August 2013 Archive for Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

The Rev. Dr. Robert Rimbo shares regular thoughts and reflections about our life together.

Always being made new

Aug 22, 2013

I love assemblies, even those I have the privilege of chairing! And I loved being in Pittsburgh for the 2013 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A major part of the reason I love synod and churchwide assemblies is the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit I feel in those gatherings. Truly.

We were served by the presence of these voting members – among the 952 total voting members – from our Metropolitan New York Synod: Pr. William Baum; Pr. Perucy Butiku; Ms. Christine Connell, Diaconal Minister; Ms. Maria Del Toro, Synod Vice-President (who had to leave early and was replaced by Ms. Lois Rimbo); Dcn. Meg Fielding; Mr. John Heidgerd; Ms. Elizabeth Hoffmann; Pr. Brenda Irving; Pr. Kathleen Koran; Dcn. Paul Lumpkin; Dcn. John Malone; Pr. Craig Miller; Ms. Marie Plaisir; Dcn. John Prosen; Mr. Marc Stutzel; Dcn. Anita Williams; and Bishop Robert Rimbo.

I always remind voting members before the assembly that they are there to vote according to their consciences; they are not "representatives" of their home congregations, their families, or their synod. With that kind of openness, very interesting things happen. And it was so in Pittsburgh.

I know that you have already seen reports from our Churchwide Assembly in our synod e-letter and through other sources, but I want to offer some reflections from my point of view.

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, was elected presiding bishop. This was a surprise to many, including me, because I expected that Bp. Mark Hanson would be re-elected to a third term. I want to tell you that I did not sense, nor do I sense now, that it was a vote against Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. I believe the assembly was simply doing its work, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in prayerful deliberation. I count Bp. Eaton among my friends (as I count Bp. Hanson); I am personally pleased with this election.   

Pr. Wm. Chris Boerger, former bishop in Seattle who completed that ministry (after twelve years) because of term limits in that synod, was elected secretary of this church. I have known Chris for years and believe he will serve us well, filling the shoes of David Swartling who will, in an interesting turn of events, move back to Seattle.

We adopted a social statement on criminal justice, The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries. I am pleased with the statement and especially pleased that the assembly amended it to include specific material with regard to gun violence. It calls us to ministry to those affected in every way by criminal activity – offender and victim, law enforcement officers and court officials – and recommits us to working at correcting our flawed criminal justice system.

We enthusiastically supported the continuation of the Book of Faith initiative which encourages us to continue to become "fluent" in the language of Scripture and engage in Bible study in every possible way.

The assembly also adopted a proposal for the ELCA’s first major fundraising campaign, approved the churchwide budget for fiscal years 2014-2016, and elected people to serve on a great variety of committees.

I have often said that the true "business" of any assembly is done in the hallways, at the tables of shared meals, and in one-to-one conversations. That was clearly the case for this wonderful assembly. But what was more clear to me than at any previous Churchwide Assembly was the centrality of our daily worship and our frequent praying. There was a sense of being "settled" and pleased to be together, gathered at the Lord’s Table and at our various tables. I return from this church assembly with a great sense of well-being for our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America which is always being made new.

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Pastoral letter on race in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder trial

Aug 12, 2013


Sisters and Brothers in Christ:


As you know, I have made an effort to be transparent in my communications with you and my leadership as your bishop. Sometimes it is easier to do than other times. This letter is coming to you at a time when it is difficult.


I was personally shocked by the results of the trial of George Zimmerman, murderer of young Trayvon Martin. I know many of you shared that shock. Yet I was slow in responding to it in any public way because the justice system seemed to work legally. (Remember: this is the opinion of one person with which many would disagree.)


Two things about this case particularly trouble me.


First, the "sign" it is of what I know to be abuse of power. I am not accusing the judge or jury of this abuse. I am saying that the murder of any person is, ultimately, a matter of misuse of power.


Second, and most important for us as the church, is the ongoing racism that infects our society and our various communities, including the church. So I invite you into a conversation about this set of issues.


I point you to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s social statement, Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture which was adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in 1993. But more than simply directing you toward that statement, I would invite you to use it as a guide for continuing conversation in your congregations and your homes.


I am also asking the Synod Council to give thought to how we might, together, address the reality of racism in our own synod in a more direct way. This is in keeping with our Strategic Plan, especially the Sent Committee. I expect that we will also work with our synod’s Multicultural Commission, our synod’s Working Group for Racial, Ethnic and Cultural Sensitivity and Awareness, and our ethnic ministry groups toward this goal of greater understanding of the wonderful gift of diversity.


I also realize that one of the "charges" brought against the Lutheran church is that we over-study and do not act. So I am hoping that the Synod Council and these other leaders will help me and all of us toward a more active response to the racism that surrounds us.


This does not help undo what I see as a terrible tragedy, the death of Trayvon Martin. It does not address what I consider to be an injustice of a broken legal system. But I hope that, in some small way, we as the church can help address the unrest it has rightly caused and work toward the common good of all people.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo