ELCA

ELCA Church Council meets under Future Directions 2025

ELCA News - Tue, 04/17/2018 - 00:00

CHICAGO – The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met at The Lutheran Center in Chicago April 5-8. The council, which serves as the ELCA's board of directors, convened under the framework of ELCA Future Directions 2025.

In her report, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton emphasized that the work of the churchwide organization, including that of the council, is guided by "ways to live into and implement the five goals that we set as a church together in Future Directions 2025."

"This church spent a good deal of time and invested in heartfelt conversation and prayerful conversation trying to discern what God has been calling us to do," said Eaton. "As we look at those goals, how are they lived out, (how do they) enhance and support our two foci of vital congregations and leadership?" she asked.

Eaton went on to say that the council will play a significant role in helping the church determine how to make vital congregations and leadership a priority and will also play a role in discovering ways to build on these efforts.

Related to the fifth goal of Future Directions 2025 that states "a well-governed, connected and sustainable church," the council approved a proposal from the board development committee to create an ELCA governance policy manual. As a first step in the process – and to help build consensus around their shared understanding of roles and responsibilities – the council discussed ways to strengthen governance of the ELCA in order to provide for clarity in roles and authority, strong relationships and shared leadership, and a culture of willing accountability. It also appointed an ad hoc committee to oversee the development of an ELCA governance policy manual.

In further conversation around Future Directions 2025, the council continued a discussion on sustainability and church structures that began during the November 2017 meeting.  

In other business, the council:

  • received an introduction to a draft of the inter-religious policy statement by the inter- religious task force. A final statement for consideration by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly will be presented at the council's November 2018 meeting;

  • engaged in a discussion on gender identity and next steps in the council's decisions on existing gender-identity definitions and policies. The council was asked to study gender identity and review existing ELCA definitions and policies through a 2016 Churchwide Assembly memorial and a resolution on gender identity;

  • held a hearing on the draft social statement on women and justice. The proposed social statement will be presented to the council's April 2019 meeting for consideration by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly;

  • received a report of the Theological Education Advisory Committee;

  • affirmed the 2018-2019 operational plan of the churchwide organization;

  • approved the policy and procedure for the allocation of "where needed most" dollars in Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA;

  • voted to refer the proposed recommendations from the Entrance Rite Discernment Group to the Office of the Secretary for preliminary work on possible amendments to the constitution, bylaws and continuing resolutions. The council encouraged the group to share the report with the whole church and present final recommendations at the November 2018 meeting;

  • approved the creation of a task force of council members, churchwide organization staff and liaison bishops to consider a future ELCA campaign and a strategic focus on generating additional revenue for the church. The council also authorized the executive committee to appoint members to the task force. The task force will present a timeline at the council's November 2018 meeting and a report at the April 2019 meeting;

  • elected Sonja Wolfe, Kenosha, Wis., to the council for a term ending in 2022;

  • approved a council-designated fund of $2.75 million representing the excess revenue over expenses from fiscal year 2017 to be released to fund the post-retirement medical benefit obligations of the churchwide organization; and

  • approved the "Political and Civil Human Rights: Equal Access and Participation" social criteria investment screen requested through a 2016 Churchwide Assembly memorial regarding "justice for the Holy Land through responsible investment."

The council also received:

  • reports from the officers, its committees, the churchwide organization administrative team and the Conference of Bishops;

  • reports from the ELCA Ethnic Associations, including a follow-up on the Multi-Cultural Summit. The council also discussed how the voices of the ethnic associations can be more representative during council meetings;

  • updates on Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA; and

  • greetings from ecumenical partners.

The council also shared congregational vitality learnings.

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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 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
 

Categories: ELCA

Earth Day statement from ELCA presiding bishop

ELCA News - Mon, 04/16/2018 - 00:00

As members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we share a deep love for all of God's creation and a profound responsibility for it. Made in the image of God, we are called to continue what God is already doing for the earth (Psalm 104), enabling it to flourish. God assigns humans to care for the earth as God does, in loving servanthood. (Philippians 2:7, Genesis 2:15).[i]  

Daily we witness the evidence of a rapidly changing climate. At the same time, we also witness in too many instances how the earth's natural beauty, a sign of God's wonderful creativity, is defiled by pollutants and waste, resulting in ecological crisis. As a member church of The Lutheran World Federation, we affirm "that the global ecological crisis, including climate change is, human-induced. This is a spiritual matter. As people of faith, we are called to live in right relationship with creation and to not exhaust it."[ii]

The effects of the warming climate are felt in nearly every corner of the globe. These include increased migration, food insecurity due to changing agricultural landscapes, national security issues and health problems. As bad as it is for all creation, the most vulnerable people around the world are suffering the most. Yet they have contributed the least and, as noted in the United Nation's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,[iii] are ill equipped to adapt to or mitigate the effects of a changing climate to build resilient communities.

