October 15, 2015
 
 
 
 
Conference of Bishops (COB) Overview
 by Bishop Rodger Prois

October, 2015

 

Thursday, October 1

 

The day began with Regions meeting to assign first call candidates to synods.  There were 109 candidates available for 214 first call vacancies in the ELCA.  Region 5 synods had 48 of those vacancies, received 11, with no first calls assigned to Western Iowa.

 

After lunch, the various committees of the COB met.  Reports from them will be made later.  I sit on the Congregational and Synodical Mission Committee: New/Renewing Congregations.  Our meeting focused on CW organizational change that would increase emphasis on stewarding Mission Support, you will find our report later in these notes.

 

The day came to a close with worship, with Bp. Richard Graham, Metropolitan Washington D.C. synod, preaching and Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, presiding.  After a dinner and reception together, the two new bishops were welcomed to the COB.

 

Friday, October 2

 

The chaplain for the day was Bishop Jim Dunlop, Lower Susquehanna Synod.  He led the COB in Morning Prayer. 

 

There was a report from the Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Pr. Wyvetta Bullock, and Liaison Bishops to the Church Council on issues related to the Church Council action “to affirm the intention of the Presiding Bishop to convene a team to generate recommendations to sharpen our priorities as a church and bring greater clarity about what this church will do and will not do in order to serve God’s mission more faithfully and effectively in the years to come.” 

 

The COB then discussed Mission Support actions of Church Council, led by Margaret Payne.  Bp. Mark Narum, who chairs the CSM: New/Renewing Congregations committee, also took part in the presentation.

The report included 1) acknowledging that the current 55/45 percentage guideline for Mission Support is not sustainable and to create a contextually sensitive, substantive, and collaborative process which will result in synod-specific percentage goals for each of the 65 synods and amending the constitution to provide for this process; 2) recommending the hiring of new staff in the Mission Advancement unit for Mission Support, including a Director, Assistant Director, and support staff; 3) endorsing the principle that appropriate multiple streams of income may be used to provide funding for the mission of any expression of this church; 4) affirming a three-year experiment involving five synods to explore whether retaining some ELCA grants and compensation for the synod’s Director for Evangelical Mission will produce an increase in mission support and more effective management and oversight for the sake of mission; 5) and thanking the ELCA Mission Investment Fund for testing a “Synod Financial Services” pilot. 

 

After a short break, we began the process for electing the COB Executive Committee.  Both the Chair and Vice Chair are elected to four year terms, with the three at-large members initially elected to staggered terms of 3-2-1 year.  All of these are ecclesiastical ballots within the COB.  The first ballot for chair was then held.  After counting, the list of candidates was presented and bishops were given the opportunity to withdraw from the election of Chair of the COB.

 

Secretary Chris Boerger gave an introduction to possible constitution changes at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly.  In particular, note changes to 3.02. (reaffirming this church’s resolve to serve the unity of Christ’s Church) and 3.04. (affirming that our participation in the Lutheran World Federation is one way that this church lives out its commitment to be part of the whole Church.

Also, much of Chapter 7 has been amended to provide for changing “ordained ministers” to “ministers of Word and Sacrament” in the churchwide, synod, and model congregation constitutions.  This provides for the possibility of a decision for the joining of the three lay rosters of the church to be distinguished as “ministers of Word and Service.” 

Also note 10.71., 10.71.01. and 10.71.02. which provides a constitutional provision and bylaws to establish a new method of determining mission partnership support.

 

          The COB enjoyed a lunch and a recess until 2:00 for a time of siesta/renewal.  Some of the bishops (those who serve on seminary boards and/or are Church Council liaisons) met during lunch to discuss issues of theological education.

 

          After lunch, the four persons from the first ballot for chair of COB were reported and a second ballot was held.

 

We then heard a report of the Theological Education Advisory Council by Bp. Herman Yoos.  The seminary presidents were also present for the session.  We looked at the three recommendations that will be going as a first report to the ELCA Church Council in November.  Each had several specific proposed actions.

