Mujeres en Liderazgo Pastoral

Obispo Michael Rinehart
Editado por Pra. Rachel Ringlaben

En 1970, el ALC y el LCA votaron para ordenar a las mujeres. Para 2020, dentro de 12 meses, celebraremos el 50 aniversario de la ordenación de mujeres en la ELCA. Entonces, ¿dónde estamos de pie?

Pastors who happen to be women
Una reunion de octubre de 2018 de pastores del Sinodo de la Costa Del Golfo que son mujeres

Celebramos las muchas y variadas maneras en que los dones de las mujeres ordenadas han avanzado la misión de Dios a través de esta iglesia. Hemos sido bendecidos en muchas maneras y es difícil imaginar a esta iglesia si no hubiéramos dado este paso importante.

Sin embargo, como lo atestiguará el Asistente del Obispo Blair Lundborg, todavía recibimos rechazo de los comités de llamadas que sienten que la congregación simplemente “no está dispuesta” para una pastora. También hay disparidades significativas para las mujeres en los roles de seminario, primera convocatoria, salario, deuda de seminario y ministerio. Un estudio de 2015 en el 45 aniversario de la ordenación de mujeres mostró algunos de ellos. Por ejemplo, el salario medio para el clero femenino es de $56,128, mientras que el salario medio para el clero masculino es $ 61,722, una diferencia de 9.1%.

Todavía hemos logrado unos avances significativos. En el Sínodo de la Costa del Golfo ponemos a las mujeres en cada lista de candidatos. Y a veces nosotros/as y la congregación se sorprenden por los resultados. Más que nunca en nuestro sínodo hay una gran cantidad de mujeres que están sirviendo como pastoras en nuestra congregaciones. 1/3 de nuestro clero activo son mujeres y el porcentaje va creciendo – sin embargo, hay mucho trabajo por hacer. Aún nos falta mucho al llegar a la meta de tener 50% de mujeres clérigas.” Así que hemos establecido una meta para crecer a 40% en los próximos 5 años y a 50% en esta década.

La mayoría de nuestros decanos ya son mujeres. Aunque Peggy ha sido Asistente del Obispo durante 18 años, LEAD está apuntando a convertirse en una organización independiente y lo que nos deja con un personal pastoral demasiado cargado de hombres. Tenemos un plan para abordar esto.

Al comenzar mi llamado como obispo de este sínodo, la Conferencia de Obispos tenía 6 obispas, menos del 10%. Esta primavera, los seis nuevas obispas elegidas fueron mujeres, llevándonos a 17 obispas, o el 25%. Mejor, pero aún nos queda un largo camino por recorrer. Tener una obispa presidente ha ayudado.

Ahora tenemos un borrador de declaración social sobre , y un mensaje social sobre la Violencia de Género. Necesitamos que congregaciones estudien estos documentos.

Pero también escucho las historias de nuestro clero femenino y diáconos femeninos sobre las experiencias denigrantes y discriminatorias experimentado por miembros e incluso con colegas varones. Esto es especialmente cierto para las mujeres de color. Esto debe parar.

Algunas de estas cosas son puntos ciegos que tenemos. Recientemente tuve una experiencia que reveló un punto tan ciego en mi propio vida. Un pastor sénior estaba fuera del país y yo necesitaba relacionar una solicitud urgente con la congregación, así que me puse en contacto con un miembro del personal que es varón, pasando por encima a la pastora asociada. ¿Que está pasando aquí? Los sociólogos lo llaman sesgo inconsciente. Una comunidad saludable ve estas cosas, las nombra y se toma en cuenta. Con gratitud, esto me llamó la atención y ofrecí una disculpa.

Los hombres a menudo interrumpen y hablan sobre las mujeres. La recomendación de una pastora puede pasarse por alto, pero cuando un colega recomienda lo mismo, recibe grandes elogios. Un pastor senior masculino puede tomar crédito por el arduo trabajo de una mujer asociada. Y así.

Se pone peor. Todas las pastoras con las que he hablado de esto han recibido comentarios condescendientes, bromas e insultos sexistas, contacto físico inapropiado y más. Lamentablemente, estos a veces provienen de colegas, que deberían saber mejor. Así que programé un tiempo para escuchar estas historias y pensar juntos sobre cómo manejar este tema en las congregaciones y entre colegas. Esta fue nuestra primera vez para una reunión como esta. La próxima vez también pediremos a las diáconas que asistan.

