This will be my last term as District President. As I reflect on what would be the best stewardship of my gifts from now until August 31, 2021, in addition to fulfilling the essential duties connected with the office, would be these ministry emphases:
New Jersey District Leaders and Learners
Beginning in December 2019, the New Jersey District Leaders and Learners program will be offering certificates in these ministry areas:
+ Luther Studies
At the 2019 Synod Convention, two resolutions encouraged the remembrance and celebration of key events connected with the Reformation that took placed from 1519 through 1522 (Resolution 4-10), culminating with a “Here I Stand” Sunday on April 18, 2021 (Resolution 4-09).
In response to these resolutions, the District has set aside several Saturday mornings for the discussion of major writings from the pen of Martin Luther. In order to aid us in our study of these writings, Rev. Dr. Rick Serina will be providing background articles and I will be the one to lead these discussions (in 1994, I acquired a Master of Sacred Theology degree in Luther Studies and am looking forward to discussing these writings in a seminar-style format).
+ Discipleship in the 21st Century: Living a Christ-centered Life in a Secular Age
In order to equip ourselves for living as His disciples in the 21st century, six Saturday mornings in 2020 have been scheduled to explore these session themes: (1) exploring the mission of God through the parables of Jesus; (2) what does it mean to be a disciple?; (3) understanding worldview and how different cultures view reality and religion; (4) connecting to the secular world through culture learning; (5) what does it mean to be an apostolic church?; and (6) exploring hope through the work of the Trinity and giving timely answers to the questions that people are asking in our time.
+ Biblical Studies
“If you continue in My Word, you are truly My disciples.” “Every person who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who build his house on the rock…”. The first session examines twenty parables of Jesus, as we study together the metanarrative that interprets and makes sense of every human narrative. Sessions two and three will examine The Divine Drama (with supplemental material from The Bethel Series) -- a comprehensive overview of the Biblical story, and the key themes of that story, from the sacred Scriptures. The fourth session will focus on “biblical stories that every Christian should know.”
+ Evangelism and Outreach
Jesus said: “go and make disciples of all nations” and that “you will be My witnesses.” The first session will explore how Jesus did evangelism; that is, He taught them many things in parables. The first half of the second session explores the question: “can the missionary methods and ministry practices of St. Patrick, known as Celtic Christianity, show us some ways forward in the 21st century?” During the second half of the session, we will explore what it means to be “a church for the unchurched.” The first half of the third session will focus our time in answering: “how do we communicate the Christian faith to the growing numbers of people who do not darken church doors, who have no church background, who possess no Christian vocabulary, and who do not know what we are talking about?” The second half of the session will glean ministry insights from the Apostle Paul, and his missionary work in Corinth, so as to equip us in ways to engage our growing urban, pluralistic ministry contexts.
Beginning in July of 2020, I will write a monthly article for the District’s Grapevine on Lutheran identity, organized by these Principles of Lutheran Theology (Carl Braaten):
July 2020 - Canonical Principle
August 2020 - Confessional Principle
September 2020 - Ecumenical Principle
October 2020 - Trinitarian Principle
November 2020 - Christocentric Principle
December 2020 - Sacramental Principle
January 2021 - Law/Gospel Principle
February 2021 - Two Kingdoms Principle
March 2021 - Two Authorities Principle
April 2021 - The Ministry of the Word Principle – the Word did it all!
Finally, it is my hope that during the weekend of April 17-18, 2021 many of us will gather to discuss core elements of our Lutheran identity so that we might better understand who we are and how we are to live out that identity in the 21st century. The culmination of our time together will be a worship service that celebrates Luther’s evangelical witness made at “the Diet of Worms” on April 18, 1521:
“Since Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of popes or councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise” (Bainton 1950:185).
2021 New Jersey District Convention
The location for the Convention will be the DoubleTree Hotel in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. The dates are May 20-22, 2021. The convention theme is Lutheran Identity and Ministry in the 21st Century. The convention text is Revelation 14:6.