Bonnie Jensen to Retire as Director of ELCA Global Mission

Nov 16, 2002 03:00 AM EST

CHICAGO -- The Rev. Bonnie L. Jensen will retire at the end of July 2003 as executive director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Division for Global Mission (DGM), a position she has held since December 1995.

Jensen, 64, oversees a global program in approximately 70 countries with 300 missionaries and volunteers, 47 division staff based, here and annual expenditures of $29 million.

"Our global companions and the ELCA's multiethnic leadership have taught me that the mission of Jesus is to redeem not only individuals but the whole community and society through both word and deed, and that spirit-led mission proclaims the transformation of our whole existence from suffering to health, from alienation to community, from death into life. In retirement I intend to continue joyfully in being part of this life-giving mission of God," said Jensen.

From 1993 to 1995, Jensen served DGM as director for planning and evaluation and program director for Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific. She was director of the division's global mission education program from 1988 to 1993.

Under her leadership in mission education, the ELCA companion synod program has grown in its relationships between the ELCA's 65 synods and Lutheran churches overseas. The ELCA's 10,816 congregations are organized into synods across the United States and Caribbean.

"I've been incredibly blessed in being part of developing the companion synod program that has grown from an initial 15 to 107 relationships today. It is transforming our way of being a church in today's world. We've emphasized the accompaniment model in global mission today, which means we are walking together with gifted companions who teach us that receiving and learning is as important as giving in Christ's mission to all nations, and that we are learning to respect their responsibility for decisions and directions for God's mission in their countries and regions," she said.

Jensen served as executive director of the former American Lutheran Church Women (ALCW), Minneapolis, from 1981 to 1987. As leader she wrote monthly columns in the organization's magazine, Scope, and instituted a global emphasis which culminated in "Woman to Woman" exchange visits between ALCW members and women of 15 churches overseas.

"Throughout these years I've felt incredibly accountable to the church women who built the early missionary organizations by scrimping and saving, advocating and praying in support of missionaries and the worldwide mission of Christ. I've also felt accountable to the women globally who disproportionally bear the weight of human suffering and who wait for their churches and societies to see in them the image of God and embrace their potential for full participation and leadership in Christ's mission," she said.

Jensen served as pastoral assistant at St. Peter Lutheran Church, Dubuque, Iowa, from 1975 to 1981; mathematics teacher at Western Dubuque Junior High School, Farley, Iowa, from 1970 to 1972; and missionary with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 1962 to 1965.

Born in Royal, Iowa, Jensen received degrees from Dana College, Blair, Neb., and Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque. She was ordained a pastor of the ELCA in 1993.

Jensen is a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Project Committee representing the North America region. From 1984 to 1990, she served on LWF's advisory committee for Women in Church and Society. Jensen is also a member of the Lutheran World Relief (LWR) board.

LWF, based in Geneva, Switzerland, is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. It has 136 member churches in 75 countries representing more than 61.7 million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide.

LWR is the overseas relief and development ministry of the ELCA and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

From 1982 to 1987, Jensen and her husband, the Rev. Richard A. Jensen, served as co-hosts of Reflections, a Christian television series featuring 19, 30-minute programs. They are the parents of three adult children: Doron Jensen, Burnsville, Minn.; Dodelle Dhein, Tallahassee, Fla.; and Derek Jensen, Eagan, Minn.

For information contact: John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or [email protected],

By Albert H. Lee