Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I greet you in the name of Jesus, our hope and salvation. This summer, in our diverse settings of ministry and times of rest, we have joined in prayer for those living in the midst of natural disasters, economic uncertainty and famine.
We also have been preparing for our twelfth Churchwide Assembly, August 15-20, 2011. The assembly provides a marvelous opportunity for us to affirm our identity as the ELCA and celebrate God's mission that flows from it.
Whether or not you are able to join us for the assembly in Orlando, I invite you and your congregation to watch the business sessions and worship via live video streaming at www.elca.org/assembly. You will witness a church that shares a living, daring confidence in God's grace and believes the good news that we are freed in Christ to serve our neighbors at home and around the globe.
Throughout the assembly it will be clear that as the ELCA:
- We are a church whose unity is in Jesus, who gathers us around word and water, bread and wine. Each day at the assembly, our work will be grounded in our time spent together in worship and Bible study. I encourage you to join us.
- We are a church called to discern together what the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means for the world and our common life. As we consider the social statement on genetics, we stand together again at the intersection of faith and life, discerning how to live responsibly in a complex and rapidly changing world. In a culture plagued by incivility and willful misunderstanding, we believe that respectful dialogue not only is possible, but becomes our way of life.
- We are a church called to roll up our sleeves and get to work in the world. Malaria is a leading cause of death in Africa, claiming the life of a child every 45 seconds. We know what it takes to stop this disease -- it's preventable and treatable. A "yes" as a church to the challenge of the ELCA Malaria Campaign means that we will join with our global partners to ensure that a healthier future is possible for millions of people. You will also witness a church that remains engaged in Haiti and Japan, responding to the growing famine in Africa and rebuilding communities devastated by disasters at home. How good it is to recognize the awesome capacity we have when we work together.
- We are a church committed to vibrant congregations, both newly planted and long established. A key recommendation of the Living Into the Future Together (LIFT) task force is a priority that every ELCA congregation will be a growing community proclaiming Christ and becoming engaged in the world.
- We are a church recognized for our growing global, ecumenical and inter-religious relationships. A greeting at this assembly from Sayyid Syeed will be the first from a representative of the Islamic community. The presence of Bishop George Walker represents our growing relationship with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Martin Junge, general secretary of The Lutheran World Federation, will travel directly from famine-stricken Africa to bring a first-hand report of our shared work there.
Our identity as a church body is inseparable from our call to do God's work in Christ's name for the life of the world. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will anoint us with power as we witness to the good news of Jesus Christ.
For our partnership in the gospel, I thank God.
In God's grace,
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America