Rev Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
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I've never been good at writing opening lines. I'm great at the middle, not bad at the conclusion, but always struggle with how to begin. How best to mark a new beginning, a new relationship as bishop and church? So, I've decided to share with you something about my vision for our life together within the ELCIC based on the speech I gave during the electoral process.
I want to be part of a church that takes seriously what it means to be In Mission for Others. This means letting go of some traditional ways of being and doing things, and refocusing our energy and resources on following Jesus in the world, and serving our neighbour. It's not easy for us to make this intentional shift to being an externally-focused church, particularly as many parts of the church struggle with decreasing resources. Sometimes it means that our basic human instinct for survival is in direct competition with our desire to be a church In Mission for Others.
I want to be part of a church that is generous. Decreasing or not I still think we're richly blessed with both financial and people resources. I don't think we're really good at sharing them. We need to take our stewardship, as a very important part of our discipleship, a lot more seriously.
I want to be part of a church that takes partnership seriously. We have a lot of partners but we need to do a lot more to put flesh on those relationships. We need to DO more together. Actually doing things together honours and strengthens the relationship, but it's also just good sense and good stewardship. On our own we can't keep doing everything we've been doing. But if we work with partners, if we make strategic decisions together about who does what, then, together we will be able to do even MORE than we've been doing.
I want to be part of a church that is passionate about our relationship with God in Christ. I want to see our love of God, our joy at being grace-filled and much-loved children of God reflected in our faces at worship. I want our worship to be as joyous and celebrative as possible, no matter what liturgical or musical choices we make. And I want that joy, that passion, to spill out into the rest of our lives both inside and outside the church.
I want us to be a church that knows how to share that joyful good news with those around usour families, our friends and co-workers, and the whole community. We need to commit ourselves to learning the language of evangelism, not to get more members or money and save our church, but because it is what we have been called to do as God's baptized people.
I want to be part of a church that knows how to love. Before we can truly be In Mission for Others, before we can truly show that love to the world around us, we have to be able to love each other inside our church. We don't have to agree. We don't even always have to like each other. But we have to love each other and show it in our words and in our deeds.
I love our God. I love our church. I'm not afraid of the future of our church, because in the end it is God's church and God will see us through. I'm committed to doing all that I can to help us fulfill the mission God has called us to in our communities, our country and our worldto be a church In Mission for Othersand I count on your commitment and support and your prayers as we begin this new relationship within our church.
Bishop Susan C. Johnson
Canada Lutheran, September 2007