Entonces hace un mes salió el video del Sínodo de Carolina del Norte. Con los pastores leyendo en voz alta los comentarios que sus colegas y pastores habían recibido de otros. Podría ser útil para todos nosotros escuchar palabras y experiencias que nuestro clero ha encontrado:

  • Una pastora nos informó que se la demoró en postularse para su candidatura por casi 3 años porque le dijo (por una clériga con autoridad sobre la candidatura) que la candidata era demasiada delgada, bonita, con el pelo demasiado largo y con demasiado maquillaje. . Se le dijo que debido a estas cosas sería ella una distracción para los feligreses.
  • Pastoras nos informan que miembros de la congregación las han intentado ligar.
  • Una pastora nos informa que un hombre deliberadamente para pasar por su línea de comunión todos los domingos y tomarse de la mano.
  • En algunos casos, los miembros entrarían a la oficina de la iglesia cuando sabían que la pastora sería la unica allí.
  • Cuando una pastora rechazó una invitación a salir a cenar con “Nadie tiene que saberlo.”
  • “Si yo no tuviera una novia, te llevaría a casa.”
  • “No sabía que a las pastoras se les permitía ser tan sexy.”
  • “Eres demasiada bonita para ser una pastora.”
  • Una de ellas había recibido comentarios gráficos y vulgares de un compañero de clase de seminario frente a otros. Cuando ella dejó en claro que la amistad era todo lo que ella estaba preparada ofrecerle, él continuó acosándola por teléfono, mensajes de texto y correos electrónicos, de manera extremadamente explícita. Los oficiales del seminario le dijeron que era “fuerte y que podía cuidarme a mí misma” y “¿qué esperas cuando te ves como tú?” Informó sobre el acoso al seminario, pero le dijeron que esperó demasiado tiempo para presentar una queja formal de Título 9. No pudieron hacer nada al respecto de su caso.

Es importante que reconozcamos y nombremos estas realidades. Algunos hombres se sorprenden cuando descubren la cantidad de comentarios despectivos que reciben las pastoras, y se sorprenden al escuchar algunas de las experiencias reales. Tenemos que hablar. Es importante que las congregaciones establezcan límites claros. Los concilios pueden aprobar políticas de acoso sexual, y trabajar con victimas de abusos. Las/Los líderes deben actuar cuando llegan las quejas. De esta manera, las/los líderes pueden ser el sistema de inmunidad de la organización.

Ya no hay judío ni griego; no hay esclavo ni libre; no hay varón ni mujer; porque todos vosotros sois uno en Cristo Jesús.

Gálatas 3:28

English version

 

Pastors Who Happen to be Women

By Bishop Michael Rinehart

In 1970 both the ALC and the LCA voted to ordain women. In 2020, 12 short months from now, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of women’s ordination in the ELCA. So where do we stand?

Pastors who happen to be women
An October 2018 gathering of Gulf Coast Synod pastors who are women

We celebrate the many and varied ways the gifts of ordained women have advanced God’s mission through this church. We have been blessed in so many ways, it’s hard to imagine this church if we had not taken this important step.

Nevertheless, as Assistant to the Bishop Blair Lundborg will attest, we still get pushback from call committees who feel the congregation just “isn’t ready” for a female pastor. There are also significant disparities for women in seminary, first call, salary, seminary debt and ministry roles. A 2015 study at the 45th anniversary of the ordination of women showed some of those. For example, the median salary for female clergy is $56,128, while the median salary for male clergy is $61,722, a 9.1% difference.

We have nevertheless made significant progress. In the Gulf Coast Synod we put women on every slate of candidates. And sometimes we and the congregation, are surprised by the results. More women are serving in our synod than ever. 1/3 of our active clergy are female, and growing, but we have a ways to go. We are not yet at 50%. So we have set a goal to grow to 40% in the next 5 years, and to 50% in ten. This would mean, if ten congregations get new pastors, as happened this year, we would need a net gain of two female pastors each year.

A majority of our deans are now women. Although Peggy Hahn has been Assistant to the Bishop for 18 years, LEAD is angling toward become a self-standing organization, which leaves us with a pastoral staff too heavily weighted with men. We have a plan to address this.

When I started, the Conference of Bishops had 6 female bishops, less than 10%. This spring, all six new bishops elected were women, bringing us to 17 female bishops, or 25%. Better, but still a long way to go. Having a Presiding Bishop that is a woman has helped.

We now have a draft social statement on Women and Justice, and a social message on Gender-based Violence. We need congregations to study and wrestle with these.

But I also hear stories from our female clergy and deacons about denigrating and discriminating experiences they have had with parishioners and even with male colleagues. This is especially true for women of color. This must stop.

Some of these things are blind spots we have. Recently I had an experience that revealed such a blind spot. A senior pastor was out of town and I needed to relate an urgent request to the congregation, so I contacted a male staff member, overlooking the female associate pastor. What’s going on here? Sociologists call it unconscious bias. A healthy community sees these things, names them and calls one another on them. Gratefully, this was called to my attention and I offered an apology.

Men often interrupt and talk over women. A recommendation from a female pastor may be overlooked, but when a male colleague recommends the same thing, it receives high praise. A male senior pastor may take credit for the hard work of a female associate. And so on.

It gets worse. Every female pastor I’ve discussed this with has stories of condescending remarks, sexist jokes and insults, inappropriate physical contact and more. Sadly, these sometimes come from colleagues, who should know better. So I scheduled a time to listen to these stories and think together about how we deal with this in congregations and among colleagues. This was our first time for a meeting like this. Next time we will also ask deacons to attend.

