From Portico President, The Rev. Jeff Tiemann
You’ll notice a big change this year. Instead of offering an online health assessment as we have for 10+ years, we’re inviting members to gain an objective picture of their physical health. Biometric screening is now considered an integral part of health and wellness programs. It involves taking physical measurements and a small blood sample, which is used to measure cholesterol, blood sugar, and other potential risks. Members receive a personalized report that is designed both to both educate them and serve as a launching point for conversation with their doctor regarding next steps.
Because privacy is of utmost importance, I’d like to stress that individual screening results are available only to the member — not to Portico, synod offices, or congregations. To understand how biometric screenings work, I invite you to read our latest news release. As always, feel free to contact me or your Portico Regional Representative if you have questions or wish to share your perspective.
Thank you for your partnership as we support the health and well-being of those who serve our church. May God bless your people and your ministry in the new year.
Bishop Younan Honored
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton joined international Lutheran leaders and dignitaries from Palestine and Jordan to celebrate Bishop Munib Younan’s 42 years of service to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).
Prior to his 20 years as bishop of the ELCJHL, Younan served the church as youth pastor and pastor of three ELCJHL churches. He also served as president of The Lutheran World Federation from 2010 to 2017. More than 500 guests attended the celebration at the Convention Palace in Bethlehem, including ecumenical representatives, international organizations and inter-religious attendees.
"For the office may be passed on, and the Evangelical Lutheran bishop may retire according to the constitution of the church, but the call to serve the gospel of love cannot retire," Younan said. Sani Ibrahim Charlie “Barhoum” Azar was installed as the fourth bishop of the ELCJHL.
Bishop Aitkens statements on Gun Violence
As we try to take in, understand, pray and respond to the Las Vegas violent mass shooting this morning, may we learn the mind of Christ and have that same mind of servanthood within us even as we seek for the response of justice. Pray for the families who have lost loved ones and pray for the shooter's family as well.
Prayer: (ELW p. 77, Time of civic mourning)
"God our creator, through whose providing care we enjoy all goodness and life, turn our eyes to your mercy in this time of confusion and loss. Comfort the nation as we moun, shine your light on those whose only companion is darkness; and teach us all so to number our days that we may apply our hearts to your wisdom; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord Amen.
Bishop Aitken's Reflections on Mass Shootings
I'm overwhelmed with heartsickness for the beautiful people made in God's image that were killed ruthlessly -once again in this Country - by gun violence. I'm angry too. Angry that we continue to be a nation that has bought into the narrative that asserts guns are necessary for people and for a nation to be safe. That narrative has made its way into the DNA of so many, here and around the world. When we consistently allow the madness of producing and encouraging the selling of guns made to kill massive numbers of people we should not be surprised that people who can't imagine any other way of dealing with their problems will turn to this kind of "solution."
And one more thing: I am moved to the depths of my soul by the powerful acts of love, grace and courage by those who worked to save life, acted selflessly, and modeled for us the opposite of killing others by putting their own lives on the line to save others. At it's core, this shooting spree reminds us that until our policies, convictions and legislation reflect the deeper spirituality of cherishing people as precious, and standing up for the innate dignity of every person, we will continue to fall into the same darkness. God help us to use our brains and our hearts.
+Bishop Thomas M. Aitken
Northeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA
Sutherland Springs and more Gun violence
Once again, we are faced with gun violence in our Country. Like you, my heart goes out to the innocent people killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The news of these mass shootings is painfully horrific every time it happens. We pray for the families of the 26 children and adults killed ruthlessly by a man with a gun. We pray for the congregation of First Baptist. We pray for the family of the gunman, and for what must have been his tortured soul. Prayer is a good beginning. But let us be moved to do – what prayer strengthens us to do. Let us not only pray, but act in courageous, faithful and smart ways to work for an end to gun violence, even if people think such a goal may be wishful thinking. Let us take our grief and anger, our hopes and questions to our Legislators and seek changes to rules and regulations, to thoughtful preventative measures for the good of all including those who suffer mental illnesses of various sorts.
As long as our nation (and world) continues to believe the false narrative that superior violence, especially gun violence as it is celebrated and applauded in movies, in trash-talk, in endless versions of point-and-shoot-people video games is the solution to our problems and “wins the day” we will continue to experience the truth that violence breeds more violence. This we learned from Jesus. We also learned from him that only love transforms the human heart.
Killing people with guns is more than simply a mental illness issue. It’s a “quick fix” cultural mind-set that has forgotten people are made in the image of God, and are precious. It’s a social issue, a breakdown of community where brutality has been allowed to replace civility, both in word and deed. But Jesus has chosen you and grafted you into his life through the gospel (“I am the vine, you are the branches”) so that through him we may bear the fruit of his love and goodness to the whole world. We are empowered by him to offer, as he did, an alternative vision for the world: A vision that loves the neighbor as Jesus does, and acts in the neighbor’s interest. I like what Martin Luther says in his The Freedom of the Christian: (1520) “ God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation, so that from now one I need nothing except faith. Why should I not therefore freely, with all my heart, do all tings pleasing to God, who has overwhelmed me with irresistible riches? I will give myself as a Christ to my neighbor and do nothing in this life except what is necessary, profitable, and salutary for my neighbor”
God of New life; Stir up in us the gift of your love. May those who have lost loved ones in Sutherland Springs be comforted by your love, and be granted strength to face their grave losses. Stir up in us the will to act in the best interest of our neighbor.
