As he begins his journey as leader of South Carolina's 60,000 Lutherans, the Rev. Herman Yoos III said the church must become "more fluent in the first language of faith," the holy Scriptures, so it can carry out its mission to care for "the least of these" in the world.
Yoos, 56, will be installed today as bishop of the S.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. More than 600 Lutherans, including presiding ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson, are expected at the service at Newberry College.
Yoos, former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Columbia and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Charleston, was elected in May to a six-year term, succeeding retiring Bishop David Donges.
The North Carolina native already has been at work, encouraging pastors and congregations to reflect upon the scriptural call to reach out to those in need.
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"I believe God is renewing the church for the sake of the world," Yoos said Wednesday, so congregations are asking, "What does it mean to be a congregation that connects to others?"
His appointment has generated excitement and energy among Lutherans, especially among pastors who share his passion for connecting church with community, said the Rev. James Parham III, associate pastor and cantor of Incarnation Lutheran Church in Columbia.
Yoos recently spoke to about 160 pastors at a retreat in North Carolina. "He was very present for workshops and fellowship," said Parham, who heads up the committee for today's installation. "Everybody could feel a very positive energy, and we pray for the strength and support he needs."
Yoos said he will not be shy about talking with elected leaders on issues of social justice, including the problem of immigration.
He was dismayed about the recent raid on a Greenville plant and suggested the government's patchwork approach is not working.
"I think the church needs to have a public voice," Yoos said. "I think Lutherans, in general, have had a strong practice of being social-justice people."
Loving the stranger
The S.C. synod has established two Latino missions in the Midlands, and in a recent written reflection to Lutherans, Yoos wrote of the biblical call for loving the stranger in our midst.
"Without reform, our current laws and policies wind up treating many hard-working, family-oriented, low-income persons like they are criminals when in reality, farms and businesses -- and indirectly, all of us -- have benefitted greatly from their work," he wrote.
For the past several years, Yoos has been active in building relationships across racial lines. He and the Rev. Frank Honeycutt, senior pastor of Ebenezer Lutheran Church, established several groups in Columbia that have continued to meet, share meals and talk about bonds they share through faith.
"Things change," Yoos insists, "when you meet and break bread with a person of another race."
To be a witness of Christ's love requires prayer, Yoos said, and he plans to share his passion for prayer and scripture, that "first language of faith" as he travels the state.
"I want to publicly remind us to be engaged in devotional silence," he said.
The Rev. Herman Yoos III
Born: 1952 in Concord, N.C.
Education: Bachelor's degree, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, 1974; master of divinity degree, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, 1979; doctor of ministry degree, Columbia Theological Seminary, 1997
Family: Wife, Cindy Parker Yoos; three college-age children, Drew, Kristi and Elizabeth
What: Installation ceremony for the Rev. Herman Yoos III, new bishop of the S.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: Wiles Chapel, Newberry College campus
Also at the ceremony: The Rev. Virginia Aebischer and the Rev. Mel Amundson will be installed as assistants to the bishop. Michael Kohn will be installed as the synodical vice president.
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