Editor’s note: Synod communicators were asked to share a highlight from their assemblies. What made a difference to participants? What was the most important part of the assembly? Responses received by presstime are included here.
South-Central of Wisconsin, April 29-30, Wisconsin Dells, Wis. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton led participants in an exploration of God’s story and how the Lutheran story is re-forming by discussing such questions as “What makes us distinctly Lutheran?” and “How do we become diverse, inclusive and relevant?” Voting members resolved to seek justice in the Holy Land by encouraging responsible investments. They also established a synodwide day of observation for ELCA campus ministries and Lutheran social services. —Vickie Hanrahan
Northeastern Minnesota, April 29-May 1, Breezy Point, Minn. At an evening prayer service, keynote speaker Anna Madsen of the OMG Center for Theological Conversation, Sioux Falls, S.D., preached on forgiveness, contemplative hope and healing, beer and hymns, and campfire fellowship. Guests included deacons from the synod’s companion, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iringa in Russia. Offerings were designated for the Seminary Scholarship Fund and the Seminarian Debt Relief Fund. Proceeds for ELCA World Hunger totaled $23,480.25. —Tammy Segel-Crilly
Southeastern Pennsylvania, May 6-7, Telford, Pa. Emerging generations disregard religion, value pluralism and distrust authority, yet “the Holy Spirit is bringing a new dawn for Christ’s church,” Bishop Claire Burkat told the assembly. “To reach this young culture we need to change our old church culture now.” The synod is facilitating change through its Forward Together in Faith campaign, which stresses equipping, innovation, networking and interactive communications. “We can’t be in a bubble or our tradition will die,” added Reformation scholar Kirsi Stjerna of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif., so the church must be “driven by God’s grace into the world.” —Robert Fischer
Northwest of Wisconsin, May 21, Eau Claire, Wis. Giving attention to Matthew 19:16-26, participants focused on the theme “With God, All Things are Possible.” Participants heard a hope-filled message about generosity and hospitality by Adam Copeland of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. Among the resolutions approved was “Bold Generosity: Inspired. Intentional. Impactful,” a synodwide, three-year fundraising appeal to raise $1.2 million for technology, the Walking Together event, leadership development, support for seminary graduates, partnering with Malawi and tithing. —Laura Ramlow
St. Paul Area, May 20-21, Burnsville, Minn. Under the theme “We Are Lutheran: Bold & Hopeful,” keynote speaker Anthony Bateza of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., spoke about what it means to be bold and to be hopeful under the context of Martin Luther’s works as well as questions of race, identity and social justice. —Chloe Alf
Nebraska, June 2-4, Kearney, Neb. The highlight was a ministry fair that featured educational and interactive exhibits produced by the synod’s ministries, committees and serving arms. ELCA pastor Peter Marty discussed the loss of “the middle” in the church and society, urging participants to live together as sisters and brothers in Christ. A resolution calling for local discussion on the death penalty in Nebraska was adopted. —Mitch McCartney
Central/Southern Illinois, June 2-4, East Peoria, Ill. Voting members approved a resolution to reduce seminary education debt carried by rostered leaders, with the goal of raising funds sufficient to expend $100,000 over the next five years. Bicyclists rode more than 300 miles to the assembly, raising $17,668 for this effort. The opening worship offering of $6,625.57 will benefit the synod’s companion synods in Madagascar. —Bob Dealey
North Carolina, June 3-4, Charlotte, N.C. Bishop Timothy M. Smith led a Bible study exploring the theme “We are Church.” ELCA pastors Tim and Sharon Taylor led a forum looking at “isms” that create divisions in our culture. Voting members passed a resolution calling on state government leaders to repeal House Bill 2. which “discriminates against the working poor” and “targets and discriminates against the LGBTQ community …” —Bob Shoffner
South Dakota, June 3-4, Watertown, S.D. The assembly included Bible study, conversation and a series of three “Table Talks” around the theme “The Future of the Reformation” from different global perspectives. Voting members passed resolutions on topics including predatory lending, the doctrine of discovery, and support for military personnel, veterans and their families. A special guest was Bishop Ruben Ngozo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon. —Kevin Stillson
Lower Susquehanna, June 3-5, Grantham, Pa. Under the theme “Hungry for Justice & Mercy,” more than 1,000 volunteers packed 415,876 meals for the Central PA Food Bank. Volunteers also wrote 500 letters to Congress seeking action on hunger issues. Using the story of the Good Samaritan and four “gospel calls to action,” voting members were encouraged to “go and do likewise.” Voting members adopted a resolution seeking Reconciling in Christ (publicly welcoming of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people)recognition for the synod. —Sharron R. Blezard
