What questions do you have for the Presiding Bishop?
ELCA members reflect on their expierience of past online Town Hall Forums
If you could ask the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) a question, what would it be? The Rev. Mark S. Hanson is ready to receive questions live during the online ELCA Town Hall Forum Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. EST. The forum is an hour-long event designed to inform ELCA members about the life-changing mission and ministries of the ELCA.
According to Eric Peterson, congregations should not think of the forum as "a show to be watched. Congregations should prepare and study for it, discuss what they have heard and grow in action out of that."
Peterson, a member of Bethel Lutheran Church in Madison, Wis., participated in the March 7 and Sept. 19, 2010 forums.
"It has been rewarding to hear from the presiding bishop as the church grapples with issues about the nature and future of the church," he said. The forum offers an opportunity to interact with other church members, congregations and synods "in holy conversation."
Peterson said he would like to see more forums scheduled, along with deeper participation from congregations across this church"
"I think people in this church want to have true and honest conversations about the church and discover how the gospel is calling us to be faith-in-action people."
Members of Salem Lutheran Church in Sycamore, Ill., hosted a viewing party for the September forum.
"We had a good conversation afterward with people sharing their reactions," said Carla Vanatta, associate in ministry at Salem. She said the forum and subsequent conversation were important for Jim Kline, a visitor of Salem who became a member of the congregation Oct. 30.
"I had been looking for a new ELCA congregation to join because my previous congregation decided to leave the ELCA," said Kline.
"What stood out for me at the (September) Town Hall Forum was Bishop Hanson's comment about whether the ELCA is 'defined by questions in which we have no agreement and often divide us, or by the good news of Jesus Christ that unites us.' For me that was a very appropriate thing to say," he said.
Vanatta said the forum was a "healing experience" because it offered space for participants to address some issues. "Bishop Hanson was frank but sensitive about the pain of congregations leaving the ELCA. The forum was also a good way for the rest of us to be able to respond to what our visitor had been experiencing."
Members of Salem have made a deeper commitment to continue dialogue and to host future viewing parties.
Participants can follow conversations on Facebook or tweet about the event using the hash tags #ELCA or #BishopHanson. Submit questions and watch the forum at http://www.elca.org/townhall on the ELCA website. Images and transcripts in English and Spanish are available on the website, as well as the opportunity to watch previous webcasts and monitor dates for future forums.
The ELCA Town Hall Forum is a unique, informative and enjoyable experience. Host a viewing party for your congregation and help build community with the more than 10,000 congregations across this church. A tool kit is available at http://www.elca.org/townhall to help congregations host a viewing party with electronic and technical assistance, social media opportunities and more.