After taking care of some procedural pieces, the Synod Assembly welcomes guests. A smattering brought greetings, including from The Moravian Church with which we are celebrating 16 years of full communion; from the American Jewish Committee; and from the Namibian Embassy, a nation with which the Metro D.C. Synod has companion synod ties. Thanks for the work the Metro D.C. Synod is doing in Namibia, especially the support of children and youth hostels and for engagement in exchange visits, were expressed.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER’S FIRST ADDRESS
The keynote speaker is Rev. Dr. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. She traveled from Strasbourg, France where she is Assistant Research Professor at the Institute for Ecumenical Research. Her presentation is titled: “1517 in the Light of 2015,” a span referencing the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017.
She begins with a provoking question: Can we be Lutherans without enemies? After a brief survey of the Lutheran Church’s checkered history, it seems like the answer might be – maybe not. As peace has held, more or less, in North America and Europe for the last several decades, and ecumenism has swept up mainline Protestants and the Catholic church in the recent past, it seems that the 2017 centenary may be able to be celebrated without animosity. But, she posited, can Lutheranism exist without enemies?
If not, and if Catholics are no longer our enemies, who can take their place? Dr. Wilson suggests that we are quick to call up potential “straw men.” Popular choices of late include protestant fundamentalists or even other Lutheran denominations with whom we share so much that our differences are exasperated. This desire to name an “enemy” is one of our most fundamental human flaws.
As we approach 2017, we need to know what to repent of and what to celebrate. Its’ time to say whether we can be Lutheran without any enemies except sin, death and the devil. If we can, then that is what needs to come to the forefront in our repentance and celebrations.
What followed was a brilliant articulation of what we get to celebrate as Lutherans. She laid out that our church, first and foremost, is a confessional one. That Lutherans, more importantly than anything else all else, confess Jesus Christ as Lord and us as sisters and brothers of Christ. Her tone reminded us not to get bogged down in “adiaphora” but to participate in the joyful entanglement of the divine reality that invites us to participate in exchanges with God. The divinity and humanity of Jesus, the beautiful dance of the Holy Trinity and the means (baptism, Holy Communion, and the Word) that God has given us to participate in the exchange all shape our ministry.
We were reminded that Christ is the center of everything we do. Not the church, not the denomination, not the country, not the culture, not our families, not our charities, not any of these good things. They are indeed good, but they are not the center. Our ministry must not attempt to take the place of the true center but should participate in the beautiful exchange with the Holy Trinity, able to truly love all our neighbors and dispatch the need for enemies since God first loved us.
VOTE FOR A BEVERAGE
With that call and ahead of schedule, we received a brief tutorial of how to use the voting devices-which led to the revelation that “adult beverages” are the preferred drink of those assembled. And although this type of beverage won’t be available for in the bagged lunch, everyone is excited for a nourishment break!