'We are church for the sake of the world,' new ELCA presiding bishop says

11/13/2013 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In her first report to the Church Council of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Rev. Elizabeth A.
Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, said that “We are church for the sake of
the world.” The council, the ELCA board of directors, met here Nov. 8-10.
     As the ELCA churchwide organization charts its operational plan for
2014-2016, Eaton said that understanding ourselves in this way first is
     “We are a church first. And at the heart of what we do is worship,
and the heart of that is Jesus Christ,” she said. “We are church for the
sake of the world. We weren’t redeemed to just think good thoughts of
Jesus Christ. We’re supposed to be out there, helping to bring about the
abundant life.”
     Eaton told the council that serving as a presiding bishop “is a huge
job,” and that it may become “very easy to become stuck in a bubble that
(overseeing the churchwide organization) becomes my only reality.” In
addition to serving as leader of the churchwide organization, Eaton as
presiding bishop will serve as a teacher of the faith,  provide
leadership for the life and witness of this church and will serve as
chief ecumenical officer and the primary representative in the national
and international interchurch agencies in which this church holds
     In her report, Eaton also expressed thanks to the Rev. Mark S.
Hanson, who served as ELCA presiding bishop for two six-year terms. She
has asked Hanson to continue work on several initiatives begun during his
     The Rev. Chris Boerger, ELCA secretary, also delivered his first
report to the ELCA Church Council. Both Eaton and Boerger were elected at
the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly held in Pittsburgh this past summer.
     “It is my strong conviction that our mission drives and shapes our
work,” Boerger told the council. In noting the changing leadership of
this church, Boerger said the election of 23 new members of the ELCA
Church Council “also signals the faithfulness of the Holy Spirit in
providing leaders for Christ’s church and its renewed mission.”
     “I will work with you to ensure our history is remembered, our
people are known, and that our leadership empowers all of our members to
serve in response to God’s baptismal call,” he said.
     In its work, the council elected the Rev. Wyvetta Bullock to
serve as ELCA executive for administration at the churchwide
organization. Her position is a term coterminous with that of the
presiding bishop. The council also re-elected Daniel J. Lehmann to serve
a four-year term as editor of The Lutheran magazine; the Rev. Loren
Mellum, Moorhead, Minn., and the Rev. Carla Johnson, Dunlap, Iowa, to
serve six-year terms on the council and identified others to serve as
members at-large to the council’s executive committee and in other
council committees.
     In other business, the council:
+ authorized the development of a social message on gender-based
violence. The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly called for a social statement
on women and justice -- a task force developing that statement is now in
a study phase. The council is expected to take action on the social
message at its fall 2014 meeting; the proposed social statement is
expected to be considered at the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
+ authorized the council’s executive committee to appoint a working group
that will consider the matter of ordination for the creation of a unified
lay roster. The group will support the work of an ELCA Word and Service
Task Force charged with creating a single, unified lay roster. The
working group is expected to offer a progress report to the council and
the ELCA Conference of Bishops in fall 2014.
+ requested a report with possible recommendations in response to a 2013
ELCA Churchwide Assembly action to amend “Always Being Made New: A
Campaign for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” that will begin
February 2014. The assembly moved to add $4 million to support youth and
young adult ministries and another $4 million to support disability
ministries. The fundraising goal of the five-year campaign is $198
million. An update on the entire campaign will be offered at the
council’s 2014 spring meeting.
+ received a report from ELCA Treasurer Linda Norman. According to
Norman, the rate of decline for ELCA Mission Support -- income from
congregations to synods and the churchwide organization -- slowed from a
high of 12 percent decrease in 2010 to a low of 1 percent decrease in
2012. The Mission Support 2013 budget reflects an additional 1 percent
decrease from 2012 year-end results, but it has lagged the budget
throughout the year. The treasurer’s office continues to work closely
with the ELCA’s 65 synods and churchwide organization to strengthen
Mission Support, which makes up about 65 percent of the organization’s
current fund revenue.
+ affirmed the strategic intent (Part A) of the 2014-2016 operational
plan for the ELCA churchwide organization. The plan has six goals and
four “cross-cutting” commitments.
+ authorized a working group to explore ways to encourage conversations
and resource sharing across this church regarding changing family
configurations and their impact on society and the ministry of this
+ affirmed a charter for the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish
+ acknowledged the Lutheran Suicide Prevention Ministry as an independent
Lutheran organization.
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
Manager, ELCA Public Relations
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org

Candice Hill Buchbinder
Public Relations Media Specialist
773-380-2877 or Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
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