Through your Son, our brother and Lord, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
+Bishop Thomas M. Aitken
Fall Theological 2017
Bishop's Online August 14, 2017
Charlottesville, racism and the new life in Christ
For all the blatant hatred and violence, for all the tribalism, small-mindedness and racism imbedded in this past week-end in Charlottesville, I know that racism and prejudice runs deep in this country. Like you, I have been angry and saddened at the death-dealing results of hatred in Charlottesville. The past four days with bishops and spouses of Region 3 took us into racially stereotyped areas of the Twin Cities. Fear and hatred of those who are different from us doesn't happen just in other states, it happens in this state, and in my town and yours. Even in our own hearts.
I realized during the devotions at All Nations Indian Church last Friday that I needed to take my own inventory not simply the inventory of others. I needed to re-learn that racism is not confined to a few individuals but that it is systemic and part of the fabric of our country, and I am complicit in it as well. My own heart needs cleansing; my own eyes need to see more clearly my white privilege. Racism is not confined to those who are holding torches, spewing racial slurs, driving into people and carrying out violence in Charlottesville.
But there is also something else going on in the midst of this evil. The people at Redeemer Lutheran and All Nations Indian Church in Minneapolis, and Zion Lutheran in St. Paul, decided to do evil’s opposite: To work in their neighborhoods to cultivate understanding, peace, and concrete acts of love. The Holy Spirit moves among people, everywhere. We who were joined to Jesus' death and resurrection in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism (Romans 6) have been given this Spirit. It's a gift that is yearning to get used in us, for the purposes of God. It is in you, like yeast in the dough, like the seed in the soil, like a treasure in a field. Let us be bold to use it in our daily conversation. Let us live into God's dream, God's intent, God's Kingdom (reign) and into Jesus' alternate life of courageous love.
This week, I ask you to join me in paying careful attention to the second and third Petition of the Lord's Prayer, the “Jesus” prayer Christians pray daily:
".....Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven....."
And, may it also come through us.
+Bishop Thomas M. Aitken
A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Aitken
Synod Creation Care Study Available......
Earth Stewardship and the Missio Dei: Participating in the Care and Redemption of All God Has Made is the title of Pastor David Carlson’s Doctor of Ministry dissertation, which he defended at Luther Seminary in March 2016 and is making available to more readers. In it, he reports findings from a synod-wide survey and four congregational interviews and evaluates their earthkeeping practices and perceptions using eight conceptual lenses: (1) sustainability, (2) globalization, (3) global civil society, (4) nature as an active subject in scripture and liturgy, (5) biblical stewardship as participating in God’s mission, (6) perichoresis as modeling reciprocal relationships with nature, (7) eschatological themes of redemption and reformation, and (8) sacramental imagination.
The church in general and Lutherans in particular are well-suited to help society address ecological needs and the problems of climate change, and congregations are ideal settings for modeling the kind of earth stewardship needed for a more sustainable world. This timely resource invites clergy and lay leaders to grow in understanding their local earth stewardship as a component of participating in God’s mission, and take steps to integrate creation care practically in ministry areas of worship, education, congregational life, building and grounds, and community engagement.
Signed copies are available in paperback (243 pp.) for $10 payable to Pastor Carlson at the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church office located at the synod office building, lower level, or at mailing address
219 N. 6th Ave. E., Duluth, MN 55805.
To ship in the U.S., add $4.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
– Psalm 46:1
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Hurricane Matthew, one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in years, hit Haiti, Cuba and Jamaica earlier this week. It is expected to hit the Bahamas today and could make its way to the east coast of the United States.
The National Hurricane Center calls Matthew "extremely dangerous," and conditions are favorable for it to maintain its strength. In areas of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Hurricane Matthew has left a trail of destruction with landslides, streets flooded and homes flattened. Where the hurricane hit the hardest, Lutheran Disaster Response has local partners and companions ready to respond.
Your gifts are needed now for Hurricane Matthew. Your support through Lutheran Disaster Response will bring God’s hope and healing to those who have been or will be affected by this hurricane. Our response already spans across several countries. Together, we will work with trusted partners and companion churches that know the communities well and are preparing recovery efforts. Although the hurricane has not yet reached the U.S. coast, Lutheran Disaster Response coordinators are collaborating with local community leaders, civic organizations, ecumenical partners and officials to begin planning the proper response.
The storm is not over. You can help now. Gifts designated for “Hurricane Matthew” will be used in full (100 percent) until the response is complete to help disaster survivors recover and rebuild.