Then a month ago the North Carolina Synod video came out. With actual male pastors reading things that had been said to female pastors. It might be useful for us all to hear words and experiences our clergy have encountered:

  • One pastor reported her application for candidacy was delayed for almost 3 years because she was told (by a female clergy from her synod’s Candidacy Committee at the time) that she was too thin, too pretty, with hair too long, and wearing too much makeup. She was told she would be a distraction to male congregants.
  • Pastors report being hit on by congregation members.
  • One pastor reported that a male congregant made a point to come through her communion line every Sunday and grab her hand.
  • In some cases, parishioners will come into the church office when they know the pastor will be the only one there.
  • When one pastor declined an invitation to dinner from a male parishioner, he replied: “No one has to know.”
  • “If I didn’t already have a bride, I’d be taking you home.”
  • “I didn’t know pastors were allowed to be so sexy.”
  • “You’re too pretty to be a pastor.”
  • One experienced graphic and vulgar comments from a seminary classmate in front of others. When she made it clear that friendship was all that was on the table, he continued to harass her via telephone, text, and email, extremely explicitly. She was told she was “strong and could take care of herself” and “What do you expect when you look like you?” She reported the harassment to the seminary, but was told she waited too long to launch a formal Title 9 Complaint, so they could not do anything about it.
  • One senior pastor said to his associate pastor, after maternity leave, “Now that you had the baby, I expect you are going to work part-time. Correct?”
  • One female congregant liked to say, “She has a liberal feminist agenda.”
  • An all-male executive team said to their female pastor, “We understood you were going to talk to the worship committee about this, but we expected you to do what we said.”
  • Female Council president to outgoing female pastor: “She’s done everything we’ve asked her to do when we called her. I know I was on the call committee, but truth is we don’t like the changes.”
  • When pregnant with her second child, a pastor was asked by a colleague, in front of other colleagues, “You do know how this happens, right?”
  • On internship, a church staff member once said to a pastor that maybe people would listen to her sermons “If she preached in a wet, clingy robe.” When these and other issues were brought before the seminary, her male supervisor sided with his staff member, and the seminary believed him. It later came out that she was the third female intern to leave this site early. This gifted pastor very nearly left the church over this.
  • When interviewing for internship, one person on the committee said, “I don’t believe in women pastors. What are you going to do to about that?”
  • When a group asked her to be their spokesperson at an advocacy day, one pastor was steamrolled by a late-arriving male colleague who stepped into the room as she was speaking. Without missing a beat, he interrupted and took over the leadership of the conversation. She considered confronting him. Would he listen and change, or hold it against her? She opted not to confront him. “I couldn’t trust him enough not to turn it back on me. Confronting men who hold power is always a calculation. If their ego is wounded, women pay the price. Even if women are in authority over them, it’s still always a calculation.”
  • One gentleman in the congregation, led by a pastor who is a woman of color, had been “nipping at my heels” ever since she arrived with cross-questioning. At first she took it as his trying to figure out how to be light-hearted with the new woman pastor. His ongoing critiques and evaluations of whatever she did came close to harassment. She drew the line when he commented on her style of dress. Since all his looks and comments were part of his self-described appropriate assessment of her, he thought whatever he said was well-placed. Under normal circumstances she would have put him in his place, but when a church is anxious and struggling, and the contributions made by his wife and daughter were helpful, it was difficult. “Acceptance” by his “long-time friends,” that his odd behavior was “just him”; and somehow she must accept that kind of weirdness, compounded the problem. By their failure to correct him in his ridicule, (once publicly at a memorial service) they give him permission to say whatever he thought was his right to say.  She commented that “It is entirely possible that he is the voice for the rest of them … and that’s another sad matter altogether. I would put this kind of complaint under the general category of ‘good old boy’ accepted misbehavior.”
  • I have been surprised “at how many unthinking comments have come from other women, who I would have thought would know better. Like, ‘What are you going to do if you’re with your kids and an emergency comes up at the church? Like someone is in the hospital.’ Well, probably the same thing any other professional person would do, I expect: work the problem. Find childcare or, if that doesn’t work, ask a colleague to go to the hospital in my place. Much of the bias I have experienced in my congregations, come to think of it, seems to have revolved around my roles as mother and pastor.”

It is important that we acknowledge and name these realities. Some men are surprised when they discover how many disparaging remarks pastors receive, and are shocked to hear some of the actual experiences. We must talk about these things. It is important that congregations establish clear boundaries. Councils can pass sexual harassment policies and work with victims of abuse. Leaders must act when complaints arrive. In this way, leaders can be the immunity system of the organization.

