Bishop Scott’s June Reflection

Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

Matthew 28.18-20

Dear friends in Christ,

Last spring, long before Synod Assembly, I picked up a copy of the book How To Lead When You Don’t Know Where You’re Going by Susan Beaumont. What seemed like an interesting leadership exercise before the Assembly became a much higher priority afterwards. Within that book, Beaumont lists six principles for discernment in liminal times that I’ve tried to practice in this first year as bishop. I’ve found principles 3, 4, and 6 to be especially important in this early time as bishop:

3. Discernment is a gift from God, mediated through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

4. Discernment is a discipline we practice.

6. Discernment unfolds in God’s time.

I am not by nature a visionary leader: I’m one who prefers to build a vision collaboratively, particularly in this new call where so much is unfamiliar to me. So we have practiced the discipline of discernment in grounding our work together as a new staff. 

Here are some key components that will mark how we work together with you in the immediate future:

    • Nebraska Synod staff mission statement: The Nebraska Synod Staff accompanies and empowers with Spirit-led joy, integrity, and accountability.
    • Synod staff strategic core values:  Leadership, Accompaniment, Interpretation.
    • One Nebraska Synod staff team. The synod web page no longer lists staff under Mobility, Discipleship, or Administration. While individual responsibilities continue to be divided according to job description, skills, and expertise, we’ve shifted to processing more of the work we do as a whole team, and we’ve found it gives us better understanding of how our diverse areas of responsibility fit together and complement each other.
    • One Nebraska Synod office.  Technology allows us to focus our work in ways that aren’t as defined by geography as in the past, and our increasing emphasis on collaboration is more effective when we can be in one place. We’ve closed the North Platte and Lincoln offices, with thanks to First Lutheran in North Platte and Grace Lutheran in Lincoln for their gracious hospitality in previous years. This will require us to be purposeful and strategic about how and when we engage throughout the synod, and we’re working on those pieces as well.
    • Category-based Mobility Process.  Staff working in mobility are centering their work in categories: Pastor Heidi Wallace is working with congregations desiring to begin or continue some sort of shared ministry; Pastors Greg Berger and Kristin Van Stee are working with congregations seeking full-time solo or multi-staff needs, and Pastor Kathy Montira is working with rural, open country, and outpost ministries which may be full-time or part-time. 
  • Faith Formation belongs to everyone.  Faith formation remains a priority in the Nebraska Synod, but we believe it’s time to embrace a wider, more collaborative model where Synod staff serve as partners and conveners (in line with our strategic core values of Leadership and Accompaniment). This will be an evolving, experimental process led by Deacon Sunni Richardson in collaboration with youth ministry leaders throughout the Nebraska Synod.
  • One Synod, One Church, Together. The future of the Nebraska Synod, and for the ELCA as a whole, will be marked by a growing practice of collaboration and a flattening of institutional structures.  The church always reflects the culture in which it lives, and we’ve been moving this way for quite a long time – what we’ve been working on since September 1st is just the next step in the evolution of the Nebraska Synod staff, and that evolution will continue long after my time as bishop has come and gone. We are not simply an association of congregations, but rather one synod, one church, together. 

Thank you for the privilege of serving this call as bishop. I look forward to the many ways we will “Go and” be one synod, one church, together, in the year to come!


Yours in Christ,

Bishop Scott Johnson