanson said that the ELCA would be "diminished radically" without vibrant outdoor and campus ministries. He said members should not assume that budget reductions mean the church has abdicated its commitment to these ministries.
"The question before us is, 'How do we sustain the vibrant ministries so core to this church?'" he said. Hanson suggested that support for such ministries might come from the congregations of the ELCA.
"I think some new life can come with perhaps less structure on the top and more of the spirit that comes locally," he said, adding that members should challenge themselves to consider how to support outdoor and campus ministries in times of diminished funding.
The presiding bishop answered questions on several other topics during the forum:
+ ELCA World Hunger Appeal funding -- Hanson said the ELCA has made commitments to domestic and international partners to raise $20 million in ELCA World Hunger funds this year. Giving is down about 20 percent, he said. "My challenge is (that) we make up that difference between now and the end of the year," Hanson said.
+ Young adults -- Hanson encouraged adult ELCA members to listen to young adults' stories of faith. Young adults are already out in the world making a difference, he said. "They're serving their neighbors. They're building friendships. They're caring for creation. They're asking questions about Jesus and about God and about faith," Hanson said. Out of those conversations, Hanson believes, can come a natural invitation to worship.
+ Believing in "works" versus "grace" -- Hanson said the good news of Jesus Christ is not about works, it's about grace. "Somehow we've lost the passion to proclaim the radical nature of God's grace," he said.
+ Immigration reform -- Hanson said the ELCA was formed by the descendents of immigrants and is called to renewal by "the new immigrants." He said about 70 new ELCA congregations will be started in 2011, and more than half will be in multicultural and multilingual communities.
+ Contemporary worship and music -- Hanson said his baptism reminds him of his connection to other Christians in the world, and he prefers worship that reflects the diversity of Christians. "I think Lutheran worship is probably at its best when it embraces a diversity of music within the one liturgy," he said.
+ People who gay or lesbian, in relationships and serving as clergy or professional lay workers -- Hanson reminded the audience the 2009 Churchwide Assembly recognized that the ELCA is not in agreement on human sexuality matters, and that faithful members "have engaged Scripture and each other" and may interpret Scripture differently. He said in the ELCA members can hold different interpretations of Scripture and still be part of the same church.
In response to a question about support for congregations struggling with conflict over the decisions of the 2009 assembly, Hanson said it saddens him when congregations take votes to leave the ELCA. He urged members in conflicted congregations to pause and pray with each other. "What if we asked what God is calling us to do together in this community that we can come together around despite our differences?" he asked.
+ Encouragement for youth who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender -- Hanson recently recorded a YouTube video for the "It Gets Better" project, in which he offered hope and encouragement for young people who have been bullied because of their sexual orientations. The video drew an overwhelming positive response, Hanson said. "I think we need to give one another courage -- courage to be encouragers of others. Never underestimate how close you might be to someone who longs to hear that simple, clear word of invitation to a life in Christ and the life of forgiveness in Christ," he said.
+ Lay leadership -- Hanson encouraged congregations to support lay leaders in their call to ministry in "word and service." He said many congregations are not aware of the gifted people serving as ELCA associates in ministry, deaconesses or diaconal ministers. "I commend to you the lay rosters when you have a vacancy," he said.
+ Interfaith relationships -- Hanson encouraged ELCA members to be honest about their faith and listen to people of other faiths, seek greater understanding with people of other faiths and consider how to join together to build a world of justice and peace.
Concluding the webcast, Hanson told ELCA members that they have an opportunity to join with people of other faiths and those that profess no faith to feed the hungry, end violence, and to serve and treat people living in poverty with dignity.
"There's work for all of us," he said. "It's more work than any of us can do alone. It's God's work that we are called to do with our hands, but we join hands with others. That's who we are as Lutheran Christians. Let's be the best of who we are."
The ELCA presiding bishop's next online Town Hall Forum is Sunday, March 13, 2011.
On-demand video of the Nov. 21 Town Hall Forum will be posted at http://www.ELCA.org/townhall on the ELCA website.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com