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

En Español

In the wilderness

By Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop, ELCA

elizabeth-eaton
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton

In the Hebrew Bible the book of Numbers is called “In the Wilderness.” It starts with great hope. God delivered God’s people from Egypt, from bitter slavery, grinding toil and infanticide. What a delivery! The entire people—ancients, infants and everyone in between—escaped from one of the world’s superpowers, walked dry-shod through the sea and went on a 40-day journey to the land the Lord had promised them.

Beginnings are filled with expectation. There is excitement and a sense that everything is possible. Think about the first day of school, a vacation, new job, one’s honeymoon or the first day of a child’s life. It was no different for the Israelites. The first chapters recount the enumeration of the tribes of Israel—hence the title, Numbers. This description is of the mustering of the people as they strode into the future. This was the beginning of an adventure! This part ends with God commanding Moses to make two silver trumpets. The entire journey would be heralded by the clear ringing of silver trumpets.

In the beginning it was possible to disregard the fact that they were setting off into the wilderness. But it caught up to them. We know how that goes—halfway through the road trip, the school year, the job, the marriage or life with a baby and the traits that were at first endearingly quirky just become annoying. On epic family cross-country vacations, the landscape becomes monotonous. The food is no longer novel but noxious. Life before, at least in memories that have become trip-jaded, was bliss.

It was no different for the pilgrims in the wilderness. By Chapter 11 things have started to go downhill. In band camp we called this “Whiney Wednesday.” The people were sick of manna. In their defense, there are probably a limited number of manna recipes. They remembered the “cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic” (Numbers 11:5). They remembered the fish they used to eat in Egypt “for nothing.” For nothing? Bondage and oppression were nothing? The people began to protest. They clamored for meat. They stood at the doors of their tents and wailed.

Moses had enough. “Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? … Where am I to get meat for all this people? … I am not able to carry this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once” (Numbers 11:11-15). Wow, and I thought I had bad days at work.

To all this God answers: “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not” (Numbers 11:23).

Sometimes, when things are the most difficult, or the way forward is thwarted, or hearing someone blithely remind us that God is faithful, it seems like the equivalent of offering “thoughts and prayers” to those living through a devastating tragedy. But for those who live because this promise is not trite but true, for whom it is water in a dry land, a rock in sinking sand, this is the solid promise of life in God.

From being people of the promise until that promise is realized is hard work. In the moment, or the day, or the decade, it is difficult to see that God is moving us. Some give up. Remarkably, some who are most ground down by the journey hang on.

This year we elected six new bishops—all of them women, one Latina and the first two African Americans. Guided by the Spirit, the people of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod elected Patricia Davenport and the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin elected Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld. It took 31 years—not quite 40. What didn’t seem possible a generation ago is reality in our church. We are becoming a generation not quite arrived at the promised land but seeing God declaring, “Now you will see if my word will come true for you or not.”

This article originally appeared in Living Lutheran’s November 2018 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Camp Lutherhill – a powerhouse of faith formation and fun

By Bishop Mike Rinehart

For many people, camp is what church should be. Unpretentious, informal and close to the earth. Uncomplicated, outdoorsy and communal. Young, enthusiastic and hopeful. People from different places come together and create a bubble in which strangers are friends. Practicing generosity, each camp group raises money and collects supplies for a needy cause.

Swimming, arts and crafts, hiking, climbing, zip lining, waking a high wire, we challenge ourselves to confront our fears and trust one another.

We worship not weekly, but daily, several times a day in fact, under the trees, under the stars, around a campfire. A dog meanders through the crowd. We reconnect with God, nature, ourselves and one another. We study Scripture, memorize passages and wrestle with what it means for everyday life.

It should come as no surprise that an overwhelming number of pastors report having first been grabbed by the urge to pursue ministry as a vocation while at camp. It only takes a spark… and the call is ignited.

Camp is a powerhouse of faith formation. It is the place and time that people often “get” what faith is about for the first time. It sinks in.

Lutherhill fun

Lutherhill Director Matt Kindsvatter shared with me that they had 2,208 total campers this summer. 58 Gulf Coast Synod congregations participated. Additionally, Lutherhill did 25 Day Camps with 1,128 campers, including Free Wheels Bike Camp in Houston, Lutheran Social Services, and Camp Noah in Rockport.

They collected $9,810 in summer camp offerings. Of this total, $4,905 was distributed to Acts of Wisdom, this summer’s designated ministry partner. Beyond the financial contribution, campers and staff also hand-sewed 1,024 drawstring backpacks and made bookmarks to deliver to school children in Ethiopia. The other $4,905 is designated for camp improvements including the sling shot range.

They engaged campers and guests in baking fresh communion bread with rosemary grown onsite for eucharistic worship, and made their inaugural batch of communion wine from Mustang Grapes grown onsite.

They held 530 Bible studies and 860 worship services. 15,765 folks were served out of the Lutherhill kitchen. 78 young adults served on summer staff.

Zion Retreat Center has hosted over 1,200 guests so far this year, also welcoming 12 disaster recovery groups from 10 different states.

