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 from April and May assemblies received by press time are included here. Reports from the June assemblies will appear next month.
Alaska, April 26-29, Anchorage. Participants joined in prayer, deliberation, approval of the 2020 spending plan and adopted a resolution concerning priorities in the state budget. Lori Draper, a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Seward, gave the keynote presentation on “Communication in Polarized Times.” An additional workshop let participants build skills in empathic listening. —Bishop Shelley Wickstrom
Arkansas-Oklahoma, May 3-4, Tulsa, Okla. The theme was “Life of Faith: Gathered and Scattered.” Craig Nessan, a professor at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, was the speaker. The assembly passed resolutions on immigration and in support of the work of Oaks Indian Mission. They blessed the first pilot of its “Mutual Ministry Cohort”—10 rostered ministers who will lend support and encouragement to each other for the next year. —Ida McAllister
Metropolitan New York, May 16-18, Tarrytown, N.Y. Under the theme “Care for Creation,” participants set the synod’s strategic plan agenda for the upcoming year, including major initiatives surrounding ecumenical efforts, the environment, inclusion of immigrants and programming that celebrates LGBTQIA+ members. The assembly passed a memorial asking the 2019 Churchwide Assembly to declare the ELCA a “sanctuary denomination,” ready to seek justice and protection for refugees and undocumented people. It also endorsed the Poor People’s Campaign, a national call for moral revival, and encouraged members to participate, where appropriate, in the organizing, advocacy and actions of the effort. —Roberto Lara
Minneapolis Area, May 3-4, Ramsey, Minn. Under the theme “In This Together: What the World Needs Takes All of Us,” voting members concentrated on ecumenical opportunities to work faithfully together, especially on issues of earth care and sustainability. Stacy Smith, a presiding elder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Bruce Ough, a bishop of the United Methodist Church, reflected on racial equity and environmental responsibility. Keynoter Larry Rasmussen shared a letter written to his grandson about previous generations’ failure to adequately address ecological degradation. Memorials supporting the proposed “Faith, Sexism, and Justice” social statement and proposing a new statement on the role of government were adopted, as were resolutions encouraging expanded parental leave and decrying conversion therapy. —Bob Hulteen
North/West Lower Michigan, May 16-18, Mount Pleasant, Mich. Centered around the theme “Called to be Living Stones in a Changing World,” the assembly launched a “Living Stones” initiative focused on developing new missional ventures and providing funds to support and grow synodical ministries. As part of this initiative, the synod awarded three grants aimed at reducing indebtedness for rostered ministers. Grant recipients, who are serving in their first 10 years of ministry, shared the challenges that student debt presents to service in our church. (See below for the bishop’s election.) —Chelsey Satterlee
Northeastern Minnesota, May 3-5, Duluth, Minn. Gathered under the theme “Just Peace Accompaniment: Doing God’s Mission Together,” the synod welcomed the ELCA Glocal musicians and educators as they shared their gift of music in worship and through workshops. Speakers offered two FED Talks (Faith, Education and Discipleship). The assembly passed resolutions encouraging policies that welcome migrants, opposing conversion therapy and calling for a commitment toward gender justice. —Sarah Roe
Northern Great Lakes, May 16-18, Escanaba, Mich. With the theme “Equipping the Saints,” participants returned home renewed and challenged. Keynote speaker Dwight Zscheile, author of The Agile Church, emphasized the importance of moving from ways to “fix” the church, to ways to form deeper roots as we look at the role of the gospel for our neighbors and ourselves. The assembly included opportunities for faith conversations. These conversations will continue for congregations that are participating in Faithful Innovations Training, an intentional learning process to help them better connect with God, each other and the world. —Sue Shallow
Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana, April 26-27, Richland Hills, Texas. The synod gave thanks to the many volunteers of Calvary (Richland Hills), Umoja (Fort Worth) and San Gabriel (Alvarado) Lutheran churches, who provided a feast of international proportions for the Friday banquet. Kendra Mohn, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Fort Worth, led participants in thoughtful and engaging Bible studies (find the recordings by searching for “NT-NL 2019 assembly” on YouTube). —Jason O’Neill
Northwest of Wisconsin, May 4, Eau Claire, Wis. Many attendees were thrilled to help the synod celebrate “May the Faith be With You” as they worshiped, honored the indigenous land where they gathered, participated in theological reflection through the lens of the Star Wars films, and voted on resolutions and leadership positions. Positive energy was shared throughout the day as many attendees embraced the theme with their favorite Star Wars clothing, and participants had opportunities for great conversation with friends and colleagues between plenary sessions. —Laura Ramlow
Oregon, May 10-12, Eugene, Ore. This year’s theme of “Into the Light!” engaged participants in sharing their stories through the work of synod ministries and congregations. As a synod storied in justice-minded work, the assembly welcomed Krish Vignarajah, director and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, to give a keynote address inviting attendees to offer the “long welcome.” (See below for the bishop’s election.) —Sarah Krueger
Pacifica, May 10-11, Palm Desert, Calif. With the theme “O Lord, Open My Ears: Listening for God While Listening to Each Other,” participants shared with and listened to one another through table conversations. Speakers Brian Collins of California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, and John Nunes of Concordia College, New York, provided tools to assist active listening and navigating difficult conversations, reminding participants that they are called to use their privilege to make a difference and in service to the world. Resolutions were approved relating to support for federal chaplaincy, military personnel and veterans; full participation of rostered ministers in equity, diversity and anti-racism training; and the use of inclusive and expansive language for humankind and God. —Terri Robertson
