ELCA Presiding Bishop-Elect Hanson Installed in Chicago Ceremony

10/8/2001 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) installed the Rev. Mark S. Hanson as its third presiding bishop Oct. 6 in a historic ceremony here at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago.  About 2,000 participants included the ELCA's Church Council and 65 synod bishops, Lutheran bishops from around the world and other religious leaders.
     The three-hour ceremony included music, worship and a celebration of the Lord's Supper.  Hanson presided, and Dr. Addie J. Butler, ELCA vice president, Philadelphia, assisted.  Elizabeth Branstad Burtness, Hanson's aunt and godmother, and Ione Agrimson Hanson, his wife, read passages from the Bible.
     The A Capella Choir, Brass Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble of Lenoir-Rhyne College, Hickory, N.C., as well as soloist Deborah Ford and organist David Cherwien provided the musical essence of the ceremony. Lenoir-Rhyne is a college of the ELCA.
     Hanson, 54, was elected to a six-year term as presiding bishop Aug. 11 at the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Indianapolis.  "When I was called to this office on August 11, I began to look forward to October 6 with joyful anticipation," Hanson said at an Oct. 5 news conference.  "That mood is now one of subdued joy, because of the events of September 11."
     "The context of the church in this nation and the world is quite different today than it was the day I was called to this office.  So, one of the major challenges before us is to pay attention to how that context has changed," said Hanson.
     "We are a church that takes very seriously its local context," said Hanson, explaining that he had invited the Rev. Heidi B. Neumark to preach the installation sermon because she is the pastor of Transfiguration Lutheran Church, a bilingual church in the South Bronx of New York City.
     That congregation is "dealing with all the realities of poverty and diversity and the post-September 11 tragedy, and that's where this church lives out its mission -- in the life of people in the day-to-day fabric of the world with its joys and tragedies," said Hanson.
     Neumark challenged the ELCA and Hanson personally at several points in her sermon.  "Mark, people will be watching your feet -- where you walk, where you visit, where you lead and where you allow yourself to be led," she said.
     "Literally within minutes of becoming aware of the terrorist attacks, people began clamoring to get to Ground Zero in New York City - - to come in person and to send all kinds of resources, material and spiritual for rescue, comfort, support and the rebuilding of life.  This stampede of generosity is still going on and it's wonderful.  You, church, have joined that marvelous stampede," said Neumark.
     "Mark, please lead the stampede," she said.  "Lead us to Ground Zero.  Take us to the waste places of disconnect from each other, from other nations, from our earth, from God -- that we too may be made new all together."
     While praising the humanitarian response to a single tragic event, Neumark drew the church's attention to tragic conditions within it and around it.  "The daily ravages of injustice are less eye-catching than the events of Sept. 11 but no less devastating in their human toll," she said.
     Neumark named several of the church's financial structures and challenged the church to support its people and congregations in poor neighborhoods and where the cost of living is expensive.  "Well, church, we are united, and we are not," she said.
     "Do you ever feel small, Mark?  Powerless despite your position? Do you feel inadequate to the task?" Neumark asked.  "The scale of ruin at Ground Zero is beyond comprehension.  It towers over the frail human forms whose tools, impressive in other contexts, appear tiny and ineffectual."
     "See how Jesus came and how he comes.  He came in the very shape of your own vulnerability," she said.  "This extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  Remember that Jesus stayed and stays close to the dust.  Making connections with those whom others brushed aside."
     Neumark noted that Jesus walked among "the scattered ruins" and brought joy and salvation to those he met.  "Mark, it's simple really," she concluded.  "Just follow those beautiful feet."
     Hanson said the installation ceremony illustrated many characteristics of the ELCA.  "We gather as the baptized.  The center of our life as the church is the Word proclaimed and the Sacrament shared," he said.
     "We are a global church," said Hanson.  He said he was delighted that Lutheran bishops came from four other continents to participate in the laying on of hands: the Rev. Medardo Gomez Soto, bishop of the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod, San Salvador, El Salvador; the Rev. Maria Jepsen, bishop of the Hamburg Diocese, North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Hamburg, Germany; the Rt. Rev. Owdenburg M. Mdegella, bishop of the Iringa Diocese, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania; the Rev. Ambrose Moyo, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe, Bulawayo; and the Rev. Julius Paul, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
     "We are an ecumenical church," said Hanson, noting that leaders of the five Christian churches with which the ELCA is in full communion also participated in the laying on of hands: the Rev. Wesley S. Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary, Reformed Church in America; the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold III, presiding bishop and primate, Episcopal Church, USA; the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); the Rev. John H. Thomas, president, United Church of Christ; and the Rt. Rev. Kay Ward, the Moravian Church in America.
     Churches in full communion agree to share a variety of ministries, and, in certain circumstances, clergy from one church body may serve in a congregation of the other.
     "I have the blessing and opportunity to live into these relationships in ways that they can shape our mission together," said Hanson.  "My predecessor, Bishop George Anderson, has done the hard work of getting the agreements adopted by this church," he said.
     Hanson will assume the role of ELCA presiding bishop Nov. 1.  The current ELCA presiding bishop, the Rev. H. George Anderson, 69, will conclude his six-year term Oct. 31.  The ELCA's first presiding bishop, the Rev. Herbert W. Chilstrom, served two terms before he retired in 1995.
     The Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary, presented Hanson for installation.  Anderson installed him, flanked by the church leaders who had laid hands on Hanson.
     Anderson removed the cross he wore on a chain around his neck and placed it on Hanson.  "Receive this cross and wear it as a sign of your calling to serve Christ and his people and as an emblem of the office to which you have been elected," said Anderson.
     An ingredient of the ELCA's newest full-communion agreement, with the Episcopal Church, meant that Hanson was the first ELCA presiding bishop installed in the "historic episcopate" -- a line of bishops extending back to the early days of the Christian church.
     The agreement, "Called to Common Mission," which went into effect Jan. 1, said, "At least three bishops already sharing in the sign of the episcopal succession will be invited to participate in the installation of [the ELCA's] next Presiding Bishop through prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit and with the laying-on-of-hands.  These participating bishops will be invited from churches of the Lutheran communion which share in the historic episcopate.  In addition, a bishop or bishops will be invited from The Episcopal Church to participate in the same way as a symbol of the full communion now shared."
     Other guests at the installation ceremony included Rabbi Laurence L. Edwards, The American Jewish Committee, Chicago; the Rev. Samuel Nafzger, Commission on Theology and Church R


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