This year the theme at our camp, Lutherhill, is “wonder”. There will be family camp, day camp, youngns, yearlings night owl, junior high, senior high, beach camp, high adventure and more. The sooner you register, the more you save. Early bird registration is now until December 15. If you’re bringing a church group, lock in your date now, before it fills up: http://Lutherhill.org.

If you are looking for some fun information on overall outdoor ministry and the impact of that you can go to https://sacredplaygrounds.com/effectivecamp/

Lisa’s Pieces:  Creation Care Tips from the Synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team

Lutherans Restoring Creation

The mission of Lutherans Restoring Creation is to promote incorporation of care for creation into the full life and mission of the church, working in five areas:  worship, education, discipleship, building & grounds, and public ministry/advocacy.  For some timely tips in these areas, see below:

Worship Check out this Mass Celebrating Creation from the ELCA. This litany for soil & water stewardship can be used in combination with associated curricula for kids/youth. Here are a variety of creation-focused liturgical materials. Seasonal creation-focused prayers for Advent/Christmas and Epiphany in year C can be used in worship each week. Creation-focused commentaries on the lectionary are available.

Education Use the Watersheds:  Our Water, Our Home curricula for kids & youth. For adults, articles on Water & Ecotheology can serve as a basis for study/discussion. The online Sunday Evening Conversations on Creation on Jan. 27, Biodiversity Loss & What You Can Do educates on creation care.  For an interfaith perspective, the Interfaith Environmental Network of Houston January 2019 Kick-Off Event will address the Ethics of Eating & the Top 10 Actions Houses of Worship can take now to preserve the earth. The book Christianity, Climate Change & Sustainable Living can be used for an adult study.

Discipleship:  Make use of the “Bulletin blurb” eco-tips (+ verses & quotes) on the synod leaders Facebook page each week. Continuing with the water theme, offer members material on building your own rain barrel or this sheet to track water use. Encourage members to Celebrate Christmas with Simplicity. Share the devotion that is posted each week on Facebook.

Building & Grounds Use this Do It Yourself Home Energy Audit to find energy savings options for your building. Check out these tips on Bringing Green to Work to save energy in your office. Provide materials on zero waste to staff to reduce waste generation. For large church facilities, these offers from Centerpoint for commercial buildings may be of interest. Speaking of staff, keep everyone happier and healthier with indoor plants in the office.  Indoor plants promote improved indoor air quality.

Public Ministry/Advocacy:  The weekly Opportunities to Care for, Learn About, and Enjoy God’s Good Creation features volunteer events in the greater Houston area (see upcoming opportunities link). Consider an activity to care for birds in observance of National Bird Day on Jan. 5.  For the National Day of Service on Jan. 21, consider serving all creation with your activity. Petition EPA to preserve methane pollution standards & the House of Representatives to create a Green New Deal.

For more information on any of the above, or for creation care assistance/information, contact the synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team by writing to Lisa at gcs.lrc@gmail.com. The team is seeking additional members.  If you would be willing to serve, please contact us.

Sunday Evening Conversations on Creation Continue…

The synod Lutherans Restoring Creation Team invites you to a monthly environmental education web meeting series whose theme in 2019 is environmental issues and what you can do.

Biodiversity Loss & What You Can Do
Sunday, Jan. 27, at 6 p.m.

Prof Kerri Crawford
Kerri, Crawford, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Biology & Chemistry Dept. 

In January, Kerri Crawford, assistant professor at the University of Houston, Department of Biology & Biochemistry, will speak on biodiversity loss. Biodiversity loss has been deemed one of the most significant environmental issues facing North America by the U.N.’s Global Environmental Outlook, the U.N.’s flagship environmental assessment.

Professor Crawford will educate on the importance of biodiversity as well as the latest findings on biodiversity loss, so that you can understand the issue. She will also explain the actions you can take to preserve biodiversity. Please register for this talk. Contact Lisa Brenskelle at gcs.lrc@gmail.com with any questions about this talk.

Ordination of Deacons

By Bishop Mike Rinehart

deaconsIn 2016, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution to combine three rosters – Associates in Ministry, Deaconesses and Diaconal Ministers – into one roster: Deacon. In a recent lunch with some of our deacons, I heard positive remarks about this move over the last two years. “I don’t think anyone ever understood Associates in Ministry. Ever. We explained it a hundred times. It went right over their heads,” said one person. “Deacon” has traction.

At the 2019 Churchwide Assembly coming up next summer, several recommendations will be coming to the floor. A team has been working on some of the details of this office, like the entrance rite for example. Below are some of those recommendations, but first a little bit of background.

Acts 6

We read about deacons in Acts 6. The church was growing (Acts 2:47), and as is often the case, conflict arose. It was both racial and religious. The Greeks complained that Hebrew widows were getting more food than the Greek widows, who were being neglected in the daily distribution. There was an inequity, an injustice. The Twelve gathered and decided to appoint seven people to handle the daily food distribution. While the apostles did their work, these deacons would attend to a kind of social ministry, distributing food to the poor, orphans and widows. It is instructive that the church saw this as a primary ministry, so important that a special ops team was created to ensure a just system. The deacons are set apart by prayer and laying on of hands. The problem is solved, and the church continues to grow.

