ELCA Church Council implements youth and young adult, disability ministries to campaign

11/12/2014 8:00:00 PM

​            CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) approved the implementation of this church's Disability Ministries and Youth and Young Adult programs into Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. Among its other actions, the council conferred the title of "emeritus" to the three former ELCA presiding bishops, elected a new member, considered budget matters, received updates, reports and more when it met here Nov. 7-10. The council serves as the ELCA's board of directors.

            The council received a "Youth and Young Adult Case Statement" that outlines the objectives for how the ELCA will raise and expend funds as part of the campaign to "cultivate young leaders, lift up the importance of diversity and inclusion, and build a robust network of support for youth and young adults." The case statement also addresses allocation of current and endowed gifts designated to this campaign priority. The campaign goal for the initiative is $4 million.
            In its action, the council thanked the youth, young adults and others who prepared the case statement and affirmed the statement's objectives. The resolution the council approved was an amended substitute motion that set a goal of $2 million for the creation of a permanent endowment to support youth and young adult ministries "into the future," and it set a goal of $2 million in current fund gifts to support the program.
            Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA seeks to raise $198 million by Jan. 31, 2019, to help sustain and grow the ministries of this church. Approved by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and officially launched in February 2014, the nearly $200 million goal represents a 64 percent increase in designated funding.
            Maren Hulden, a member of the Church Council from Minneapolis, said the council took the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly's action of recommending a youth and young adult ministries initiative to the campaign as "a call to lift up the work of engaging youth and young adults as a top priority of this church."
            "We received a case statement put together by a group of stakeholders who consulted on how to best spend the money, which included many imaginative and creative ideas of ways funds raised could engage youth and young adults in this church," said Hulden. "We wanted to put our support behind creating the capacity to undertake more of those efforts."
            "One of the most exciting things about this to me is the energy for and commitment to youth and young adult ministries that the Church Council demonstrated in our extensive, lively and passionate discussion around this action," said Hulden in an interview. "It was an exciting continuation of the energy at the Churchwide Assembly around youth and young adult ministry that is reflective of the commitment of this church to fully engage and include youth and young adults."
            As work on a case statement for Disability Ministries continues, the council moved to implement the program into the ELCA's comprehensive campaign and to "encourage all expressions of this church to continue to consider ways to support the [campaign] in order for the ELCA to be better-positioned to do God's work in Jesus' name throughout the world for decades to come."
            Through The Campaign for the ELCA, ELCA members are seeking to expand "ministries with people living with disabilities to become an inclusive, whole community of faith by connecting and equipping members and congregations with the resources necessary to welcome all of God's people."
            In other business, the council:
+ conferred the title of "presiding bishop emeritus" to the three former ELCA presiding bishops: the Rev. Herbert W. Chilstrom, the Rev. H. George Anderson and the Rev. Mark S. Hanson. According to the Rev. W. Chris Boerger, ELCA secretary, the title will "not create a new office."

+ held a conversation about the priorities of this church using an "appreciative inquiry" process led by the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. In small groups, members of the council identified ministries the ELCA does well, areas in which there's "room to grow" and one item that "we want to know." She also led this process with the ELCA Conference of Bishops when it met here in October. "I am grateful that we can think together and imagine what God is calling this church to become," Eaton wrote in her report to the council.

+ approved a revised 2015 fiscal year current fund spending authorization of $69,650,020 and a revised 2015 fiscal year ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $20,000,000.

+ acknowledged decisions from some of the ELCA's 65 synods to increase, maintain and/or decease the percentage of sharing of 2014 and 2015 Mission Support contributions (income from congregations shared with the ELCA's 65 synods and churchwide organization), and it thanked synod bishops and leaders "as they strive to be faithful to shared commitments within the ELCA, and to direct synod and churchwide staff, including directors for evangelical mission, to deepen their partnership in efforts to strengthen financial support" for this church.

