Editor’s note: Synod communicators were asked to share a highlight from their 2017 assemblies. What made a difference to participants? What was the most important part of the assembly? Responses received by presstime are included here. When provided, there is a web address for more information.

Arkansas-Oklahoma, May 5-7, Tulsa, Okla. Voting members re-elected their bishop (see below). Meals were served in a large tent outside and a “Beer (or root beer) and Hymns” sing-along was held Saturday night. The assembly voted to urge all congregations to stop using polystyrene and encourage nearby restaurants to do the same. —Laura Bunch

East Central of Wisconsin, May 19-20, Green Bay, Wis. The theme was “We Are Lutheran: Building Bridges Across All the Differences that Divide.” A highlight was Bishop David Ricken of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay (Wis.), who preached words of healing and hope for the two denominations at the opening worship service. Martin Lohrmann from Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, helped participants recapture their Lutheran heritage. The Reformation Room featured an interactive time line of Martin Luther’s life and activities and an 8-foot door on which people could nail challenges facing the church. —Amy Engebose

Eastern Washington-Idaho, May 19-21, Spokane, Wash. Themed “Grace Draws Us In, Grace Sends Us Out,” the assembly was held on the banks of the Spokane River in Eastern Washington. Opening and closing worship reflected on thanksgiving for baptism. A record number of participants attended workshops on budget, stewardship, grace, Transformational Ministry, Luther and the Reformation. A new bishop was elected (see below) and Bishop Martin Wells was thanked for his 18 years of service. —Gib Dominguez

Metropolitan New York, May 11-13, Tarrytown, N.Y. The theme “Faith Not Fear” helped participants look at Lutheranism in this Reformation anniversary year, but particularly where they will be headed as a church and leaders within. They were asked: “Where would your faith take you if you had no fear?” The assembly welcomed multiple speakers, listened as synod members shared their stories of Lutheran identity and, especially by using the Magnificat as their guiding text, found ways to push themselves toward the radical witness of Mary’s song. The assembly culminated with packing personal care kits for Lutheran World Relief. — Rebekah Thornhill

Minneapolis Area, May 5-6, Ramsey, Minn. Under the theme “Real Presence: In Our Neighborhoods, With Our Neighbors,” Bishop Ann Svennungsen invited voting members to consider ways to offer gracious invitation into life-giving Christian communities that support just and healthy neighborhoods. Ruben Duran, churchwide representative, encouraged all present to be “detectives of divinity in our neighborhoods, searching not so much for problems to be solved, but for gifts and assets.” Voting members engaged in table discussions over concerns such as racism and white privilege, immigration and sanctuary congregations. —Bob Hulteen

North/West Lower Michigan, May 21-23, Mount Pleasant, Mich. Met under the banner “Freed by God’s Grace.” Although there were several high points, most attendees agreed that the ordination of Kristina Truhan during opening worship took top place. It was a powerful moment as nearly 55 vested clergy laid hands on Truhan during the rite. —Sue Sprang

Northeastern Minnesota, April 28-30, Brainerd, Minn. With the theme of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation: “What Does This Mean?” Richard Carlson of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.) led sessions on Luther’s understanding of the sacraments. Using “From Conflict to Communion” and a focus on “Declaration on the Way,” the assembly worshiped with brothers and sisters from the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud (Minn.). Two resolutions were passed: a commitment toward reconciliation and relationship-building with Native communities within the synod, and standing with and speaking out against injustices occurring in Ethiopia. —Tammy Segel-Crilly

Northern Great Lakes, May 21-22, Marquette, Mich. Meeting under the theme “Called,” the assembly elected a new bishop (see below) and honored retiring Bishop Thomas Skrenes. Several ELCA bishops attended Skrenes’ retirement dinner and assembly sessions. ELCA Treasurer Linda Norman told participants: “The gaggle of bishops present is testament that we do not walk alone.” Cows were the focus of the World Hunger campaign, with cardboard cutouts given to each congregation to decorate and display at the assembly. The campaign’s focus was, “We’re on the MOOOoooove to end hunger,” with offerings totaling $42,677.01. —Sue Shallow

Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana, April 28-30, Plano, Texas. The highlight was the keynote presentation by a new ecumenical partner, George Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas. Mason sent the text from his humorous presentation: “A Baptist Blessing to My Lutheran Cousins.” The video recording is posted to the assembly webpage. —Jason O’Neill

Northwest of Wisconsin, April 29, Eau Claire, Wis. Focusing on the theme “Getting the WORD Out,” participants worshiped together, passed six resolutions, heard reports from various ministries, and built a Luther Rose mosaic out of Legos. Through TED-style talks, four synod pastors shared a look at their contexts and the unique ways they have done ministry to help their congregations grow. —Laura Ramlow

Northwest Washington, May 20, Mount Vernon, Wash. The synod experimented with a one-day, business-focused meeting in lieu of a typical two-day event with a mix of business and program. Highlights included: inspiring worship led by Church of the Apostles, Seattle (the synod’s newest congregation); greetings from Daniel Rift, churchwide representative; synod interns providing a lively introduction of each of the vendors; and the launch of the “Because of You” capital campaign. —Susan Berg

Northwestern Ohio, May 19-20, Bowling Green, Ohio. With the theme “500 Years of Grace: Then and Now,” members explored how their Lutheran heritage helps them understand their call as Christ’s church in this time and place. Workshops explored this theme and keynote speaker Mary Jane Haemig of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., challenged participants to consider “What Kind of God” we have—one who listens to and makes holy our prayers and work in his name. Participants gathered with our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers at a Catholic parish to share in an ecumenical Taizé-style service of prayer. —Calla Gilson