Mark Oldenburg points out that the laying on of hands is clearly not only for those with liturgical duties.

The first of those chosen was Stephen, who preached with the Spirit and with wisdom (Acts 6:10). He also preached in a way that made people angry, so angry in fact, that they eventually stoned him. The first martyr in the New Testament was a deacon, stoned for preaching an edgy sermon.

Deacons were distributers of the church’s food. Gordon Lathrop (see link below) says they took communion to the homebound. They distributed the food collected at the church’s assembly, to the sick, the needy, orphans and widows. In the second century Ignatius of Antioch regarded deacons as “entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ.” The role is not presiding. It is serving. Lathrop points out that Bugenhagen, in the Reformation, used deacon to describe the person who kept the community chest.

The role of deacon developed into a more formalized role over time. Deacons preached, baptized, evangelized and more. At times the church rolled back some of those duties. Subdeacons and other roles emerged. In some cases, it was a stepping stone toward the priesthood. Other denominations have two kinds of deacons. Permanent deacons are those who feel permanently called to a vocation of proclaiming the Word to the world, and leading the church in service to the world. Transitional deacons are those who are preparing for ordination as priests. They will serve as deacons for a temporary time of preparation. In our tradition, we do not see the diaconate as a stepping stone to Word and Sacrament ministry.

  1. Louise Williams points out that the diaconate, while not as common in North American Lutheranism, is used around the world among Lutherans. The word diakonia is quite familiar among our companion synods. The World Council of Churches uses it quite frequently as well. Our own Duane Larson, at Christ the King Houston, points out that diakonia/service, while vitally important to the Christian witness in the world, has not be a prominent part of our tradition.

Pastors are ministers of Word and Sacrament in our ecclesiology. They preach, baptize and preside at Holy Communion. Pastors are stewards of the mysteries, the sacraments.

Deacons are minsters of Word and Service. Deacons preach as do pastors. Deacons also lead the church in service to the world. Deacons serve as teachers, youth workers, musicians, administrators and more.

This church keeps a roster (a list) of those who have been prepared and approved for each of these ministries. Such a list helps this church know who have been prepared and approved. It also allows this church to remove those in cases of misconduct. This provides safety for the whole church. Pastors and deacons require a call (by vote of the congregation) to remain on the roster of pastors or deacons.

Why deacon and not pastor?

Deacons usually sense a call to serve the church and the world. At a recent gathering of deacons in our synod, I asked the question: Why deacon and not pastor. Many have said they simply felt called to that, and not to sacramental or liturgical work. “I didn’t feel the call to ordained ministry.” One loved to teach.

Entrance Rite Discernment Group

Once this church decided to strengthen and uplift the role of deacon (diakonia, leadership in service to the world), and combine the three rosters into one, called “deacon,” there was the matter of choosing an entrance rite. Before the combination of the three rosters, bishops were installed, pastors were ordained, diaconal ministers were consecrated, and Associates in Ministry were commissioned. In some other church bodies, however, bishops and deacons are ordained. Ordination simply means prayer with laying on of hands, something we do in commissionings, consecrations and installations anyway. The words are virtually interchangeable. So what is the issue?

Furthermore, Lathrop argues, Augsburg Confession 14 suggests that the Reformers were happy to accept canonical ordination as currently practiced. This would have included ordaining deacons, priests and bishops. The question becomes one of understanding. In North America, Lutherans have used ordination exclusively for pastors. This is not the case for Lutherans in other parts of the world.

How about now? Do we stick with our local pattern, or consider a global view? Should deacons be consecrated? Ordained? Commissioned? Something else? Will deacons wear stoles? What will be the signs of this office?

A team was appointed to work on these things. They did a lot of listening. Gordon Lathrop wrote a paper on this question. You can read it HERE.

Here are the recommendations of the Entrance Rite Discernment Group. They recommend that the ELCA:

  1. establish the rite of ordination as the entrance rite for deacons entering the roster of Ministers of Word and Service;
  2. define the symbols of this ministry as a deacon’s stole and a cross, both to be presented at the entrance rite;
  3. direct the worship staff of this church to develop an appropriate rite and rubrics for the ordination of deacons;
  4. direct the worship staff of this church to share information about the appropriate use of the deacon stole and to facilitate a conversation among deacons regarding a unified cross design;
  5. charge the secretary of this church with proposing appropriate amendments to the Constitutions, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions of the ELCA that will ensure that at least 60 percent of the members of its assemblies, councils, committees, boards, and other organizational units shall be persons who are not on the rosters of Ministers of Word and Service or Ministers of Word and Sacrament;
  6. review the ELCA candidacy process for appropriate modifications as necessary;
  7. charge the secretary of this church with considering and proposing possible amendments to the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the ELCA to accomplish its recommendations;
  8. call upon this church to increase opportunities for lifting up, recognizing, fostering and encouraging recognition of deacons for the mission and witness of the church in the world;
  9. continue funding for transition events and ongoing leadership and formation events to ensure growth and understanding of the roster of Ministers of Word and Service;
  10. continue the preparation of appropriate and informative materials for the church’s ongoing study; and
  11. refer the resulting amending/amended documents to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly for approval as necessary.

