Below is the text of my Advent letter to the Pastors and Deacons of this synod.
Advent is among us. It’s a time of stirring. We pray each week for God to stir up - a frightening prayer when you think about it. In the words of one woman, “I’m praying for God to calm things down, I don’t need stirring… yet I know that God is in the stirring business.”
A few things for you this Advent season:
First. I encourage you to embrace this time of year. Carve out space and time for scripture, candles, the variations of blue. It is a full time, filled with the range of everything from generosity to self-centeredness, from the mystery to the manufactured. Perhaps no other time of year brings out such a range of responses from people in our society. While I am disgusted with consumer capitalism run amuck, I confess to thoroughly enjoying hanging the outdoor lights and listening to Peter Mayer’s Stars and Promises CD. This year, I am attempting to be drawn into the time, which hopefully leads me to solidarity with the suffering of others. Somehow in that there will be “room” in the Inn, or the Stable, or the back yard or shelter.
Second. I am increasingly aware of what it is like to be a woman in our society today, more particularly a woman in church leadership. More and more of you are articulating to me, or members of my staff, the challenges that the past year have brought you in your ministry. Sexual harassment, discrimination, belittling, etc. are challenges you face on a regular basis. I’m also hearing a brave call to not be victims, but be strong women of integrity. I’m open to supporting you in ways I probably don’t fully understand, and want to be with you as an encourager, and advocate. But, I also, want to say a word to the men. It is time for us to police our own. Forgive my crass language here, but let’s be honest. We’ve allowed this $^!t to go on. We’ve not called out our colleagues, friends, uncles, brothers, partners for their stupid comments, sexist talk, belittling words and harmful actions. Guys, we need to be candid and begin the hard work of learning how our own fears, failures and longings are at the root of our behaviors toward women. I’m equally open to finding ways that we can do our own work. Let’s find ways to change this for the better.
Third. I have just returned from a significant visit to our companion synod in Jordan and the Holy Land. Twenty-three of us walked among the stones of ancient ruins, the shores of Galilee and through the wild brush along the Jordan River. We also walked with our brothers & sisters in the Palestinian Lutheran churches on the West Bank and in Jordan. I learned much, and would like to share what I learned. If your conference is interested in hosting a “Lands and People of the Bible: Yesterday & Today,” I am available for such an event. It would be a talk, some photographs and a Palestinian meal. The goal is awareness, deepening of our faith, and strengthening our relationship with our Companion Synod. Contact Lyn ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) about your interest, and we will look into scheduling options.
Finally, but it’s never over. Version XI, that would be version 11.0 of the paper “A Church being Reborn,” which we discussed at convocation, is now available. The latest version has several updates. First, there are some editorial fixes to language and concepts that you have suggested. More significantly, you will find further reflections in the area of deepening spiritual vitality, some updates to the ministers as entrepreneurial leaders section, and the addition of an addendum based on one congregation’s reading and life experience in the midst of labor. You can download the latest version here. This is a public document. Please feel free to share it with colleagues and discuss it in adult forums, church council meetings, etc. You will note the addition of some “Stir it Up” artwork. Could that be a hint of our 2018 theme? I’m also available to discuss this document with anyone who wishes to engage. It’s not perfect; it’s a work in progress, and there will be a version 12, and then 13, and so forth. We are writing and living this together with Jesus.
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Advent Blessings, Still in One Peace,
Bishop James Hazelwood