Ministerium AM Follow-Up
Sisters and Brothers in the Ministerium –
I am writing to you shortly after being with many of you for what was both a beautiful and painful Ministerium Annual Meeting, followed by the ECC Annual Meeting, in Omaha, NE.
First, for those of you not at our Ministerium Ann Meeting, we will be publishing a summary report on our website (www.eccclergy.org) in the next week to give you the basic information on what occurred. But more than what we can report or capture on paper has happened – in many ways, the impact of the historic decisions of both Annual Meetings and the way they were made are just starting to unfold and be felt across our denomination. Most people across our Ministerium and in many of our churches are in some phase of grief. Props to all of you who are sharing Scripture and resources, attending to your own self-care and that of others, offering prayers and laments, working to center the ongoing gap of stories of pain/lack of power for leaders of color, and those tangibly walking through the heavy stuff including those in ministry to LGBTQ people, those in youth ministry, those in various ethnic/multi-ethnic ministry – I see you! Thank you! For those who may be surprised at the lingering and recurring way that grief operates, I want to remind us all that grief takes time. I would suggest that we have many of us lost something - literally and figuratively - due to these decisions that were made last week, in many instances *how* the decisions were made, what pain was shared and centered or not, and what conversations we still have not yet had. Perhaps we are in a collective state of ongoing grieving, of needing to take the time and space to heal, rest, pray, listen, and love each other through this chapter, before rushing into the next stage. Keep caring for each other, for your churches and ministries, and for your spirit with grace and patience in this season.
Secondly, even as I remind myself to slow down, grieve and lament, and process last week, I am also acutely aware of the need for hope up ahead - for where we might go after, and even amidst, the lament. Toward that end I want to raise our leadership (#ElevateLeadership) up from some false fears that many of you have shared are clouding your vision right now – the fear that maybe you are not needed or safe in this Body any longer due to your beliefs or your ethnic background, that we are only a one-issue church, that racial justice is not truly a priority, or that we are not empowered to shape how we will be the church in the days/years to come. I want to clearly name that we still need each other – we still need YOU to help shape our church, our story, our witness, our justice, and even our repair of what happened at these meetings that could have been done better. You are needed so that we can hear more clearly where God is leading us forward, as #OneBody, dependent on one another, united in and through our diversity. As we named in our meeting together, Ephesians 4 tells us we are rooted in this truth together through Christ: "Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love."
To help capture that hope and give practical legs to it, in the days and weeks ahead the Ministerium Exec Board has started some work to help repair and reflect on what has occurred at least week’s meeting and to prepare for the future. We will be inviting you into and reporting on several projects:
a reflection process to name what you’re grateful for, and what was difficult, at our recent Ministerium Annual Meeting
new guidelines for how the Ministerium Annual Meeting interacts with the Board of Ordered Ministry/staff, and hearing from you thoughts on how to best steward discipline and care cases for clergy in our collective role as Ministerium members
hearing tangible ways to continue to live into the 6-Fold Test and weave these practices into our ministries/every day lives
acting on various steps that we approved as part of the 2019 Antiracism Resolution
other ongoing business and places of hope, including preparing for the 2nd Annual “Women in Leadership” event at Midwinter and other learning opportunities we'll host at that event
If you have initial thoughts or questions related to these topics, feel free to email our Ministerium Executive Board (firstname.lastname@example.org) and watch for more info on these all later on. As I close, I want to thank you all for who you are - you are our leaders and prophetic voices, our care-givers and chaplains, our youth leaders and teachers, our encouragers and interceeders, our worship leaders and lament bearers – but most importantly, you are beloved children of God, empowered and set free in the Name of Jesus. (#IdentityinChrist) Thank you for who you are, and remember that we do not do this thing called faith alone. “You are important to me, I need you to survive.”
Be encouraged, all. Lift up your laments and your grief to the living God. And share with one another in this season your burdens as well as your hopes, your questions as well as your convictions, about how you want to shape our church moving forward. So thankful for each of you
- Liz VerHage, President of the Ministerium; on behalf of the Ministerium Executive Board