The bishop referred to his written report (distributed earlier) and offered verbal remarks to the Assembly. He opened by describing a book that he picked up recently – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Bishop Graham said that Alice’s questions – how to grow to the right size again and how to find the way into the garden – are good questions for the ELCA at large, for our congregations, and for our synod. What is the right size for the synod? There are new missions, new congregations and new places to carry out Christ’s work. How should we find our way into the place where we are doing the work of Christ?
He related these questions to the work of the synod staff, which has recently included looking at the structure and management of the synod. The staff is also working to find ways to center the staff on a couple of major tasks – being focused while being centered on congregations. The goal is to raise up leaders – both rostered and lay, build up congregations and support them financially. All of this is being looked at vis-à-vis the structure and resources that are available. A plan should be available in the fall.
The synod office has also worked hard at “staying in touch all over the synod,” according to the bishop. He expressed a desire for the members of the synod know and trust each other well enough to acknowledge their failures and be able to move on as well as to be able to identify where things are going well and celebrate those successes around the synod.
Bishop Graham talked about another book – American Grace – that he’s read recently. It talks about social and religious changes. He spoke about the makeup of the ELCA – what is unique about us is what we should hold on to. We have to focus on what we have to offer to the world, he said. He commends this book to the group – “It has a lot to offer us.”
Bishop Graham said that his report is all about how “we are about God’s business.” We are compelled by this.
In conclusion, Bishop Graham said, “I love our synod, and I love it for a lot of reasons.” He said that among the members of the synod, the Spirit of God is at work. However, “we’re a motley crew in some ways,” he said, but noted that we have a sense that together Jesus is doing something with us, and we’re not doing it alone. “As annoying as we sometimes find each other, it’s good that we’re in this together,” he concluded.
He instructed those gathered: “Whatever you feel God is asking you to do, do it.” For this, he offered the help of the synod staff, or, at least, their friendship.