Sierra Pacific, June 3-5, Reno, Nev. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton was keynote speaker and Luke Hanson, a former volunteer in Rwanda with the Young Adults in Global Mission, was Bible study leader. Bishop Mark W. Holmerud encouraged congregational response to the insistent urgings of the Spirit to engage in the communities and neighborhoods where God has planted them. Ten congregations received $5,000 ministry grants for outreach in their communities and will share their stories at the 2017 assembly. —Kathye Hamm
Upstate New York, June 5-7, Buffalo, N.Y. “Racial justice is not for the faint of heart,” ELCA pastor Cheryl Stewart Pero told the assembly, which met around the theme “In Christ One New Humanity” and focused on racial justice. Participants sought to re-root themselves in the unity of Christ and take a step toward honest dialogue about race relations and white privilege. —Katie Yahns
South Carolina, June 9-11, Columbia, S.C. Voting members memorialized the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, calling for a task force charged with the consideration of a global mission conference of all the ELCA’s historical mission partners around the world. An original play about Martin Luther was presented. In his sermon, Norvel Goff from Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., the site of a mass shooting in June 2015, called for forgiveness. —Neal Fischer
Indiana-Kentucky, June 9-11, South Bend, Ind. Bishops of both companion synods, Willem Simarmata (Batak Christian Protestant Church in Indonesia) and Izani Bruch (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile), delivered keynote addresses. In Saturday’s keynote Andre Gingerich Stoner of the Mennonite Church USA and Kathryn Johnson, director for ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, talked about the mutually transforming steps of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation taking place between Mennonites and Lutherans. Members from eight local Mennonite communities led participants in a capella song of praise to close the assembly. —Leslie French
Western North Dakota, June 10-11, Bismarck, N.D. Under the theme of “Living in God’s Abundance, the assembly explored giftedness and vocation. Congregations and assembly members shared more than $95,000 with ELCA World Hunger through its “Bringin’ Home the Bacon” project and #HungerRide. —Sherie Heine
Florida-Bahamas, June 10-12, Daytona Beach, Fla. “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters” was a fitting theme as the assembly was held by the rolling waters of the Atlantic Ocean. At the closing eucharist, William Flippin, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Atlanta, reminded participants that “as Christians, we do not have the right to remain silent” about injustice. Workshops were offered about justice issues. Sleeping mats made of plastic bags were assembled throughout the assembly and blessed for their use at the Halifax Urban Ministries in Daytona Beach. —Irene Flynn
La Crosse Area, June 10-12, Decorah, Iowa. Congregations brought their cows to the assembly. The 142 decorated wooden cows symbolized the synod’s commitment to fighting world hunger through members’ pledges of $500 per cow, netting more than $71,000 for ELCA World Hunger. The synodwide project was entirely lay led, with congregation members donating their money as well as their time and talents to decorate the cows, which sported everything from children’s and professional artwork to dresses and hats. —Gayda Hollnagel
Southwestern Minnesota, June 10-11, St. Peter, Minn. The synod formally launched a funding initiative, “Embrace God’s Mission, Equip God’s People,” focused on congregational vitality, local and global ministry, and developing servant leaders, including the ministerial excellence fund. Cash and pledges of $616,540 were announced. The synod also approved the dissolution of the corporation of Lutheran Campus Ministry of Minnesota by January 2018 following the other five Minnesota synods. This moves the funding and administration of Lutheran Campus Ministry to the local sites and synod. —Linda M. Pedersen
Metropolitan Chicago, June 10-11, Tinley Park, Ill. Under the theme “Transformed and Transforming,” the assembly passed a resolution to raise $1 million by Oct. 31, 2017, for ELCA World Hunger. The challenge makes note that this year ELCA World Hunger is an emphasis of Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA and witnesses to what it means to be a Lutheran today, living with open hands. —Jeff Drake
Western Iowa, June 10-12, Omaha, Neb. (). Under the theme “We Are Church Together,” participants enjoyed hearing from many ecumenical leaders, companion synod bishops from Chile and Tanzania, and Bishop Brauer-Rieke from its partner synod of Oregon. Throughout the weekend members shared stories of how their congregation lives out being church together. Members also donated diapers for Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska. —Lynn Egesdal