An honest and credible look at the increasing environmental degradation and climate change names the neglect, carelessness and wrongs of industry, civil society and global governmental leadership. It also recognizes how human beings individually and collectively worsen the attacks on God's creation. As a church, we must confess our frequent lack of urgency in addressing environmental degradation and slow action to address a changing climate. We also must pledge to acknowledge the intersections of racial and environmental injustices and strive to involve the voices of those most affected in the process.

In grateful response to God's grace in Jesus Christ, this church carries out its responsibility for the well-being of society and the environment. Our "concern for the environment is shaped by the Word of God spoken in creation, the Love of God hanging on a cross, the Breath of God daily renewing the face of the earth."[iv] Our concern is, then, propelled by hope and guided by principles of justice.[v]  We find our hope in the promise of God's own faithfulness to everything God has made. We seek justice for all of creation in concert with God's creative and renewing power. We do so understanding that we have the ability and responsibility to act together for the common good, especially for those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

As presiding bishop, I give thanks for all the ways this church embraces our common responsibility to care for all of God's creation. I call on us as individuals and congregations to continue efforts through stewardship, education and advocacy. I am reminded of the 2016 Churchwide Assembly resolution  "Towards a Responsible Energy Future," among others, that urges members of the ELCA and its related institutions to exemplify personal and institutional responsibility. Such efforts could include practicing energy conservation, congregational energy audits, purchasing more energy efficient appliances and vehicles, and investing in renewable energy systems. These resolutions also urge advocating at all levels of government for public policies that support clean, renewable energy sources.

The present moment is a critical and urgent one, filled with both challenge and opportunity to act as individuals, citizens, leaders and communities of faith in solidarity with God's good creation and in hope for our shared future. We claim God's promise in Revelation 21 for "a new heaven and a new earth" as we pray together:

"Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us coworkers in your creation. Give us wisdom and reverence to use the resources of nature so that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."[vi]

 

In Christ,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


[i] See ELCA social statement "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice" (1993), 1, 2.

[ii] Lutheran World Federation Twelfth Assembly resolution.

[iii] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

[iv] ELCA social statement, "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice."

[v] ELCA social statements identify these normative principles as participation, solidarity, sufficiency and sustainability. See "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice" and "Genetics: Faith, and Responsibility" (2011).

[vi] Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 80

- - -

About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

 

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

 

Categories: ELCA

ELCA presiding bishop issues pastoral statement on humanitarian situation in Syria

ELCA News - Sat, 04/14/2018 - 00:00

"Give God no rest" (Isaiah 62:6-7) until that day when "the wolf and the lamb shall feed together. ... They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord" (Isaiah 65:25) (ELCA social statement, "For Peace in God's World").

In recent days we have witnessed, with additional horror, further atrocities in Syria in a conflict that has taken almost countless lives over the past seven years and displaced millions of Syrians and others.

Following the April 13 air strikes conducted by the armed forces of the United States, the United Kingdom and France, the president and the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation issued a statement that I encourage ELCA members to read and prayerfully consider.

Our church is responding to the needs of Syrian refugees and displaced people through the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), in coordination with ACT Alliance (formerly Action by Churches Together). The IOCC has been assisting those in need in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to ensure food security, establish shelter, and provide better access to water and sanitation facilities, among other activities. LWF-Jordan is working with Syrian refugees and host communities in Amman, Mafraq, Irbid and in the Zaatari refugee camp, bolstering livelihoods through cash transfers and skills training in agriculture practices and improved technologies for vegetable production in home gardens to benefit malnourished children, pregnant and lactating women, and sick people. They are also providing psychosocial support, particularly among women. We plan to continue and intensify this work.

In the face of this ongoing humanitarian crisis, our nation also needs to open its arms again to receive Syrian refugees for resettlement in the United States. We will continue to work in ecumenical partnership as we pray, advocate and work to receive refugees.

Last, but not least, our government, as part of the international community, needs to redouble its efforts to work diligently for a diplomatic resolution of this conflict. As U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said earlier this weekend, "There is no military solution to the crisis.  The solution must be political." 

 

In Christ,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 


Categories: ELCA

ELCA presiding bishop calls on church to work for racial justice

ELCA News - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 00:00

CHICAGO (April 6, 2018) – Following the "Act Now: Unite to End Racism" rally in Washington, D.C., the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has issued a statement on racism, recommitting this church "to work for racial justice and inclusion, to work against white privilege, and to be a church that truly welcomes all." The April 4 rally was held in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Bishop Eaton's statement:

In 2017, we observed the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. In 500 years, Lutheranism has grown into a global movement. We worship in every language all over the world. There are now more Lutherans of color than there are European descent Lutherans. But here in the United States, Lutherans are predominantly white.

Lutherans came to this country in ethnic waves in the 18th and 19th centuries. English was not our first language; we kept to ourselves and were mostly outside of the predominant American culture. But Lutherans did share in the dominant culture in that we were mostly white and, therefore, had the privilege of not having to think or talk about the reality of racism in America.

We came to a tipping point in June 2015. There, in Charleston, S.C., a stranger walked into a Bible study at Mother Emmanuel and, after being welcomed by pastors and people, shot and killed nine. The martyrs of Mother Emmanuel. Two of those killed, the Rev. Clementa Pickney, pastor of Mother Emmanuel, and the Rev. Daniel Simmons, associate pastor, were graduates of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. The shooter, Dylann Roof, is a member of one of our (ELCA) congregations. One of our own shot and killed two who had adopted us as their own. All of a sudden, and for all of us in the ELCA, this was an intensely personal tragedy. Racism wasn't something outside of us; it was in us and had been all along.

It is a funny thing about being confronted by the truth – it can lead to transformation. Our bishop in South Carolina talked with his African Methodist Episcopal colleagues. The shock and grief of the massacre was still raw. But inaction was no longer an option. So congregations, ELCA and AME, started meeting together to share a meal, watch the film "Selma" and then talk about the reality of racism. The youth of our churches met together to share a meal, watch the film "Remember the Titans" and talk about the reality of racism. It is a small step, but it is a start.

We still have work to do. Within the ELCA, we have named the reality of institutional and structural racism. We have begun to pry Lutheran identity away from European descent identity. It is not culture and cuisine that define us but our common witness to the gospel. We recommit ourselves to work for racial justice and inclusion, to work against white privilege, and to be a church that truly welcomes all. We cannot do this work alone. We will work with ecumenical and interreligious partners. We will show up. We will speak up. We will act up.

The martyrs of Mother Emmanuel were not the first victims of violence. Martin Luther King Jr. was not the first victim of violence. Our only hope is in the innocent One who was violently killed on Good Friday, Emmanuel, God with us. He was wounded for our transgressions including the deadly sin of racism. But as he rose from the dead, we are able to rise up.
 

In Christ,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

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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 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

Categories: ELCA

ELCA presiding bishop delivers Easter message

ELCA News - Tue, 03/27/2018 - 00:00

CHICAGO – In her Easter message, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), reminds us that Jesus’ crucifixion is the death of our death.

Listen to Eaton’s message.

English PDF: http://bit.ly/2GhnwlY | Spanish PDF: http://bit.ly/2unhS0i

Categories: ELCA

The Campaign for the ELCA enters final year with $144 million – 73 percent of goal – raised

ELCA News - Tue, 03/20/2018 - 00:00

CHICAGO -- Entering its fifth scheduled year, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) first comprehensive campaign, Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA, is celebrating $144 million in cash gifts and gift commitments, representing 73 percent of the five-year, $198 million goal by Jan. 31, 2019. In addition, $30.5 million in planned gifts is committed to the ministries of the campaign.

"Through this first-ever campaign, we made a commitment to invest in the future of the ELCA – and working together to do so. Something we learned and saw with the Malaria Campaign is that every gift counts," said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. "It is so important for us to do this together, because together, we can do more. Together, we are deepening our relationships and expanding ministries that serve our neighbors and communities here at home and around the globe."

Featuring four priorities – Congregations, Hunger and Poverty, Leadership and Global Church – the campaign offers ELCA members the opportunity to invest in the future of this church, enabling programs that share a bold message of God's grace to the world both today and for many years to come. This year's emphasis is on the Leadership priority, including ELCA Fund for Leaders and Youth and Young Adults.

Since the campaign's launch four years ago, gifts to these priorities have made an impact here at home and around the world, including:

·       Young Adults in Global Mission opened four new country programs – Rwanda, Cambodia, Australia and Senegal – with 93 young adults sent into service during the 2017/2018 year, representing a nearly 48 percent growth since 2014.
·       In January, the ELCA Fund for Leaders reached its five-year $15 million goal within the campaign, providing more than 520 students with seminary scholarships. While the initial fundraising goal was met, continued support is needed to achieve the program's long-range goal of providing full-tuition support for every candidate at an ELCA seminary.
·       With more than $21.5 million contributed in a 12-month span, 2017 was the largest year of direct giving to ELCA World Hunger in the program's history – a 15 percent increase in annual giving since the campaign began. With this support, 518 projects that help fight hunger in 62 countries, including the United States, are continuing or being implemented.
·       The campaign's Renewing Congregations initiative reached the $1 million mark, allowing for the implementation of 26 grants across the ELCA, including 16 Synodical Renewing Congregations strategies, six Area Ministry strategies and four Fast Growth Congregations initiatives.
·       Above and beyond the monies raised for the campaign, ELCA members continued to respond generously to numerous disasters in 2017, contributing an additional $23 million in support of this lifesaving work. In total, $41 million has been raised for Lutheran Disaster Response during the life of the campaign.

