The Evangelical Lutheran Church in American successfully gathered 2,000 Lutherans from across the nation to celebrate missions during the 2004 Global Mission Events, July 29-August 1 and July 15-18.
The GME events, held at the Midwest Airlines Center in Milwaukee and the Montana State University in Bozeman respectively, featured keynote presentations, conversations with international guests and ELCA mission personnel, worship and music.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA opened the Milwaukee event by complementing missionaries as “God’s people claimed for the sake of the world.”
Hanson said there is a “human dilemma” that exists among Christians.
"We resent and resist the notion of being claimed by others, yet we are driven to lay claim to others," he told participants. "Our resentment to being claimed by others does not seem to drive away our desire to lay claim to others."
"Those claims are woven throughout history," he continued. "Who's got a claim on you?"
Hanson, who was elected president of the Lutheran World Federation – the global fellowship of Lutheran churches that represents over 60 million adherents worldwide – explained the negative view of Americans currently existing in the world
"I believe that most Americans want to be known as a generous, peace-seeking people. Yet we are perceived as intoxicated with our power ... rather than standing with those [who live] in poverty around the world," Hanson said.
“We are propagandized into a state of fear. Fear hardens life, it closes borders," he said. "Faith frees us. Faith invites us to be engaged in the world. Faith causes us to rejoice, and faith gives us courage to go out into the world. It unites us and sends us," Hanson said.
However, Hanson said if God lays a claim on the believers, they will be able to bring life in place of fear.
"To be claimed by God's grace means that life is a gift, not a possession," said Hanson. "God, the giver of life, lays claim on you."
There are currently 290 ELCA mission personnel serving in more than 45 countries worldwide. The ELCA Division for Global Mission primarily organizes GMEs with support from other ELCA churchwide units and Thrivent Financial For Lutherans, a fraternal benefits organization based in Minneapolis. The event in Bozeman was co-sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Volunteers from Bozeman and Milwaukee assisted the division in organizing the events.