Bishops target congregational vitality, diversity
The ELCA Conference of Bishops met in Itasca, Ill, March 1-6 under the theme “To Claim and Test Our Heritage.” In her report to the synod bishops, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton stressed the importance of upholding the foundation of the Lutheran church, addressing the topic through the lens of the four main emphases that provide the framework for the work happening across this church: We are church, we are Lutheran, we are church together, and we are church for the sake of the world. “When we say we’re church, we say, therefore, our foundation is Christ and we gather around word and sacrament,” she said. “We want people to go to church, be faithful in the use of the means of grace and pray without ceasing. We need to get back to basics.”
In closing, Eaton told the conference she is willing to serve another six-year term as presiding bishop “if God and the church will have me.” In other business, the bishops received an update on the congregation vitality project; discussed increasing diversity in congregations in response to a continuing resolution passed by the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly; and approved a statement of support (see below).
ELCA bishops issue statement of support
The Conference of Bishops approved a statement in support of the young people who are planning the gun violence awareness “March for Our Lives” on March 24, citing the ELCA social message “Community violence” adopted in 1994. Its statement read, in part: “In solidarity with our children and youth, and in response to our common baptismal vocation … [we] offer our support, partnership and prayers for the March for Our Lives, its satellite city events, and our children and youth who are leading us forward as peacemakers.”
Presiding bishop responds to Florida shooting
On Feb. 16, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a statement in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The statement read, in part: “My heart, like yours, is filled with anguish; my spirit, like yours, laments. … All of us, including the church, must take a close look at ourselves. How are we cultivating a culture of violence, hatred, anger and fear, and how can we participate in building a counterculture where people can experience God’s intended peace and life abundant for all?”
Pastoral message on Jerusalem
On Feb. 26, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in expressing solidarity with the churches in Jerusalem to defend their properties and protect the Christian presence in the Holy Land. The message was crafted in response to Jerusalem beginning to collect property taxes from churches despite an agreement with Israel to exempt them. “The net effect has been to attempt to undermine the historic status quo in Jerusalem and mount increased pressure on the Christian community and its ministries in the Holy Land,” the message read.
McCoid named interim bishop
On March 12, the Metropolitan New York Synod Council appointed Donald McCoid as interim bishop. McCoid served as assistant to the presiding bishop from 2007 to 2016, as executive for ecumenical and interreligious relations. He also was bishop of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod (1987 to 2007) and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops (1999 to 2003). “I cherish our interdependence as a church and honor the collaboration between your synod and our wider church that this appointment represents,” he said.
New online giving options for congregations
On March 1, the ELCA reached a preferred vendor agreement with Tithe.ly, which offers mobile and online tools to enhance financial giving to ELCA congregations and ministries. Through Tithe.ly, donation forms are integrated into a congregation’s website and mobile app instead of sending donors to third-party sites. Donors have the option to make one-time or recurring gifts to provide more consistent giving. Congregations that sign up with Tithe.ly will save more than 25 percent off the vendor’s regular processing fees. Find out more at get.tithe.ly/elca.
Sparkhouse Family rebrands as Beaming Books
Sparkhouse Family, the children’s book imprint under the 1517 Media umbrella, has been rebranded as Beaming Books, with a goal of reaching a wider audience for spiritually uplifting messages. The shift, announced Jan. 30, “is an extension of our mission and values as an organization,” said Andrew DeYoung, who continues in his role as managing editor. The parent company is the publishing ministry of the ELCA. In July 2016, Augsburg Fortress, Sparkhouse Family’s parent company, was rebranded as 1517 Media.
News from ELCA Advocacy
Every year, ELCA Advocacy creates a policy action agenda that focuses its work on current issues central to God’s vision of a just world where all are fed. This agenda is flexible to accommodate responses to emerging legislation that addresses disaster response or other urgent circumstances.
- ELCA Advocacy’s 2018 federal policy priority areas are:
- Caring for God’s creation and ensuring a just transition to renewable energy.
- Addressing the root causes of migration and providing immediate protection to vulnerable migrants.
- Investing in affordable housing and rental assistance.
- Reforming our nation’s criminal justice system.
- Protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
- Supporting federal and foreign assistance programs to end food insecurity in the U.S. and around the world.
Promoting international peace building; combating gender-based violence globally.
Encouraging a robust farm bill that curbs hunger, supports agricultural economies in rural communities and promotes the sustainable use of natural resources.
Issue selection prioritizes concerns that the ELCA has spoken about in social statements, churchwide assembly memorials or other authoritative documents.
The priorities reflect issues on which the ELCA can have a unique and decisive impact with the federal government. They carry forth ELCA World Hunger’s vision to support transformative, integrated and wholistic ministry where barriers are broken down and inequalities decreased, and where relationships and communities are whole and flourishing.