"The Lord has blessed this campaign. We have accomplished so much together. Yet, there is more work to be done," said the Rev. Ron Glusenkamp, director for the campaign. "We have a goal, which we plan on meeting and surpassing by Jan. 31, 2019. We're inviting individuals, congregations, synods and our partners to join us as we rally and make additional gifts to these life-giving ministries."

This year, the campaign is looking to the future of the church with the Leadership priority. Through this priority, the ELCA is accompanying youth and young adults in their faith journeys and supporting talented, gifted students as they prepare to begin a life of ministry.

"The ELCA Fund for Leaders is investing in the future of the church by supporting outstanding leaders as they answer the call of service to this church and the world," said the Rev. Gabi Aelabouni, director of ELCA Fund for Leaders. "The Holy Spirit continues to call people with the gifts and passion for transformational leadership. Excellent leaders positively impact the whole church, and the ELCA Fund for Leaders is our commitment that they will be supported in their decision."

"The ELCA is dedicated to ministries that engage and affirm children, youth and youth adults as an integral part of this church, now and in the future," added Mark Burkhardt, director of the ELCA Domestic Mission unit's faith formation team. "The Campaign for the ELCA seeks to provide significant new opportunities for youth and young adults to participate in ministry, develop their leadership skills and pursue their vocational calling as Christians in the world."

In addition to its emphasis on the Leadership priority, the campaign is focused on:

·       Reaching the $115 million goal for ELCA World Hunger, including supporting and lifting up efforts like the 40 Days of Giving and the Global Farm Challenge as part of the upcoming ELCA Youth Gathering.
·       Continuing to accompany our neighbors from around the world through the Global Church priority. Earlier this month, the ELCA commemorated International Women's Day with a $100,000 match for gifts to the International Women Leaders initiative.
·       Advancing congregational vitality, as well as enhancing ministries with those with disabilities.

Information about The Campaign for the ELCA is available at ELCA.org/campaign.
- - -

About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

 

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org
 

Categories: ELCA

ELCA presiding bishop, other church leaders support Jerusalem churches

ELCA News - Wed, 03/14/2018 - 00:00

CHICAGO – Addressing recent efforts in Jerusalem to confiscate church lands and tax church properties, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), along with leaders from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Armenian Church of America and The Episcopal Church, have sent a letter of support to the heads of churches at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

In addition to Eaton, the letter was signed by His Eminence Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, ecumenical director and legate, Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern); and the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop and primate, The Episcopal Church.

The letter expresses "fervent solidarity with you, your churches and the entire Christian community in the Holy Land as you face repeated challenges to the Status Quo that ensures a Christian presence in this most holy of places."

The four church leaders also sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat expressing concern about the recent proposals and tax plans.

The letter states, "If enacted, these measures would have the effect of creating a situation that jeopardizes the very survival of the Christian community in the Holy Land."

Read the letter to the heads of churches of the Holy Sepulchre.
Read the letter to the Israeli prime minister and the Jerusalem mayor.

- - -

About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

 

Categories: ELCA

ELCA Conference of Bishops focuses on congregational vitality and leadership

ELCA News - Fri, 03/09/2018 - 00:00

ITASCA – Meeting under the theme "To Claim and Test Our Heritage," the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) engaged in discussions around two key priorities for this church: congregational vitality and leadership. The conference, which met here March 1-6, is an advisory body of the ELCA that includes 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and the secretary.

In her report to the conference, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton stressed the importance of upholding the foundation of the Lutheran church. Eaton addressed this through the lens of the four main emphases that provide the framework for the work happening across this church: We are church; we are Lutheran; we are church together; we are church for the sake of the world.

"When we say we're church, we say, therefore, our foundation is Christ and we gather around word and sacrament," Eaton said. "That's foundational. We want people to go to church, be faithful in the use of the means of grace and pray without ceasing. We need to get back to basics."

Speaking to the second emphasis, "we are Lutheran," Eaton underscored the Lutheran understanding that "in the suffering and death of Jesus, through grace and faith, we live in the promise of the resurrection."

Eaton also asserted that the sacraments "are an important part of our life together. When we talk about baptism, it's not just the event that happens for the newly baptized but (Martin) Luther's rich understanding of baptism that informs and supports every part of our life," she said. "Do we talk about that in our congregations?"

