Pastor John Allen
Sitting in a session of Southeastern Minnesota Synod Assembly earlier this month, I kept thinking of that quote from the old Pogo comic series, “We have met the enemy—and they is us!” The synod is not the enemy, of course, but I’ve sure met congregational members who seem to think it is. Seven members of St. John’s attending that assembly have met the synod, and we know, “they is us.”
Our church, the ELCA, practices a participatory form of governance. We don’t have a top-down kind of authority that we often associate with other churches. We don’t have a pope, for instance. Our bishops and other leaders are elected by us to administer the ministries that we, as congregations have chosen to share. We can use the word “synod” to refer to the bishop’s office, or the synod office, but when we speak of what the synod does, “they is us.”
At the assembly, we saw the face (or faces) of the synod at work. We met at the Civic Center in Rochester, together with some three or four hundred representatives of local congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), to listen, worship, learn, talk, share, compare…and elect. Some members came from small struggling congregations. Others came from large struggling congregations…and every configuration in between. We heard some engaging preaching and Bible studies. And, as always among Lutherans, we heard some great music. Together, we shared our common desire to be the hands and voice of our Lord. We shared our common faith and hope. We shared concern for the challenges and barriers that make proclamation of the Gospel difficult in our time and age. We came to name our fears and challenges, and we came to pledge our commitment to one another and our Lord Jesus. So, next time you hear the word “synod,” or see it in our budget, think of all of the ministry, mission, and outreach that happens on our behalf.