For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17)

Last week the Conference of Bishops met for our traditional Fall meeting. Because of the continued concern about COVID-19, we met virtually. Our time together began with new Bishop’s Formation. I am serving as the mentor for newly elected Bishop Kevin Jones of the Northeastern Iowa Synod. Bishop Kevin has some Michigan roots (he attended Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant), was born on Leap Day (February 29), and is an accomplished woodcarver. It has been an honor to walk with Bishop Jones as he begins this new call.

Much of our virtual time together as Bishops is grounded in worship, study, hearing and receiving reports, and engaging in Small Group conversation. Some of the highlights from our time together include:

  • Report about the global pandemic and the ELCA’s response around the world through Lutheran World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response.
  • An Update of the Churchwide Assembly to be held in Columbus, Ohio, August 8-12, 2022.
  • Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s report and how she is encouraged by the great generosity of our church and the real difference the COVID Grants made throughout the ELCA. The Northwestern Ohio Synod received over $45,000 in COVID Relief Grants, which were distributed to various congregational ministries and affiliated non-profits throughout our synod.
  • A new 5 session Study Guide for congregations to accompany The Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent.
  • Anti-Racism books that other Bishops are recommending
    • White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity by Robert Jones, et. al.
    • So, You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
    • The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist, et. al.
  • An Evaluation of the New First Call process.
  • The Bishop’s Academy, which was to be held at the Equal Justice Initiative in Birmingham, Alabama, in January 2022, has been cancelled due to COVID concerns.
  • An Update on the 2022 Youth Gathering to be held in Minneapolis.
  • MYLE 2022 (Multicultural Youth Leadership Event) will be held July 21-24, 2022, at the University of St. Thomas.
  • the tAble will be held July 21-24, 2022. The tAble blesses and empowers young people who live with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities so that they might grow as faithful, wise, and courageous witnesses.
  • The ELCA Youth Gathering will be held July 24-28, 2022, and the theme is Boundless: God Beyond Measure based on Ephesians 3:19, “I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is.”

One of the highlights of our virtual time together was a time of teaching and conversation led by Dr. Carmelo Santos and Bishop Laurie Jungling from the Montana Synod. The focus was on the Gospel and the Sacraments. Bishop Laurie encouraged us to spend a few moments answering the question, “What is the Gospel?” We were not allowed to use academic or theological words. We were to come up with a short 10 second elevator speech response. We were then sent into breakout rooms to share the Good News of the Crucified and Risen One with one other person.

What follows is my quick attempt to respond the question, “What is the Gospel?” “The God of all creation, fleshed in love, moves into our world, dies on a cross, and rises to new life for all peoples, all tribes, all nations, and all creation. There are no strings attached. It’s all free (grace) and it’s all for you!

I wonder how you might answer the question, “What is the Gospel?” in 10 seconds or less?