Recalling the words of St. Paul, Eaton reflected on the third emphasis, "So, we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually, we are members one of another." "In baptism, we are incorporated into the body of Christ," she said. "How do we help our people understand that they are part of something greater than themselves?"

Eaton connected the fourth emphasis to congregational vitality: "We're church for the sake of the world. How many of our congregations are just trying to hold on to their little patch of territory? And that's intentionally part of the congregational vitality piece – that we're connected to God, we're connected in our congregations, but we're also connected with our communities." Eaton emphasized this is what the church does "because we are church first rooted in word and sacrament."

In closing, Eaton told the conference she is willing to serve another six-year term as presiding bishop. "If God and the church will have me, I'm willing to stand for election again," she said.

Election for an ELCA presiding bishop will be one of the key actions at the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, Aug. 5-10 in Milwaukee. Eaton was elected to her first term as presiding bishop at the 2013 Churchwide Assembly.

The conference also received an update on the congregation vitality project. The project was created to deepen the ELCA's understanding of congregational vitality – what it means, how vital the ELCA is now, how vitality can be cultivated and how the ELCA can foster cultivation. Key findings identified in the report include: The most vital congregations can be any size or shape; vitality is not directly connected to numeric growth nor is it related to congregation location; more vital does not mean more sustainable.

"The conversations around congregational vitality led us to affirm a foundational description of vitality that is both focused enough to point a way forward around core commitments and broad enough to empower contextual engagement for the sake of the gospel," said the Rev. William O. Gafkjen, bishop of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod and chair of the conference

In response to a continuing resolution passed by the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, the conference spent time discussing increasing the diversity in ELCA congregations. The continuing resolution states in part: "This church commits itself to ethnic and racial diversity. Each expression of this church shall annually asses its ethnic and racial diversity when compared to the demographic data of its community or territory." During the session, the bishops were asked to identify priorities in their synod and the ways in which increased diversity can be addressed. The conference will assess their efforts and progress during its October 2018 meeting.

"Our recent meeting was also framed by commitment to and relationships with young people," said Gafkjen. "We began our meeting in worship and fellowship with the ELCA's Youth Core Leadership Team, a dozen high school students from around the church who are both growing in their leadership skills and leading the church in a variety of ways."

In further affirmation of this commitment, the conference approved a statement in support of young people as they seek to address gun violence and school safety.

The conference also engaged with ELCA seminary presidents, focusing on the ELCA's priority to identify and encourage leaders in the church.

"The significant time we spent with seminary leaders as part of our two-year commitment to work together in addressing the leadership needs of the church led us to form a number of small working groups to address various aspects of leadership from discernment and recruitment to equipping, forming, deploying and supporting leaders of all sorts," said Gafkjen.

In other business, the ELCA Conference of Bishops:

·       received an update on Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. As of Jan. 31, the campaign has received $144 million in cash and commitments to campaign priorities and an additional $30 million in planned gifts. This amount represents 73 percent of the $198 million Jan. 31, 2019, goal. Included in the campaign focus for 2018 is the ELCA World Hunger's Global Farm Challenge during the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston June 27-July 1. In his report, the Rev. Ron Glusenkamp, director for the campaign, announced that Rick Steves has made a $100,000 commitment toward a match for the challenge;

·       received a draft of the policy statement on inter-religious relations. The policy statement will be considered by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly;

·       received a report from the director of Mission Support. Mission Support is the financial offering from congregations shared with synods and the churchwide organization;

·       received an update on the ELCA Youth Gathering; and

·       received reports from the ELCA vice president, treasurer and secretary and updates from the Conference of Bishops' various committees.

- - -
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
Public Relations Manager
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

Categories: ELCA

ELCA Conference of Bishops issues statement of support

ELCA News - Tue, 03/06/2018 - 00:00

The ELCA Conference of Bishops has approved the following statement of support for the March for Our Lives on March 24.

 

STATEMENT IN SOLIDARITY WITH OUR

CHILDREN AND YOUTH

 

Our children and youth are like a young Jeremiah prophesying to the people: For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11) 

  

Recently, the students, faculty and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida experienced tragedy. Seventeen people - students and teachers - were killed by a 19-year-old shooter. In response, students have invited their teachers, families and allies around the nation to join with them for a March for Our Lives on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC; calling our country into a deeper conversation about school safety and second amendment rights and responsibilities. 

  

We recognize this incident is the latest in a long list of tragic shootings in our country and young people have been calling for protest and change for many years. Some of those young voices have been ignored or silenced because of racial and economic injustice. We cannot let that reality keep us from acting now.  

  

Adopted in 1994, the ELCA social message on Community Violence remains sadly relevant today. The message speaks about the causes of violence as complex and pervasive, and of how violence breeds violence. In proclaiming the forgiveness and love of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the church addresses the root of violence while being committed to social actions that respond directly to violence and the people it affects.  

