These last few weeks have been really exciting since the election of Elizabeth Eaton as presiding bishop. Friends and relatives (who are not Lutheran) have been texting and calling me when they hear an interview with the new bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
I must admit my palms were sweating as I watched the first live interview of Presiding Bishop-elect Eaton. The young female correspondent zeroed in on the “decline in membership” and the relevance of the church today. Presiding Bishop-elect Eaton responded in a gentle, kind and confident manner that was not defensive but rather presented both the reality—yes, there is decline and why—as she in turn interviewed the young woman.
In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show with Joe Scarborough (and three other men) the first question asked what are the challenges for the church? Bishop Eaton shifted the conversation, engaging the men in the answer as she painted the landscape of a secular society with soccer and malls competing for Sunday attention. Bishop Eaton named it as a challenge for the church, not as an excuse for its membership. She said the early church had challenges and there were no Sundays off, and there are no Sundays off for us.
Bishop Eaton’s passion comes through in her interviews and statements that gives us new eyes for embracing our Purpose Statement and embodying our call to discipleship. It’s not about us as individuals but rather we are the church, for the sake of the world. This frees us now from wringing our hands over dwindling participation. Each one has to be bold enough to share with others the reason why we serve. This is a great place to begin conversations of encouragement where women can reconnect and recommit.
We can begin by following Bishop Eaton’s example as she ended her interview “we’re open on Sundays, come on in some time.”
Valora K Starr is director for discipleship.
Photo courtesy of the ELCA.