1)    Claim and name the abundant gifts of our church to create and sustain a network of theological education that serves the mission of the Gospel

2)    Link vocational discernment and theological education for specific target audiences within and beyond the church, with a focus on those whose leadership will strengthen the missional future of the ELCA.

3)    Ensure the mission vibrancy and financial stability of the seminaries of the ELCA as they serve their crucial role in our theological education network.

 

We received a Campus Ministry update from Pr. Don Romsa.  He gave us a comparison of the “old days” to 2014.

                              Old Days                                              2014

Financial                 Most money from churchwide                Most from other sources

Churchwide Staff     Had dedicated staff                               Now only LCM network         

Ministry models       Most stand-alone sites                           Most congregation based

Environments          Students young and active                     Students older today

Three important components of campus ministry today need to include acts of justice and compassion, worship that is filled with mystery and grace, and a welcoming community that enhances relationships.

 

After a short break we held a third ballot for chair of the COB Executive Committee. 

We then heard a report from Bp. William Gafkjen from the Word and Service Task Force.  The ELCA Church Council approved the presentation of a joint Lay Roster to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly.  The Task Force will recommend to the Church Council that a time of discernment for an “entrance rite” be a process that will lead to a decision at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly.   

 

Pr. Gregory Villalon provided an update on the New Candidacy Manual.  He walked us through the wide variety of changes.  There are several things to note:

1)    The manual states policy and also provides examples to guide committees.

2)    The manual builds upon four basic principles each accompanied with leadership competencies:

a.     We are church

b.     We are Lutheran

c.     We are church together

d.     We are church for the sake of the world.

3)    There is a renewed emphasis on God’s mission in the world and how we actively participate in God’s mission.

4)    There is an emphasis on discernment.

5)    There is an emphasis on health and wellness as illustrated in the Wholeness Wheel.

6)    There is a new candidate covenant form to assist the Candidacy Committee as it works with candidates attending different seminaries with different tracks leading to the M.Div.

7)    There is a new appendix A which provides an applicant to candidacy with an overview of the process.

The candidacy information related to applicants interested in the Word and Service roster will be added to the manual after decisions have been made by the Church Council to move the recommendation creating the new unified Word and Service roster forward to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly.

 

Carlos Peña then delivered the report of the Vice President.  He emphasized his joy of attending synod assemblies, his learnings at the Unaccompanied and Migrant Children Consultation, his personal appreciation of serving in this office, and he asked for our prayers for discernment regarding another election/call process for vice president at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly. 

 

The new Chair of the COB Executive Committee was announced – Bp. William Gafkjen of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod. 

 

The COB then heard process observations from a three person team – Bishops Kevin Kanouse, Craig Satterlee, and Michael Rhyne.  They shared reflections on how we worked together in that session, issues of which to be attentive, and ways to improve our relationships and conversations.

 

The COB then attended the Fund for Leaders Awards Banquet.  This year, 235 persons were recipients of some type of scholarship through the Fund for Leaders, totaling $1.6 million. 

 

Saturday, October 3

 

The Chaplain for the Day is Bishop Ralph Jones, Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod.  He provided Morning Prayer and a wonderful sermon on the text for the day from Job 7: 1-21.

 

The first ballot for Vice-Chair of the Executive Committee was held after a time of prayer and explanation of the duties of the Executive Committee.

 

We heard the report of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.  She shared her many visits across the church and around the world and some of the conversations of which she has been a part.  Her full report will provide the closer details of her ministry on our behalf.  The COB gave thanks for her and the leadership she gives to this church. 

Pr. Walter May gave his report as the Executive for Synodical Relations.  The Synodical Relations team provides service and assistance to the Conference of Bishops and the synod staff in our work and ministry.  They also helped coordinate the gathering of all Vice Presidents at the Churchwide office, October 23-25, 2015. This time together will also include orientation for 7 new Vice Presidents. 

Pastor Eric Wester serves as Assistant to the Presiding Bishop, Director of Federal Chaplaincy Ministry.  He and his administrative assistant, Larry Evans, manage the Washington D.C. Bureau for Federal Chaplaincy Ministries.