Stay connected to the latest events and our response to this and other disasters through our Facebook page. Join me in prayer and partnership, and use this bulletin insert in your congregation to help spread the word. Thank you!
The Rev. Daniel Rift
Director, ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
DONATE | LEARN MORE | SHARE/PRAY
Ways to Give
Checks or money orders should be sent to:
Lutheran Disaster Response
P.O. Box 1809
Merrifield, VA 22116-8009
Write "Hurricane Matthew" on your check memo line.
Give by phone at 800-638-3522 or online.
Mission Planning Cluster
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Immanuel/Dell Grove, Grace/Sandstone, Bethlehem/Askov, First/Hinckley
This past Saturday, I met from 10 am to 2 pm, with the above four congregations in our synod. We came together as a geographic cluster to begin work on the vision I cast a couple years ago to “begin, develop, renew or redefine” an Intentional Missional Plan for each congregation.
We met at the museum building in Askov, a building utilized by
the community for a variety of purposes. The site worked perfectly and enabled us to include a roast beef and mashed potatoes lunch!
My vision as your Bishop has been to ask and to help resource
each congregation in our synod to be at least “knee deep” in this
planning by the 500th anniversary date of the beginning
of the Reformation, October 31, 2017 and to complete
the Written Mission Plan by 2020.
Our trustworthy and faithful deans are on board with this, and will be
an extension of my encouragement to all of you going forward.
About 25 people were present with their pastors to be led through
the beginning stage of this Missional Planning Process. We are utilizing
“The Mission We Share” which is an excellent step by step template
that takes any Vision Team in a simple but powerful journey
into missional planning. (Click here)
Those gathered on Saturday were fun and faithful!
I appreciated being a part of this process as a resource person, and
I learned, right along with the rest; how rich and marvelous are
the opportunities to live faithfully into God’s future as
effective congregations in the 21st century.
Call me with any questions you may have, or talk with your
conference dean about it. (Click here for contact info for your dean.)
About fifty six congregations in the 3 years have begun this process.
+Bishop Thomas M. Aitken
Dual Identity: Citizen and Disciple of Jesus
The Apostle Paul writing to the Christians in Rome: Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. (Romans 13:1)
The word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying: Thus says the LORD of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. (Zechariah 7.8-10)
As August ends and September begins, we enter ‘political season’ . . . A time when we will be inundated with countless news stories about candidates for local, state, and federal offices. And of course, the premiere contest will be between the Democratic and Republican candidates for president. Federal law prohibits churches and clergy [in the exercise of their office pastor] from endorsing a candidate for any office. To violate this portion of the tax code puts a church’s tax-exempt status at risk.
Unfortunately, there are some clergy, congregations, and church bodies that have chosen to become involved in partisan politics by endorsing specific candidates. While this is a clearly illegal, we also encounter ‘religious’ political action committees. They are groups that purport to identify candidates who will support God’s political agenda for our nation. It always surprises me to when political parties claim that their political agendas is identical to God’s agenda for the Kingdom.
With this as a guide, we have a dual identity: Citizen and Disciple. So how does one honor both of our identities?
First, I believe that it is a responsibility of discipleship to take an active role in government. One of the ways this responsibility is exercised is by voting. In his letter to the Christian congregation in Rome, Paul reminds them that government is a gift from God, instituted, he argues later, for the good of all people. Paul could even make this statement under a form of government which included an emperor who claimed to be chosen by the gods of Rome. Contrary to what some political extremists argue, government is not inherently evil. In his discussion with the Pharisees about the image of Caesar on a Roman coin, Jesus sets the limits of governmental authority. There is a distinct line between that which is Caesar’s domain and that which is God’s. We are Christians first, then citizens. In our nation, God has blessed us by allowing us to choose our leaders.
Therefore, government is what we make it . . . It is a reflection of who we are and it is our responsibility to do our part and vote.
Second, I believe that one should vote with using primary criterion suggested by the prophets of old. The prophet Zechariah puts it succinctly that all governments are judged by their concern for the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the strangers [foreigners] in the land. Whether one political affiliation is Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or Green, the prophetic critique must be applied to all candidates for office as well as their proposed programs. In the parable of the shepherd separating the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, Jesus includes this social mandate for those who would be his disciples: ‘TRULY, I TELL YOU, JUST AS YOU DID IT TO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE WHO ARE MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY, YOU DID IT TO ME.’ [Mt.25.25.40] Even though we are part of the world, there may be times when we must speak for the Kingdom of God, irrespective of the cost. Sometimes to speak for the Kingdom is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
So how should we vote? The choice falls to those who hold dual citizenship . . . Disciple and Citizen. My only suggestion is that one look at how each candidate would deal with the powerless in our society. According to the prophets, this is the criterion by which God will judge our society. We need to elect men and women, be they politically liberal or conservative, who will govern with a sense of compassion. Vote on November 8th!
In Christ [☩] ,
(The Rev. Steve Olson, Zion Lutheran Church, International Falls.)