Lutheran Head Urges Church: Confront Conflicts, Reach Out

The head of the largest Lutheran denomination in America said his church must confront racism and reach out to new groups and members both inside and outside the church.

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, the presiding bishop of the 5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, was commenting on the “State of the ELCA” as he urged members of the church to emphasize interdependence “with the body of Christ ecumenically and globally.”

“The state of the ELCA depends on the vitality of the faith of the baptized of this church,” he said, according to ELCA news service, noting that to be Lutheran is to recognize “all the baptized are called.”

Speaking before several thousands gathered in San Antonio, Texas for the Sixth Triennial Women of the ELCA gathering Thursday, Hanson said his church is unique because it is built on that principle of interdependence.

That’s why, he explained, the ELCA will be tackling the issue of homosexuality as well as voting on a proposed “interim Eucharist sharing” with the United Methodist Church, during its upcoming Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Fla.

Hanson, who also serves as president of the Lutheran World Federation, also thanked the women of the ELCA for keeping their faith and supporting the wider church with $1.75 million in the past three years.

The woman of the ELCA gathering began July 5, and is slated to end July 10. This year’s conference theme is “Act Boldly.”

Hanson elaborated on the theme as he addressed the 2,100-member crowd, saying that acting boldly does not mean to go forth arrogantly, but to go “communally” and “in humility.”

Finally, according to ELCA, Hanson urged the delegates not to fear tension in the church.

“I worry about a church that is concerned about conflict,” he explained. He then challenged the delegates to think about how they read the Bible, reminding them that wherever Jesus walked he caused tension and questioned people in authority.

“We need to engage tension and remain healthy,” he said. “We must speak openly and respectfully with each other.”