Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The journey to this Churchwide Assembly has been a long one. The deliberations here in Minneapolis have been deep and difficult, but spirit-led, prayerful and respectful, and sometimes heart-rending as well as compassionate. We listened carefully and at length to opposing points of view on the floor of the assembly and in smaller groups. We prayed a lot! Some are hurting following the decisions. Some are rejoicing. In many cases, people are doing both at the same time. There remains disagreement in our church, but we remain one body in Christ honoring and respecting one another as children of God. In the eucharist on this last morning, we were reminded that it is often in our shared pain and brokenness that Christ's presence and transforming power is made known.
I hope that you have read Bishop Hanson's comments following the decisions made on Friday that was sent along with an e-letter to all the rostered leaders. A link is on our website. The greeting brought by the Rev. Ishmael Noko of the Lutheran World Federation and a Pastor of the ELCZ, our companion synod in Zimbabwe, is available as well.
After maintaining an exhausting schedule I intend to take a deep breath and invite you to join me. Then we will continue to engage each other in scripture study, conversation and prayer about what it means to walk together into the future. Voting members from our synod are in conversation about how best to share what we learned here about speaking in love, bearing one another's burdens and listening deeply. Bishop Mark Hanson will be present at our rostered leaders gathering in September. Other gatherings will be planned as needed. No changes will be implemented in haste and as encouraged in the resolutions, I will continue to encourage us all to make room for and listen to those who cannot support the decisions that were made.
Those of us present here, could feel your prayers upholding us as we engaged in this difficult work. Thank you! We are grateful to have had the privilege to serve in this way. I can assure you that those from Upstate New York worked prayerfully and attentively throughout this assembly. We were engaged in conversations with others across this church and in the debate at the microphones. Although we were not of one mind - we met and prayed together often, laughed and cried together and modeled what it means to be the body of Christ in our life together.
The assembly accomplished much while we were here in which we can all rejoice. We attend to the needs of those around the world through the Lutheran Malarial Initiative, the HIV and AIDS Strategy and the affirmation of our Strategy on the Middle East and Palestine. We strengthened ecumenical partnerships as we entered into a full communion agreement with our brothers and sisters in the United Methodist Church. You will find stories about these initiatives on the ELCA website.
Please continue to pray for our church and for its leaders. I was part of the prayer team for this assembly. One of the prayers I used is a familiar one from the ELW.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading and your love supporting us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grace and peace,
Marie Jerge, Bishop
Upstate New York Synod, ELCA
Resurrection people who pray first, walk together and change lives