An Open Letter to the New Presiding Bishop

Last month, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the denomination that I belong to, elected the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton to be our new Presiding Bishop. Pastor Eaton currently serves as the bishop of the Northeast Ohio Synod, and will begin in her new role in November. 

Bishop Eaton:

Congratulations! There is much to be said about your election as the 4th Presiding Bishop of the ELCA. Your election has sparked energy across our church, and for that I am grateful.

In interviews following your election you said that congregations that aren't online are invisible; that we need to become more creative in using social media to share the faith. Such statements from our new Presiding Bishop excite me and fill me with hope for our church.

I have watched my generation move our community centers from the local park to social media. We value and deeply desire community; and often the desire for community overflows into the digital world where we talk about our lives and those things that matter most to us. I then watched as our parents and grandparents joined us at those online water-coolers. I have watched our children find new ways to use digital media to make meaning of their world.

And far too often I have watched the church -- our church -- sit on the sidelines. People are gathering at the digital community centers to talk about the world in which we live, and discuss how we make sense of the events of the news and our lives. And the voice of the church is silent.

As a pastor who teaches technology, I have learned that organizations are only effective in treading new paths if their leaders are out in front. Or -- to put it another way -- the congregations that have an effective online presence are those congregations in which the pastors are leading the way with their own digital presence.

Bishop Eaton, if the ELCA is going to have a voice in the digital conversation, we need you out front.

Show us by your example what it looks like for the church to preach hope in the digital age. Grant permission by your example for congregations and ministries to reach out to their communities using digital tools. Help us by your example to transition from being an invisible church being a church that creatively proclaims the Gospel.

It can be daunting, and there are certainly challenges to online ministry. But there are many of us (both within the ELCA and without) who have been using digital tools for ministry, and exploring what online communities mean for the church. We are eager to help. Reach out to us, talk with us, and ask for advice. We are all in this for the good of God's Kingdom.

The birth of our Lutheran tradition was made possible by a revolution in communications. Finding ourselves in the midst of another communications revolution, we are presented with a wonderful opportunity for rebirth and renewal within our church.

Thank you, Bishop, for your willingness to accept this call to serve as our Presiding Bishop. And may God bless your ministry!