calendar February 4, 2011 in Global Vision

Companion Synods: Blessed to be Church Together

A message from Joanne Carlson, assistant to the bishop for global vison and events:

What a blessing it is to be participants in the Companion Synod Program of the ELCA!  For many years, since the early 1990’s, we have been in a relationship with the North Eastern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (NED). More recently, in 2006, we joined into a companionship with the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (in the Czech Republic — SCEAV). Through our connections with both of these, the people of our synod and the people of those churches have learned from each other, prayed for and with each other, and encouraged each other in mission and ministry.  We have lived out the ELCA understanding of global relating as one of "accompaniment", each as givers and receivers, teachers and learners. Together we have all grown in understanding how better to be the church.  In being guests of and receiving guests from their companions, the members of each of these expressions of the Church, the NED and the SCEAV and the SEPA Synod have given thanks to God for the spiritual experiences which have strengthened their faith and have joined us together as sisters and brothers in Christ.

Through the Companion Synod Program, the 65 synods of the ELCA have been in relationship with 135 global companions. Sadly, in response to actions taken by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly related to sexuality issues, the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession, decided to terminate their companionship with our synod.  Of the 135 global companions, this was the only church to end a companionship because of those decisions.  It had been our hope and prayer that "faithful people could disagree", continue to respect each other regardless of differences and work together "for the sake of the world".  In various communications we expressed to the leadership of the SCEAV our desire to continue the relationship but communications from their bishop clearly indicated that there was not an openness to that possibility.  Even when the decision was made and eventually conveyed to us, we responded by letting them know that we will remain open to and hopeful for the re-establishment of companionship at some point in the future. We are aware that there are those in the SCEAV who share that desire. We have asssured the bishop and leaders of their church that we will continue to hold them in our hearts and in our prayers.

Our relationship with the NED continues to grow and deepen.  An ongoing priority for this companionship is establishing links between our congregations and their parishes.  To be connected in such way with a community of faith in another part of the world is a true blessing.  If you would like to learn more about this opportunity, what it involves and to explore the possibility of becoming a companion congregation please contact me.

Joanne Carlson
Assistant to the Bishop for Global Vision and Events