  

From the Social Message: In the face of violence, God’s resolve for peace in human communities is unshakable. Deliberate acts to harm or kill innocent people violate God’s intention for human community. God’s commandment is “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). In proclaiming God’s law, we declare that all people are accountable before God and the community to honor and respect the life God has given. Christians, as salt of the earth (Mt. 5:13) and light of the world (Mt. 5:14), are called to respond to violent crime in the restorative ways taught by Jesus (Mt. 5:38-39) and shown by his actions (Jn. 8:3-11). We are empowered to take up the challenge to prevent violence and to attack the complex causes that make violence so pervasive. 

  

According to Lutheran theology, society is to be ruled by the civil use of the Law. Government is responsible under God for the protection of its citizens and the maintenance of justice and public order. As citizens in a democracy, we have the responsibility to join with others to hold government accountable for protecting society and ensuring justice for all, and to seek changes in policies and practices toward these ends. 

  

That social message was amplified by a social statement, For Peace in God’s World (1995) which, as part of its adoption, offered concrete implementation actions, including: To call upon the members and leaders of this church to support our youth in their struggle to define their identity and vocation as present and future peacemakers… 

  

The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in solidarity with our children and youth, and in response to our common baptismal vocation: living among God’s faithful people, hearing the word of God and sharing in the Lord’s Supper, proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, serving all people following the example of Jesus, and striving for justice and peace in all the earth; offer our support, partnership and prayers for the March for Our Lives, its satellite city events, and our children and youth who are leading us forward as peacemakers. 

 

The undersigned members have given their names in public and personal support of the statement.


The Rev. Thomas M. Aitken, Bishop

Northeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Abraham D. Allende, Bishop

Northeastern Ohio Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Jon Anderson, Bishop

Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Jim Arends, Bishop

LaCrosse Area Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Tracie L. Bartholomew, Bishop

New Jersey Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Daniel G. Beaudoin, Bishop

Northwestern Ohio Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Wm. Chris Boerger, Secretary

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

The Rev. Claire Schenot Burkat, Bishop

Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Michael Burk, Bishop

Southeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Jeffrey Clements, Bishop

Northern Illinois Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Barbara J. Collins, Bishop

Upper Susquehanna Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Jessica Crist, Bishop

Montana Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Steven H. Delzer, Bishop

Southeastern Minnesota Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt, Bishop

Southern Ohio Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. James Dunlop, Bishop

Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

 

The Rev. Paul D. Erickson, Bishop

Greater Milwaukee Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. R. Guy Erwin, Bishop

Southwest California Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Katherine Finegan, Bishop

Northern Great Lakes Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Mary Froiland, Bishop

South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA

 

The Rev. William O. Gafkjen, Bishop

Indiana-Kentucky Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Mike Girlinghouse, Bishop

Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. William Gohl, Jr., Bishop

Delaware-Maryland Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Jim Gonia, Bishop

Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. H. Julian Gordy, Bishop

Southeastern Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Richard H. Graham, Bishop

Metropolitan Washington, DC Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Erik K. J. Gronberg, Bishop

Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Roger Gustafson, Bishop

Central States Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. James Hazelwood, Bishop

New England Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Mark W. Holmerud, Bishop

Sierra Pacific Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Rick Hoyme, Bishop

Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, ELCA

 

The Rev. Robert F. Humphrey, Bishop

Virginia Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Rick Jaech, Bishop

Southwestern Washington Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Ralph E. Jones, Bishop

Northwest Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Donald Kress, Bishop

Southeast Michigan Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Kristen E. M. Kuempel, Bishop

Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Wilma Kucharek, Bishop

Slovak Zion Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Kurt F. Kusserow, Bishop

Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Felipe Lozada-Montanez, Bishop

Caribbean Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Patricia Lull, Bishop

St. Paul Area Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Brian Maas, Bishop

Nebraska Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. John S. Macholz, Bishop

Upstate New York Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Gerald L. Mansholt

East Central Synod of Wisconsin

 

The Rev. Donald. J. McCoid, Interim Bishop
Metropolitan New York Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Wayne N. Miller, Bishop

Metropolitan Chicago Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Rodger G. Prois, Bishop

Western Iowa Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Michael Rinehart, Bishop

Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Michael L. Rhyne, Bishop

Allegheny Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. S. John Roth, Bishop

Central/Southern Illinois Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Craig Alan Satterlee, Bishop

North West Lower Michigan Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Timothy M. Smith, Bishop

North Carolina Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Pedro Suarez, Bishop

Florida-Bahamas Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Ann Svennungsen, Bishop

Minneapolis Area Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Andrew A. Taylor, Bishop

Pacifica Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Ray Tiemann, Bishop

Southwestern Texas Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Kirby Unti, Bishop

Northwest Washington Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Steven L. Ullestad, Bishop

Northeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Shelley R. Wickstrom, Bishop

Alaska Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Lawrence R. Wohlrabe, Bishop

Northwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Herman Yoos, Bishop

South Carolina Synod, ELCA

 

The Rev. Samuel R. Zeiser, Bishop

Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA

 

Categories: ELCA

Tithe.ly offers new online giving option for ELCA congregations

ELCA News - Thu, 03/01/2018 - 00:00

CHICAGO –The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has reached a preferred vendor agreement with Tithe.ly, a company that offers mobile and online tools to enhance financial giving to ELCA congregations and ministries.

