We’re in this together

By Bishop Ann Svennungsen

What words would best capture my feelings three Saturdays ago when our Synod Assembly elected me to a second term? I was truly overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.

Any call process is full of mystery. And the process for electing a bishop is particularly so – as a call committee of some 450 people are voting. So, to be transparent, I also experienced deep relief and loving affirmation that day.

“What is possible for the sake of the Gospel as we work together?”

Now, three weeks later, all those feelings have grown only stronger, and have been complemented by excitement and energy to work toward the goals and ministries we’ve already begun. In fact, there’s a real sense of urgency and time sensitivity. Six years can pass before you know it – and there’s so much good work to be done!

I love our synod. There is great vibrancy in our congregations, growing partnerships among leaders, renewed excitement for starting new congregations, and fresh energy to engage our neighborhoods for the sake of justice and health.

 

I AM ALSO REMINDED OF our position as the largest synod in the ELCA and one of the largest Protestant denominations in our state. What is our calling to use our gifts for the larger church?

We are already expanding our EcoFaith work in a partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal district, United Methodist conference, and Episcopal diocese, thanks to a generous grant from the InFaith Foundation. We have a new partnership with Lutheran Volunteer Corps and are working with Augsburg University to apply for a Lilly Foundation Grant to foster pastoral excellence in a rapidly changing world.

“I’m especially drawn to the question of our synod’s potential in the work of raising up excellent and diverse pastors and deacons for the whole church.”

I’m especially drawn to the question of our synod’s potential in the work of raising up excellent and diverse pastors and deacons for the whole church. Not many of our 65 synods have confirmation classes with as many as 300 students in them. Not many have such varied opportunities for formative Bible Camping experiences. And, with our large membership numbers, one might guess we have more financial resources to share for the sake of seminary scholarships.

This is an incredible stewardship moment for the church, as we anticipate the greatest transfer of wealth in American history. In the next 40 years, $30-50 trillion in assets are expected to pass from Baby Boomers to heirs and charities.

Is there a way Lutherans could imagine designating some of those resources to raising a new generation of leaders? I have grandchildren ages 3 and 6. What might inspire us grandparents to leave a legacy to promote the life and vitality of the church for those who come after us?

Where would you like to see our synod in six years? What is possible for the sake of the Gospel as we work together? This is an important conversation. I look forward to our shared call to talk and listen and pray and innovate and work hard together for the next six years!