Bishop's Page

June, 2018 Reflections from the Bishop

Life Between the Poles

There is a globe that sits on the top of the bookshelf in my office. When I think to glance up there, I see mostly the Indian Ocean, and some of the lands that surround it. There is Madagascar, the place of our companion synod. There is Tanzania, where my parents served for many years as missionaries. There is India, where my mother was born, and there are Malaysia and Singapore, the places where I grew up. Germany and the British Isles, the lands of my family’s historic ancestry, are barely visible, on the edges of this view.

The idea that the world is a globe is a relatively new one, but it has given us a way to imagine some of the mysteries that people have known about for as long as people knew things, I guess. As a Lutheran, I might call these realities “paradoxes,” but “mysteries” seems somehow more appropriate when I mean to gather in the common human experience of our very distant ancestors.

One of these mysteries is the behavior of the sun. It comes up in the east, rises high above the earth, sets in the west, and then, mysteriously, shows up the east again. How does that happen? The globe explains the mystery and gives us a way to visualize it.

Another mystery is the limit of our sight. If I can see stars and the moon that are very, very far away, why can’t I see very far across the land? Even when I am high up on a moutain, both the land and the ocean mysteriously fall away in the distance. Again, the curvature of the earth explains the experience, and the globe gives us a very clear picture of why that is.

The globe also teaches us about life between the poles. We experience a truth about life that some things are set in complementary tension against each other. We say things like “on the one hand, this, and on the other hand, that,” meaning that truth actually does include both this and that. We say we can see two sides of a particular issue, and sometimes we compare those sides to the two sides of a coin, noting that even in their marked difference, both sides belong together. 

Poles, as made visible on a globe, exaggerate that mystery. Not only do they exist in tension, like our two hands or the two sides of a coin, but they seem always to draw things toward themselves and away from the other pole. At least that is how we use the word today to describe our politics – “polarized!” Moving toward one position demands moving away from the other. And when we move toward one pole with any sense of purpose or intent, we find that it gets smaller and smaller the closer you come to it. This is true both geographically and politically.

Thinking about this politically, taking one position or one line of reasoning to its logical conclusion seems to reduce it, step by step, to a single point, that by itself does not seem to touch very much of our lives directly, but certainly and powerfully pulls everything it can influence towards it – and away from the other pole!

Our experience of a “polarized” society, however, does not very often take the shape of a globe, does it? Our present political life feels more like something being stretched apart to its breaking point rather than the beauty of the globe – a near-perfect sphere of opportunity that is at its widest where it is farthest away from both poles!

What might this mean? It could mean that the experience of life is at its widest, fullest, most ample, when both poles of influence pulling us toward them are equally far away. There are some who seek detachment from any particular political persuasion in order to live a kind of idealized life on the equator. 

But it could also mean that the possibility of life is most fully realized when both poles are held together in such a way that their ceaseless work of pulling does not tear and break the stuff that lies between them, but gives it wideness and potential and balance. The globe of our earth gives us a way to visualize and imagine the possibility of this way of thinking.

Our Synod Assembly this year gathers under the theme, “Who is My Neighbor?” We will join the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod at Thiel College for worship and meals and keynote addresses, and also for entertainment provided by “Abraham Jam.” This musical trio includes a Christian, a Jew, and a Muslim. You are invited to come and enjoy their performance for free, even if you are not registered for assembly! 

And when you come and hear them sing, think about the wide part of the globe that exists between the poles. See if their song does not open that mystery to you a little more clearly. It could be that our answer to the current and terrible tension in our society is to become truly “polarized” in the way that the globe is.

With you in Christ,

+Kurt F. Kusserow, Bishop

Documents for Spring Conference Lunches with the Bishop

Agenda for the Day/Future Dates (document updated 3-14-18):

Statements and Letters from and about United Lutheran Seminary

 From Bishop Claire Burkat of Southastern Pennsylvania Synod:

burkat bishop (Southeastern PA) Letter burkat bishop (Southeastern PA) Letter (48 KB)

From Bishop James Dunlop of Lower Susquehanna Synod:

Dunlop Bishop (Lower Susquehanna) Letter Dunlop Bishop (Lower Susquehanna) Letter (36 KB)

From Bishop Kusserow to our ministerium:

kusserow word to ministerium about ULS kusserow word to ministerium about ULS (169 KB)

Links to articles in Post-Gazette by Peter Smith.  Please click on title to be linked to the article:
"Lutheran Seminary Faces Leadership Crisis over President's Past LGBTQ Beliefs," 
and  "Lutheran Seminary Board Chairperson Resigns."

Link to President Latini's personal story:

Link to United Lutheran Seminary website's Board of Trustees statements:

Luther Hymn Fest Flyer (Sunday, April 29):

Luther Hymn Fest Flyer Luther Hymn Fest Flyer (891 KB)

Link to ELCA Conference of Bishops "Statement of Support" for the March for Our Lives on March 24:

(You may also subscribe to receive ELCA News Releases by email at this link)

A "thank you" from Bishop Felipe Lozada:

Lozada thank you and Statement to C.O.B. Lozada thank you and Statement to C.O.B. (95 KB)

Visit from Bishop Munib Younan to Thiel College, April 12, 2018.

Bishop Younan's visit to Thiel College April 12, 2018

Former Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, and former President of the Lutheran World Federation, Bishop Munib Younan will be arriving at Thiel on in the afternoon of April 11 and will participate in a full day of events on April 12. Rev. Mark Wilhelm, Executive Director of Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities, will be joining us, too.

Here is the tentative schedule:

• Bishop Younan will visit classes in the morning.
• 12:00 Noon: special Chapel service on Thursday, April 12.
• 1:00 p.m.: Lunch (with chapel staff and religion students.)
• Dinner at Pres. Traverso's home (by invitation only).
• 7:00 p.m.: Bishop Younan's presentation in the LHR, open to the public.


Link to draft "Declaration on Our Inter-Religious Commitment":

Information about, a form of electronic giving: Press Release:

Tithely Press Release Tithely Press Release (30 KB)

Links to more information about "":  (Learn more about

 2018 Synod Assembly Information:

Link to the 2018 Synod Assembly webpage:    
(I realize the link shows "2016" in the name; however, the link does take you to the 2018 Assembly information page):

Flyer for "Abraham Jam":

"Abraham Jam" Flyer "Abraham Jam" Flyer (25791 KB)

A Pastoral Word (from Bishop Kusserow) following Las Vegas

Below is a letter, dated October 4, 2017, regarding the natural and man-made disasters that have happened recently.

A Pastoral Word following Las Vegas A Pastoral Word following Las Vegas (168 KB)

A Pastoral Letter from the Conference of Bishops after Las Vegas

Below is a "Pastoral Letter on Violence" adopted by the Conference of Bishops in 2013. Bishop Kusserow has asked me to share this letter with the synod. He will address the subject personally when he returns from Chicago later this week.

Pastoral Letter on Violence Pastoral Letter on Violence (24 KB)

A Pastoral Word to the Synod After Charlottesville.

Bishop Kusserow's pastoral letter is available for download, below:

Pastoral Word to the Synod after Charlottesville Pastoral Word to the Synod after Charlottesville (163 KB)

BELOW is the Statement on Immigration from the ELCA Conference of Bishops

Immigration Statement from Conference of Bishops Immigration Statement from Conference of Bishops (40 KB)