Monday, December 07, 2009

Evangelical Lutheran leader suggests Bible not the final authority (

Shrimp here.

That's the AP's headline, by the way, not ours. The article (go ahead, click and read; Shellfish isn't an AP agent) doesn't say a whole lot about ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's, uh, responses to questions at the ELCA's Town Hall Forum held in what appeared to be the former Augsburg Fortress store on the ground level at The Lutheran Center late yesterday afternoon. But you can judge for yourself now that the Town Hall Forum's webcast is posted at that link for "on-demand viewing."

Meanwhile, here's the ELCA News take on the Forum. Shrimp out.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Addresses Variety of Subjects in Town Hall Forum


CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) hosted a "Town Hall Forum" here Dec. 6, fielding a variety of questions on topics such as leadership, mission, evangelism, anti-racism and racial justice matters, funding, churchwide staff reductions and actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson responded to 19 questions -- posed by a live audience and members watching online -- during the hour-long forum. Carlos Peña, ELCA vice president, Galveston, Texas, introduced Hanson and posed questions from viewers.

Hanson had said he wanted to use the forum to speak directly to members about priorities for the 4.6 million-member ELCA, look forward and share stories about mission. He also promised to host similar forums in the future.

ELCA Communication Services, which managed the forum along with ELCA Information Technology staff and others, reported the online video player for the forum was launched 3,148 times, with 2,205 unique viewers. Top viewership was in Minnesota, Illinois and Florida. Viewers in several foreign countries also watched, the report said.

The forum was held as some ELCA congregations are considering leaving the denomination or withholding finances as a response to the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

That assembly directed changes to ministry policies, creating the possibility for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as clergy and professional lay workers. The directive has caused some disagreement in the ELCA.

Hanson asked members to continue to discuss the assembly's actions and include those with differing opinions in those conversations; respect other points of view; and remain united as the ELCA.

He addressed congregations that are redirecting or withholding funds to register disagreement with the assembly's actions.

"Let me tell you when that line is cut, mission and ministry is diminished throughout the world and throughout this church," he told the forum audience.

He said the ELCA is a church where all people "can teach and preach" with the integrity of their convictions on sexuality matters. The ELCA is also welcoming people who "are coming to faith or being renewed in their faith" because of the assembly's actions, Hanson said.

"We can be faithful Lutheran Christians and live with that tension in the same church body. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that became our witness?" he said.

He said the concept of "bound conscience" remains a question for many, and there should be an "open" conversation about it. He added that "we live under the authority of Scripture," but members must keep asking each other "What does that mean?"

Hanson also commented on other topics:

+ Leadership: He urged leaders to focus on the complete picture of the ELCA through "a wide-angle lens" versus focusing on human sexuality issues. ELCA leaders and members need to encourage each other in their ministries, Hanson said.

+ Mission: Every synod should convene leaders to study how "vibrant ministries can happen in congregations," he said. Directors of evangelical mission are being placed in synods to help congregations grow as centers for mission, he said.

+ Anti-racism education and racial justice: Hanson said two full-time churchwide positions will be combined into one. That doesn't diminish the churchwide organization's commitment in this area, he said. He invited the audience to advise him on the new job description. Hanson also said that the churchwide organization is building groups to oversee churchwide anti-racism work, and to work with synods and congregations.

+ Multicultural and ethnic-specific ministries: Hanson reported that 13 new congregations will be planted in 2010 in multicultural, ethnic-specific communities throughout the ELCA. The ELCA Mission Investment Fund provided grant funds to make this possible, he said. Hanson also said the ELCA cannot use multicultural, ethnic-specific communities as "pawns" in a struggle over sexuality. He said the ELCA "needs to sustain these vibrant ministries."

+ ELCA restructuring: A task force has been appointed to study church structures and relationships throughout the ELCA, and how changes that have taken place since the church was formed in 1988. Hanson said he was less concerned about structure than he is about mission. "We're in that study now. I can guarantee you that it will not be a top-down decision. It will be a conversation to which we invite the church."

+ Ecumenical and global relationships: The presiding bishop said that since the churchwide assembly, the ELCA has been working specifically to tend relationships with other churches in the United States and globally.

Hanson said he hopes that in the next eight years, the ELCA can train 1,000 evangelists to help the church grow, informed by global companion churches. He also urged congregations to study the ELCA's social statements alongside real-life social challenges, such as health care.


Video of the "Town Hall Forum" is at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:

John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Luckily I don't rely on teh AP for news about my church. Go to the ELCA website and watch the meeting. The Bishop was taken completely out of context.

The good ship ELCA...

The good ship ELCA...
Or the Shellfish blog...