Summary serving in chaplaincy (Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Justice)

Total military chaplains:  146 (48 active duty and 98 Reserve and Guard)

Veterans Affairs chaplains:  29 (12 full-time and 17 part-time)

Bureau of Prison chaplains:  4 (all full-time)

Chaplain candidates:  18 (seminary students and graduates awaiting call)

Chaplain applicants (pending):  31 (20 VA / 2 USAF/5 USAFR/2 Air Guard / 1 USAR/2 Army Guard / 3 USN/2 USNR / 2 BoP plus1 change of endorsement / 3 chaplain candidates)

 

          We received a report of the Executive for Worship, Pr. Kevin Strickland, on the Worship Jubilee and Communion Practices.  Attendance at the Worship Jubilee in  Atlanta, which followed the Youth Gathering, was good.  The lectures and music were excellent. 

          Concerning the study of Communion practices, a draft final report was provided to the COB.  After the Church Council receives the report in November, the draft will become public information. 

 

After a morning break, we heard the report of the Treasurer, Pr. Linda Norman.  The churchwide organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America had total operating revenue and support of $38.8 million for the seven-month period ended August 31, 2015, $1.0 million higher than expenses of $37.8 million.  Net revenue over expenses is favorable to the period budget by $4.8 million, and $0.9 million more than the seven months ending August 31, 2014.

Income from congregations through synods in the form of Mission Support income for the seven months was $25.7 million, 99 percent of budget, but unfavorable to the prior year by $0.6 million.  The annual Mission Support budget for 2015 of $47.25 million is $1.2 million or 2.4 percent lower than the amount received in 2014.

Total contributions to ELCA World Hunger for the seven months were $8.7 million, favorable to the budget by $1.4 million and favorable to the prior year by $0.9 million.

ELCA members and partners contributed $3.5 million for Lutheran Disaster Response in the seven-month period, primarily in support of Nepal Region Earthquake Relief efforts and general undesignated programs.

The ELCA Malaria Campaign has now exceeded its $15 million five-year campaign goal.  We celebrate that the success of this campaign reflects the generosity and commitment of our whole church in this global effort.  We celebrate that the success of this campaign has meant life-saving programs and supplies provided through Lutheran companion churches and partners in 13 African countries.

Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA has raised $62.2 million in revenue and commitments to date in this five-year, comprehensive campaign.  This amount represents 31.4 percent of the total goal of $198 million by January 31, 2019.  In addition to results reported above, strong response to date has been in the areas of New Congregations, Fund for Leaders, and Global Church-Missionaries/Young Adults in Global Mission.

 

Pr. Margaret Payne gave her report as the Director for Mission Support.  This involved the report of the CSM Committee: New and Renewing.  We had discussion related to the Mission Support Strategic Initiatives for 2016-2018.  They include five parts:

1.       Establish mission support tables in every synod that are responsible for the development of a mission support plan with clear, measurable outcomes.

2.       Develop enhanced tools for stewardship and mission support interpretation.

3.       Clarify roles and accountabilities within the churchwide organization.

a)  Congregational and Synodical Mission - Stewardship 

b)  Mission Advancement – Director for Mission Support

c) Form interunit committee for mission support planning

4.       Grow the Mission Interpreters and Synod Communicators networks

5.       Increase time given for staff gatherings in favor of stewardship and mission support engagement

 

The report of the Secretary was given by Secretary Chris Boerger.  They have been actively preparing for the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, August 8-13, 2016 in New Orleans under the theme “Freed and Renewed in Christ.”  As of September 14, 2015, 960 of the 980 voting members of the assembly have been entered into the registration database.

A few memorials have been received and more are anticipated in 2016.  A significant issue to be acted upon is the proposal to combine the three lay rosters into one roster of ministers of Word and Service.  Most of the proposed amendments to the Constitution, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions are implementations of this recommendation.  Another significant action of the assembly will be the election of the Vice President.