In response to inquiries and requests from congregations, the ELCA churchwide organization has sought new working relationships with companies that serve ELCA congregations. Preferred vendor agreements with a few select companies are being pursued to enhance operating efficiency, leadership effectiveness, congregational vitality and financial sustainability. Special pricing, communications and promotions will accompany each agreement.

As a national organization working with many congregations and denominations, Tithe.ly offers a cost-effective way to increase congregational giving. Congregations that sign-up with Tithe.ly will save more than 25 percent off the vendor's regular processing fees.

In addition, there is a bonus rebate for gifts made through ELCA Federal Credit Union credit and debit cards. Tithe.ly also offers a mobile giving app with no annual or monthly fee. Options also include kiosk and text giving and event registrations.

Through Tithe.ly, donation forms are integrated into the congregation's website and mobile app instead of sending donors to third-party sites. Donors have the option to make one-time or recurring gifts to provide more consistent giving. 

For the congregations' administrators, new events or funds can be easily added, and detailed reporting makes it easy for staff to verify transactions. Weekly and monthly summary reports are  generated, and analytical tools are available to monitor trends. 

Tithe.ly can work with every ELCA congregation. Learn more about Tithe.ly.

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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 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
Public Relations manager
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

 

Categories: ELCA

ELCA Presiding Bishop’s Pastoral Message on Jerusalem

ELCA News - Mon, 02/26/2018 - 00:00
Today, I join our partner church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), in expressing solidarity with the churches in Jerusalem to defend their properties and protect the Christian presence in the Holy Land. A few weeks ago, based on a new legal opinion, Jerusalem began collecting property taxes from churches despite an agreement with Israel to exempt them (as they had also been when the city was previously under Jordanian, British and Ottoman control). While the city’s action can be seen partially as a financial dispute with the central government, it is noteworthy that this tax collection is taking place alongside a proposal in the Knesset to confiscate church-owned land. The net effect has been to attempt to undermine the historic status quo in Jerusalem and mount increased pressure on the Christian community and its ministries in the Holy Land.
 
In response to these moves, the churches in charge of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox) Church, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Catholic Custody of the Holy Land – on Feb. 25 closed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in protest. Today, the ELCJHL, in conjunction with the German Lutheran Church, decided to close Church of the Redeemer and its tower for one day in solidarity.
 
The ELCJHL has asked us to stand with them and the Christian community and pray for them during this time of trial. I will do so and ask members, congregations and synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to join me. We will continue to be in conversation with our partners in Jerusalem as this situation further develops.
 
God’s peace,
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Categories: ELCA

ELCA seminaries look to identify, nurture and sustain new leaders

ELCA News - Thu, 02/22/2018 - 00:00

CHICAGO – In partnership with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton's Leadership Initiative, the seven seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will  launch a combined effort to encourage new candidates for ministry in the ELCA.

The program, "Do you want to change the world?," is being promoted through a series of videos, the first of which will be released Feb. 22. The video addresses the current leadership shortage of the ELCA and the effort to seek more candidates for ministry.

Decreased seminary enrollment combined with a record number of ELCA rostered ministers who are retiring, has resulted in not enough ministers to fill the open calls or to provide creative leadership in this time of rapid change in our church and in the world. The ELCA seminaries have addressed this need by working independently and in collaboration to increase the number  of candidates. According to the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Strandjord, director of ELCA seminaries, this has resulted in a modest increase in fall starts for Master of Divinity candidates in 2017.

Building on these efforts to invite and encourage future leaders, this program will help seminaries identify new candidates and provide resources that promote the vocation of public ministry, while providing marketing pieces for the good of the whole church.

The program is made possible by a grant from the Richard Hay Barkalow Charitable Seminary Fund of the inFaith Community Foundation.

All are invited to share the following information:

Watch and share on your social media networks how spoken-word poetry encourages candidates to attend seminary.

Learn more about the ELCA seminaries.

Explore ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton's Leadership Initiative.