I would summarize this by saying the recommendation is that the rite be ordination, the sign of the office is a deacon’s diagonal stole and a cross. Deacons will not be considered “lay people,” but their ministry will not be sacramental. Deacons will not preside at Holy Communion.

diagonal diaconal stoleMany of our deacons already wear the diagonal diaconal stole, though it has not yet been officially embraced in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Note Deacon Mary Lee Mimms Miller’s stole, second from the left in the photo. This pattern has crept in (in a good way) through Lutheran churches in other parts of the world, and through our ecumenical partners. We seem to be moving in a direction that has the diagonal stole as the symbol for the deacon, the stole for the pastor, and the stole and pectoral cross for the bishop.

The recommendations will be taken up at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. Talk them through. If you have feelings one way or the other have a conversation with the voting members from our synod who will be attending the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Above all, let us give thanks to those who choose a full-time vocation of leading the church in service to the world. This is, in the end, the heart and soul of the matter. Through our baptism, we are all called to serve. Thanks be to God for those who are trained and set apart to lead us in service, for the sake of the world.

Pastor Blair Lundborg to Retire

Beloved Gulf Coast Synod Leaders,

Pastor Blair Lundborg
Pastor Blair Lundborg

In this issue of Connections your will read that Pastor Blair Lundborg will be retiring next year. Blair has served faithfully as Assistant to the Bishop since Pastor Don Carlson retired six years ago. During his tenure he has helped well over half of our congregations find new pastors and deacons. He has overseen the candidacy process, SALMs and campus ministry. He has lovingly helped congregations in crisis or conflict. He has, with impeccable commitment and organizational skill, cared for much of the work of the church in this part of the country. I am deeply grateful for his service to the church. We will find an opportunity to thank him as a synod at some point next year.

This month we will begin by posting the opening and a position description. Watch for them on the synod web page. The posting will be up for about a month. Then we will have video interviews before Christmas, followed by face-to-face interviews after the first of the year. We hope to have a candidate by Spring. There is no requirement that the Assistant to the Bishop be ordained, though this has been extremely helpful. There is no bilingual requirement, though that would be an asset.

Take some time to pray about the kind of leadership you would appreciate in this position. If you are interested let us know. If you know of someone who might be suited for this work, encourage them to prayerfully consider it. And while you’re at it, say a word of thanks to Blair.

Bishop Mike

Clarion Calls and Nudges

By Pastor Blair Lundborg, assistant to the bishop

Discernment. It’s hard work. It’s messy. It’s not always crystal clear, which is how I would prefer it to be.

In my discernment leading up to the decision to retire there were many factors that played into the internal debate. There were also many reasons not to retire. I’ll spare you the lengthy wrangling that I’ve had with the committee that meets in my head. You’ve had the same conversations with God and yourself. So, let’s keep this simple.

It is time. Time to step down. Time to step aside. Time to do something different. What that something is, I’m not sure. But it’s time. As you know all too well, ministry is not a typical job. We don’t even talk about it in those terms. Instead, we use the language of “call”. Sometimes it is a clarion call to stay the course, even when it’s hard. Other times it is a gentle nudge to let go. Often it is a mixture of both. That’s what it has been for me.

As I submit my retirement announcement and resignation I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Assistant to the Bishop.

November 1, 2018
Bishop Michael Rinehart
12941 I-45 North Freeway #210
Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA
Houston TX 77060-1243

Dear Bishop Rinehart:

It has been one of the greatest honors of my ministry to serve on your staff in the Gulf Coast Synod. I am grateful for your faithful leadership, support and encouragement in our work together.

With gratitude and joy, after prayer and careful discernment, I announce my retirement on June 1, 2019. As we have discussed, a period of overlap and training with my successor will facilitate a smooth transition on the Bishop’s staff. I will resign upon completion of my successor’s training but no later than my retirement date.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve with you throughout your second term as Bishop. Your leadership is an inspiration to me and the pastors and members of the Gulf Coast Synod. In my work with congregations in transition, the preparation of candidates for ministry, and the accompaniment of our first call ministers, I have also been blessed by countless leaders and lay people who have demonstrated the power of Christ’s love in their lives, ministry and congregations.

