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Bishop's Message

RSS By: Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo

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

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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