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Elections’ Directions Reflections

2020-11-02T18:03:05-05:00November 2nd, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Elections’ Directions Reflections

If you’re reading this on November 3, we probably don’t know much if anything yet about how this year’s hotly-contested elections are turning out. What we do know is that elections produce anxiety. Regardless of your political persuasion, we can’t help but stress about, “Will ‘my side’ win? Will the other side, i.e., the forces of evil, cheat, steal, lie, and deceive the election away? Or what if ‘they’ win fair and square? Isn’t that one of the great risks of democratic elections? The majority getting it wrong?”

Church & State 101

2020-10-05T10:27:06-04:00October 5th, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Church & State 101

A month from now, the 2020 election will be over. As with every election before and yet to come, some will be satisfied, and some will be disappointed. Truthfully, with the extreme polarization that marks our day, some will be ecstatic, and some will be devastated. So it goes in the democratic election process.

Faithful Adaptation

2020-08-31T16:25:39-04:00August 31st, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Faithful Adaptation

In 586-87 BCE King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, after a long siege, laid waste the holy city of Jerusalem, destroyed the supposed indestructible temple home of Yahweh and the ark of the covenant, deposed the Davidic dynasty, and took away all of the Jewish leaders to exile in Babylon. “Devastated” would be an understatement for ancient Israel, as their foundational and presumed eternal covenantal identities were ripped away: land, descendants, perpetual Davidic rule, and blessings evaporated.

Sabbatical and why we are so confused

2020-08-03T13:17:36-04:00August 3rd, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Sabbatical and why we are so confused

And just like that, it’s August, and my July sabbatical is a memory. While sabbatical is in the NC Synod Compensation Guidelines and I missed my scheduled fall of 2015 sabbatical in Atlanta because of a Holy Spirit glitch, I’m keenly aware that sabbatical isn’t something most of our rostered ministers ever get. For that matter, few outside of academic settings ever do. I’m grateful. If not sabbatical, I hope you have had or will soon have some time away this summer to rejuvenate.

Three notes from the bishop

2020-07-06T20:10:50-04:00July 6th, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Three notes from the bishop

I want to share three things with you this month:

  1. Just a reminder that our NC Synod Re-gathering in-person recommendations are Phase-specific and not date-specific. So, the recommendation is still in effect since the governor extended Phase 2 through at least July 17. The only addition from the governor’s office is that masks are now required in public. Until we get to Phase 3 (which we don’t know when or what that will look like yet), we still recommend no gatherings of more than 10 indoors and no more than 25 outdoors for our congregations. Whenever congregations do gather, we have

Take a deep breath

2020-06-01T22:29:18-04:00June 1st, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Take a deep breath

“I can’t breathe.” So it was for lumps of clay at creation that God called human beings. So God breathed breath into them, animating them, empowering them—in short, giving them life. But not only life like all of the other plants and creatures. No, these creatures were special, made in the very image of God, and thus entrusted with moral deliberation and choices that would have implications for their perfect relationship with God, with each other, and with the creation itself.

Congregations re-gathering

2020-05-04T21:35:15-04:00May 4th, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Some preliminary thoughts on re-gathering as congregations

Bless your hearts, and mine, too! A friend of mine insists that southern cliché is more mannerly code for “You’re pitiful!” Jeff Foxworthy used this example: “I do believe that is the ugliest baby I have ever seen…bless his heart.” In all seriousness, we might not be pitiful, but most of us have had our share of valid pity parties of late. This whole virus and what it’s precipitated on almost every level around the globe simply stinks. This virus is pitiful…and I won’t even honor it with a “bless its heart!”

“The Flowers”

2020-04-06T21:50:23-04:00April 6th, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

“The Flowers”
The rain to the wind said, “You push and I’ll pelt.”
They so smote the garden that the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged, though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.
–Robert Frost

We’ve all experienced those overwhelming spring thundershowers during which we quickly dash inside, only to return to lament the devastation to our lovely yet fragile tulips, daffodils, lilies, etc. Our hearts visit the surface of that grieving well within our souls that holds the accumulation of all the precious ones and things lost to us. So delicate, so helpless, so beautiful.

Special news from the Bishop

2020-03-13T09:10:58-04:00March 13th, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Dear NC Synod members,

As you know, the past 48 hours have been a whirlwind. COVID-19 is officially a worldwide pandemic. Cancelling March Madness and banning all travel from Europe underscore the secular seriousness. To be clear, this is no longer merely a “fear.” It is a reality that is already here and multiplying at light speed.

How do Christian communities respond most faithfully? The governor said no gatherings of more than 100, including worship. My Methodist bishop colleague in Eastern NC requests that congregations not gather, including worship, for at least two weeks. The Virginia Synod, ELCA, strongly suggested the same today. Some of our

Talk too much

2020-03-02T14:09:39-05:00March 2nd, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Talk too much

I talk a lot. No, really. I know that you know that. I just want you to know that I know that, too. In fact, I spend so much time thinking about what I’m going to say to people in this or that sermon or this or that council or call committee meeting or this or that ELCA function or a newsletter or on social media that I sometimes feel like a machine just cranking things out, producing.

Oil and a blessing

2020-02-03T16:18:03-05:00February 3rd, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Oil and a blessing

Greetings, partners in ministry across the North Carolina Synod! Since Bishop Tim Smith is currently on part one of his sabbatical, I have the opportunity as the acting bishop to share this month’s reflection.

