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By Daniel J. Lehmann

A living, daring confidence in God

Focus for ELCA in years ahead M

any in the ELCA perceived a shift in mood and outlook at the 2011 Churchwide Assembly following two tough years of debates, congregational votes to leave the ELCA, and significant membership decline (page 10).

Conversations shifted to getting on with the business of what it means to be a church in the 21st century. There certainly were and still are members disturbed over the sexuality decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, as well as other denominational actions. For example, William R. Korwatch of Bremen, Ala., wrote: “You write feel good articles when there are underlying issues in the ELCA that are not being properly addressed. There is little talk of the churches that have left. ... There is little talk of the loss in donations. There is little talk of the reduc- tion of pension benefits to retired clergy.” The magazine has covered those issues and more, from a cover story in April 2010 (“Assessing the fallout,” page 20) to an initial meeting between ELCA and North American Lutheran Church leaders last month (page 8). What we haven’t done is fixate on the negativism inherent in controversy. We still acknowledge hard news, however. ELCA Treasurer Linda Norman told the Conference of Bishops in March

that income exceeded expenses by $4 million for churchwide operations in the 2011 fiscal year. She also said donations from congregations to synods to churchwide offices for the 2011 fiscal year decreased to $50.4 million—a $2.2 million or 4.2 percent reduction, a decline “in sharp contrast to the rate of decline in the previous two fiscal years.”

Since the magazine has a choice about what it will emphasize and what it will simply acknowledge, we’ll trend to the positive. The reason why was summed up recently by Kenneth Inskeep, executive for research and evalua- tion at the churchwide office, in an award acceptance speech at Wartburg, an ELCA college in Waverly, Iowa:

“There is the voice that comes from where we know not and it … suggests

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that things could be better not just for us but for all people and for the whole creation, but this voice speaks without moralizing, piling on the guilt or making accusations. … It is a voice that is clearly manifest in Jesus who is given to us as a gift from God. We come to know this gift through faith, which according to [Martin] Lutheris nothing more or less than a ‘living, daring confidence’ in the graciousness of God, ‘so certain that you could stake your life on it one thousand times.’ … This God has no intention of doing us in or our neighbors either, for that matter—whether we like them or not. So when life seems to be conspiring against us (or them), that is precisely when we need faith—an unfailing confi- dence in God’s grace.” 

[This] voice speaks without moralizing, piling on the guilt or making accusations.


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