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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. 

 

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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!

 

 Rimbo

+ Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Looking ahead

Dec 09, 2016

"For such a time as this" has been a part of our strategic planning process from the beginning.

 

Some people want me, as bishop, to issue opinions on everything that happens in the city, the nation and the world. Some people want no opinions from me at all. So this is the approach I have taken:

 

When an event happens in a specific synod, I leave it to the local bishop to respond. Or not. I issued a statement when there was a controversy several years ago about the potential building of an Islamic center in the neighborhood of Ground Zero. I counted on Bishop Schaefer of the Florida Bahamas Synod to offer a statement on the Pulse Shootings; however, at the invitation of one of our congregations, I preached about that event at St. John’s, Christopher Street.

 

When it is a national situation in need of a comment, I leave it to the Presiding Bishop or the Advocacy Office in D. C. to respond. Or not. Sometimes the Presiding Bishop will seek advice from Synod Bishops, myself included. When we say "Don’t touch that issue" Bishop Eaton follows our advice; when we say "We need your voice" she responds accordingly and wisely. And sometimes the perspective of the Presiding Bishop does not agree totally with the perspective of the local Bishop – for example, there is a bit of a nuanced difference between what Bishop Eaton and the local Bishop Mark Narum have said about Standing Rock.

 

I also recommend contact with what might be called "parachurch organizations" such as Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Lutheran Services New York Alliance, African Descent Lutheran Association, and so forth; but these opinions will be owned and promoted by these associations, not by me or our Synod unless we are directed to do so by the Synod Assembly or the Synod Council. I believe this kind of approach to addressing situations is part of our interdependent character in the ELCA, though I’m sure some think it is a cop out on my part. So be it.

 

As far as I know, no synod bishop has said anything in response to the recent elections. But many of us have preached timely sermons following the elections. I believe it would be both unwise and illegal to tell people how to vote in an election. But, see, for example, what I preached on "Christ the King" at the installation of Pastor Wilbert Miller at Holy Trinity, Manhattan, after the elections, which can be found on the synod website. I knew that congregation well. It was a long-planned sermon. It was in consultation with the pastor being installed. And it followed the lectionary text, which, as so often happens, was timely and pertinent.

 

There has been a history of bishops making all sorts of comments. I will not do that. Nor will I prevent any pastor from saying whatever she or he has on their heart. What I prefer to do is to offer information on ELCA social statements and on the work of our office for governmental affairs in Washington, DC. All of that information is readily available to all of us on the ELCA website. We have consistently pointed to these resources in our e-letter. Leaders of the church, all of you included, need to be familiar with these statements and positions. It might be of value for our Strategic Plan Committees to devote some time to looking at these, too. They inform our life together and our witness in the world for such a time as this.

 

I tell you all of this because I expect there will be times in the days and years ahead when I will be "tempted" to say something. It will always be informed by what the larger church is doing and saying, and will be in keeping with our churchwide or synodical policies and statements.

 
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