2014 Assembly

The Synod Assembly is the "highest legislative authority" of the Synod. (Synod Constitution S7.01)


Synod Assembly 2014 Highlights

With the theme “God’s work. Our hands.” the 2014 Synod Assembly focused on the connection and partnership between congregations, the Synod, and the churchwide expression of the ELCA.


‘Be Communities of Discernment’

Synod Assembly Hanson“To do God’s work with our hands, we need to know what God is about,” the Rev. Dr. Mark S. Hanson told the 2014 Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod Assembly in his keynote address. To do that, “we need to be communities of discernment,” fluent in the Scripture narrative and able to identify what God is doing based on what God has done, he said. Once we discern what God is up to, we can put our hands to work, Hanson said: Open to receive God’s love and embrace others in pain, active in “radical hospitality, linked together to counter the forces of evil, and ready to let go and experience loss. As Easter people, we do not need to be afraid, Hanson said. We are free to reconcile, restore, and give life, justice and peace to all that God has made.  Learn more and watch video:

Hanson’s Synod Assembly presentation is available on video, edited to allow pauses for group participation and discussion. View or download the video here.


Assembly Approves Mission Advancement Campaign

The Synod Assembly voted unanimously to continue work with Kairos and Associates on the development of a Mission Advancement Campaign to develop resources to reshape the Synod for the work of equipping leaders and congregations to engage their communities and deepen discipleship of their members. Kairos’ David Lose told the Assembly that a benchmarked “landscape” survey administered to nearly 500 clergy and lay leaders indicated that the Synod’s constituents strongly support making changes to help the Synod better support congregations in discipleship, community involvement, Lutheran heritage and stewardship, among other areas.

This body is ready, and excited, and eager to live into God’s preferred future,” Lose said. Because the Synod has already done the hard work of cutting staff and expenditures, “we are now positioned to make the kinds of changes that will make us a more flexible, resilient organization” that can be a model for the rest of the ELCA, Bishop Burkat said.  Learn more and watch video:


Bishop: Join a New Christian Conspiracy

Synod Assembly Burkat“I want to invite you all to join a new Christian conspiracy,” Bishop Claire Burkat challenged the Synod Assembly. “What does it mean to in the 21st Century to conspire with Christ and one another to heal and bless the world in whatever ways God is leading us?” Drawing on the work of theologian John Courtney Murray, who described the early church as “con-spiring”breathing together, the bishop noted that the Synod has been being prepared to be a very different 21st Century church. Yet, as a consulting report by Kairos and Associates says, the next few years will determine whether the Synod lives into its transformative potential, or slides into complacency. “We need to develop a discernment process to help us rethink how, together, we can be vital congregations into the 21st Century.” The bishop described how new thinking is already taking root in the deployment of more than 40 teams and networks, in innovative missions such as the Rhawnhurst Turning Point youth center, and in Welcome Church’s “Dream Fund” in which members of the homeless community will award grants to congregations working to alleviate poverty.  Learn more and watch video:


Moving Toward God’s Preferred Future

Synod Assembly LoseAs the church has moved out of the center of society, with people no longer feeling a duty to attend and with many other cultural narratives on a par with Scripture, church leaders can feel as if they are constructing an airplane while it is in flight, Kairos consultant David Lose told the Synod Assembly. Every faith tradition has seen declines in attendance and giving in the last decade. “This gives many of us feelings of distress, concern, anxiety and shame,” said Lose. This shift “is due to massive cultural change, greater than we have seen before in the history of the U.S.” This significant change is hard, but it offers the possibilities of resurrection if the church and its leaders adapt and learn to thrive in this new environment, he said. Lose reported on a wide-ranging survey of synod leaders, including clergy, congregation council members and other lay leaders, conducted this spring to gauge the landscape our Synod operates in. The survey results show that there is a deep consensus that the Synod needs to operate in new ways. Just 1 percent of respondents said that “no change” is required, while 99 percent report their preference for change.  Learn more and watch video:


Mission Support Stabilizes; Budget Approved

Synod Assembly Mission Support Trend, 2010-13

Mission Support Trend, 2010-13

Financial support from the 159 congregations within the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod was up slightly in 2013 to $2.139 million, allowing for continued support of the new faith communities and programs that are at the core of SEPA’s mission. This halts decades of declining giving, drawing praise from Synod Treasurer Janet Huber Neff, CPA. Neff noted that 81 congregations either maintained or increased their support to the Synod and ELCA. Sixty-eight congregations met or exceeded their intents. “They heard us and gave more,” Neff said. Forty-two gave 9 percent or more of their regular receipts.  Learn more:

The Synod Assembly unanimously approved a $3.14 million budget for 2015, which anticipates flat income from Mission Support and a $224,000 shortfall. The new budget holds the line on expenses and includes a modest increase for Synod staff – the first in seven years. The 2015 budget does not depend upon an increase in Mission Support, although Finance Chair Rev. Karl Richard expressed optimism that giving would increase again this year. “We are hoping you will at least stay steady going forward,” Richard said. “We would love it if you also start increasing.”  Learn more:


VP Lifts Up ‘Out-of-the-Box’ Ministry

Synod Assembly BeasleyVice President Tracey Beasley used her Synod Assembly report to demonstrate that SEPA is the synod whose members roll up their sleeves and make a difference. “Even when the economy is bad, when members want to cut back on tithes, when we had a bad winter, when some are dealing with buildings falling apart and busted pipes, even in the midst of all that, we are doing God’s work with our hands, and I want to lift you up,” she said. She cited the slight upturn in Mission Support giving, along with outreach efforts such as offering Ash Wednesday ashes to commuters, taking the Gospel to pubs, congregations joining forces to resettle refugees and the majority of congregations who engage in fighting hunger, as signs God is at work in the Synod. “It’s all worth it, because you’re saving souls,” Beasley said. “God has reminded me time and time again: He has not brought us this far to leave us.”  Learn more and watch video:


We Are Church – Together

Justice is what love looks like in public. In keeping with the Assembly’s theme of togetherness and partnership, Judith Roberts, ELCA’s Director of Racial Justice, spoke to the gathering about the initiative We Are Church Together. “We are church. We are Lutheran, woven together as part of the ELCA. We are church together—all four million members. And we are church for the sake of the world,” said Roberts. “We are Church—Together. We believe God is calling us into the world together,” said Roberts. “May the God of life guide us to lead and be peacemakers.”  Learn more:


The Man With the Withered Hand

‘The Man With A Withered Hand” from on Vimeo.