Chrism Mass with Affirmation of Vows. What is it and why are we doing it in the North Carolina Synod? Chrism refers to the oil used for healing, baptism, confirmation, and commendation of the dying. Mass is an old word for worship. The roots of Chrism Mass are in the ancient Roman church when priests would gather on Maundy Thursday to receive the oils that had been blessed

On turning 60

2020-01-06T10:57:35-05:00January 6th, 2020|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

On turning 60

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. –Anne Lamott

Early in the morning of January 20, 2020 I will begin my seventh decade. While even as recently as 20 years ago that would have seemed ancient to me, I get that by today’s standards—especially in the church—that’s not such a big deal. Maybe what’s eating at me is that for about 10 weeks Sandra Cline and I will both be “in our 60s.”

Word made flesh

2019-12-17T18:13:42-05:00December 2nd, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Word made flesh

Most of us will gather on Christmas Eve to hear the Christmas story from Luke. It’s understandable. Mark really has no birth story. Matthew is mostly genealogy. I can’t ever hear Luke without thinking of Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas special. Linus, blanket and all, cuts through everyone’s commercial preparations with his moving recitation of the Lukan Christmas narrative, ending with, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” Well, yes and no. That’s Luke’s version. John approaches it in an altogether different way.

Identifying Core Values

2019-11-04T13:31:45-05:00November 4th, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Identifying Core Values

Some of you (I hope) will recognize what we’ve referred to as our Purpose/Vision Statement or our Guiding Principles for the NC Synod. To refresh your memory, here it is:

God calls the NC Synod of the ELCA to…

  • Cultivate and Celebrate Vital Congregations
  • Identify, Equip and Nurture Whole & Healthy Leaders
  • Embrace & Engage in Collaboration
  • Proclaim the Promise of the Resurrection with a Prophetic Voice

…all for the sake of the world.

Visiting Papua New Guinea

2019-09-30T11:15:46-04:00September 30th, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Visiting Papua New Guinea

Over 1400 inhabited islands. Over 800 distinct languages. An independent country since 1975. Over 1,000 anthropological-distinct cultures. 27% Roman Catholic. 21% Lutheran. 11% other Christians. Along with the Amazon basin, home to some of the last remnants of Stone Age civilizations. Six degrees south of the Equator. Stunningly beautiful natural tropical paradise. Abundant natural resources including gold and oil. Crocodiles, snakes, and the Bird of Paradise—both the plant the the actual bird. High crime. Highest domestic violence rate in the world. Deep governmental corruption. Virtually non-existent infrastructure. 80% of inhabitants have no electricity or access to clean water. Unbelievingly

Sanctuary

2019-08-29T12:25:06-04:00September 1st, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

sanctuary

Sanctuary

“Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for you.”

I wonder how many hundred times I’ve sung those words at camp, on retreats, and in contemporary worship services of the early 2000s. I’ll bet a lot of you know it and have sung it too.

“All who would like to help decorate the sanctuary for the season of Advent are welcome and encouraged to join the altar guild this coming Saturday from 10-2.”

“Please silence your cell phones before entering the sanctuary.”

“How many people will your sanctuary seat?”

All of these are

We are church

2019-08-05T09:35:06-04:00August 5th, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

We are church

That’s the theme under which 16 voting members (elected at our 2018 assembly) and about a thousand other folks from the other 64 synods of the ELCA gather for the Churchwide Assembly. What’s that about, you say? Well, it happens only once every three years, and it is the highest decision-making body of this church. It’s happening NOW as this e-news edition is published as we gather August 5-10 in Milwaukee. It has a lot in common with other business/political meetings, but at its core it is communal spiritual discernment.

What bishops do

2019-07-01T22:35:01-04:00July 1st, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

What bishops do

I’ve spent last week from early each morning until dark each night at Lenoir-Rhyne University with 13 high schoolers from all over Region 9 in the ELCA. Though “Bishops’ School” has been happening for decades, several years ago it started rotating around to happen on the territory of the six Region 9 synods (comprising eight states, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). This year is the first year in its long history that the event has been in North Carolina. The school is a chance for high school students to dive deep into theology. Some of them

Bishop Smith addresses assembly

2019-06-19T13:21:02-04:00June 2nd, 2019|Categories: Assembly News, Don't Miss, News, Reflections|

Bishop-Tim-2019-assembly-address

Bishop Smith addresses assembly

Bishop Tim Smith’s address to the assembly began with a video thanking the NC Synod for their giving and lifting up the many ways the synod raises up so many fine candidates for ministry: LRU, LTSS, Agape+Kure Beach Ministries, NovusWay Ministries, campus ministry programs, and LYO.

Then, he stood to address the assembly.

Women in Ministry

2019-05-06T23:39:30-04:00May 6th, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Women in ministry

On the day this article is published, I and all the bishops from Region 9* will be in Puerto Rico along with our facilitator, Dr. Mindy Makant, deacon, of Lenoir-Rhyne University and the NC Synod, to discuss, affirm, and work out logistical possibilities based on a document formulated in a series of meetings by female bishop’s staff members throughout Region 9. This document seeks to find a productive way forward more intentionally to address systemic challenges faced by women in ministry.

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