It Has Been A Joy To Serve As Your Bishop
Dear faithful followers of Jesus from across the North American Lutheran Church:
This is my final newsletter message while serving as your bishop. The joys and sorrows of life are never far apart. For this reason, we can cry at weddings and laugh at funerals. It has been a joy to serve with you in this office of Word and Sacrament ministry.
I will forever treasure the relationships formed and the experiences shared over these past nine years. However, every change in life brings with it the grief that accompanies such loss. I would be less than truthful to deny those feelings.
Those feelings are a part of what it means to love and care deeply for our staff, our deans, Executive Council, boards, commissions, committees, pastors and laity throughout the NALC with whom I have been privileged to serve.
I am thankful for your faithful support and your prayers. I have been sustained and encouraged by our Lord’s faithful answers to your prayers for me.
I am certain there will be tears of both joy and sorrow as I conclude my service in this office.
Together we have shared in numerous accomplish- ments, faced disappointments and struggled to embrace a clear direction for our future while living out our Core Values, rooted in the Word and faithful to our confessional heritage. We have been learning all along the way what it means to heed Christ’s call, “Follow me” — to equip others to boldly share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and become disciple-makers.
Now we are praying for the Holy Spirit to guide us in the process of selecting the next person to assume the office of bishop. With the exception of nominations from the floor, you have been able to read the biographical information and the candidates’ answers to the questions on the nomination form. I ask that all of you pray, read and discern carefully. We remain confident that our new bishop will be a person of Christ’s own choosing.
To that end, I am including my job description as another way to assist you in that process of discernment. I encourage you to reread the information from the candidates in light of this job description that comes primarily from our constitution.
Among the priesthood of all believers, God has instituted the office of Word and Sacrament ministry. Within the office of ordained ministry is a ministry of oversight in the Church. This includes the bishop and others in leadership who serve together in a collegial manner.
1. Supports congregations of the NALC by visiting among them, teaching the faith, forgiving sins, preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments, defending the faith in accordance with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.
2. Provides support for pastors including the ongoing development of an annual meeting of the ministerium and theological conference providing continuing education, fellowship, and time for personal interaction.
3. Participates in the process of doctrinal discernment — judging right doctrine (Augsburg Confession, Article 28).
4. Ordains or authorizes ordinations on behalf of the Church. In its structures, the Church equips and supports its members for their ministries in the world and in the Church.
5. Reviews and decides on the endorsement of all teaching statements prior to their submission to the Convocation for adoption.
6. Preside over all Convocations.
7. In consultation with the staff, set the agenda and preside at all meetings of the Executive Council of the NALC.
8. As the Chief Pastor and Evangelist of the NALC the Bishop is responsible for insuring that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is a priority in the life of this Church.
9. The Bishop is the chief ecumenical officer of the NALC and will participate in inter-Lutheran, ecumenical and inter-religious relationships. The nature and purpose of those meetings will be reported to the Executive Council and Convocation.
10. The Bishop is also the chief executive officer of the NALC, serving in a collegial manner with other leaders of the NALC, having both voice and vote in all committees, boards, commissions, task forces and other similarly bodies within the NALC.
14. Provide for the leadership and composition of the Commission of Theology and Doctrine attending its meetings and providing appropriate input.
I made number eight bold to remind you that our focus on discipleship was never something I invented or a program I decided to institute. It is fundamental to our identity — not because we included it in our constitution but because Christ commanded it. It is not one among many priorities but the central priority for fulfilling Christ’s mission.
More than an organization, we are an organism — the living presence of Jesus Christ, loving others in His name and sharing His Gospel in word and deed. More than an institution, we are a movement guided by the Word of God, working for renewal and reform focused on this one central mission, making disciple- makers. To that end, I encourage you to press on!
May the Lord continue to bless and strengthen the entire NALC as together we move forward following Him!
With a heart filled with gratitude and joy, I look forward to all the future holds.