March 2014 Archive for Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo




"Bridges Not Walls" 


"Puentes No Fronteras"



Grace and peace to you in the Name of Jesus as we enter 2018 together!


We are on the bridge - on many different bridges, to be frank. Transitions and changes surround us. So, I invite you to look back with me at two parts of our life together as a Synod that will have lasting impact. 


The Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, "Reformation 500: Committed to Unity in Christ", on November 1 and in a variety of other events, marked this great year. At this Eucharist, we turned a page in our ecumenical and interfaith relationships. The response from various communions has pointed to a desire to join us on this bridge and work at tearing down walls that divide. I am pledged to lead us in these efforts drawing on the great spirit experienced at our remarkable commemoration. 




The second part of the new vision I have coming across the bridge into 2018 is our renewed and renewing commitment to various issues of immigration and welcoming of all people into our country and our churches. The SENT Committee is working hard at making the renewal happen and I pledge to be at the center of these efforts. Not only are we called to build bridges; we are also called to break down divisions by active participation in our communities at all levels. Lutherans have been central to the work of immigration justice for decades; it is an even greater need today. 


These two gifts from 2017 will continue to guide our efforts in 2018. Our unity as a Synod is a tremendous gift from God and together we will, by God's grace and power, cross these bridges into a bright future together.


A blessed New Year to all of you!



+ Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA


















Finding Faith in an Age of Terror


This time of year, in a culture facing terror of all sorts, many people are wanting to find faith. I think a better way to approach this is to be in places where faith can find us. I’m not simply writing to invite you to a mosque or synagogue or church – although it would be great to see you there. I’m inviting you to places where people of faith gather. And, just to be clear, those are by no means restricted to houses of worship.


To be sure, there are plenty of those places available. On Christmas Eve I expect churches to be full. And I expect many who will sing "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful" will be those who are simply wanting to be faithful, if only for an hour…or wanting to be more faithful because of what they are fearing. And that will be true not only of the Lutherans I represent.


The faith we seek to make available to people, the faithful community we will enter, are gifts from God. This faith and these people are marked by certain characteristics we need for the common good.


You may know that Lutherans are completing a year of grand celebrations surrounding the 500th Anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. What I am hoping is that in the coming years we will move from that historic grounding we have commemorated toward greater cooperation with people of faith in ecumenical and inter-religious movements.


There is a great commitment among leaders of various communities of faith to engage progressive advances at the grassroots level, to promote tolerance, and to encourage people to flourish in a new and needed age of community. The amazing strides between Lutherans and Roman Catholics point to this.


There is a strong desire and willingness to work on welcoming all people in a spirit of generous hospitality. As a Lutheran I can say that many of my tribe are engaged in ministry with the LGBTQ communities. In our own Synod here in Metropolitan New York, we are working to address the systemic racism which is America’s original sin. We are strongly speaking out in opposition to the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia all around us. We are engaged with faithful people in our own country and around the world in addressing the abuses of power we see every day.


There are remarkable efforts at offering God’s welcome to immigrants and asylum-seekers and refugees, though we certainly look for more such opportunities in the face of governmental resistance. We will work actively to participate in inclusive welcome, as our Lord Jesus was himself a refugee.


There are local congregations in which people of faith are welcoming people of all races and nations, one of the great gifts of the amazing communities in which we live. We are striving to welcome the stranger without fear but with the same kind of faith that our ancestors experienced when they reached these shores and were welcomed by the first nations people.


There is a commitment to practicing a faith that is intimately connected with "peace on earth," the gift of wholeness that is truly the meaning of shalom.       


There is, in our churches and in many other religious communities, a welcome to the open table of God’s Reign where all can gather together.


And while we do not have all the answers, of course, we are faithful in responding to the terror all around, knowing that God is with us and guiding us into a new day of faith when war and hardship and suffering and oppression will be no more.


This is pious language. True words. What I am calling the synod I serve as bishop to do is to put these words into action for such a time as this. And I invite you to join me as faith discovers us together again and again.



Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod




Pope Francis and public relations

Mar 24, 2014

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Pope Francis on the first anniversary of his election and as I have been part of a CNBC panel regarding his influence. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this: for those of us in the clergy--regardless of the communion--it has been a wonder to watch Pope Francis seize the attention of hundreds of millions of people, both within the Roman Catholic Church and far beyond. Without changing so much as a single word of centuries-old Roman Catholic dogma, he has altered the perception of the church; he has leveraged much of the imagery of the papacy, traditional news outlets, 21st-century social media and his own charismatic personality to launch a public relations campaign that I believe is unprecedented in history.

Pope Francis has, in the words of media consultants, "stayed on message" when speaking of how the church needs to minister to its faithful today and has side-stepped implacable issues that include same-sex marriage, birth control, celibacy, and the continuing sex scandal that has roiled so many. Apparently borrowing from political campaign managers, the pope has even introduced polling to get a better idea of what the faithful are thinking and believing. For a hierarchy that has historically dictated the tenets of the faith this is, frankly, breathtaking.


Pope Francis is not the first to embrace emerging forms of communication to connect with the faithful. It is easy to make the case that Martin Luther successfully used moveable type and the new-fangled printing press. Various Christian denominations in the United States took advantage of radio during the 1920s. Pope Pius XI inaugurated Vatican Radio on February 13, 1931 although his address was in Latin (which may have reduced its impact on his global audience).


What is unique and instructive about Pope Francis is his integrated approach to theological messaging, a strategy that appeals to an audience sophisticated in the ways of our Information Age.

There are lessons and questions for many of us. Years ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America addressed many of the issues that continue to create schism among our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers. We launched a task force which, over the course of a years-long process, crafted a Social Statement on Human Sexuality. Most of the document is a non-controversial, comprehensive, Biblically-based understanding of human sexuality. However the task force was also given the charge to bring forward possible changes in policies on what we call "rostered ministry" – our professional church-workers, ordained and lay. We have worked with and continue to work with a direct question, "Can persons with homosexual orientation who are in publically-committed relationships serve in the rostered leadership of our church?"

Members of the ELCA examined the issues and after much spirited debate agreed that the answer was yes. Our church, while recognizing a wide variety of opinions and not forcing any congregation or pastor to do so, now officially welcomes the opportunity for same-gender marriages in our churches and by our pastors. We believe we are all part of God’s unfolding plan. All of this historic activity occurred without a public relations initiative designed to promote, project, or publicize this progressive shift in the world of evangelical Lutherans.  I wonder, though, if in a global society that consumes information, and where the Pope’s "PR offensive" can shift opinions even if canon law remains unchanged, we may have missed an opportunity and done ourselves a disservice by merely issuing the document as a matter of course and passing resolutions. Put more positively, I wonder if this might be a matter of ongoing work for us in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

What Pope Francis's actions may be suggesting is that substance has now become just part of the equation for those 21st century religions seeking to connect with congregants who can text while waiting for communion or Instagram a baptism or a preacher. By altering not the substance but the perception, Pope Francis has demonstrated the skills, tools, and "messaging" that can erode one of the reasons for the Reformation. For me, and I think for many within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Rome’s very impressive PR campaign may be opening the door to ongoing, continual reform and may write another chapter in the history of Reformation, one that compels us to turn away from manufactured imagery to embrace yet again a church that is willing to rely on God’s Spirit and God’s grace to take it forward together. Some additional friends on various social networks wouldn't hurt either.


Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo