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December 1, 2009

ELCA Presiding Bishop to Host Online 'Town Hall Forum' Dec. 6

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said he will share priorities and hopes for the ELCA, and wants to hear stories from members about the church's work in their own contexts, when he hosts an online "Town Hall Forum" Sunday, Dec. 6.  The hour-long forum begins at 5:30 p.m. Eastern Time (4:30 p.m. Central Time).
    
The program will be webcast live from Chicago, where Hanson will be joined by an audience of ELCA members. The audience will ask questions of the presiding bishop. Web viewers can watch the event and submit questions here.   
    
"I think having this during the season of Advent is an important reminder that when our unity is in Christ, we will always be looking toward God's future in a spirit of 'expectant hopefulness,'" he said.  "That's what characterizes my view of the ELCA."
    
Hanson said he wants to use the forum to build on a conversation he began in a Nov. 19 open letter to ELCA members.  In that letter he said that the church stands together in God's grace, "but we are not standing
still."  Hanson wrote that the ELCA proclaims Jesus Christ and is "fully engaged in this mission by caring actively for the world that God loves. God's mission is serious work that calls for serious commitment."
    
Hanson told the ELCA News Service he plans to discuss in the forum how the ELCA is a church "in God's grace going forward in mission, and how that shared commitment to be engaged in mission continues to define who we are in the ELCA."
    
"I look forward to hearing stories from members participating online of how the Holy Spirit is being poured out upon them and through their congregations," he said. "I also look forward to sharing priorities for
our life together in the ELCA."
    
Hanson said he expects the conversation will include some discussion of what has transpired in the ELCA since the churchwide assembly, which directed changes to the church's ministry policies.  Those changes, which created the possibility for people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender
relationships to serve as clergy and professional lay workers, have caused some disagreement in the ELCA.
    
"I would hope we can talk about how, in these weeks and months following our churchwide assembly, we have the opportunity to be a church that does not deny our differences on human sexuality, but isn't defined by those differences.  It gives us an opportunity to witness to the culture that such questions need not finally separate us," he said.
    
The Town Hall Forum will also be available for on-demand viewing on the ELCA Web site by the close of business Dec. 7. The presiding bishop's Nov. 19 open letter and a video resource are on the ELCA Web site.

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