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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Pause & hope

We asked several church leaders to tell us what gives them pause or hope about the current state of the ELCA

Herbert W. Chilstrom
Former ELCA presiding bishop:

My concern and my hope for our church are two sides of the same coin: I am concerned that we resist the pressure of fundamentalist religion in our culture which fails to see that the heart of the Scriptures is the Good News that we are made right with God by grace and through faith in Jesus Christ. My confidence is that we will be all right so long as we have thousands of ELCA congregations where that Gospel is faithfully taught, the Sacraments are faithfully administered, and God's people work for peace and justice for all.

Robert Bacher
Former ELCA executive for administration:

It may be true that there is more difference - opinions, theologies, attitudes, views of Scripture - within each U.S. denomination than across denominational lines… What gives me hope is that God still has a use for the ELCA! …ELCA tradition is rich and deep - theology; worship; church as congregation, synod, churchwide organization and related institutions; social consciousness; institution building; engagement of the world without fear; use of reason in ordering our life together. Two mistakes are possible, abandoning the tradition or trying to repeat it. By renewing and reappropriating the tradition we will discover God's surprises of pluralism, fecundity, and rhythm we need for the days ahead.


Kelly A. Fryer
Instructor of congregational leadership, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; author, Reclaiming the L Word:

There are many things that give me hope as I look at the ELCA today. Our congregations are filled with people —many of whom have been around for a long time, quietly praying that the rest of us would finally catch up —who know the gift we are given by Jesus is a call to follow him. These folks know, instinctively, that our tendency to split apart God’s gift of grace from the call to discipleship is wrecking our churches and our lives. They invite their friends and neighbors to church. They think 10% is the place where giving STARTS. They pray that their congregations would begin to look more like mission outposts than family reunions or social clubs because they know that if a church isn’t in mission, then it isn’t the church at all.


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