Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,


November 29 – ADVENT 1C
Jeremiah 33:14-16 – I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.


In our Prayers

· Larry Juull is in the hospital in Clear Lake (on Hwy 3). Beth Marie Halvorsen and I stopped to see him today. Collapsed left lung, led them to find a tumor in his lung. Right now he’s also battling pneumonia. Please keep him in your prayers.

· Ben Lake, son of Pastor Chris & Katherine Lake (Tree of Life, Conroe) will be having his second open heart surgery on Wednesday. Prayer vigil this Tuesday at Tree of Life.


 Houston Lutheran-Methodist Full Communion Celebration

The Houston celebration of the Lutheran-Methodist Full Communion will be Sunday, January 17, 2010, 4 p.m. at St. Paul’s United Methodist, Houston. Bishop Janice Huie and Mike Rinehart presiding. This takes place on the first day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This will be a great time to celebrate our unity in Christ.


Books You MUST read

Sticky Church (Leadership Network Innovation Series)


Zion Galveston

Zion had worship for the first time together this Sunday in their new, refurbished worship space thanks to incredible work by congregational president Anthony. Some of you may rememeber meeting there last year for the Galveston Work Day (Say 10-4 to 10/4, from 10 to 4). 75 people gathered to see the “rebirth.” Pastor Kerry Nelson was present, as well as Pastor Sharon Burns, and AIM Karen Davidson who grew up there. Pastor Beth Marie Halvorsen served Zion from 1980 to 1984, about a five-year first call. She met her husband Russell there.Pastor Gerry Westerbuhr was also present. He served Zion from 1997 to 2005 or so. This congregation was a Swedish congregation founded in 1890. Some of them sang Children of the Heavenly Father from memory today during communion, in Swedish. The choir from Faith Dickinson came and sang. Next week may be more of a challenge, as many of the folks there are now members of other congregations in Dickinson, Santa Fe and other places. Keep this congregation in your prayers as they pray about their mission and ministry.


Being Church Together


It comes down to what you believe: Is it better to work together, or separately?


As this broken bread was once scattered on the mountains,

and after it had been brought together became one,

so may thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth unto thy kingdom;

for thine is the glory, and the power, through Jesus Christ, for ever. 

  Didache 9:4


At the Institute of Liturgical Studies a few years ago, I recall Gordon Lathrop quoting this passage that we often sing after the offering, and saying, “The Holy Spirit gathers. Satan scatters.” This has always stuck in my mind. As wheat is gathered from the hills into one loaf, so the Holy Spirit gathers together and bakes into one loaf the diverse peoples of God.


This week CORE announced they were starting a new denomination. This got me to thinking about the various attempts at Lutheran unity over the years. Germans populated the East Coast forming a pastor-led ULCA that eventually became the LCA. Scandinavian Lutherans populated the upper-midwest with a less hierarchical form of Lutheranism that eventaully led to the ALC. Saxon immigrants to Missouri formed the LCMS that suffered from schism leading the AELC. A long-awaited vision for Lutheran unity had loomed since the Schmucker days, and now seemed within grasp with the centripetal forces of the newly-emerging ELCA.

But since then the centrifugal forces of separatism have whittled away at this vision. It seems every time a decision of any kind is made, another group breaks off and forms a new Lutheran body. For example following the 1999 vote for CCM, a full-communion agreement with the Episcopal Church, in 2000 LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ) was formed for congregations that wanted radical congregational polity. LCMC has about 200 congregations in the U.S.


he 2005 ELCA Yearbook lists 25 Lutheran bodies in the United States. The Fellowship of Lutheran Christians (FLC) broke off from the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation (LCR), which split from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. The American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) organized in 1987 in opposition to the ELCA.  They wanted an infallible Bible. Within one year, a group split from the AALC to form the Lutheran Synod and Ministerium in the USA (LSMUSA?), which itself experienced schism in the 1990’s to form the Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium in North America (ELCMNA?). Sigh.


So writes H. George Anderson (along with Herbert Chilstrom and Mark Hanson) in Living Together As Lutherans: Unity Within Diversity Augsburg Fortress © 2008. A must read for unity-minded Lutherans.


On their web page, The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (ALFC) claims to be the fourth-largest Lutheran body on (after ELCA, LCMS and WELS). They have 275 congregations (7 in Texas) and five missionaries. LCR has 13 pastors on their clergy roster, and no congregations in Texas. The AALC has 84 congregations; none in Texas. ELCMNA it’s hard to tell how many congregations. Some are missions being led by licensed ministers ( It looks like five congregations and two missions?


Please don’t misunderstand. The small isn’t bad. Sometimes its good. Large organizations can be slowed by bureaucracy. But they can also do things small groups can’t do. (Like provide $1M in post-Katrina support for New Orleans congregations.) You can look at the websites and be the judge. Not bad, just… sad. Isn’t it?


Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree, and there be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.

1 Corinthians 1:10


It comes back to what you believe: Is it better to be together or separate? I prefer together. I believe that unity speaks well of Christianity. Unity is fun. It can be intoxicating to see people coming together. On the other hand, the more we bicker, the more our witness to the world is hampered.


I’m deeply grateful for this synod. We’ve come together a lot of late. 400 people working together in Galveston knocked my socks off. I think we’re just starting to taste the opportunities and serendipity that comes when we let down our guard a little and learn to cooperate. I’m deeply grateful that we’ve not had one congregation vote to leave our synod. I know it’s probably coming, but we’ve made it this far. And I’m just… there’s no other word: grateful.


Thank you.


שלומ     سلام    Peace,


Mike Rinehart


Michael Rinehart, bishop

The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

12707 I-45 North Frwy, Suite 580

Houston, TX 77060-1239               



Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God. 
– Baruch 5


December 6 –  ADVENT 2C
Baruch 5:1-9Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,
and put on for ever the beauty of the glory from God.

December 13 – Advent 3C

Thoughts: First Song of Isaiah by Jack Noble White.


December 20 – Advent 4C
Micah 5:2-5aBut you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
Luke 1:47-55Magnificat: And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my savior…”

or Psalm 80:1-7 – Hear O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock: “Restore us!”
 Hebrews 10:5-10when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; 6in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

Luke 1:39-45, (46-55) – Mary and Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.



And the Word became flesh…



December 27 – Christmas  1C


December 27 – St. John Apostle – This rarely falls on a Sunday. A great day to lift up John’s high Christology, and vision of God’s love.

Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31
Psalm 116
1 John 1:1 – 2:2
John 21:20-25 – The last verses of John. Peter’s jealousy of the disciple Jesus loved. This text appears nowhere else in the three-year lectionary but here.


January 3 – Christmas  2C


Wednesday, January 6 – Epiphany

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