Bishop Hutterer: The Main Thing


Dear Church,

We are blessed to be church together in a time of renewal. Looking back through centuries of our faith’s history, we can imagine the anxiety and doubt of people living in times of extreme change. We can also see what must have been nearly invisible to that congregation of saints: the Holy Spirit at work.

Dr. Dwight Zscheile, of Luther Seminary, recently wrote about predictions from an ELCA Research & Evaluation project that the ELCA may be gone in 30 years. You can read Zscheile’s article at (I also suggest that you read Bob Lewis’ comments in the comments section.)

In Bishop Jim Hazelwood’s podcast,, Zscheile and Hazelwood discussed this 30-year forecast. I found the end of their conversation very helpful and hopeful as we contemplate where God is leading the church. For example, do you have a one-minute elevator speech explaining how the Christian story and practices are unique?

I am grateful to Zscheile for bringing this information to our attention. Apparently this research was released last spring. As Zscheile says in the interview, he knows of no other denomination with the courage to peek into the future.

We can quibble how ELCA Research and Evaluation came up with this prediction and its accuracy. But I think many of us see the writing on the wall if we continue doing church as we have.

I am most interested in what needs to be done. There are now many books and suggestions about possible ways forward. I feel the central question is around change and the leadership of change. This leadership is difficult to do. It requires courage and stamina. Leadership of change requires us to focus on a very few number of objectives. 

From my point of view, the main thing a synodical bishop and an office of the bishop is called to do is simple: keep the main thing the main thing.

I’ve invited all the pastors and deacons to read Canoeing the Mountains, by Tod Bolsinger. This spring at our conference gatherings we will focus our work on this book. Bolsinger is the Bishop’s Fall Gathering speaker. These are places to start.

This is God’s church and we continue to trust the Holy Spirit is blowing and doing new things. What are you doing at your ministry site that we can share? What new things are you doing? What is your main thing?


The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer
Grand Canyon Synod of the ELCA