Gratefully,

Blair Lundborg, Assistant to the Bishop

Reflections on Preach at the Beach Event

Here are three reflections on the Preach at the Beach event held October 23, 2018 in Galveston, TX

From Bishop Mike Rinehart: 

Bishop Mike
Bishop Mike Rinehart

Dr. David Lose challenged us in many ways last month at Preach at the Beach. He reminded us how many people are unchurched now. “Life only makes sense in story (and we don’t know our story any more).” We are actually growing in a sea of stories now. Brands try to give us our story. Sunday morning has shifted. (How many options did you have on Sunday morning as a child?) Scripture has lost its capacity to give us stories of references run this increasingly secularized society. What we do in worship makes less sense to people. How many Bible stories do you have to know for the Agnus Dei/Lamb of God hymn to make sense?

This impacts our preaching, or it should. We can’t reference Bible stories in a passing way and expect people to understand what we have said. We must recommit to telling the whole story.

Lose made a pitch for the Narrative Lectionary. We jump around the Bible so much, how can people make sense of anything? Consider Advent. We begin by going apocalyptic and talking about the end of time. Then we move to the adult John the Baptist, then backwards 30 years to Mary.

He then challenged us to go beyond sharing information. What did it look like when God became more a part of my life? Where is this passage seen in my world? What would it look like lived out?

He encouraged us to shift from meaning to meaningful. What difference does this make? It reminded me of my preaching professor’s (Paul Harms’) question about our sermons: So what?

Lose pushes us to participatory preaching. If preaching about prayer, have people do it, in worship, in the sermon even. Invite them to practice things at home. Like the Suzuki violin method, give people a chance to practice.

After lunch we dove into the Advent texts. He gave us food for thought, and asked us to brainstorm the texts with the above imperatives in mind.

In Advent 1 we talked about countering millennial dispensationalist theology that seems to be in the air. We talked about fear. Truth. Beginning with the end in mind.

In Advent 2 and 3 we talked about John. When the people ask John, what should we do? the answer is very basic. Share. If you have two coats, share with someone who has none. Don’t cheat people. These things don’t require us leaving our work. They call us to live out our faith in our work. We could invite people to bring coats and shoes to share. Let them practice countering materialism. Talk about all our spending as sacred, not just our tithes. Invite people to write a cross on their credit cards and cash in worship. Every expense is a faithful decision. Don’t let your possessions possess you. This is not just law, it is also gospel. Be freed from slavery to stuff.

In Advent 4 we talked about Mary’s commitment to submit to God’s will. Let it be. Let it be done to me according to your Word. Lose connected Mary’s song to the Peaceful Revolution at St. Nicolai Church in Leipzig that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall without a shot being fired. Why didn’t the Stasi police crack down on the growing group of people gathering at the church to pray and sing? One officer responded: “We had no contingency plans for songs and prayers.  We didn’t know what to do. If they had come with clubs, we knew what to do.”

I have no doubt our preaching will be more rich because of our time together at Zion Retreat Center on Galveston Island with David Lose. Attached is a graph from the post-event survey. Thank you David!

preach at the beach event rating

From Pastor Anthony J. Chatman, Hosanna Lutheran Church

Pastor Anthony Chatman
Pastor Anthony Chatman

Years ago, I worked in radio and one of the ways we would determine who was listening was to do shout-outs. A shout out was when someone called in and gave a happy birthday wish, congratulations of an accomplishment or by expressing their love for someone. Kids would send shout-outs to their parents and parents to the kids. If I were on that radio station this morning, I would send a shout out to David Lose, Senior Pastor of Mount Olivet Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN). David was the presenter for Preach at the Breach. He spoke about “The Season of Gifts,” Preaching Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany in a Post-Christian World. He touched on how “we no longer have the support of the culture.” The question, “What happens to Church when we don’t know the story and the conversation of shifting from meaning to meaningful?” was relevant enough for me to say “I needed this retreat?”

Another shout out for opening worship which helped set the atmosphere. I waited until the morning of to drive to Galveston, an hour and twenty-minute drive from my home ended up taking two hours. The pastor (not someone I knew) said in the homily “Get over it.”  This was a great time for me. I found it insightful and interesting, as expected.

Thanks to Jen for a fabulous workshop and a great lunch. I came away feeling prepared and inspired to get creative for the coming season.

Blessing,
Pastor Anthony J. Chatman

From Stephanie Stark, Director of Faith Formation for Youth and Family, Peace Lutheran Church, Pasadena, TX

Stephanie Stark
Stephanie Stark

“We are drowning in a sea of stories and God is no longer a primary actor in the story of society’s life”- David Lose

This quote hit me like a ton of bricks. Not that I wasn’t already painstakingly aware of the weight of this statement, but because it brought to life the complexity of who is sitting in our pews. Preach at the Beach with Dr. David Lose created space for me to wonder how I will share God’s story with a society that is bombarded with stories that appear to be more compelling.  Gathered with other preaching colleagues we delved into how we look at Holy Scripture. What impact does this passage have on me? What claim is this passage making of God? Where do I see God active?

Preach at the Beach with Dr. David Lose inspired me to be a better storyteller and how to ignite biblical imagination in others. For, we are God’s storytellers and we have the most beautiful love story to tell.

Blessings,
Stephanie