Concerning “summarizing the information” from annual congregational reports: 

1) 76.6% of our congregations have reported, up from 74.2% last year.  Special recognition to the Southwestern Texas Synod, the Northern Great Lakes Synod, and the La Crosse Area Synod for having 100% of their congregations turn in their reports.

2) The baptized membership of this church is 3,765,403. This represents a decline of 2.53% from the previous year. The largest category of baptized membership loss was again “statistical adjustment.”

3) Average worship attendance was 1,018,943 or a decline of 3.2%.  While the average Sunday attendance per congregation is 109, 61.1% of our congregations average less than 100 persons in worship per Sunday.  Of even greater concern is that 35.6% of the congregations averaged less than 50 worshippers.

4) Regular giving by members did not decline at the same percentage as the membership or attendance declines.  Financial stewardship resulted in $1,752,813,988 given as unrestricted income to the congregations of this church.  Average member giving increased to $544.66 or an increase of 1.58%.  Designated giving declined 1.3%.

5) Mission support to synods and churchwide was down 1.13% to $99,379,449.  The congregations of this church gave over $13 million to projects outside this country and separate from the Global Mission work of this church.  Total benevolence giving, including mission support, was $206 million.  

6) We are not a poor church.  Last year congregations added to their endowments, memorial funds, and savings accounts $62,064,370. This brings the total for these funds to over $2.3 billion.  When added to the value of real estate and other assets, the congregations of this church have close to $20 billion in assets.

 

During lunch there was an opportunity to meet with Beth Lewis, CEO of Augsburg Fortress, or with the Mission Investment Fund to discuss the Financial Services Pilot.

 

The COB reconvened to discuss the draft on the social message concerning Gender-Based Violence.  It was led by Bp. Jon Anderson and members of the Theological and Ethical Concerns Committee, Mary Streufert (Director for Justice for Women), and Roger Willer (Director for Theological Ethics).  You can find the draft at http://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Current-Social-Writing-Projects/Gender-Violence, which has been shortened and sharpened in its focus.  The COB commended it to the November Church Council meeting and a commitment to share this important document in our synods.

 

          Bps. Ann Svennungsen and Jeff Barrow provided an update on the Women and Justice social statement task force.  This is meant to be presented to the 2020 Churchwide Assembly.   100 listening events have been held so far across the ELCA. 

 

The afternoon the COB divided into interest groups around various topics:  Immigration and Migration Issues in Europe, Candidate Formation and Assignment, Racism, Suicide, Unaccompanied Minors, Gun Violence, and Preparing for Retirement as a Bishop.

 

After we returned, Bp. Tracey Bartholomew of the New Jersey Synod, was elected as Vice Chair of the Executive Committee and Shelley Wickstrom, Alaska Synod, to the three-year term.

         

We closed the day with a group conversation on race and racism led by Bps. Wolfgang Herz-Lane (Delaware-Maryland Synod – death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore), Roger Gustafson (Central States Synod – Michael Brown’s death in St. Louis), and Herman Yoos (South Carolina Synod – shooting deaths by Dylan Roof in Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston).  Powerful, first-hand presentations led to heartfelt discussion, clearly the first of many conversations.

Bishop Eaton reflected on the webinar on racism that was broadcast, and they are planning another on criminal justice.

 

After process observations we held regional dinners, conversation, and fellowship.

 

Sunday, October 4

 

          The Chaplain for the Day was Bishop Robert Driesen, Upper Susquehanna Synod.  

 

We began with worship in the Lutheran Center Chapel, the offering being designated for Lutheran Disaster Relief to help with domestic fires in the west and the flooding in  South Carolina.  Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was preaching and Bp. Michael Rhyne, Allegheny Synod, presiding.

         

From the conversation the day before on racism, it was noted that the nominees on the shortened ballot for the COB Executive Committee did not include persons of color.  After conversation together, a motion was made to have Bp. Guy Erwin, who has Native American ancestry, be elected to the two-year term by acclamation.  It was approved unanimously. 

