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 press time are included here. When provided, there is a web address for more information.
Central States, June 7-9, Lindsborg, Kan. With the theme “Sharing in Hope: God’s Story, Our Voices,” the assembly focused on evangelism. Ruben Duran, ELCA director for congregational vitality, provided a churchwide update and a workshop titled “Detectives of Divinity.” A highlight was the Glocal Musician Educators. Teaching a variety of uplifting songs from all over the globe, they had participants on their feet, clapping and even dancing along throughout the assembly. —Tim Anderson
Indiana-Kentucky, May 31-June 2, Fort Wayne, Ind. With the theme “Leading Church Together,” keynote speakers were Peggy Hahn, executive director of LEAD; David L. Odom, executive director of faith and leadership at Duke Divinity School, Durham, N.C.; Keith Anderson, pastor, author, teacher and speaker on digital ministries; and churchwide representative Donald Kreiss, bishop of the Southeast Michigan Synod. Service projects included volunteering at a food bank and cancer pad-sewing with the Sew Sew Ladies. Another highlight—more than 50 youth were involved in the Youth Leadership Summit. —Thomas Dearchs
Florida-Bahamas, June 1-3, Kissimmee, Fla. With the theme “Grounded in the Gospel,” the highlights of the assembly included keynote presentations from ELCA pastor David Lose, greetings and introductions from five global companion church partners, a synod service project benefiting a transitional home for victims of domestic abuse, and a variety of discipleship workshops. The worship services were rich with a variety of people involved in the choir, band, handbell choir and other leadership roles. —Michelle Collins
Greater Milwaukee, May 31-June 2, Pewaukee, Wis. Meeting under the theme “Trusting the Winds of the Spirit: Curiosity, Courage, and Compassion,” the assembly began with a presentation on the history of racial segregation in Milwaukee and how decisions made in the past still influence the nature of our communities today. The opening worship followed immediately, led mostly by people younger than 35. Participants were then invited into one of three conversations on Friday over lunch, focused on curiosity, courage and compassion, exploring how to deepen relationships in our congregations and communities. —Sarah Christiaansen
La Crosse Area, June 8-10, La Crosse, Wis. A flock of 122 colorful wooden sheep made by congregations and scattered around the meeting hall reminded attendees to heed the words from John 21:17 to “Feed My Sheep.” Each sheep represented $500 or more of donations for ELCA World Hunger, bringing in $52,588 by mid-July, with more expected. A similar project in 2016 involved decorated cows. A resolution was approved affirming a synod goal of raising $600,000 for World Hunger over three years (2018 to 2020). The synod also signed a covenant with the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren to partner as companion synods. —Gayda Hollnagel
Lower Susquehanna, June 1-2, Grantham, Pa. The assembly lived out its theme “Eradicating Hunger One Relationship at a Time” through workshops, talks and feeding-related service projects that included packing 190,390 meals for Haiti and a work trip to the synod’s farm ministry, which raises tons of produce annually for food banks. Keynoter Mikka McCracken, ELCA World Hunger director for planning and engagement, explored the root causes of poverty and hunger. The assembly presented her a $20,000 check for World Hunger, and adopted a resolution to look at and address homelessness in the synod. —Robert Blezard
Metropolitan Chicago, June 8-9, Tinley Park, Ill. With the theme “A New Heaven and a New Earth,” the synod continued its discussion of racism and diversity with a keynote address by motivational speaker Darrell Gordon. It also heard from Paul Miles, president and CEO of the We Raise Foundation, whose vision is “People free from poverty, violence, and inequality.” The synod celebrated the successful completion of its ELCA World Hunger Million-Dollar Challenge, in which it raised $1,000,060 from June 1, 2016, to Oct. 31, 2017. —Jeff Drake
Metropolitan, Washington, D.C., June 16, Fairfax, Va. The countercultural welcome of Christian teaching was in the room and is being nurtured in the way we interact with our brothers and sisters, whether next door or much farther away. Two examples include encouraging stories and ideas from the New Connections Campaign, which is moving the synod toward 10 percent growth in its congregations, and bridge-building through the Building Puentes initiative with the Caribbean Synod. Echoed by many, an assistant to the bishop put it: “[We] have something good and life-giving to offer an increasingly disconnected and skeptical society, and it is as simple and profound as hope, faith, and most importantly love.” —Karen Krueger
Montana, June 1-3, Great Falls, Mont. Following the theme “Strengthen Congregations,” the assembly focused on revitalizing its congregations and how to think anew about ministry today. Speaker Linda Bobbitt, director of the ELCA Congregational Vitality Project, spoke about congregations that have life-changing relationships with God, with one another and with the world, and how to become this type of congregation. Brenda Smith, ELCA program director for faith practices and Book of Faith, shared a variety of ELCA resources that help foster faith practices. Workshops focused on ways to strengthen congregations. —Jen Kuna
