…Bishop Burkat declared to the 2016 Synod Assembly. Lutherans gathered from across Southeastern Pennsylvania to worship, pray, and discern in community explored how we can go outside our doors and listen to our neighbors in ways that are faithful to our 500-year Reformation heritage.
Your (Synod is) on fire, Bishop Burkat, and it’s contagious. – Rev. Albert Starr. #sepaforward
— Bob Fisher (@adiaphora) May 7, 2016
Despite the stresses posed by constant connectivity, racing schedules and financial pressure, “the Holy Spirit is bringing a new dawn for Christ’s Church,” Bishop Claire Burkat said in her Assembly address. “We are still reforming!”
A glimmer of that dawn can be seen in the characteristics of emerging generations that have little interest in institutional religion, value diversity of all kinds, distrust authority, and are always online.
The disconnect is significant: Almost two-thirds of the population of Southeastern Pennsylvania is under age 44, while Lutherans skew older than that and nearly half of synod pastors will retire in the next 10 years.
“To reach this very young culture we need to change our old church culture now,” the bishop said.
“We don’t need to change the core Christian message…but we do need to change the ways and the places by which we proclaim Christ” to people who are now four generations removed from cradle-to-grave faith formation. Read the full story.
A perfect storm of influences, within the church and without, make it urgent for our Synod to re-imagine our future as church: Two-thirds of SEPA residents are under age 44. Younger generations rarely go to church, distrust authority, and value diversity not often found in congregations. Just 15% of SEPA congregations are growing, and nearly half of our pastors could retire within 10 years.
Our Synod is responding to these challenges with the Forward Together in Faith Campaign, which will resource our future with $2.5 million to equip leaders for innovative ministry, network ministry practitioners and help us better communicate God’s story in a digital age.
Bishop Burkat will be completing her second and final term in 2018. She has launched the campaign to initiate changes now that will have great influence on the church for generations. “There is a steep learning curve to becoming bishop,” she says. “Please do not saddle future synod leadership by delaying an initiative we need to do now.”
After a year in which dozens of congregations participated in a mission assessment process (and the Synod provided innovation grants and communications reviews), and in which 100 percent of Synod Council, staff and deans pledged to support Forward Together in Faith, Bishop Burkat told the Assembly that the campaign goal is doable — if we do it together.
“I invite all of you TOGETHER to prayerfully consider stepping in and being a part of making this bold initiative to fund our future happen. I am asking individuals and congregations to give.”
“I am asking all rostered leaders to give,” the bishop added. “And I’m asking you to ask others who will ask others, who will ask others who love this church and look forward to the amazing ministry we can do together. Read the full story.
In our 21st Century, post-9/11, globalized world full of “nones” and “dones,” what draws people to church? “This is a Kairos moment,” says the Rev. Bryan Penman, when God’s grace leads us to new ways of being the Church. The Forward Together in Faith campaign focuses on supporting congregations as they reform and become networkers, innovators, communicators and equippers, explained Penman, pastor of St. Mark, Conshohocken, and a campaign leader.
“We are called to be networks of resources to help those in need, to be innovators with the work of the Spirit, to be communicators of God’s grace, to be equippers of the saints,” he said.
In the last year, the campaign has been helping congregations by offering mission assessments, communications advice and innovation grants to demonstrate what can happen if the Synod pulls together to meet the campaign’s goal of raising $2.5 million over three years. Read the full story.
It’s about friends new and old, seeing the ministry we do together in action, but mostly about God’s work, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.
In two Assembly keynotes, the Rev. Dr. Kirsi Stjerna, who teaches Lutheran history and theology at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, offered ways that the church can move forward as a reforming presence in the 21st Century.
Stjerna spoke about paying attention to “urgencies” in our times, areas that Lutherans must engage in order to bridge the reformation begun during Luther’s time with the future. These include inclusivity, marriage and sexuality, spirituality, and hospitality. “Lutheran theology calls for embodied presence.” Read the full story.
The Assembly approved a balanced budget for fiscal 2017 that reflects the continuing decrease in Mission Support contributions from churches. In 2015 Mission Support totaled $1.97 million, a decrease of $180,000 from 2014, reported Treasurer Janet Neff, CPA. The Synod has been responsible managing with diminishing resources, she said. Since 2010, Mission Support has declined 16%, while the Synod has reduced its expenditures 25% over that same period.
The 2017 plan was based on actual receipts from 2015, according to Sue Massey, chair of the finance committee. It maintains a 50% tithe of Mission Support to the ELCA churchwide organization, because “we are an interdependent church,” Neff said. “Many of our ministries are relationships, which require people,” both staff and volunteers, Massey said. Read the full story.
FINAL REPORT OF THE ELECTIONS COMMITTEE
Synod Assembly 2016
TICKET #1 Consultation Committee, Clergy (2020)
TICKET #2 SYNOD COUNCIL, Clergy (2019)
TICKET #3 SYNOD COUNCIL, Delaware Conference Representative, Lay Male (2019)
TICKET #4 SYNOD COUNCIL, Northeast Conference Representative, Lay Male (2019)
TICKET #5 SYNOD COUNCIL, Upper Montgomery Conference Representative, Lay Female (2019)
Referred to Synod Council
TICKET #6 SYNOD COUNCIL, At Large Representative, Lay Male (2019)
TICKET #7 SYNOD COUNCIL, At Large Representative, Lay Female (2019)
TICKET #8 SYNOD COUNCIL, Yong Adult, Lay Female (2019)
TICKET #9 SYNOD COUNCIL, Young Adult, Lay Male (2019)
TICKET #10 SYNOD COUNCIL, Youth Female (2018)
Referred to Synod Council
Bob Fisher, assistant to the bishop and director for communication
Photographer: The Rev. Regina Goodrich
Writers: The Rev. Katherine Cartwright Knodel, Elise Seyfried
Social Media Crewe: Jennifer Sandmann, Sarah Jean Self (OneMile Creative.com)
Video: John Kahler, Dan Scharnhorst
Web and print: Jane Jorgensen
Powerpoint control and technical assistance: Jessica Smith
Livestream and video production: CCI Communications – Ken Selinger, Stephen Selinger and crew