The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Bishop: Walking on water not mandatory

With word and water as his backdrop, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson proclaimed at Monday’s opening worship that “walking on water is permitted but not required at this Churchwide Assembly.”

In a state nearly surrounded by water, more than 2,200 voting members, staff and guests gathered—to be reminded of their baptism and to recall Peter’s walk on water (Matthew 14:22-33). Readings and prayers were offered in several languages and music ranged from Now Thank We All Our God to My Life Flows On in Endless Stream.

“I suspect that most, if not all of us, as we have pondered, prayed and prepared for this assembly may have begun to feel as if we have come to Orlando carrying the expectation—dare I say the burden?—that what is called for from us this week is a feat at least as miraculous as walking on water,” Hanson preached.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson recalls the sermon at his installation when he was told: “Mark, people will watch your feet ... take us to the waste places of our disconnect from each other ... [and] from God.... Just follow the beautiful feet.” Hanson told worshipers: “Your feet look absolutely beautiful. So let’s get to work.”
With the references to looming decisions on sexuality and churchwide restructuring, Hanson continued: “Not so. Neither you nor I need to walk on water this week, nor do we need to fear drowning, lest in the midst of our discussions and decisions we forget that it will be ever before us in our assembly theme: ‘Marked with the cross of Christ forever.’ ”

Hanson followed the first announcement with a second: “We have not come to Orlando to try to keep afloat a sinking church,” telling about recent conversations he had with theologian Walter R. Bouman and former presiding bishop H. George Anderson. Both assured him of their prayers and that the church belongs to Christ.

“We have not come to Orlando to try to keep a sinking church afloat,” Hanson said. “We are here to be the church, to be a people who are loved by Jesus and who love Jesus in return.”

Opening offering

The opening worship offering for the Special Needs Retirement Fund was $9,750.69. The fund assists pastors who retired prior to 1982, have small pensions and live close to the poverty line.


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