Report of the Conference of Bishops
Bishop Rodger Prois
Thursday, September 27
Region 5 Bishops met to learn of the results of the Assignment process that was engaged on Wednesday. We heard that across the church there were 255 congregations and parishes that would be suitable for first call candidates, and 47 candidates available. 14 of those were assigned to Region 5, one coming to Western Iowa. Pr Lorna and I are in conversation with her and potential sites.
The various committees of the Conference met following lunch. I sit on the DM (Domestic Mission) New and Renewing Congregations Committee and we spent most our two hours talking about the Congregation Vitality initiative and some time around the new governing document for Lutheran Campus Ministry.
The Conference truly began as we gathered for worship with Seminary Presidents,churchwide staff, and other partners. Bishop Ann Svennungsen, Minneapolis Area Synod preached, and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton presided.
Following worship we had a light meal, welcomed new Bishops, then engaged in Cafe Conversations about the entrance rite for those entering the Word and Service Roster.
Friday, September 29
Bishops of Region 3 served as chaplains for the entire conference. Bishops Jon Anderson, SW MN, and David Zellmer, SD, led us in a celebration of St Michael and all the Angels.
Victoria Flood, Director for Mission Support, told us of the progress of a pilot project where the DEM expenses are covered by the Synod and Mission Support to churchwide is reduced by like amount. It seems to be showing positive results and may be expanded to additional synods.
A new software app that will simplify the granting process for the ELCA was demonstrated.
Pr Ron Glusenkamp, Director of the ELCA Campaign, announced the status of donations continues to be positive. $127m of the $198m goal has been given to date, with another $126m in planned gifts.
Bishop Guy Erwin was re-elected to serve on the Executive Committee of the Conference.
After a healthy lunch and a break, we entered in another conversation with Seminary Presidents concerning the future of Theological Education. The essence of the conversation was an attempt by the Presidents to elicit input from the Bishops on the realities of life in the local context.
Pr Brenda Smith, DM, shared a new resource to promote change in race relations. It can be found at http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Conversations_Race_Relations.pdf
We received a report on the latest work of the Book of Faith Initiative
The Conference discussed at length the place of seminary deans in the candidacy process, with particular attention to comments made by the deans on requirements made of students who have not attended an ELCA seminary. It was decided that a consultation be held before April 1, 2018.
Bishops made announcements for the good of the community and we recessed for the Fund for Leaders Awards Banquet.
Saturday, September 30
Bishops Tom Aiken, NE MN, and Steve Delzer, SW MN, led us in worship.
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth gave her report beginning with an update on Lutheran Disaster Response. WIS got a shout out for our attempts to send hay to those areas in the West stricken by drought.
She then shared some of the events that are happening in commemoration of the 500th.
Through prayer the ELCA is focusing on the goals of Future Directions, an initiative she hopes we will all do together.
Bishop Eaton told us the the Leadership Initiative is in full swing. 48 new students in ELCA seminaries have received full scholarships from the Fund for Leaders. ELCA.org/leaders
Always Being Made New, the campaign for the ELCA, is at $127m and continuing strong.
She stated that theological education will look different as we move into the future. “We do not need 7 institutions, presidents and plants for 2000 students.” One of her points was to help ensure financial stability of seminaries, while reducing seminary student debt.
The Rostered Ministers Gathering has been deemed a success with over 900 pastors, deacons, and bishops, and another is in the planning stages.
The Living Lutheran is looking for stories. They can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org
Pr. Walter May, Exec for Synodical Relations, reported on his work. He spoke of ministry of Federal Chaplaincy and invited Bp Holmerud, Pacifica, to tell of the service provided by military chaplains and the need for more to fill those positions.
William Horne, VP of the ELCA, shared his report starting with his gratitude for those who sent notes and prayers for his work as the city manager of Clearwater Florida after the hurricane. He is working on the Inter-religious Task Force, led a Churchwide Council retreat, met with a Joint leadership council, and with Military Chaplains at the RMG. He shared the work of the CW Council at its last meeting:
a. Lifted up sustainability, stewardship of resources, communication and becoming a multicultural church as highly important in the next three years.
b. Affirmed its important role as stewards and champions of called Forward Together in Christ-Strategic Directions 2025.
c. Committed to initiating a process to promoting sustainability by a focus on how to insure church structure fits future aspirations of the ELCA.
d. Affirmed its intention to introduce new ways of working in this triennium to strengthen church governance and leadership in its own council and committee processes, build strong relationships and collaboration with the Conference of Bishops and Churchwide Organization Administrative Team and to use CFTIC 2025 as the framework for Churchwide operations and resource allocation.
e. Agreed to review the number and type of decisions assigned to the Church Council under the ELCA Constitution, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions, considering their appropriateness to governance responsibilities
Secretary Chris Boerger shared his report. WIS has been allotted 13 voting members to the 2019 churchwide assembly based on baptised membership. It will be at the November 2018 meeting of the churchwide council when they will act on proposed amendments for consideration by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly.