+ approved the "Private Prisons Social Criteria Investment Screen" and amendments to the "Environment Social Criteria Investment Screen," the "Extractive Industries Issue Paper" and the "Military Weapons Social Criteria Investment Screen," and it affirmed the proposed succession plan in joint planning around corporate social responsibility work between the churchwide organization and Portico Benefit Services.

+ approved the amended ELCA churchwide organization personnel policies.

+ supported the special-needs retirement fund management committee's efforts to provide financial support for annuitants who are receiving at or near the minimum pension.

+ postponed until its November 2015 meeting a report and possible recommendations from the ELCA Theological Discernment Team regarding the feasibility of developing a social message on regenerative medicine, which includes, but not limited to, a range of stem-cell technologies.

+ held two "committee of the whole" discussions – one on the work of the Theological Education Advisory Council led by the advisory council co-chairs the Rev. Robin J. Steinke, president of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and the Rev. Herman R. Yoos III, bishop of the ELCA South Carolina Synod; and a separate discussion on new congregational development led by the Rev. Ruben Duran, ELCA director for new congregations.

+ received an update by the Lutheran World Relief president and CEO, Ambassador Daniel Speckhard (rt.), who emphasized how financial support from the ELCA through programs such as Lutheran Disaster Response and the ELCA Malaria Campaign helps "sustaining change happen in the lives of families" around the world. Speckhard recognized the Rev. Jessica R. Crist, bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops, and   presented her with the Lutheran World Relief's Champion award.
            The council received reports from executive directors of the ELCA churchwide organization's three program units:

+ the Rev. Stephen Bouman, executive director for ELCA Congregational and Synodical Mission, described the ELCA's work in responding to the thousands of unaccompanied children arriving in the United States. Bouman reported on a recent trip to Texas, where he and other ELCA leaders visited shelters operated by Lutheran Social Services of the South and learned more about the process for these children after they are detained. Bouman outlined some ways in which this church will continue to respond to this crisis, including advocacy and relationships among ELCA synods, congregations and Lutheran churches in Central America and Mexico.

+ the Rev. Rafael Malpica, executive director for ELCA global mission, shared examples of how global mission is "moving us toward the church that is joining together across its expressions to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ here and around the world." Highlights included this church's engagement in Russia and China, the Young Adults in Global Mission program, and "glocal" mission gatherings, which provide ELCA members the opportunity to address global concerns at the local level. The report also emphasized the ELCA's effort to contain the Ebola outbreak in Africa in accompaniment with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone and the Lutheran Church in Liberia.

+ received a report from Christina Jackson-Skelton, executive director for ELCA Mission Advancement, who offered "bright spots" in giving, which include an increase in ELCA Vision for Mission and new donors to churchwide ministries through ELCA Good Gifts. One area in which "ELCA members and leaders may not be aware of is the amount of money that flows through the ELCA Foundation to support the wider ministries of this church – in 2013, it was $21 million," she told the council, adding that the total market value of the ELCA Endowment Fund Pooled Trust – Fund A is $555 million.
            In her report to the council the Rev. Linda Norman, ELCA treasurer, shared that the churchwide organization's "gross revenue is ahead of budget by 2 percent and that spending is at 92 percent of budget." ELCA Mission Support is on budget and tracking to achieve the $48 million income goal.
            More than 16 percent of the total campaign goal has been raised and "half of the campaign (priorities) are on track to meet annual goals, bolstered by undesignated gifts," Norman said. Income for ELCA World Hunger is "ahead of budget" and the ELCA Malaria Campaign has now earned $13 million of its $15 million goal. ELCA members have contributed $3.3 million to Lutheran Disaster Response, she said.
            The council elected Vernon K. Veal, Bloomington, Ill., to serve on the council, and it elected members to serve on the ELCA audit committee and boards of the National Lutheran Campus Ministry Inc., Mosaic Inc., The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Wartburg are two of eight ELCA seminaries.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 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.

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