         

The COB then continued an open conversation on Eucharistic presiding led by Bp. Michael Burk.  Generally, we as a church have decided that no one shall preach or preside without a regular call as a minister of Word and Sacrament except in certain circumstances.  One example is the “Guidelines Related to Synodically Authorized or Licensed Ministries.”  Individual tables held conversation and will share comments with Bp. Burk of important questions, synodical practices, and what assistance the COB could use to address further questions on this issue.

 

After a short break, Bp. Julian Gordy led a conversation on Unaccompanied Immigrant Children.  Members of the churchwide staff were also available. 

 

We then recognized two ELCA Church Council members who have been with the COB since Wednesday to reflect on their experience: Hans Becklin and Christine Connell.  They noted that the COB faces similar issues that the Church Council does but has a difference in style and depth of conversation.  The experience of bishops holding conversations in synods and congregations bring helpful insights.  From the conversation on racism, they were thankful for the honesty and the ability to be brave, vulnerable, and open to see things differently.

 

           At noon, the bishops enjoyed lunch and fellowship.  Those who serve as Church Council Liaison Bishops had a brief meeting and others had the opportunity to discuss natural family systems in the church, led by Mary Ann Schwabe.

         

The afternoon and evening were free, providing a welcome respite from the schedule.  Along with naps, bishops enjoyed watching football or baseball on television, having dinner together, going to a movie or a baseball game, and generally relaxing.

 

Monday, October 5

 

The Chaplain for the Day was Bishop Kurt Kusserow, Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, who led us in morning devotions. 

 

The final ballot for the one-year term on the COB Executive Committee was held.  Elected to that position was Bp. Michael Burk.  From this point forward, one at-large position will be elected each year for a four-year term.

 

We then heard a variety of Committee Reports:

 

Bishop Formation, chaired by Bp. Kurt Kusserow – They welcomed the two new bishops – Matthew Riegel (Allegheny Synod) and Tim Smith (North Carolina Synod).  At eight bishop elections in 2016, at least six new bishops will be elected. 

 

Roster, chaired by Bp. William Gafkjen – We voted to approve recommendations of the committee concerning On Leave from Call extensions, three-year waiver requests for specialized ministries, and requests for non-stipendiary calls for both the ordained and lay rostered persons.  These decisions are governed by the “Manual of Policies and Procedures for Management of the Rosters of the ELCA.”

 

Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, chaired by Bp. Don Kreiss – A resolution was presented that the Declaration on the Way.  The COB approved the following statement:

Be it resolved that the ELCA Conference of Bishops

1) expresses profound gratitude for the Declaration on the Way as another sign of the ELCA’s commitment to making visible the unity that is God’s gift in Christ (Ecumenism: The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1991);

2) affirms the 32 Statements of Agreement; and

3) requests that the Church Council accept these Statements of Agreement and forward the Declaration on the Way to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly

-- for reception of the 32 Statements of Agreement, acknowledging that “receiving these agreements recognizes that there are no longer church dividing issues with respect to these Statements…” (Declaration on the Way); and

-- for commending to the ELCA the Declaration on the Way; From Conflict to Communion; and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification as resources for the common life of the church as we approach 2017 and beyond.

 

The “Declaration on the Way” is both an expression of the consensus achieved by Lutherans and Catholics on the central topics of church, ministry, and Eucharist and an indication of differences still remaining to be resolved.

Two key points from the conclusion of “From Conflict to Communion” document guided the work:

1) Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.

2) Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with each other and by mutual witness of faith.

The Declaration seeks from Catholics and Lutherans at local levels a deeper commitment to Christ and greater engagement and collaboration with one another. Thus the Declaration makes more visible the unity Catholics and Lutherans share as they approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The Declaration contains 32 Statements of Agreement drawn from the international and regional dialogues of the last fifty years. This powerful litany of consensus reflects the real, if still incomplete, common affirmation possible in these crucial and inter-related areas.

It also treats fifteen topics that have arisen in dialogue where there are varying degrees of doctrinal difference.  A number of them are seen not to be church dividing, and some possible ways forward are sketched.

