CHICAGO — The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met Sept. 26-30 at the Lutheran Center in Chicago. The conference, an advisory body of the ELCA, comprises 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and the secretary.
The Rev. Yehiel Curry, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod, was elected to a four-year term as chair of the conference. The Rev. Deborah K. Hutterer, bishop of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod, was elected to a four-year term as vice chair. Both positions are effective Dec. 1. The Rev. Tracie L. Bartholomew, bishop of the ELCA New Jersey Synod, has served as conference chair since 2020, and the Rev. Patricia A. Davenport, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, has served as vice chair since 2020.
In her report to the conference, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton addressed Future Church: God's Love Made Real, a movement in the ELCA that envisions a world experiencing the difference God's grace and love in Christ make for all people and creation.
"The world doesn't even know it needs to know Jesus," said Eaton. "We take very seriously the reality of human brokenness, and we also take very seriously that Jesus was raised from the dead, and that makes all the difference in the world."
In other business the conference:
- Approved recommendations from the Roster Committee granting extensions of leave, granting of nonstipendiary calls, and exceptions to the bylaw that requires an initial three years of congregational service for ministers of Word and Sacrament.
- Engaged in conversation about the Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church (CRLC), focusing discussions on the organizational principles and statements of purpose for the church. The commission was established as called for in the memorial "Restructure the Governance of the ELCA," adopted by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.
- Received updates from the candidacy leadership development working group and engaged in conversation on a proposed process put forward by that group. Established during the conference's spring 2022 meeting, the working group is a diverse collection of 12 leaders from across the ELCA who will explore ways to adapt the church's candidacy process to the church's current and future needs.
- Engaged in conversation around Holy Communion practices, led by Deacon John Weit, executive for Worship, and the Rev. Laurie Jungling, bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod. The ongoing discussions are called for in the memorial "Holy Communion Practices in Unusual Circumstances and in Pandemic Times," approved by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.
- Received a presentation from Rachel Wind, executive for Development, on a pilot proposal for the synods that would focus on identifying a new and collaborative way for the synods and the churchwide organization to work together on development.
- Received an update from the task force addressing the disciplinary concerns of leaders of color, presented by Judith Roberts, senior director for ELCA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and co-convener of the task force, and the Rev. Paul Erickson, bishop of the ELCA Greater Milwaukee Synod and a task force member. Discussions centered on the role of an ombudsman in helping resolve conflict and the benefits and challenges of this role in an organization. The creation of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office to receive discrimination complaints was recommended in the strategy toward authentic diversity, adopted by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. The task force made recommendations to the current process for discipline, considered a process for community healing and grief, and made recommendations for an office to receive complaints of harassment and discrimination.
- Engaged in conversation on racial justice work taking place in the synods, led by Jennifer De Leon, director for racial justice.
- Received reports from the ELCA secretary, treasurer and vice president, and updates from the conference's various committees and from home areas of the churchwide organization.
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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 3 million members in more than 8,700 worshiping communities 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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