Pacifica, May 11-13, San Diego. With the theme “ReFORM, InFORM, TransFORM,” storytellers from across the synod shared stories about the places God is working in their lives and in their congregations. The addition of off-site experiential learning opportunities through local ministries, including a trip to the California-Mexico border, were meaningful and well received. The opening worship service, held at a nearby Methodist church, allowed participants to center themselves in preparation for the Spirit’s work among them. —Terri Robertson

Rocky Mountain, May 5-7, Colorado Springs, Colo. With the theme “Re·Formation: Then. Now. Always.” the assembly celebrated our unity as the body of Christ with ecumenical and full-communion partners. Opening worship was held at a United Methodist church, with Bishop Rob O’Neill of the Episcopal Church in Colorado presiding. Representatives of four full-communion partners participated in worship, along with the director of the Colorado Council of Churches and a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Workshops were held to highlight the variety of ways ecumenical ministry is happening around the synod. —Erin Power

St. Paul Area, May 19-20, Burnsville, Minn. Under the theme “We Are Lutheran: Among Our Neighbors,” the assembly welcomed special guests, including Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, and Bishop Guy Erwin of its sister synod, the Southwest California Synod. Worship took steps in reconciliation with Native peoples, and breakout discussion groups called participants to think about the variety of neighbors whom they are called to love and serve. Two new mission starts and the beginning steps being taken in anti-racism work were introduced. —Chloe Alf

Sierra Pacific, May 4-6, Fresno, Calif. Meeting under the theme “We are Church Together—Sharing Our Story,” 10 congregations shared the story of how a grant received at last year’s assembly has been used to help their ministries connect with their communities. Bishop Mark W. Holmerud and assembly guests shared their stories of how they have been led to see the importance of our church continuing to seek racial justice in this country and how our congregations need to become better reflections of their communities’ diversity. The assembly proclaimed itself a Sanctuary Synod. It also asked the 2019 Churchwide Assembly to seek the creation of a “Department of Peacebuilding” in the U.S. government. —Kathye Hamm

South Carolina, May 21-23, Charleston, S.C. The theme was “You are Salt and Light bringing out the God-flavors and God-colors in the world!” Voting members called on the synod to “deepen its commitment to study and dialogue about the complex issues of immigration.” Dwight DuBois, author of The Scattering: Imagining a Church that Connects Faith and Life, delivered the keynote. Altahuapo Hernandez, bishop of its companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia, addressed the assembly and presided at communion. Worship offerings totaling $3,899 went to a summer educational project in Allendale, S.C. —Neal F. Fischer

Southeast Michigan, May 4-6, Port Huron, Mich. With the theme “From Chaos to Community,” Bishop Donald Kreiss said, “The best days of this church are in front of us. God is still here.” The assembly received presentations by LEAD (Leading Everyday As Disciples), identifying ways for congregations to build deeper relationships with their neighbors. Resolutions submitted by the synod’s racial reconciliation and immigration task forces that encouraged intentional congregational engagement through community-building were passed unani­mously. Reconciling Works presented a certificate noting the synod’s 25 years as a “Reconciling in Christ” synod, welcoming people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. —Robin McCants

Southeastern Minnesota, May 6-7, Rochester, Minn. The theme was “Equipping congregations to follow Jesus into a changing world.” Saturday afternoon was centered around a learning event with 10 workshops to choose from as well as the embRACE forum that focused on issues of race and diversity. Attendees were especially grateful to hear from keynote speaker Gladys Moore, Bible study leader Eric Barreto, and churchwide representative Stephen Bouman. —Emily Carson

Southwestern Texas, May 5-7, San Antonio. With the theme “Formed and Reformed for Mission,” participants approved resolutions regarding migrant minors and refugees, participated in strategic planning and voted to receive two new congregations. Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) participant Josh Stallings shared highlights of his year of service in Mexico. The $61,361 assembly offering will be shared with ELCA Global Church to support YAGMs, missionaries, global ministry and international women leaders. The assembly created the Tiemann Endowment for Leadership Development, which will fund leadership development of lay leaders and rostered ministers. The fund honors Bishop Ray (who is retiring in 2018) and Debbie Tiemann. —John Dellis

Bishop elections

Elected: Kristen E.M. Kuempel as bishop of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod. She will be installed Sept. 16.
When: May 20 on the fourth ballot with 133 votes. Michael B. Sager, pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, Eagle, Idaho, received 111 votes.
Bio: Pastor of First Lutheran Church, Kennewick, Wash. Earned degrees from Eastern Washington State University, Cheney, and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
Replaces: Martin D. Wells, who decided not to seek a fourth six-year term.


Elected: Katherine A. Finegan as bishop of the Northern Great Lakes Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: May 23, on the fifth ballot with 164 votes to 84 votes for Peter Jonas, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Arcadia, Wis.
Bio: Assistant to the bishop for the synod since 2012. Pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, Republic, Mich. Earned degrees from Valparaiso (Ind.) University and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
Replaces: Thomas A. Skrenes, who retires Aug. 31.


Re-elected: Bishop Michael K. Girlinghouse of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod on the first ballot with 81 votes (68 votes were needed for election).


Re-elected: Bishop Donald P. Kreiss of the Southeast Michigan Synod on the first ballot by 86 percent of total ballots cast.

Read more about: