By Bishop Ann Svennungsen
Did you feel the winds shift this month? Maybe it was the same wind that inspired Peter’s Pentecost sermon, “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.”
We’ve heard a few more daughters prophesying in synod assemblies around the ELCA this spring. Seven women were called as bishops – six serving as the first female bishop their synod has elected.
When I began my term in 2012, there were seven female bishops among a conference of 65 bishops. In 2018, there were 14. Now there are 21. This represents an increase from 10% to 32%, a significant shift.
“We’ve heard a few more daughters prophesying in synod assemblies around the ELCA this spring.”
Peter proclaims the radical generosity of God – pouring out the Spirit on all flesh. The ELCA still has a long way to go in reflecting the diversity of our world. When I began serving as bishop in 2012, we had two bishops of color. Today, there are six.
I just returned from the Metro Chicago Synod Assembly where those gathered elected the Rev. Yehiel Curry, an African-American pastor from the southside of Chicago. The practice in the ELCA is to invite a current bishop to serve as an informal mentor to each incoming bishop. I am thrilled to be invited to serve in this role with Bishop-elect Curry.
AS WE SEEK TO reflect the Pentecost vision of diversity that God intends for the church, we need to be boldly intentional about raising up leaders who look like the people in our world. Growing as communities of radical welcome and inclusion depends on it. And, so does our understanding of God.
One of my all-time favorite stories from my ministry comes from my time at Edina Community Lutheran Church (ECLC), now 25 years ago. Elizabeth was four years old and a member of ECLC. The Rev. Erik Strand and I had been her pastors since she was baptized as an infant. When I announced that I was leaving the congregation and moving to Iowa, sometime after she heard the news, Elizabeth turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, isn’t it sad that God is moving to Iowa? But,” she said, “at least Jesus is staying here.”
Though her theology was then a bit suspect, Elizabeth showed how imagination can be opened, and how she will see God as much more than an old man with a white beard. That rich understanding of God – in Elizabeth and countless others – will shape our ways of being … as leaders and as communities.