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Synod Assembly 2010: Sharing a living faith

May 25, 2010 12:33 PM

The official business of a Synod Assembly is approving resolutions, electing leaders, amending governing documents and adopting budgets. And, indeed, the 418 voting members who gathered at the Westchester Marriott May 14-15 carried out their duties. Among other resolutions, the synod voted to support people with autism spectrum disorders or intellectual and developmental disabilities, encourage congregations to undertake energy audits, and memorialize the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to encourage full implementation of actions on ministry policies as soon as possible. Members were elected to Synod Council, to be Churchwide Assembly voting members in 2011, and to serve on committees. Two new officers were chosen: Maria Del Toro as vice president and Pastor Robert Schoepflin as secretary. They will begin their four-year terms in August. [Download the complete summary of actions here.]


Still, the assembly is more than business. It is a rich opportunity to worship together, to hear stories of ministry, to celebrate our multicultural presence, and to share our living faith. Here are some other highlights:


Bishop’s Report: In his report to the assembly, Bishop Rimbo first summarized our present reality and pledged to be honest. "I fully expect that within seven to ten years our synod will have 150 congregations as compared to the 208 we have now….But many of these congregations will be much stronger centers for God’s mission because they will have wisely planned the use of abilities, time and resources. The kinds of efforts being carried on in Brooklyn, Queens, Dutchess County and Sullivan County—difficult and painful as they are—will strengthen us for mission. I remind you that we serve a Savior who invited and urged us to engage in pruning so that there might be new growth." The bishop then went on to look forward to 2017—the 500th anniversary of Lutheranism—encouraging assembly participants to discuss why they were Lutherans, how the Bible impacted their lives, and how they used their gifts for ministry. "When I dream of 2017, I see all of our synod’s rostered leaders and all of our synod’s baptized members more deeply-rooted in our Christian and Lutheran faith as we live in a more pluralistic and post-modern culture," he said. "We are called to hold on to the best of our past and let go of those things in our habits and our structures that do not serve the Gospel in the present or are not sustainable….This synod exists to do the work of sharing a living faith and God has given us the resources to do that." [Download the full text of the bishop’s report here.]


Formation: There was a strong emphasis on faith formation, particularly on forming young leaders. Ashley, an 18-year old from Our Saviour, Jamaica, shared her strongest memories from the 2009 ELCA National Youth Gathering: saying the Lord’s Prayer with thousands of people, being surrounded by teenagers doing community service, and meeting youth from around the world. "You can’t afford not to send youth in 2012," she said. The Children Youth and Family Ministry Committee awarded Advent, Manhattan the Heart of Ministry Award of Distinction. Vicar Stephanie Kershner spoke of hearing her call through Project Connect, urging the assembly to look for fresh voices to lead the church and spur "a reformation led by the youth generation." Pastor Jeffrey Kolbo, the synod’s Candidacy Coordinator, reported that there are currently 40 people engaged in the candidacy process, preparing to become public leaders. And the diakonia program was explained through a humorous video


The Synod’s Finances: Emphasizing the need for transparency and accountability, Kathy Schmidt, Assistant to the Bishop for Administration and Finance, gave a presentation on the synod’s financial situation. She explained the realities of the recent cash flow crisis, noting that over the last 10 years, the synod expended nearly $5 million in loans to congregations and payments made on behalf of congregations under synodical administration—and how those funds will be repaid. The other focus of her presentation was how money received from congregations is spent. [Download the graphs here.]


Multicultural and Global Mission: Following worship where Pastor Perucy Butiku was installed as the Assistant to the Bishop for Ministries of African Descent, the first annual Multicultural Festival took place on Friday night. Everyone was invited and encouraged to wear the traditional dress from their cultural heritage. Between videos detailing our synod’s Finnish, Russian, and Arabic ministries, participants were treated to Indian dance, native Indonesian songs, Argentinean tango, and gospel music. It was a joyful celebration.

During the plenary sessions, videos showing our companion synods in Romania and Tanzania were created to help the synod learn more about our English ministry in Cluj and meet the students of Kibeta English Medium Primary School. Our Churchwide Representative was Pastor Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director of ELCA Global Mission, who preached on Saturday about the importance of accompaniment. In the hallways, one of the most popular display tables sold fair trade chocolate and handmade gifts from around the world.


Ecumenical Guests: The assembly was blessed with visits from three ecumenical partners. (Atlantic District president David Benke was not able to make it due to a pastoral emergency.) The Rev. Dr. Jon Norton, executive minister of the Reformed Church in America’s Synod of New York, highlighted that though we don’t all think or act alike, "in unity, there is strength." Bishop Catherine Roskam, bishop suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, compared being full communion partners to ice cream: "You may be chocolate almond and we may be mint chip, but we’re all ice cream—we keep our flavors." Bishop Jeremiah Park, of the New York Area United Methodist Church, led everyone in singing "I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart" and encouraged the assembly to "be known as a joyful church."


The next Synod Assembly will take place May 13-14 at the Melville Marriott on Long Island. Join us!




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