This reception and affirmation naturally lead to practices that advance the growing communion between Lutherans and Catholics. Thus the Conclusion also invites the PCPCU and the LWF to create a process and timetable for addressing the remaining issues.  It suggests that the expansion of opportunities for Catholics and Lutherans to receive Holy Communion together would be a sign of the agreements already reached and the distance traveled.

 

Also, a resource for 2016 synod assembly workshops and other events will soon be available called “Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves:  A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World.”  Watch for this new resource for conversations with Jews and Muslims.

 

Also, he gave a report on conversations about racism, particularly with the American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.  He reminded us of the “Statement of Mission” we have with the AMEZ Church.  Please see http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/ELCA_AMEZ_Statement_Of_Mission.pdf?_ga=1.62507244.1727235768.1444055752

 

Theological and Ethical Concerns, chaired by Bp. Jon Anderson – He reported on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, the Grace Gathering at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, progress of “Women and Justice: One in Christ,”  the Table and Font Conversation, and discussion of the “Gender-based Violence Social Message.”

 

Ministry Among People in Poverty, chaired by Bp. Jim Gonia – Requested COB Executive Committee to talk about three questions at a future meeting: Please share effective MAPP ministries in your synod?  What barriers do you face?  What approaches do you use to provide for financial sustainability of these ministries?

Also, bishops were encouraged to find opportunities to connect with MAPP ministries in their own synods.

 

CSM: Leadership, chaired by Bp. Brian Maas – He brought two actions for the COB:

1)    That the CoB endorse the revised Candidacy Process Manual.  Approved.

2)    That the CoB endorse the Report and Recommendations of the Word and Service Task Force.  Approved.  Additionally, the Committee commends to the CoB the resources “A Theological Foundation for One Diaconate,” and “Here a Deacon, There a Deacon, Everywhere a Deacon, Deacon,” which will be posted to the COB Net Community page.

 

Synodical and Rostered Leader Care, chaired by Bp. John Roth – The Shared Risk Fund provides protection for disciplinary actions to cover the ecclesiastical process.  No contributions to this fund are required by synods at this time. 

The Good Samaritan Fund provides financial assistance for short term help.  For information on who is eligible, please contact the synod office.  The Fund is financed from a variety of sources – bequests, gifts from synods, endowment distributions, etc. 

 

After a morning break, we picked up the conversation from the Theological Education Advisory Council (TEAC).  We looked at the five governance models from the Baker Tilly report, pp. 19-52.  We voted to reject the status quo (model option E).

 

Over lunch, those who serve on a variety of Ready Benches met.  Ready benches include bishops who have a particular interest and are willing and ready to have conversations with legislative leaders.  They include concerns with the Middle East, Immigration (on which I serve), Domestic, Care of Creation, International, and Justice Is Not Just Us.  The rest of the bishops spent time in conversation, siesta, and renewal.

 

Bp. David Brauer-Rieke gave a quick report on the Assignment Process of seminary candidates.  There was a motion to create a working group of bishops (one from each region) and staff from CSM to offer recommendations to the March, 2016 COB meeting addressing the assignment process.  It was agreed.

 

After lunch, Portico Benefit Services provided its report by Pr. Jeff Thiemann, President and CEO.  Medical intervention has helped turn fateful diagnoses into chronic conditions that can be treated, and the aging, sedentary population needs these medications necessary for life, so the costs go up exponentially.

How can we personally address this situation?  Two ways: adopt a healthier lifestyle, and 2) become wiser consumers of the healthcare dollars we spend.

Portico spent $120M in 2014 in healthcare and prescriptions.  Our claims continue to be higher for a group our size.  We are 11 years older than the average group, have more stressful work, and have a higher incidence of chronic conditions.  As a whole, 72% have poor nutrition habits, 51% have high blood pressure, 57% have poor emotional health, 59% get too little exercise, and 68% are overweight.

It’s time for Wellness 2.0.  Portico will work toward helping members make creative adjustments to their personal health plan, build concrete outcomes through 2016 GO, and initiate conversation and collaboration.  We need to have mutual expectations and take health care seriously. 