Virginia, June 10-12, Salem, Va. Participants heard that Charles and Helen Schumann of First English Lutheran Church, Richmond, Va., have contributed $1 million for a ForwardingFaith campaign, which seeks to raise $2 million to provide permanent funding for youth and faith formation ministry. This brings the total raised to $1.5 million. Kevin Strickland, ELCA worship director and keynote speaker, told participants that worship is “at the heart of what we do. … Worship is central because Christ is central.” —George Kegley
Northeastern Iowa, June 10-12, Waverly, Iowa. Voting members resolved to express praise and thanks to their companion synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, for their witness, leadership and Christ-like service to Syrian refugees. They heard that the H. George Anderson Fund for Leaders Endowment has grown in value to more than $510,000 to provide scholarships for seminarians from the synod. Congregations were invited to support the campaign to fully fund the endowment with the same creativity and excitement they showed for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. —Marcia Hahn
Northeastern Pennsylvania, June 17-18, Allentown, Pa. In response to a challenge to match the first $15,000 raised for ELCA World Hunger by the end of the assembly, congregations collected $85,000, including a $50,000 gift from one congregation. This enabled the synod to contribute $100,000 to World Hunger. The assembly also heard from the synod’s team that traveled to Wittenberg, Germany, to plant tree No. 322 as part of Luthergarten: 500 years of Reformation—500 trees for Wittenberg. —Paul Braden
Southwestern Pennsylvania, June 17-18, California, Pa. The theme was “We are Stewards of the Gospel.” Dana Dutcher, relationship manager for Asia Pacific and Madagascar, West and Central Africa, addressed the assembly as the ELCA representative. A first for the assembly was a 5K/fun run that raised $320 for ELCA World Hunger. —Janice Jeletic
Upper Susquehanna, June 17-18, Selinsgrove, Pa. Meeting under the theme “Freed and Renewed in Christ,” the assembly elected its third bishop and honored retiring Bishop Robert Driesen. He was presented a “Retirement Survival Kit” from the staff of Camp Mount Luther. A new five-year companion partnership agreement was signed with the Kirchenkreis Ansbach-Würzburg, a district of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. Memorials were passed regarding peacemaking in Israel and Palestine and ending gun violence through advocacy. —Chad Hershberger
Metropolitan Washington, D.C., June 18, Gaithersburg, Md. The assembly focused on racial healing and racial equity in the aftermath of last year’s assembly when the murders in Charleston, S.C., “broke our hearts,” said Bishop Richard H. Graham in opening the assembly. “For Christians, standing for justice, standing for racial justice, standing for gender justice is nothing more than standing for what we believe is God’s way of looking at the world,” Woven into the day were bridge-building stories by congregations and talks by synod Racial Equity Team members to propel participants forward in healing hope and action. —Karen Krueger
Elected: William J. Gohl Jr., 42, as bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 4, on the fifth ballot, with 227 votes. Wolfgang Herz-Lane, current bishop, received 225 votes.
Bio: Pastor of Epiphany Lutheran Church, Baltimore. Earned degrees from Gettysburg (Pa.) College and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Working on a doctorate at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
Elected: H. Jeffrey Clements, 61, as bishop of the Northern Illinois Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 18 on the fifth ballot with 278 votes to 181 votes for Stacie Fidlar, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Rock Island, Ill.
Bio: Assistant to the bishop for the synod since 2002. Served three congregations in Illinois and one in Minnesota. Earned degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
Replaces: Gary M. Wollersheim, who retires at the end of August.
Elected: Barbara Jeanne Collins, 58, as bishop of the Upper Susquehanna Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 18, on the fifth ballot, with 133 votes. William Henderson, pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lewisburg, Pa., received 122 votes.
Bio: Assistant to the bishop/director for evangelical mission for the synod. Served Follmer and St. John Lutheran churches, Potts Grove, Pa., and as interim and supply pastor. Received degrees from Bloomsburg (Pa.) University and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.).
Replaces: Robert L. Driesen, who retires Aug. 31.
Elected: Paul D. Erickson, 55, as bishop of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 4 on the fifth ballot with 190 votes. Lisa Bates-Froiland, pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, received 165 votes.
Bio: Director of Agora, a ministry in St. Paul, Minn., that helps develop lay leaders for immigrant and multicultural congregations in Minnesota and South Dakota. Previously served as assistant to the bishop in the St. Paul Area Synod and congregations in West St. Paul, Minn., Milwaukee and Chicago. Earned degrees from Gustavus Adolphus, St. Peter, Minn., Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and Luther Seminary, St. Paul.
Replaces: Jeff Barrow, who retires this summer.
Re-elected: Bishop William Gafkjen of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod on the first ballot,
with more than 80 percent of ballots cast.