In these weeks before the Synod Assembly, I am using this space to share with you some of the items and issues that we will be dealing with at our Assembly, June 5-7. Last week I wrote about New Hope, the congregation from Great Falls that we will be officially welcoming into the Montana Synod as our newest congregation.
This week I am going to write about renewing our ecumenical commitments as a Synod. In 1973, the mainline Protestant and Catholic denominations in Montana came together to form the Montana Association of Churches. MAC held prayer services and workshops focusing on Christian Unity, sponsored Community-based campus ministry, brought in speakers and workshops, developed position papers and lobbied, had a rural ministry program, was a leader in challenging hate groups.
The model on which MAC operated in the first decades of its existence was no longer helpful in the last decade. So MAC's leadership, under the direction of ELCA Pastor Pete Erickson, spent about a year redesigning MAC, to meet the realities of both church and society in this decade, and into the future.
The redesigned MAC welcomes judicatories (like the Montana Synod), congregations, individuals and ministries into membership. The Montana Synod, as an existing member of "the old MAC," is "grandfathered" into the new MAC. But we will be affirming our ecumenical relationship at the Assembly, voting officially to join the new Montana Association of Christians. That's right. The name has changed, but the acronym has remained the same.
Why are we doing this? Ecumenism is central to who we are as ELCA Lutherans. Locally, nationally, globally we are deeply involved in ecumenical councils, associations, relationships. In the Montana Synod we have been involved in MAC since the beginning ( in the days of the ALC and the LCA.) and we have been similarly in loved in the Wyoming Association of Churches, providing strong leadership despite the fact that we have only five congregations in Wyoming.
We are publicly affirming our membership in MAC as a way to show ELCA support for ecumenism, and to encourage congregations, ministries and individuals to join MAC. We are stronger together than we are apart. We live in a part of the country and in a time in which religious adherence is low. To be identified publicly as Christians who respect one another, who work together for justice, and who profess Christ is a good thing.
I look forward to being with you on June, and to affirming with you our membership in MAC. And I hope that many of you will decide to join MAC yourselves, as congregations, ministries and individuals.
Jessica Crist, Bishop.
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA