May 1, 2017
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Jesus promises, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
Those words offer encouragement and hope in every moment. At the same time, when two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, if we are to get anything done, some structure is needed. The first disciples soon learned that such a structure would be necessary when some of the widows in the community were not receiving care (see Acts 6). On the one hand, we need to have structure and organization to accomplish the mission entrusted to us. On the other hand, when structure and organization too easily become an end in themselves and we lose sight of mission, they are at risk of becoming idols.
In the last month I have had the privilege of experiencing a number of ministries within this synod. As a participant in the Respite in the Wilderness Retreat, I had my first visit to Luther Springs. What a beautiful camp! Under the leadership of Sue Mendenhall and Sarah Anderson, participants were recipients of a well-planned retreat and excellent hospitality. During conversation with Sue and NovusWay Ministries Executive Director Keith Johnson, I learned something of the history of that ministry (both mission and organization/structure). As one who has seen the fruit of Lutheran camping ministries—in the church, for individual participants and for my own family–I rejoice to see the ministry taking place at Luther Springs and NovusWay Ministries. It is not hard to see and experience how critical it is that mission and structure be linked in faithful ways. Nor is it difficult to be strongly supportive of the Mission Possible Campaign which will make “expanded mission possible” at Luther Springs and Lutherock. Mission and structure/organization are coming together in remarkable ways.
Soon after that retreat, Michele Hilton, Assistant to the Bishop for Administration, and I attended the Lutheran Services of Florida Board Meeting. My opening devotion and much of the conversation focused on the matter of linking mission and the functioning/structure of the Board and this ministry. Because of the ever-evolving needs of our communities, our Lutheran service agencies must be continually linking mission and organization, even as they are doing the work of embodying Christ’s presence through their various ministries. During the meeting, we had the privilege of listening to LSF staff who relate to refugees and immigrants, as well as hearing powerful stories directly from refugees and immigrants. As LSF must respond to federal changes related to immigrants/refugees in its mission and ministry, how I long for governmental leaders to simply take time to listen to these stories before shaping policy. Again, in the ministry of LSF, mission and structure/organization are intimately linked. Contact LSF (www.lsfnet.org, 813-875-1408) to learn about opportunities to volunteer in refugee/immigrant ministries.
During this transition time in the life of the Florida-Bahamas Synod, it is critical that we be discerning both the ministry Christ has entrusted to us and how we best organize, structure and choose leadership to fulfill that ministry. During these days, the Executive Committee and the Synod Council will be determining the specifics of the election process (following Synod Constitutional mandates) for the call of a bishop. At the same time, the Synod Profile Team, led by Synod Council Member Tom O’Reilley and retired Pastor Jon Keiser, will determine the process through which the entire synod might prayerfully assess Christ’s ministry throughout this synod. This team will through the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, propose both goals and means to fulfill that ministry. Already now, we invite your continued prayers and involvement as these processes unfold.
In all of these situations–in the midst of fear and uncertainty–we have the presence of our crucified and risen Lord, the gift of his peace, and the promise that as we are sent, our risen Lord equips us with the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit.
Together with you in the hope of our risen Lord,
Marcus C. Lohrmann