Can we agree to these three statements?  Accept that we have a systemic problem, recognize that we can change our situation, and start by strengthening ourselves for ministry. 

 

COB Committee Reports continued:

 

Academy, chaired by Bp. Larry Wohlrabe – He reported on the 2016 Academy in Tucson, Arizona, entitled, “The Hard and Blessed Work of Leading in a Time of Change” with key presenter Will Willimon.  Required reading is Willimon’s book, “Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question.”

 

Bp. Wilma Kucharek and Pr. Brenda Smith gave an update on Book of Faith

She encouraged us to continue to lift up the Book of Faith Initiative through our websites and other means.  To access resources, go to http://www.bookoffaith.org/

 

A special working group on the TEAC report brought the following motion to send to the November Church Council meeting to bring the sense of the COB on this important issue:

 

To the ELCA Church Council:

Grace and peace in the name of Christ,

We are at a kairos moment for theological education in the ELCA.  We are grateful to have been invited to respond to the TEAC Report.

We are appreciative of the strong openness to imaginative and deep change that the TEAC task force report has generated.  We acknowledge the courage of the leadership of our eight seminaries engaging in these conversations.  We remain sensitive to the disruptive and necessary change these proposals will bring.

We affirm moving forward in this urgent task.  We have overwhelming consensus in our support for TEAC proposal 3A and Baker Tilly model options A and B (Central System and Limited Central System).  Model option A has the greatest energy among us; many were open to both options.  The Conference of Bishops voted to reject the status quo (model option E).

The Conference of Bishops strongly advocates the necessary reform that best serves the current and future mission of Christ’s church for the sake of the world. 

In moving toward a more centralized model for the sake of better stewardship we call for innovation, responsiveness, accessibility, and flexibility.  We pledge ourselves to this work with our partners at our seminaries.

 

In Christ,

The Conference of Bishops

          We heard process observations and bishop’s announcements.  Prayers were said for those who died at Umpqua University, the flooding in South Carolina, a wide variety of personal and rostered leader concerns, thanks for the Youth Gathering, etc.

 

We closed the day with an Oktoberfest Dinner and fellowship.

 

Tuesday, October 6

 

The Chaplain for the Day was Bishop Matthew Riegel, West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod.  Morning Prayer was led by Bp. Wolfgang Herz-Lane, Delaware-Maryland Synod.

 

In a closed, off the record session the COB discussed the recommendations related to Ministry to Same Gender Families.  It was led by Bp. John Roth, Bp. Mary Froiland, Roger Willer, and chair of the Task Force, George Watson.  After an extended period of reflection, they will bring the recommendations to the November Church Council meeting.

 

The Director of The ELCA Campaign, Pr. Ron Glusenkamp, gave us an update on the Campaign.  For more information, go to http://www.elca.org/Campaign-for-the-ELCA .

The 2016 emphasis for The Campaign is World Hunger, which will be the focus for the 2016 Southwestern Synod Assembly Offering.  Materials will be made available to every congregation from churchwide.  So, consider taking up this specific challenge during Lent, 2016, or in some other venue.  More information will come from the Synod Assembly Planning Team. ( to remind you: The 2015 Western Iowa Synod Assembly resolved to encourage congregations to double giving to World Hunger and collect 100,000 lbs of food for domestic food shelves.)

 

We received a report from Bill Graves, Director of Mission Builders.  It is an organization related to CSM that helps congregations build structures.  They have worked with 180 congregations and camps in 31 states and have built 230 structures.  Utilization of the program has saved those organizations over $25 million.  FYI – Mission Builders worked on American Lutheran, Haywarden. They work closely with members of the congregations to build these structures, as well as with ecumenical partners in the community.  For more information, go to www.elca.org/missionbuilders .  They are looking for Mission Builder volunteers, and you can request more information by sending a note to msnbuilder1@gmail.com

 

We then heard process observations, gave thanks for the outgoing Executive Committee of the COB, and sang the Doxology together to close.

 
 
 
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