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)

October, 2017 Reflections from the Bishop

Reformation Persistence: 500 Years and Counting

St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians (6:9) pens an exhortation that continues to encourage the Church to this very day: “So let us not grow weary in doing what is right.” Reading ahead to verse 11, we may come to the conclusion that Paul wrote these words himself, taking in his own hand the pen that his scribe had been using, leaving large and irregular letters on the parchment or papyrus as a result of his personal investment in driving this point home: DON'T GIVE UP! 

We need to hear these words today, as we face possible donor fatigue in our desire to respond with help for the victims of three hurricanes, a pair of earthquakes, and more wildfires than can be counted. We want to help. We feel moved to come to the rescue. We genuinely share the pain of those who are suffering. But when our ability to provide any meaningful relief seems to amount to nothing because the needs are so great, our resolve can fail. We may start to back away, grow weary, and shut down. To this, St. Paul responds, “Don’t Give Up!” And he adds, “So then, whenever we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)

One of the earliest tangible expressions of the Reformation commitment to work for the good of all was the 1521 “Wittenberg Beutelordnung,” the “community chest.” The community chest took the place of the Medieval church practice of begging and alms giving, which was understood at the time to be a God-pleasing social arrangement. There was an actual wooden chest with three locks on it placed in the parish church. The mayor had one key, and stewards of the chest had the other two. The stewards were to meet with those in need, and provide for them out of the common resources of the city. The next year, the congregation in Leisnig created a similar “Ordinance for a Common Chest,” and by 1523, the cities of Augsburg, Nuremberg, Altenburg, Kitzinger, Strasbourg, Breslau, and Regensburg had made similar provisions.

The Leisnig effort, in particular, imagined truly lofty social goals for the funds in the community chest, such as curbing excessive interest charges by providing affordable loans, providing for distributions of grain in times of need, lifelong care of formerly mendicant monks, education for boys and girls, salaries for pastors, sextons and schoolmasters, tuition expenses for resident scholars, and the property maintenance of school buildings, all coming from the generous offerings of the people, so that secular taxes would not be necessary. It should not come as a great surprise that not all these goals were fully reached. Besides facing the push-back from bankers accustomed to making significant interest on their loans, the parishioners of the congregation in Leisnig were not immune from the weariness that comes from trying to do so many good things all at once. What do you suppose St. Paul might have written to them?

DON'T GIVE UP! The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation is upon us this month. Can our celebration of the occasion be more than just an opportunity to sing “A Mighty Fortress” with pronounced gusto? Might our observation of so important an anniversary also be an opportunity to renew our commitment to remain tireless in our care of the society in which we live? I would hope so. So many of the goals that the Leisnig congregation had are the very things our church actually does together for the well being of people in this country and around the world, including low-interest loans, food distribution and seminary scholarships.

These days we are eager to say that 100% of our contributions to Lutheran Disaster Response that are directed to any one of the recent natural disasters in or near our country are sent to that particular need. Do you know how that is possible? Because in addition to all the good things that regular mission support makes possible, the administrative costs of Lutheran Disaster Response are also covered. We might think of mission support as our church’s “community chest.”

Our model of community support is not all that different from what the congregation in Leisnig proposed: as a general rule, a tithe (10%) of our personal income directed to our congregation in the form of regular offerings; 12% of congregational expenses directed to synod mission support; and 55% of synod mission support directed to the churchwide organization for its national and global work. Attaining these goals would more than fund our shared ministry.

These days, when needs are so great that our best work seems insufficient, we may find ourselves growing weary. But the great value of the ministry that we can accomplish together is reason to press ahead. So let us not grow weary in doing good, but think of our combined efforts as helping to create a grand community chest for all the people of this world whom God loves so very much.

With you in Christ,

+Kurt F. Kusserow, Bishop 

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)