ELCA bishops discuss identifying, raising leaders for the future

10/11/2013 12:00:00 AM

     ITASCA, Ill. (ELCA) -- Lifting up a number of topics that will help
move forward the mission and ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA), an Oct. 3-8 meeting here of the ELCA Conference of
Bishops was “framed by the welcoming of 13 new (synod) bishops, while
saying goodbye to a beloved secretary and presiding bishop,” said the
Rev. Jessica R. Crist, bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod.
     The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church
that includes 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and secretary. Crist
chairs the conference.
     ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and ELCA Secretary David
Swartling delivered their final reports to the conference and will
conclude their terms Oct. 31. The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, bishop of the
ELCA Northeastern Ohio Synod, was installed Oct. 5 as ELCA presiding
bishop at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, Chicago. The Rev. William “Chris”
Boerger was installed as ELCA secretary during the 2013 ELCA Churchwide
Assembly in Pittsburgh,where he was also elected. Eaton and Boerger will
begin their six-year terms Nov. 1.
     In a revitalization of work across this church in identifying and
preparing women and men “to be formed as servant leaders” now and into
the future and in the context of theological education, the Rev. Jon
Anderson, bishop of the ELCA Southwestern Minnesota Synod, said this
topic presents “some of the most important work of this conference.” As
the ELCA Conference of Bishops continues its discernment on how best
to “raise up and form leaders for the future of this church,” the bishops
welcomed presidents and other representatives from the ELCA’s eight
seminaries who shared updates, including opportunities and challenges
facing their institutions today.
     The conference received a first report from the newly established
Theological Education Advisory Council -- authorized by the ELCA Church
Council to address in a holistic way issues on theological education,
leadership development, candidacy, call and rostered leaders.
     Reporting on the council’s first meeting, which includes bishops
serving on seminary boards, the Rev. Robin Steinke, professor and dean at
Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pa., said
there was “an energy, excitement and privilege of doing this work
together. To hear some new voices together about what God might be up to
in theological education. The sense is, can we be a convener and
collaborator of what God is doing in this church?”
     The Rev. James Hazelwood, bishop of the ELCA New England Synod and a
member of the advisory council, said the initial meeting focused on
several themes including the financial pressures facing students; the
need for a variety of avenues toward service in the church; opportunities
for Latino ministry and outreach; how to embrace and appreciate the gifts
of the ELCA’s theological education heritage; how best to engage in
contextual education that includes internships and field education; and,
how this church as a whole discerns the gifts of potential new leaders.
     The Rev. Herman R. Yoos III, bishop of the ELCA South Carolina
Synod, invited the ELCA Conference of Bishops to consider, “What is the
vocation (and) what is God calling us to be about in the Lutheran
movement in this North American context?” And, what forms of education
and context will best create learning and position congregations to
become equipping communities in the future.
     “One of the most important and central tasks of synods and our
church body is to form lay and rostered leaders and support them in the
long arc of their leadership,” said Anderson in an
interview. ”Theological education of all the baptized and our rostered
leaders empowers them to steward the gospel and serve their neighbors
more faithfully and effectively in our present mission fields and the
mission fields of the future. As bishops, we had a deep and rich
conversation with our seminary presidents about this important calling we
share,” he said.
     In a continuation of their conversation about the possibility of
moving toward one, unified ELCA roster, the Conference of Bishops
received a report from this church’s Word and Service Task Force. The
Rev. William O. Gafkjen, bishop of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod, said
the conversation about one word and service roster centers around
the “kind of leadership needed in the world today, the role of pastors
and how this affects struggling congregations.”
     Gafkjen invited the conference to engage in a small-group discussion
focusing on the question, “When you think about the ordination of
ministers (roster) of word and service what hopes, fears and wonderings
come about?”
     The Rev. David H. Brauer-Rieke, bishop of the ELCA Oregon Synod,
said one of the questions that emerged from his group’s discussion focused
on how to preserve the rich history of three rosters and whether the
church will lose this rich diversity.
     “One thing we do have clarity about is the need for any roster of
word and service to empower, equip and encourage the people of God for
their missionary vocation in the world, in their daily lives,” said
Gafkjen in an interview. “While the work is at times arduous and there
are a wide variety of perspectives and concerns at play, I am confident
that over the coming months we will make progress in coming to agreement
about the best ways to move forward for the sake of our faithful
participation in God's mission in the world.”
     The Word and Service Task Force is expected to bring a final
proposal to the ELCA Church Council before the 2016 ELCA Churchwide
Assembly to be held in New Orleans.
     The conference also “delved into topics addressed at the (2013)
Churchwide Assembly, in preparation for an enhanced role in partnership
with the Church Council,” said Crist in an interview. The topics included
communion practices, churchwide officer elections and term limits,
pastoral care for same-gender families, the Voting Rights Act, American
Indian/Alaska native recognition, confirmation, and the Book of Faith
     The 2013 assembly approved a constitutional amendment modifying the
relationship between the Church Council and the Conference of Bishops,
stating the conference will make recommendations to the council. The
amendment also provides that the conference will consult with and advise
the council, respond to referrals from the council and refer concerns and
proposals to the council.
     In other business the conference:
+ Received a report from Swartling, who reported that more than 500,000
pages of paper were saved as a result of the use of iPads among voting
members of the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. He also reported that of
the 952 voting members at the assembly, 61.5 percent were lay voting
members; 41 percent of the clergy were female; 16 percent were youth and
young adults; and 12 percent were people of color. Swartling also
presented information about the number of congregations disaffiliating
from the ELCA, reporting that 951 congregations have taken a total of
1,030 first votes; 717 first votes passed; 313 first votes failed; 693
second votes have been take; 658 second votes passed; 35 second votes
failed. A total of 647 congregations have been officially removed from
the roster of congregations of the ELCA.
+ Heard a report from the Rev. Linda Norman, ELCA treasurer, who shared
that the ELCA churchwide organization had income in excess of expense of
$2.5 million for the seven-month period ending Aug. 31, an unfavorable
variance $0.6 million compared to last year at this time and favorable to
the period budget by $5.6 million. Expenses during the previous seven
months have increased by $2.9 million or 8.2 percent from the previous
year. Income from congregations shared with synods and the churchwide
organization in the form of Mission Support for the previous seven months
was $26.7 million, a decrease of $0.5 million or 2 percent compared to
this period last year. The revised annual Mission Support budget for 2013
is $49.4 million, about $0.4 million or 0.95 percent lower than the
amount received in 2012. Norman said the churchwide organization is
monitoring Mission Support trends, looking into “the ecology of our
giving.” In other giving, contributions to ELCA World Hunger for the
seven months ending Aug. 31 were $7.3 million, a decrease by $0.2 million
compared to the same seven-month period in 2012. ELCA members have
contributed $4.4 million for Lutheran Disaster Response in the seven-month period. The ELCA Malaria Campaign received gifts of $2.6 million in
the seven months ending Aug. 31 and has raised approximately $9.2 million
toward its goal of $15 million since the campaign was rolled out by the
2011 Churchwide Assembly.
+Received an update on a new ELCA fundraising campaign, Always Being Made
New: The Campaign for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which
was approved by the 2013 Churchwide Assembly. Christina Jackson-Skelton,
ELCA executive director of mission advancement, reported on the first
meeting of the campaign steering committee.
+ Received an update from Portico Health Benefits on enrollment to the
new ELCA Health Plan due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care
Act, which goes into effect in 2014.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United
States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations
across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church
of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God
through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the
world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church
reformer, Martin Luther.

For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Lutherans
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com

Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877 or Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Lutherans
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com


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