Bishops in a War Zone: In 2007, the annual Bishop's Academy for the ELCA Conference of Bishops was held at the Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca, IL.
The 2009 Bishop's Academy is being held in Israel, Jordan, and Palestine and began on January 6, the eleventh day of an Israeli military offensive in Gaza undertaken to prevent Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel.
Planning for the Bishops' trip to the Middle East began more than two years ago, and the outbreak of fighting forced a hasty restructuring of the trip. Originally all 66 ELCA Bishops were to have participated in a single visit. The bishops now envision two delegations to the Middle East in 2009 with slightly more than half the bishops participating in the current visit and the remainder pledged to form the second delegation.
The ELCA Bishops are joined by bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Up-to-date news of the Bishops' trip will be posted on the Bishops' Academy Blog. Individual bishops are maintaining blogs as well:
Bishop Gerald Mansholt, Central States Synod
Bishop Wayne Miller, Metro Chicago Synod
Bishop Samuel Zeiser, Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod
Bishop David Brauer-Rieke, Oregon Synod
Bishop Harold Usgaard, Southeastern Minnesota Synod
Bishop Claire Burkat, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod
Bishop Marie C. Jerge, Upstate New York Synod

Bread and Butter Reality: On Sunday, January 4, Pr. Robyn Hartwig (pictured left) was installed as associate pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Beaverton, Oregon. St. Andrew is a large enough congregation that Pr. Hartwig had to be installed twice, once at 8:30 and again at 11:00, with Bishop David Brauer-Rieke (pictured, right) preaching and presiding.
What made this installation noteworthy was not that Robyn was installed twice or that she is rostered with both the ELCA and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) or even that a church not affiliated with the Lutherans Concerned (LCNA) Reconciling in Christ program had issued a call to a lesbian pastor.
What made this installation noteworthy was Bishop Brauer-Rieke's sermon on texts from Ephesians Chapters 2 and 3. A transcript and audio file are posted on the St. Andrew Lutheran Church website, and we offer this excerpt to encourage you to read the entire sermon.
Bishop Brauer-Rieke:
I am here to be with you in worship today but also to install Pastor Robyn Hartwig as your pastor.
Robynís eyes sparkle when she is about Christian ministry. Youíll notice this ...[W]hen sheís talking about her faith or working with groups of people or talking about their faith, digging into stuff, her face is just radiant and her eyes sparkle.
Only once did those eyes fail me - and that was the day I called her into my office to ask about whether she would consider being pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church...
I asked Robyn to come into my office and I said, "Robyn, what do you think about serving at St. Andrew Lutheran Church?" Her eyes just went dead. They just drained of life.
I said to her, "I think this would be a wonderful match..."
While I was talking she would nod her head every once in a while, not appropriate to the conversation, just sort of nod.
And so I gave her your paperwork and I said, "Would you think about that?" She took it and said, "Yeah, thank you bishop, Iíll do that," and she walked out the door.


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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:

    Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.


    The day went on and people left because it was the end of the day. I walked out and looked at [Robyn] and the lights were still off.I said, "Robyn, whatís wrong?"
    She looked at me and said, "Huh? Oh no, nothing, Iím OK."
    And I said, "You still feel called to parish ministry, donít you?"
    The embers kicked in a little bit and she said, "Oh yes, absolutely," and then they died away again.
    And I said, "So whatís wrong?"
    And Robyn looked up at me for a moment and then looked back at the ground and she said, "Itís hard to be rejected for who you are rather than embraced for what you have to offer. Iím not sure Iím ready to risk that again."
    'Risk that again' being bread and butter reality for people who are gay or lesbian as Robyn is.
    Or just women who are looking for professional roles in the world. Or perhaps people who are marginalized because of race or social class or whatever. Itís hard to be rejected for who you are rather than embraced for what you have to offer.
    "This is the reason that I, Paul, am a prisoner for the Lord Jesus Christ, for the sake of you gentiles."
    ...If you have a bible with you, ...I would invite you to turn to Ephesians, chapter 3, because thatís the text for today and Iím not making this stuff up.
    While youíre turning to that, let me tell you the rest of the story.
    [A]fter a long weekend of prayer and discernment, Robyn bounded back into my office and the lights were back on again.
    She said, "Are you sure this is a good idea? This could be hard for them."
    And I said, "Robyn, they are a mature, healthy congregation and you are the right pastor. This will be good for them."

    Still Journeying Together Faithfully: On Jan. 6, just to see what's next we visited the Faithful Journey web page which for most of us is the primary source of information about the ELCA's progress toward a Social Statement on Human Sexuality. The What's Next box said:
    On February 19, 1:00 p.m., EDT, the Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality and Report on Rostering Recommendations will be released publically.
    Actually, according to the timeline, there are a couple of steps that need to happen before February 19. One of those is the final meeting (January 23-25) of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality accompanied by the much hazier sign off by task force members on the proposed social statement as well as on any implementing resolutions or roster recommendations that the task force might deliver for broader consideration. If you happen to be an ELCA rostered leader, you'll get a confidential preview of the proposed social statement and the report on rostering recommendations on February 18.
    (Our spell checker balked at publically though Merriam Webster Online acknowledges that as a variant of publicly.)

    Human Trafficking Awareness Day: Sunday January 11, ELCA congregations and other churches affiliated with the National Council of Churches will observe Human Trafficking Awareness Day to raise worshipers' awareness of the persistence of slavery in the 21st century. According to the International Labor Organization at least 12.3 million people worldwide are trapped in forced labor, and human trafficking is the fasting growing criminal industry in the world and among criminal industries ranks second only to drug dealing.
    In 2007, the United States Congress set aside January 11 as a day to raise awareness of and build opposition to human trafficking. You can find out more from the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
    The National Council of Churches has provided a downloadable bulletin insert for use on Sunday, January 11. A new hymn entitled: ďPeople Held In BondageĒ by Grace Pugh Hubbard is also available for download. The hymn was first used at the Ecumenical Conference on Human Trafficking in October 2008.

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