Nebraska, May 31-June 2, Kearney, Neb. In keeping with its theme “Building on the Foundation,” participants were asked to bring a decorated wooden block to represent their worship center or community, or partner organization. Volunteers organized all the ornately designed pieces into a large cross to represent the synod’s unity. Later, attendees took home other members’ blocks in support of them and to hold them in prayer. —Brenda Rivas
New England, June 7-9, Springfield, Mass. The theme “Stir It Up” brought attention to all the ways we see God stirring things up across New England. Keynote speakers who serve the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land—ELCA pastor Carrie Smith and Adrainne Gray, a deacon—connected participants to the realities of Christianity in the Middle East. Keynote speaker Jeff Thiemann, Portico CEO, engaged the assembly in speaking about the gift of discipleship. Guest speaker Aida Mansoor of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut encouraged attendees to reach out to Muslim neighbors. Closing worship preacher Laura Everett of the Mass Council of Churches challenged the assembly to stir things up. —Martha Whyte
North Carolina, June 1-2, Raleigh, N.C. Gathering under the theme “We are church for the sake of the world,” participants sang and worshiped with ELCA Glocal Musician Educators and heard from the leaders of three synod mission congregations in ministry alongside Latino, African American and Cherokee sisters and brothers. Bishop Tim Smith outlined the new synod vision, and resolutions on immigration and refugees were approved. —Catherine Fink
Northeastern Pennsylvania, June 8-9, Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The theme was “Sharing Ministries. Building Relationships.” Gustavo Gómez Pascua, president of the synod’s companion, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Argentina and Uruguay, brought greetings and taught the assembly several songs from his church. Hmong Community Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mohnton, Pa., was welcomed as an official congregation. Worship offerings were collected for Young Adults in Global Mission and World Hunger. During two blocks of time, delegates engaged with representatives from ministries around the synod or participated in hands-on service projects for the benefit of local churches and organizations. —Paul Braden
Northern Illinois, June 15-16, Rock Island, Ill. “Vim, Vigor, Vitality—In Christ a New Creation” was the theme. Bishop Jeffrey Clements shared several issues that were on his heart. “I believe the church needs to reclaim its voice in moral leadership,” he said. “When we put ‘All are welcome’ on our church signs, let’s make sure that all means all.” First Lutheran Church, Moline, Ill., hosted an event to celebrate anniversaries, retirees, staff and council members. It ended with Evening Prayer and a remembrance of departed saints. —Karin Graddy
Northwestern Minnesota, June 8-9, Moorhead, Minn. With the theme “Reconciliation: Unbinding Hearts,” the assembly received anew Christ’s ministry of reconciliation entrusted to us and celebrated the freedom of confession and reconciliation. Participants attended one of five breakout sessions on topics such as congregational reconciliation and learning more about how we can engage with our Native American neighbors. Participants affirmed, through resolutions, the needed support for the synod’s interns, and the advocacy for local solutions to the lack of day cares throughout its geographical region. — John Bell
Sierra Pacific, June 1-3, Sacramento, Calif. The theme was “We are Church Together—This is Our Neighborhood.” Guests included Rozella Haydée White, Houston City director for Mission Year, as keynoter; Dana Dutcher, manager of relationships for Asia and the Pacific, Madagascar, North and Central Africa with ELCA Global Mission, as the churchwide representative; and Tracie Bartholomew, bishop of the New Jersey Synod, as Bible study leader. Bishop Mark Holmerud, White and Bartholomew shared stories from their neighborhoods and ministries. Bishop Medardo Gomez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church, a companion synod, brought greetings. —Kathye Hamm
South Carolina, May 31-June 2, Columbia, S.C. The theme was “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” Kevin Strickland, ELCA director of worship and churchwide representative, led two Bible conversations. Keynote speaker Amy Sander Montanez, a therapist and spiritual director, put the Beatitudes into modern context. The synod celebrated as Christ Mission in Columbia became a full congregation. Job Mbwilo, bishop of the synod’s companion, the Southwestern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, received a $5,000 check to assist with a medical clinic there. —Neal Fischer
South Dakota, May 31-June 2, Sioux Falls, S.D. The theme was “This Changes Everything.” The weekend kicked off with a Thursday night Beer & Hymns event with Tangled Blue at a local brewery. The next day opened with worship and a remembrance of baptism to remind us we are named and claimed. The weekend concluded with a blessing of synod leaders and youth headed to Houston for the Youth Gathering, as well as a $54,000 donation to the Campaign for the ELCA. —Sawyer VandenHeuvel
