This month and last, The Lutheran's cover stories featured congregations making a change in their fortunes and futures. It was "Resurrection wonders" in March and "A new imagination" in this issue. Reader reaction to the former was delightful, and we anticipate the same with the latter.
"Your coverage of emerging ministries (March, page 20) resonates with the work that Alan Roxburgh and Mike Regele once did in Crossing the Bridge: Leadership in a Time of Change. As globalization and private interests impact so much of our culture and public life, destabilizing and removing the familiar structures we could once count on, it is encouraging to see living illustrations of a church being creative and innovative in communities across our nation, bringing together human wellness, food, faith formation and worship. Keep telling these stories, they are indeed resurrection wonders," wrote David R. Froemming, an ELCA pastor in Lancaster, Wis.
Contrary to disparaging opinion pieces cast by a couple of more-Lutheran-than Martin Luther bloggers and a disgruntled few others, there are success stories in the ELCA. And you don't have to look far to locate them. Month in and out, this magazine finds ways to lift up these stories, be it in cover articles, in shorter news pieces or any other number of features.
You'll find uplifting elements even in articles that by their subject matter appear to be negative. Take the January cover story, "The shrinking church". As noted in this space that month, the article was filled with examples of congregations taking action to face their challenges, as well as examples of "good deaths" by unviable congregations. You have to actually read the article to see that, as well as take in the other stories in the issue.
Still, as mentioned in January, that explanation won't satisfy everyone. One letter writer said "it feels as though The Lutheran is stirring up and addressing anxiety, speaking directly of and to the anxiety expressed [to the magazine by readers]. Can you couch this upcoming issue in the positive rather than the negative, in the abundance rather than the scarcity?"
That notion — scarcity vs. abundance — appears to be gaining currency as it popped up at a recent meeting of ELCA bishops. No one, including this editor, wants to focus only on the negative. That's a prescription for defeat. An abundance worldview can also run amok with unending happy-happy-happy, leaving it susceptible to devolving into a Potemkin village — deceiving others into thinking a situation is better than it really is.
Downloads of the study guide accompanying "A shrinking church" more than doubled those of cover stories from the three months prior. That testifies to the need to recognize problems. Several bishops thanked the magazine for tackling the subject in a thoughtful, hopeful way. We plan to stay the course.
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© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers