For the first time in his life, Jim Kline officially joined an ELCA congregation after decades of attending various Lutheran churches.
What inspired Jim to become a member of Salem Lutheran Church in Sycamore, Ill.?
First came Salem’s very warm welcome. Then Jim watched an online ELCA Town Hall Forum, which highlighted how the 4.5 million members of this church are making a positive difference in the world.
“The forum helped me realize that I still wanted to worship in the ELCA,” says Jim, who participated in the September 2010 forum and joined Salem a month later. The congregation Jim previously attended voted to leave the ELCA.
During the forum, Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, fielded questions with passion, says Jim.
“What stood out for me was Bishop Hanson’s comment about whether the ELCA is ‘defined by questions in which we have no agreement and often divide us, or by the good news of Jesus Christ that unites us.’ For me, that was a very appropriate thing to say,” he says.
“We are not a one-issue church. Bishop Hanson showed a respect for diversity and that has kept me involved in the ELCA,” says Jim, adding that he now “feels at home at Salem.”
The online ELCA Town Hall Forums offer an opportunity for the 4.5 million members of this church to engage in a live, thought-provoking conversation with Hanson.
Members are invited to post questions for the presiding bishop online and share stories about their congregation’s life-changing mission and ministries.
Congregations are encouraged to host “viewing parties” to maximize their forum experience.
That’s what the members of Salem did, including making time for discussion afterward.
“We had a good conversation with people sharing their reactions,” says Carla Vanatta, an associate in ministry at Salem. “It was also a good way for us to respond to some of what Jim had been experiencing.”
“Anytime that the presiding bishop offers a listening ear to people, especially when people want to be heard, makes for good rapport and trust-building,” she says. “As we talk, question and think together, congregations can still be united in Christ despite varying opinions.”
The members of Salem have made a commitment to hosting viewing parties for future forums. It’s a way for the congregation to connect with the more than 10,000 congregations across this church and the presiding bishop.
The next online ELCA Town Hall Forum is Nov. 21 at 5 p.m. EST. You can submit a question for the presiding bishop and watch the forum at the forum’s site. Consider hosting a viewing party using the tool kit available at the Web site. Images and transcripts in English and Spanish are available on the site. Visitors can also watch previous webcasts and learn about future forums.