Bishop Burkat’s sermon on Matthew 12:9-14

“Hands are a miracle — with 27 bones, the richest source of tactile feedback in the body, and the greatest positioning capability. It’s appropriate that we use hands to describe the lives we live together with God.”

“What is your withered hand? What is withering in your heart? What is not functioning the way God intended? How are communities struggling and cut off from others-withering?”


Look at Your ‘Selfie’

Look at Your “Selfie” from on Vimeo.

Dr. Hanson’s sermon from Friday worship

“Take out your imaginary cell phone and take an imaginary selfie. Nothing that we would see in that selfie will save us, make life whole, raise us from the dead or make us alive together with God. No part of us, or all of us, will save any of us. That is God’s work.”


In other business…


MacPhersons’ Say ‘Asante Sana’

Tom and Susan MacPherson Skyped into the Assembly along with a classroom of students from Irente Childrens’ School in Tanzania. They sang, shared the Lord’s Prayer with us in Kiswahili, and blessed the Assembly for our partnership. The MacPhersons’ 3-year term ends this year. Read more…  Watch video…



2017 is Coming

The Reformation at 500 committee shared some of the resources, discussions, events and experiences that will bring Luther and the Reformation alive and relevant for our time. Rev. Stephen Godsall-Myers discussed the yearly Lutherland trips, “Handwriting of the Scriptures” project, and other resources, including a possible Reformation bike ride and CD of Songs of the Reformation. Read more…


Enlightening Forums

The Assembly members had the option to visit interactive Forum sessions with Dr. Mark Hanson, a packed session on “Nurturing Vibrant Congregations” with Dr. David Lose, and a session on Social Media as it affects youth led by Molly Beck Dean, assistant to the bishop/youth ministry specialist.


Mission Center

The Assembly members learned about a number of our Ministry Partners in the Mission Center, including Welcome Church, the Stewardship Resource Team, the Mission Investment Fund of the ELCA and the Communicators’ Network.


Legislative Action

The Assembly approved some constitution and bylaw changes; approved a resolution urging individuals and congregations who are Thrivent Financial members to address any concerns about Thrivent’s new neutrality policy to the company’s representatives and board; directed the Transitional Ministry Development Team to review the current process for interim ministry, review examples used by other synods, and recommend expanded options for congregations; and referred the document “Sabbaticals: Extended Study and Renewal, Guidelines for Implementation (April 2014)” to the Synod Council for review and presentation to the 2015 Synod Assembly. Read more (PDF download)…

Newly Approved Candidates

Ashley Beth Rossi

Kyle Russell Crouthamel

Karen Beth Kelly

Laura Marie Tancredi

Karen Marie Sease

Axel Thomas Kaegler

read more…

Elected to Synod Council


Emmanuel Alves

Wynne Fisher

Emily Fowler

Donald Gleiter

Lucille Hall

Sue Massey

Rod Rothermel


Stephen Keiser

Thomas Lang

Jane Marston


50th Anniversary of Ordination

Rev. P. Richard Grove

Rev. George E. Keck

Rev. Raymond M. Kvande

Rev. D. Craig Landis

Rev. Charles F. Miller Jr.

Synod Assembly Videos



This special report was produced by the 2014 Synod Assembly Media Team:

Bob Fisher, director for communication (team leader)

Writers: Brenda Lange, John Kahler, Irma Kelly, Bob Fisher

Photography: Rev. Jesse Brown, Virginia Carman Woodbury, Sarah Self

Social Media: Mark Ristine, Virginia Carman Woodbury, Sarah Self

Technology/Powerpoint: Wynne Fisher, Carrie Johnston, Douglas Parry

Video: Ken and Stephen Selinger and staff of CCI Communications; Karl Segletes

Video streaming: Neal Fischer of Upstate NY Synod, ELCA

Mission Center: Michael Kelly


Additional resources


Assembly News

Click here for the latest 2014 Assembly news.


Assembly Program

2014 Proposed Assembly Program


Assembly Reports

2014 Bulletin of Reports  as one download.

Firefox users please note: Right click this link and save the file to your computer, and open in your PDF reader. This file does not display correctly in Firefox’ built-in reader, but works fine in most PDF programs.


Bulletin of Reports by Section

Bulletin of Reports Cover, Directions and Table of Contents

Assembly Program and Rules and Procedures

Report of the Bishop

2014 Anniversary Celebrants

Report of the Secretary

Report of the Synod Council

Report of the Nominating Committee

Report of the Constitution Committee

Report of the Treasurer and Budget and Proposal

SE PA Synod Audit Report-FINAL  updated July 14, 2014

2014 Statistician Report corrected April 30, 2014

Report of Committees and Task Groups

Report of Social Ministry Organizations

Reports of Colleges and Seminaries 2014

Report of Agencies


Synod Constitution

SEPS Constitution 2013c



Resolution #1

Resolution #2



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