 

For more information on the initiative:
Matthew D. O'Rear
Director, InFaith ELCA Seminary Grant
Morear@WartburgSeminary.edu 

 
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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 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

Categories: ELCA

ELCA presiding bishop issues statement on Dreamers

ELCA News - Fri, 02/09/2018 - 00:00

Immigration is an ever-present topic at our dinner tables and in our congregations as Congress continues to discuss long-overdue protection for thousands of our community members who lack permanent legal status. Scripture calls us to welcome the sojourner. God commanded of the Israelites: "The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 19:34).

Today, I renew my call to all of us as Christians to recognize our neighbors as made in the image of God, and to our nation's elected leaders: Enact policies that provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who arrived in the U.S. as children, known as Dreamers, and do so without harming other vulnerable immigrants.  

As Lutherans, we live out our biblical calling by serving in ministries with migrants and refugees in our communities and advocating for laws that reflect this commitment. I am troubled that policies under consideration will protect some of our community members while, at the same time, harming others. While recognizing the right of all countries to control their borders, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) social teaching affirms that "border policies should always respect the human dignity of all persons." I'm especially troubled by policy proposals that harm:  

  • Family unity: "Our advocacy will continue to insist that family reunification should be the primary objective of immigration laws" ("Message on Immigration," 1998).

I encourage policymakers to reflect upon Martin Luther's challenge: "How do we know that the love of God dwells in us? If we take upon ourselves the need of our neighbor." I also call upon Lutherans throughout the country to lift our voices through our Advocacy network and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service to urgently call for legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers without harming others.

"As we journey together through the time God has given us, may God give us the grace of a welcoming heart and an overflowing love for the new neighbors among us" ("Message on Immigration," 1998).

Sincerely,
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Categories: ELCA

ELCA presiding bishop to participate in rally to end racism

ELCA News - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 00:00

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), will join ecumenical and inter-religious partners for Act Now: Unite to End Racism April 3-5 in Washington, D.C. The focus of the three-day event will be a rally April 4 on the National Mall.

The event, organized by the National Council of Churches in Christ in the USA, will bring together many ELCA members from across the country. The ELCA is a founding member of the council.

The rally's call to action emphasizes three key points: awaken to the truth that racism is evil and hurts us all; confront racism through truth-telling and action to right the wrong; and transform the hearts, minds, and behaviors of people and institutions.

Events begin April 3 with an ecumenical worship service at St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral and will be capped off by a lobby day on Capitol Hill April 5.

All are invited to join Bishop Eaton at the event. Learn more here.

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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 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

For information contact:

Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

Categories: ELCA

‘Set Free By Truth’ Lent devotions offered by four church leaders

ELCA News - Mon, 02/05/2018 - 00:00

CHICAGO – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and leaders from The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have prepared a series of Lent devotions titled "Set Free By Truth."

The devotion theme addresses truth and racial justice, reflecting on the challenges facing churches in North America today.

In her devotion for Ash Wednesday, Eaton writes, "We have been claimed in baptism, buried with Christ in a death like his, to be raised with Christ in a resurrection like his. We have already died the only death that really matters, and yet … . We do not recognize the full humanity of others. There is not justice for all. In our fear we doubt the resurrection. This Lent, let us enter into a time and space of honest and unflinching examination."

In addition to Eaton, devotions were contributed by the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, presiding bishop and primate, The Episcopal Church; the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, primate, Anglican Church of Canada; and the Rev. Susan C. Johnson, national bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

The Lent devotions begin with Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, and continue through Easter Sunday, April 1. Each devotion includes Scripture citations, a reflection and a prayer.
 

Download the Lent devotions.

- - -

About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in more than 9,400 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.

For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder
773-380-2877
Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

Categories: ELCA

ELCA Presiding Bishop responds to reported racist comments

ELCA News - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 00:00

I am very disappointed and disturbed by the remarks that President Donald Trump is reported to have said yesterday – and confirmed by others who were present – in the context of a discussion about immigration. 

Regardless of the context, references of that kind have no place in our civil discourse and, if true, reflect racist attitudes unbecoming any of us, but especially a president of the United States. 

Instead, we should be fostering a world where each of us sees every person – regardless of race, origin, ethnicity, gender or economic status – in the image of God and, therefore, worthy of dignity and respect. Our church has relationships and partnerships with Christians and others on six continents. These are our sisters and brothers. We strive to accompany them and they us, across boundaries and cognizant of our diversity, yet all seeking the common good. In working for a healed, reconciled and just world, we all should faithfully strive to participate in God's reconciling work, which prioritizes disenfranchised, vulnerable and displaced people in our communities and the world, bearing witness – each of us – to the love of God in Jesus Christ.

 

"We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization" —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

 

God's peace,

Elizabeth A. Eaton
ELCA Presiding Bishop

Categories: ELCA