Bishop's Page

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 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)

November, 2017 Reflections from the Bishop

After 1517

After months and years of preparation, local congregations and synods of Lutheran churches around the world have finally celebrated, observed, or in some other way marked the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We have done this with great joy, perhaps in the company of ecumenical partners, giving thanks to God for the gift of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now what? What comes after 1517?

Sadly, a stark reminder that “still our ancient foe”1  manages to plague us. Yes, I use that word intentionally. I would think, for the most part, that when we hear the word “plague,” we think of an ancient scourge that belongs to a dark time before modern medicine. When we hear of the Bubonic Plague, by name, we strain to recall from history classes exactly what portion of the European population was lost to it in the 14th century – was it a third, or nearly half? To learn (or be reminded) that the plague also struck Wittenberg in Luther’s time perhaps causes us to think of the Reformation as a threshold time between those dark ages and the more enlightened world that we inhabit today. But to learn in an e-mail last month that the Lutheran Church in Madagascar has had to postpone its celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation because of the plague is to experience a clash of worlds. Does that still happen today?

Here is a brief historical record of when the plague struck Wittenberg in 1527, followed by excerpts from an e-mail I recently received regarding our companion synod relationship with the Tulear Synod in Madagascar:

Wittenberg, 1527:

On August 2, 1527, [the] dread plague struck Wittenberg. Fearing for the safety of Luther and the other professors at the university, Elector John, on August 10, ordered Luther to leave for Jena. Five days later the university moved to Jena, then to Schlieben near Wittenberg, where it remained until April of the following year. Unmoved by the elector’s letter or by the pleas of his friends, Luther, along with Bugenhagen, stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people. By August 19 there were eighteen deaths; the wife of the mayor, Tilo Dene, died almost in Luther’s arms; his own wife was pregnant and two women were sick in his own house; his little son Hans refused to eat for three days; chaplain George Rörer’s wife, also pregnant, took sick and lost both her baby and her life; Bugenhagen and his family then moved into Luther’s house for mutual encouragement. Writing to Amsdorf, Luther spoke about his Anfechtungen [spiritual trial, terror, and despair] and about the hospital in his house, closing his letter by saying, “So there are battles without and terrors within, and really grim ones.”2

Madagascar, 2017:

Outbreak of the plagues; bubonic is transmitted from rats and flea bites, and pneumonic is spread by spit and fluids from people. These forms of the plague do spread quite fast. If you get pneumonic plague and it isn’t caught within time and you do not seek treatment, it can kill you quite quickly. Started around the “ground zero” and spread throughout the country, through the highlands, and is also now present in Tana and Ansitrabe Bay, and other places in the south. Making its way to Tulear

Deaths [as of] today are 74; 800 identified cases. Currently working with the Malagasy Government to make sure this is contained. Large gatherings have been cancelled and postponed for the time being, so the 500th Reformation event has been postponed for the foreseeable future, per the government’s suggestion. YAGM’s [Young Adults in Global Mission] were scheduled to have their fall retreat in November, but due to the outbreak, they are going to go on retreat in South Africa for three weeks, which will also hopefully give them enough time out of the country for the situation to be contained.3

Yes, this still happens today. For all of our actual and supposed enlightenment, people today continue to experience the same “battles without and terrors within” that our more distant ancestors had to endure. Or, to put it another way, humanity has not yet outgrown “the human condition.”

The Christian faith understands humans to be mortal creatures in relationship with their immortal creator. The good news of the Gospel declares that relationship to be one of love, expressed in redemption of every kind: forgiveness, rescue, healing, mercy, comfort, and yes, even enlightenment. And while the faith teaches us to expect a final redemption which overcomes death forever, our focus remains on the work of speaking that word of hope into the “battles and terrors” of this world, this life.

So, after 1517, after our joyful celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, what then? Quite simply: day in and day out, we steward the Gospel and care for our neighbors. We keep at what we’ve been doing for 500 years. We preach Christ whose love redeems the world.


With you in Christ,

+Kurt F. Kusserow, Bishop 

This is the phrase found in the Service Book and Hymnal version of “A Mighty Fortress.”

 Luther’s Works, Vol. 43, Fortress Press, 1968, pp. 115-116.

 October 20, 2017 e-mail letter from Dana Dutcher, Manager for Relationships – Asia and the Pacific, Madagascar, West and Central Africa. Global Mission Unit, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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)