His list of items that have been raised so far include:
a. Possible removal of Conference of Bishops approval for non-stipendiary calls
b. Review of requirements for Synodically Authorized Ministry
c. Questions relating to 7.46.01. (Lodge membership)
d. Review of internal consistency of the three constitutions
e. Possible changes to the entrance rite for ministers of Word and Service and response to memorials related to ministers of Word and Service and the representational principles.
f. Review the calling of rostered ministers by parishes or coalitions of congregations.
g. Allowing congregations to elect replacement voting members if a special synod assembly is called, where permitted by law.
There will also be elections for the Presiding Bishop, Secretary (he stated it will be a new Secretary), and various other churchwide positions.
This will be the last year the Churchwide Directory will be available in print form, it will be in digital format as the Digital Yearbook. It will include all the print edition did, and will be searchable, dynamic, and have other reports and synod specific data. This new directory will go live in January of 2018. This website will make it essential that synods report to ECIS any changes or additions.
He offered a summary of the parochial reports (I will attach Ken Innskeeps #s to this report). Boerger also pointed out the trends for completion of those reports by synod over the years. WIS #s are as follows:
1990 - 91.0%, 1995 - 85.8%, 2000 - 83.8%, 2005 - 82.1%, 2010 - 68.2%, 2015 - 72.7%,
2017 - 73.1% (It is good to see that there is improvement.)
Of note: 38% of ELCA congregation, of those who filed reports (76%), are now worshipping less than 100 on any given Sunday.
After lunch we continued with:
Treasurer Linda Norman’s report:
As of August 31 we were ahead revenue over expenses. Mission Support Revenues were at 103% of budget, but slightly behind last year, which is 65.8% of total income. World Hunger is behind budget but even with previous year, which was a record year. LDR has received $2.9m with about one million to Hurricane Harvey, and another $500k has been received in September.
The Campaign for the ELCA is at 63.9% of goal with a year to go. She went on to speak to Mission Support from synods. WIS is in the bottom 10% of synods by percentage.
2018 budget is anticipating a 1% decrease.
Called Forward Together in Christ: Future Directions Conversation
This segment of our agenda emphasised the interdependence of the Churchwide Organization, the Churchwide Council, and the Conference of Bishop and how that interdependence is needed to move the CFTC ahead. Background resources can be found at http://elca.org/future
We then broke for conversations around the issues of lay presidency and holy closures.
Sunday, October 1
We gathered for Worship with Holy Communion presided over by Bp Patricia Lull, St Paul, and the Word was proclaimed by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.
Our work session continued with a discussion about the entrance rite for the Word and Service roster. There was agreement that we are not of one mind with further discussion necessary.
Bp Patricia Lull reported on changes in the Candidate Assignment process and how it is being experienced in pilot synods.
We were then given the balance of the day for sabbath.
Monday, October 2
Devotions were led by Bps Mark Narum, Western ND, and Terry Brandt, Eastern ND with focus on the finding joy amidst a world filled with violence and sin.
Bp Mary Froiland gave the Roster Committee report and the Conference approved extensions of leave of call (including Sherry VanLishout), waivers of the 3 year rule and non-stipendiary calls.
We then heard committee reports for Bishop Formation, Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, Theological and Ethical Concerns, Ministry among people in poverty (a reminder that it is about time to request ELCA Hunger Domestic Grants), DM: New/Renewing Congregation (the committee I work with), DM: Leadership, Synodical-Churchwide Relations, Synodical and Rostered Leader Care, and The Bishop’s Academy.
An update on Lutheran Services in America (the umbrella organization for LSI and other similar groups) was offered by President Charlotte Haberaecker. http://www.lutheranservices.org/
Following a break we heard from the Global Mission Liaison Committee.
Racial Justice is one of the “front burner” items for our church. Judith Roberts, Program Director for Racial Justice of DM, reminded us of the CW resolution 5.01.B16 concerning synodical plans to address racial justice in their territories. (I have been talking about Changing Hearts in the Heartland and would cherish your help) Ken Inskeep provided the latest data on non-white populations across the church, and specifically within our territory. This is a great opportunity for us to move to appreciate the variety of cultures present in Western Iowa.
There are 6 Ready Benches of the Conference that meet around specific issues that may need advocacy. The 6 are: Middle East, Immigration, Domestic, Care of Creation, International, and Justice is Not Just us. I sit on the Immigration and we spent our lunch hour in a teleconference with the ELCA Washington office and LIRS.
Following lunch 1517 Media (formerly known as Augsburg/Fortress) President/CEO Beth Lewis updated the status of her organization and talked of the succession plan in place upon her retirement.
The Conference then entered into Executive Session for the balance of our day.
Tuesday, October 3
Bp Larry Wohlrabe, NW MN, opened this day’s session with devotions.
Molly Beck Dean offered an update on the 2018 Youth Gathering. Registrations is now open and spaces are filling quickly.
We ended our meeting with a discussion about the length and shape of the meeting. Conference Chair, Bp Bill Gafkjen (Ind-Kent), fielded ideas and opinions then formed a small task force for future CoB gatherings.
We ended in prayer and departed in peace.