ELCA Rep’s Address: We’re In This Together
The Rev. Jessica Crist, the bishop of the ELCA’s Montana Synod, is the ELCA representative to the assembly. She is also the chair of the Conference of Bishops and thus sits on the ELCA Church Council.
She brought greetings on behalf of ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and the 64 other synods of the ELCA. Eight of them are also gathering in assembly this weekend, and two are electing new bishops. She also brought greetings from the 10,000 congregations of the ELCA, from the 70 million other Lutherans in the Lutheran World Federation, and from the 130 congregations in the Montana Synod. She is representing the whole ELCA, of which we as attendees of the assembly and as a synod are a part. She gave examples from her synod of ways the ELCA has partnered and supported ministries, from campus ministry to prison ministry.
She presented a video that highlights ministries of the ELCA, hosted by Bishop Hanson. The video featured ELCA and related ministries, both in the U.S. and abroad.
“Our church is at work, at prayer, and at table,” Bishop Crist noted following the video as she spoke about the expressions of the ELCA and the places it is at work. She named various ways the Metro D.C. Synod has supported the ELCA’s work, from general benevolence to World Hunger Appeal support. The Metro D.C. Synod can claim the work of the Montana Synod as its own because “we are in this together,” she said.
Bishop Crist highlighted the prominence of Bishop Graham in various ELCA initiatives, saying he is a “rock star” in some places. She named people from the synod who contribute by serving on national positions on the ELCA – on committees and on boards.
She spoke of other ways that parts of the ELCA work collaboratively, showing that “we’re in this together.” But it is not just Lutherans working together, she said, but we work with other Christians ecumenically. Lutherans have a reputation in the church world and in the secular world, such as in domestic disaster response, she said.
Bishop Crist explained that being evangelical is who we are. It’s part of our name in the ELCA. It’s a church that boldly tells the story of Christ crucified and resurrected. We tell this story in various ways to various people, from students at universities to Native Americans on reservations.
She said that being ecumenical is also in our bones as the ELCA. She gave examples of clergy from the ELCA’s full communion partners serving in ELCA congregations in her synod. “We are stronger together than we are separately,” she said. Where we don’t have a full communion relationship, we are in conversation with other denominations as well as other faiths.
Because of our faith, what we believe in and what we’re founded upon, we are not afraid to reach out to others, Bishop Crist said. The ELCA is confident to reach out to people in need through ministries like Lutheran World Relief. The ELCA also reaches out through education and its educational institutions, such as seminaries and colleges and universities.
Overall, Bishop Crist painted a broad picture of a church that is involved in many, many things in many, many places, both in the U.S. and around the world.