Author Topic: Thursday Morning: Almen's Valedictory Report  (Read 1049 times)

Richard Johnson

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Thursday Morning: Almen's Valedictory Report
« on: August 09, 2007, 10:27:06 AM »
Thursday morning began with the brief “Morning Prayer” liturgy again. I’m all in favor of praying at the beginning of each session, but these have been unsatisfying, on several levels. The liturgy itself has occasioned comment, with its invocation of “God our sun” (along with “God our shield,” “God our home,” “God, my friend”). I find that a little hokey, though not heretical. It is a Biblical image, after all, though the painful exclusion of any reference to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is obvious. But the planning sometimes leaves something to be desired. Today we sang “O Day of Rest and Gladness”—first time I’ve ever sung that on a Thursday, I must say. Love the hymn, but it really is intended to be sung on the Lord’s Day, and singing it other times is sort of like singing “Silent Night” in the middle of August. Quirky. The liturgy builds in time where “Silence is kept,” after the Scripture reading and at the end. This morning the first “silence” went about four seconds. The second, the “brief” one, which is terminated each day by Bp. Hanson clanging the bell, lasted about a nano-second. No sense of liturgical grace here. (His ringing is pretty clunky, too.)

A voting member asked about an invitation to a worship service that had been circulated, wondering if this had been authorized. It had not, and Bp. Hanson chastised members and visitors to follow the rulers about distribution of material. This didn’t make it to the press table, so I haven’t seen it. My guess it was from Goodsoil, but I’ll try to find out for sure.

Report of the Secretary came next. Almen was greeted with a long standing ovation, recognizing his outstanding service. (For those of you outside the ELCA, there’s something of a Lowell Almen cult that celebrates his remarkable competence, sobriety, and understated humor. The presiding bishop announced that his introduction and the ovation today represented a record—the longest Almen smile in the history of the ELCA.) The report was a video that was pure Almen—filmed with him standing in the cemetery next to the oldest Lutheran church in the U.S. There was footage of Almen’s ordination back in the 1960’s, talk of Muhlenberg and his pastoral genius. [The close captioning rendered this “Mule Enburg”] “The nature of my service as a pastor has been very different, yet [his ministry] has helped shape my work.” Almen’s ministry began at a rural congregation in Wisconsin. He reflected on his 40 years of ministry which included, in addition to ministry as a parish pastor, campus pastor, editorial staff of The Lutheran Standard , involvement in the Commission for a New Lutheran Church and the Transition Team, and finally, for the past twenty years, as Secretary of the ELCA. (He, incidentally, is the one who argued persuasively for the name “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”) There was a film clip of his acceptance remarks after that election which was a poignant reminder of the hope and optimism that accompanied that merger (I was a delegate to the Constituting Convention, so this was jogging my own memory). How much has changed in twenty years. Some regrets were expressed, especially about the failure of the ELCA during his service to fully engage leaders and people in the grand vision of the ELCA’s ministry and mission, with its sense of “interdependence” of congregation, synod, and churchwide. But “I find my heart filled with gratitude” for the privilege of serving. Realized with humility that his signature is on the ordination certificates of 45% of rostered leaders in the ELCA. (Wow!) Some special memories: the ecumenical vision of the late Kent Knutson (the president of The ALC whose untimely death made such an impact on American Lutheranism); participation in various full communion agreements (and a sense now of what it means to “bear one another’s burdens” within our own congregations and with our ecumenical partners); serving as co-chair in the Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue; meeting with popes and patriarchs (recalling particularly a conversation with Pope JPII about the importance of evangelism, both with those who have never heard the gospel and those who have become alienated from the church); his representing the ELCA at the ceremony of independence in Namibia; his opportunities to visit places of disaster and despair; his attempts to keep doors open between ELCA and LCMS (“I remain convinced that for the sake of clear Lutheran witness in this land, we must continue to work together in as many ways as possible”). The presentation was followed by another lengthy ovation, and the singing of a hymn “Your Hand, O God, Has Guided.” This was, I thought, the most moving moment so far at the Assembly.

More to come . . .
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS


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Re: Thursday Morning: Almen's Valedictory Report
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2007, 11:57:39 AM »
It is a Biblical image, after all, though the painful exclusion of any reference to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is obvious.

There was a reading from Proverbs where the biblical vision of divinized wisdom is referred to as a "she", though.


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Re: Thursday Morning: Almen's Valedictory Report
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2007, 11:59:18 AM »
It truly was a moving moment.

As an LCMS member I did not know much, if anything, of Pr. Almen's background, but was much impressed with his bringing of greetings from the ELCA to the MIssouri Synod at its recent convention in Houston.

He strikes me as a very pastoral person.

I was also impressed with his emphasis on Ecumenism in his report,  and his striving to keep channels of communications open between the ELCA and the LCMS. All of us need to keep working on that.

As someone who has worshipped in Missouri for over 77 years now, I look back with fondness to those days when we were together, and with sadness at the day when we severed our fellowship.

Almen seems like a very serious person, and handles everything with great dignity and decorum -- and once in awhile -- when he does give you that smile -- you can't help but embrace him as friend and fellow Christian.


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Re: Thursday Morning: Almen's Valedictory Report
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2007, 03:12:13 PM »
I watched Almen's report on the internet.

There were some 'clear' messages related to the direction of the ELCA

First here was the preeminent ALC elected official to the ELCA holding fort at the 'patriarch church' of the LCA pointing to scripture and confession for our future (his posted thought for Henry's legacy) and quoting the constitution of the ELCA and the interdependency of the church which iIf you remember the merger was an LCA 'good tempertantrum' by Bill Lazareth and others forced on the CNLC and of course ending with the most ecumenical influenctial ALC 'patriarch' Kent Knudson holding out a 'black shirt' Lutheran Roman direction we should follow.

His constant 'ordination' and 'installation' pictures and his 45% signature line plus his ecumenical witness is IMHO a plea for the ordained to return to the commitments of ecuminism to get us out of this 'sexuality mess'

The presentation was historical, ecumenical, scriptural, liturgical (he confessed at Augustus Trappe on seat/knee his failures), and orthodox. It puts much of the rest of the shinaigins of the assembly to embarassment of what the Gospel truely is about.

If you didn't see it go find it on the website for the assembly it was excellent

Bob Schmitt