Rocky Mountain, May 3-5, Albuquerque, N.M. Participants were invited into the theme “Be Transformed” through the reflections of keynote speaker Richard Rohr, an American author, spiritual writer and Franciscan friar. He challenged participants to move beyond dualistic thinking into an expansive vision of God that enfolds all people into the love of Christ, noting “either we are all created in the image of God or we aren’t.” Bishop James Gonia shared that Rohr’s wisdom “is transforming our understanding of the Christian life by moving us out of our heads into our hearts, into our whole beings, for the life of the world.” —Deacon Erin Power
Sierra Pacific, May 11, Lodi, Calif. The assembly met under the theme “We are Church Together—Working in God’s Vineyard.” Victoria Flood, director of ELCA Mission Support, served as the churchwide representative for the first one-day assembly. Local community leaders Bianca Dueñas, Nuri Rubio and Luis Magaña brought five-minute faith reflections. Four resolutions passed: one on synod compensation guidelines for rostered ministers, two regarding the proposed “Faith, Sexism, and Justice” social statement and one regarding a social statement on gender identity and gender expression. —Kathye Hamm
South-Central of Wisconsin, May 4-5, Madison, Wis. This year’s theme, “Building Beloved Community: Strengthening Our Souls for Leadership,” included a keynote by Ruth-Haley Barton, founder of the Transforming Center, a ministry dedicated to strengthening the souls of clergy, Christian leaders and the congregations and organizations they serve; a Global Health Ministries ingathering, a hands-on hunger activity where 1,000 meals were packed for local schoolchildren; and a healing service created and led by the synod’s interns. Resolutions were adopted in support of immigration reform and refugee resettlement, human rights of Palestinian children, “Faith in Society Forums” in the synod, the proposed “Faith, Sexism, and Justice” social statement, care for God’s creation and the synod’s Diakonia program. Workshops equipped participants to be more inclusive, more servant-hearted and more loving to all. —Deacon Vicki Hanrahan
Southeast Michigan, May 17-18, Clarkston, Mich. Hebrews 11:1 guided the assembly. Faith stories were shared by a campus pastor, a former follower of Jainism who became a Lutheran pastor and a director for hunger education. A fourth scheduled speaker and pastor from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land was denied a visa to enter the U.S. —Robin J. McCants
Southeastern Iowa, May 10-11, West Des Moines, Iowa. Gathering under the theme “One Bread. One Body.” participants were joined by guests Rachel Alley, ELCA program director for youth ministry, and Wendy Davidson, president of U.S. Specialty Channels at Kellogg Co. Congregations brought reusable shopping bags representing their local outreach, culminating in a synod-wide emphasis of “One Bread. One Body.” Guests also participated in forums that included learning about advocacy, ecumenical relations and global mission. —Valerie Harlynn
Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, May 17-18, Houston. Using this year’s theme “Sacred Shift,” the organization LEAD (Living every day as disciples) led attendees in finding ways to change their approach to living as Christians in an ever-changing world through workshops and keynote sessions. The assembly voted to become an AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) synod and asked the 2019 Churchwide Assembly to endorse the Earth Charter. (See below for the bishop’s election.) —Aimee Elles
Western Iowa, May 3-5, Sioux City, Iowa. This year’s assembly theme was “Following Jesus; Living Hope,” using the story of the road to Emmaus from Luke 24 as the scriptural base. The assembly lived out the theme by assembling over 80 flood buckets that were then dispersed to those areas most in need. (See below for the bishop’s election.) —Lynn Egesdal
Elected: Laurie A. Larson Caesar as bishop of the Oregon Synod, effective Aug. 1.
When: May 11 on the fifth ballot with 164 votes. David Brauer-Rieke, synod bishop since 2007, received 118.
Bio: Pastor of Spirit of Grace Lutheran Church, Beaverton, Ore., since 1996. Earned degrees from Stanford (Calif.) University and Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.
Elected: Paul T. Egensteiner as bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod, effective Aug. 1.
When: May 17, on the fifth ballot, with 250 votes. Christopher Mietlowski, pastor of Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church in New York, received 198 votes.
Bio: Pastor of Emanuel Lutheran Church, Pleasantville, N.Y., since 1997. Previously served Immanuel Lutheran Church in Staten Island, N.Y. Received degrees from Wagner College, Staten Island, and from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
Replaces: Interim Bishop Donald J. McCoid, who will retire July 31.
Elected: Lorna H. Halaas as bishop of the Western Iowa Synod, effective July 1.
When: May 4 on the fifth ballot with 146 votes. William Tesch, associate to the bishop and director for evangelical mission in the South Dakota Synod, received 112 votes.
Bio: Assistant to the bishop and director of missional leadership for the Western Iowa Synod. Served congregations in Iowa and North Dakota. Earned degrees from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, New Brighton (now St. Paul), Minn.
Replaces: Rodger Prois, who is seeking another call.
Elected: Shelley M. Bryan Wee as bishop of the Northwest Washington Synod, effective Aug. 1.
When: May 19, on the fourth ballot, with 167 votes. Deanna Wildermuth, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Mercer Island, Wash., received 158 votes.
Bio: Assistant to the bishop in the synod. Served Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Eastern Washington University Campus Ministry, Cheney; Zion Lutheran Church, Spokane; and Jocko Valley Lutheran Church in Arlee, Mont. Earned degrees from Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma, Wash., and Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary (now Luther Seminary), St. Paul, Minn.
Replaces: B. Kirby Unti, who will retire July 31.
Re-elected: Michael Rinehart for a third term as bishop of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod on the first ballot with 145 of 180 votes cast.
Re-elected: Craig Alan Satterlee as bishop of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod on the fifth ballot, receiving 152 votes. Bill Uetricht, pastor of First Lutheran Church, Muskegon, Mich., received 113 votes.