Brian McClinton

The following is the speech I wrote after being nominated to be bishop at the 2019 synod assembly. I was able to read it by receiving enough votes to be one of the few to speak in front of the whole assembly…I felt it needed to be said…

One the most favorite songs of my youth was They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love. I sang this together with other kids growing up in the New Jersey synod. All of us from different backgrounds … rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, and also gay and straight, arm in arm singing and promising:

We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news
That God is in our land.

Many of us felt the call to spread the love of God in Christ Jesus and to bridge the gap of diversity within our country in regard to our faith. No more just churches for particular racial groups but all of us together in love.

Well, that was the 1980s. Today we are living in 2019. Where are we now?

I began parish ministry in 1993 and at that time there was a lot of promise. The inception of the merger that four years prior formed the ELCA created a vision for a more diverse church, more people of color working in predominately white places with some struggles but having support; all walked hand in hand to spread the gospel.

Through the years, some things changed. I am sure we can think of several possible reasons. As society became less empathetic, so did the church. As society got more divisive, we split due to disagreements.

So now, as the ELCA has been declared the whitest denomination of the Christian faith in the U.S., I think it is time for us to re-evaluate what makes us Christian. What is the foundation that makes us who we are? If we say it is our ethnic heritage that makes us the Lower Susquehanna Synod, if it because of particular ideas on which we stand, this is good in and of itself.

But collectively we must ask ourselves, has it separated us and moved us away from the true foundation: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s son, our Savior, God’s ultimate presence and grace and love? Is that love being shared?

I still believe we as congregations can still sing this song …
I still believe we as a synod can still sing this song …
I still believe our church can still sing this song …

Not for nostalgic purposes but because we mean it.

It is not just window dressing. It is actions and decisions, showing the world what we are about is love.

We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity
Will one day be restored.

Letting the world know we are Christians by our love … and nothing more.

Views expressed reflect the diversity of voices and experiences across our synod and belong solely to the author, not necessarily to the Lower Susquehanna Synod or the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.