Southeastern, June 1-3, Chattanooga, Tenn. Worship services were an inspirational focus and grounded the assembly’s time together. Friday’s service used a dinner church format, where worshipers gathered at tables and were invited to be in conversation about the Gospel text and to commune one another. The Saturday service blended worship traditions from the synod’s African descent congregations. Praise and worship singing, testimonies and individual prayers were included. Sunday’s worship was highlighted by the ordination of Crispin Ilombe Wilondja, who was granted asylum in the United States from religious persecution. —Carolyn Davis
Southern Ohio, June 7-8, Lewis Center, Ohio. The theme was Micah 6:8—“What Does the Lord Require of Us?” A resolution submitted from the assembly floor regarding immigration and the separation of families was approved; 50 letters were written to Congress to help protect nutrition assistance efforts through the U.S. farm bill; 200 bars of soap were wrapped to provide a way out for those trapped by human trafficking; three bags of military prayer books were signed and prayed over; and 1,350 books were collected for the ELCA Youth Gathering Blast Off for Books drive. —Susan Barton-Nonno
Southwestern Minnesota, June 8-9, Redwood Falls. With the theme “Do not be afraid, it is I … come!” the focus was on deepening local and global mission. The event started with service projects and workshops open to everyone. Participants of all ages packed 113,000 servings of food for pantries, backpack programs and disabled/homeless veterans. The Synod Women of the ELCA led a project to tie 20 fleece blankets for distribution by fire departments. The ELCA World Hunger offering totaled $5,276. —Linda Pedersen
Southwestern Pennsylvania, June 14-16, Greenville, Pa. Living out the theme “Who is your neighbor?” the worship, plenary and educational forum sessions were shared with the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod. Speakers included Mikka McCracken, director of ELCA World Hunger planning and engagement (who also was churchwide representative), and Liddy Barlow, executive minister of Christian Associates of Southwest Pennsylvania. A worship highlight was the participation of David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely of Speedy Delivery Service on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The Pittsburgh-based show and its creator, Fred Rogers, were frequently referenced during the assembly. —Janice Jeletic
Upper Susquehanna, June 15-16, Selinsgrove, Pa. Meeting under the theme “On the Way Together: Open Ears and Open Hearts,” the assembly featured a new format, with business on the first day and table conversations on the second day. Participants conversed about their best experiences of church, and their responses will help draft a strategic plan. The new format also included an opening “camp-style” worship, created and led by camp staff from Mount Luther. A resolution was passed regarding the treatment of migrant children in U.S. custody, urging synod congregations and members to call for humane, compassionate treatment of people designated as undocumented minors. —Chad Hershberger
Virginia, June 8-10, Salem, Va. The synod raised $2.6 million, surpassing a $2.5 million goal, for a ForwardingFaith campaign to ensure continuation of synodwide youth events recognized as exceptional across the church. The funds will also support faith formation events for adults. The assembly approved a memorial asking the church to establish goals for ordained women to receive comparable compensation with that of ordained men “as soon as reasonable.” Bishop Robert Humphrey called for building bridges from the richness of the past to the potential of the future. —George Kegley
Elected: Deborah K. Hutterer as bishop of the Grand Canyon Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 16, on the fifth ballot with 145 votes. Peter Perry, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Glendale, Ariz., received 135 votes.
Bio: Chief development officer for Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Phoenix. She was executive director of Faith in the City in Minneapolis and was pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Pontiac, Ill. Received degrees from Augsburg College in Minneapolis and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
Replaces: Lowell G. Almen, who has served as interim bishop since August 2017.
Elected: Laurie Skow-Anderson as bishop of the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, effective July 1.
When: June 3 on the fifth ballot with 228 votes. John Sutherland, an assistant to the synod bishop, received 187 votes.
Bio: Director for evangelical mission for the synod. Served American, Windom; Christ, Slayton; Atonement, St. Cloud; and Trinity, Pelican Rapids, all Lutheran churches in Minnesota. Received degrees from Moorhead (Minn.) State University and Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary (now Luther) in St. Paul, Minn.
Replaces: Rick Hoyme, who is retiring.
Elected: Idalia Negron, as bishop of the Caribbean Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 16 on the fourth ballot with 61 votes. Luis I. Escandía from Iglesia Luterana Buen Pastor, Santurce, Puerto Rico, received 21 votes.
Bio: Director for evangelical mission for the synod. Served Iglesia Luterana San Pablo, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Earned degrees from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
Replaces: Felipe Lozada Montanez, who is retiring.
Re-elected: James E. Hazelwood as bishop of the New England Synod on the fourth ballot with 311 votes to 72 votes for the Rev. Angel Marrero, pastor of Santuario Luterano in Waltham, Mass.
Re-elected: Brian Maas as bishop of the Nebraska Synod on the first ballot with 477 out of 586 votes, more than 80 percent of the ballots cast.