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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 hospitable

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 phrases

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 are

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.

Listening

2019-04-01T14:51:03-04:00April 1st, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Listening

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” That’s the classic philosophical starter around the issues of observation and perception. If I tell you I’ll meet you at 9 a.m., but you (a) can’t hear me, (b) can hear me but aren’t paying attention, or (c) did hear me but are so distracted you forgot, did we communicate? Communication is a constant on the “needs improvement” list of any organization or relationship. That’s why my Gmail signature quote is, “The biggest problem I have with communication is overcoming the delusion that it has actually occurred.”

Lent: Deep Honesty, Deep Freedom

2019-03-04T14:08:46-04:00March 4th, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Lent: Deep Honesty, Deep Freedom

In the 8th chapter of John, Jesus promises us that “if you continue in my Word, you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Of course, his audience argues with him. “Set free? Whatever do you mean? We’ve never been slaves to anyone or anything!” (my paraphrase) Apparently the same truth that sets us free also stings to begin with. What difference does a declaration of freedom make if we don’t even realize we are bound?

Grant us Gratitude

2019-02-04T13:08:55-04:00February 4th, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Grant us Gratitude

I’ve worked with more than one congregational treasurer in parishes I’ve served who insisted on publicizing in every bulletin and newsletter how far behind the budget we were. But whenever we edged ahead in income vs. budget or expenses, they would insist that we mustn’t let people know. They assumed people are motivated mainly by scarcity. I still think those treasurers were wrong. People give because they believe in the mission our giving supports.

How toddlers are renewing my faith

2019-01-07T19:35:07-04:00January 7th, 2019|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

How toddlers are renewing my faith

Those who follow me on social media will realize that I am obsessed. It’s our grandchildren—all four of them who have arrived in the past three years, and three of whom arrived in July of 2016 within a span of eight days. Honestly, I used to secretly believe that all the grandparenting hype—sharing pictures and telling stories ad nauseum—was way over the top. But now I, a past president of the Anti-Sentimentality Club, am in a whole new place. A bit of an uncomfortable yet wonderful place, to be honest.

Advent symbolism and repentance

2018-12-03T23:17:14-04:00December 3rd, 2018|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Advent Symbolism and Repentance

What with all the cultural—and admittedly, in our home—Christmas glitz, we forget that Advent is one of the two penitential liturgical seasons. As Lent’s somber journey to the cross prepares us for the joy of Easter, so Advent bids us “let every heart prepare him room.” That’s why “Joy to the World” was moved back in the ELW to the Advent hymn section.

Vision & Structure

2018-11-06T09:59:16-04:00November 5th, 2018|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Some of you are quite aware of our four new vision priorities for the NC Synod—Vital Congregations, Healthy Leaders, Collaboration, and Prophetic Voice. Visions can be exciting and inspiring. Structure, not so much, but structure is really important. It’s been quite a number of years since we had a major constitutional overhaul in the NC Synod other than the required changes every three years after a churchwide assembly. Structures should serve the vision—not vice-versa. Accordingly, our staff and our Synod Council have been working for a full year on making some proposed changes to our NC Synod constitution that we believe will help us to operate more clearly and

Helpers

2018-10-01T15:28:04-04:00October 1st, 2018|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Helpers

Children’s TV personality Mr. Rogers learned from his mother that amid news of tragedies and disasters we should “look for the helpers.” Without diminishing the devastation in eastern NC wrought by Hurricane Florence, I and those affected most profoundly are indeed heartened by and are even among the helpers. I could share many details from specific situations in what is, unfortunately, quite a widespread area. I want to share just a couple of the many stories that involve both devastation and helpers. While statistics are important, stories are compelling.

Sacred trust

2018-09-03T22:16:33-04:00September 3rd, 2018|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

a path and fence with the words

Sacred trust

This month’s Bishop’s Reflection is a revision of a Facebook post Bishop Tim Smith shared last month (August 2018) in response to the findings released about the egregious misconducts against children by Roman Catholic priests.

In 2018 it should go without saying, but in truth it’s the “without saying” that in part makes possible the horrific revelations of sexual abuse and systemic institutional and personal cover-ups among priests in Pennsylvania that we learned about this week (Aug. 14, 2018).

Worship bloopers

2018-08-06T23:16:18-04:00August 6th, 2018|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

worship bloopers image

Worship bloopers

“This is not a performance,” I always tell the nervous 3rd-grader in the parish the first time they go to light the candles on a Sunday morning right there in front of Momma and Aunt Maggie and the grouchy altar guild lady and God and everybody. “It’s worship, and we aren’t perfect, nor are we supposed to be. We give God and God’s people our best, but when we fall short, God does the rest.” Luther’s Sacristy Prayer essentially says the same thing. “Were it all up to me, I would bring it all to destruction.” Yep. We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

Vitality

2018-07-02T15:08:36-04:00July 2nd, 2018|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Vitality

Vital Congregations. Healthy Leaders. Collaboration. Prophetic Voice. These are the four pillars of the new vision and focus of the NC Synod staff and Synod Council unveiled at our NC Synod Assembly just over a month ago. Vital Congregations and Healthy Leaders also happen to be the two consensus priorities of the ELCA Church Council and of the ELCA Conference of Bishops. So what is vitality?

Bishop Smith offers report

2018-06-06T12:12:43-04:00June 3rd, 2018|Categories: Assembly News, Don't Miss|

Bishop Smith offers report

Bishop Tim Smith began his remarks to the gathered assembly on Friday afternoon with an expression of thanksgiving and personal privilege. “A lot has changed personally in the last three years. I went from having no grandbabies and a momma and a dad to having three grandbabies and no mom and dad. I want to say thank you to you on a personal level. I certainly felt—and feel—a lot of support for the crazy work of grief…I have had the privilege of being with you all and a lot of people sharing different things that they’ve been through and I really appreciate y’all sharing so much with us.”

2018 Synod Assembly

2018-06-02T23:50:25-04:00April 30th, 2018|Categories: Assembly News, Don't Miss, Reflections|


2018 Synod Assembly

There are numerous reasons one might attend a synod assembly like our upcoming one June 1-2 in Raleigh. Maybe it’s duty, as in, at a congregation council meeting, “Okay, people, somebody has to go. Our constitution requires it.”

Youth Gathering exposed

2018-04-02T15:30:02-04:00April 2nd, 2018|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

2018 ELCA Youth Gathering Logo

Youth Gathering Exposed

I was minding my own business, which was Redeemer in Atlanta, three years ago when final preparations were being made for the triennial ELCA Youth Gathering (Gathering) in Detroit. That is to say, I wasn’t really paying close attention. We had others on staff planning to go.

Fast forward three years, and it’s Gathering time again, this time in Houston, and this time I am the bishop.

Conflict

2018-03-05T12:00:18-04:00March 5th, 2018|Categories: Don't Miss, Reflections|

Over 90% of us, psychologists claim, are fairly serious, go-out-of-our-way conflict avoiders! We’re path-of-least-resistance people. I’m guessing that if surveys were done only in the South, the conflict avoiders would be north of 95%.

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