calendar February 1, 2023 in Congregations

Urban Ministry Task Force Formed

The 2022 SEPA Synod Assembly adopted “Fortifying Ministries in Underserved Urban Areas – A Resolution to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod.” A similar memorial was also sent to the 2022 ELCA churchwide assembly and approved there. The full text of the resolutions can be found at

Briefly, the resolution points out that many of SEPA’s urban churches are in dire straits, forced to decide between supporting ministers and repairing crumbling buildings. The task force will determine the scope of the problem and generate potential solutions. Ideas include a shared fund for pastoral compensation, programs for city interns, and various strategies for urban congregations to receive more resources from the churchwide ELCA organization.

The resolution was approved in May 2022, and work began to form a task force at the next meeting of Synod Council in September 2022. The task force was appointed in October and in November 2022, began to meet. Rev. Derric Jackson (New Life Ministries) and Mr. Clifton Hayman (Trinity Germantown) were elected co-chairs; Ms. Maureen Tang (St. Peter’s North Wales) as secretary. Other members include Rev. Gwendolyn Johnson-Bond (St. Peter’s Philadelphia), Rev. Stephen Keiser (retired, Christ Upper Darby/ University Lutheran), Ms. Karen Paulus (St. Timothy’s Fox Chase), Ms. Cynthia London (St. Mark’s Philadelphia), and Rev. Lyzette Rios (New Creation/ Nueva Creación). Rev. Regina Goodrich, Dean of Central Conference and Rev. Bryan Penman, Director of Evangelical Mission serve on the committee ex-officio, meaning that they provide guidance but do not make decisions.

Initially the taskforce, in accord with the resolution, will focus on compensation and benefits for rostered leaders. How bad is the shortfall? What is the scope of financial inequality among called clergy within our own synod? In doing so, we need to first learn what the current compensation packages are being provided for rostered leaders. This may validate, or disprove, that there exist great inequities of financial support for urban clergy, who are often people of color or non-native English speakers. The churches in Philadelphia County will be our starting point. Then we expect to gather similar information from churches in the surrounding counties.

We are in the very beginning stage. We recognize that this project involves sensitive information. We will proceed with deliberation, empathy, and prayer as we develop questions to be asked and decide how information will be gathered, stored, and interpreted. How can such a project balance privacy of individuals with transparency of the system? Communicating this beginning is one way we seek cooperation and to earn trust among the faithful.

We seek to balance a sense of urgency in completing these tasks, yet we also want to ensure all voices are listened to and a thoughtful, thorough outcome is achieved.

Please keep in prayer this work as we journey together in seeking to correct the wrong and strengthen our witness in ways yet to be known.