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.
Central States, June 6-8, Overland Park, Kan. The assembly explored the theme “Baptized into Hope, God’s Vitality In Us.” Keynote speaker Rich Melheim of Faith Inkubators led participants through cross-generational methods to engage the church’s community as a family. The assembly adopted resolutions celebrating its companion synods, committing to further advocate for creation care, and memorializing the Churchwide Assembly to renounce sexism and sexual misconduct. The assembly elected a new bishop (page 38). —Tim Anderson
Delaware-Maryland, May 30-June 1, Hunt Valley, Md. The theme “Holy Wisdom, Holy Word” laid the foundation for the assembly. As participants learned new ways to encounter the Bible, they installed Christopher Otten as assistant to the presiding bishop for federal chaplaincies; celebrated the completion of its Forward in Faith campaign, which raised $3.6 million for the synod and the ELCA; and voted to become a Reconciling in Christ synod (welcoming of LGBTQIA+ people). The assembly ended with participants being commissioned for a new initiative to read the Bible every day. —Julie Stecker, deacon
Indiana-Kentucky, May 31-June 2, West Lafayette, Ind. Meeting under the theme “Who is My Neighbor?” the assembly provided ample opportunity for worship, learning, fellowship, service and business. Rachel Kurtz served as the assembly musician. A highlight for many was the screening of the documentary on Fred Rogers titled Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Over 50 youth were involved in the Youth Leadership Summit during the assembly. —Thomas Dearchs
Florida-Bahamas, June 6-8, Orlando, Fla. The theme “Alive in Christ” was an invitation to celebrate the many ways the Spirit is at work in and through the synod’s congregations, ministries and partners. Highlights included dynamic music and worship; an interfaith panel; Holy Humor breaks by comedian Al Ernst; and a presentation on vitality from Rob Carlson, director for evangelical mission. The growing presence of youth was another highlight. There was positive energy and enthusiasm for spiritual renewal as a synod. —Michelle Collins
Grand Canyon, June 14-15, Mesa, Ariz. Gathered under the theme “Sing to the Lord a New Song,” the assembly sang 26 newly written songs, gathered a literal ton of supplies for asylum-seekers, and raised money for its Bishop’s Leadership Fund and the Campaign for the ELCA. After a year’s work and discernment, the Synod Council and bishop presented a new strategic plan that can be summarized as “Communicate Jesus, Connect People, and Create Possibilities.” And, because wasabi-flavored rice crackers were accidentally purchased as communion wafers, the spirit of Pentecost descended upon the assembly in a new and fiery way. —Brian Flatgard
La Crosse Area, June 14-16, La Crosse, Wis. Gathering under the theme of “Walk. Love. Do.” synod members met the challenge of “doing” by collecting thousands of pairs of socks and underwear during the weeks leading up to assembly, to be distributed among 30 charities in all four of its conferences. Worship was an all-day experience on Saturday and Sunday, with segments of the liturgy interspersed between reports, speakers, workshops and business sessions. A highlight on Saturday was celebrating the eucharist just prior to the evening banquet. —Gayda Hollnagel
Lower Susquehanna, June 6-8, Grantham, Pa. Voting members approved memorials and resolutions that fit the theme “Hungry for God’s Mission.” The assembly resolved to implement the ELCA strategy on Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO). Two memorials to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly concerned the Holy Land, urging the ELCA to “expand our relationships and dialogue” with conflicted parties and to advocate for restored and increased funding for humanitarian aid for Palestinians. Another memorial urged the ELCA to reinstate Gold+ health insurance for churchwide employees. The assembly re-elected its bishop (see below). —Robert C. Blezard
Montana Synod, May 31-June 2, Great Falls, Mont. The assembly centered on embracing change as attendees said goodbye to Bishop Jessica Crist and welcomed a new bishop (see below). They also said goodbye to six congregations that closed this year and celebrated the addition of four new missions. In attendance were representatives from its companion synod, the Cape Orange Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. Voting members passed resolutions encouraging congregations to begin discussions around climate change and racism. Attendees heard that the synod gave $253,167 to ELCA World Hunger in 2018 and looked forward to continued giving. —Annela Rova
Nebraska, May 30-June 1, Kearney, Neb. In keeping with its theme “Disciples for All the World,” the synod heard from keynote speaker Presiding Bishop Frederick Shoo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania. Attendees learned about accompaniment, encouragement and inclusion from David Wunsch of ELCA Global Mission, the ELCA Glocal Musicians and workshops. The synod recognized Spirit of Grace mission start as a newly organized congregation. —Brenda Rivas
New Jersey, June 6-8, New Brunswick, N.J. The assembly invited congregations to “Be Bold” in their witness to the good news of Jesus Christ. Workshop topics included advocacy, invitation, affirming ethnic and racial diversity, and the synod’s interdependence. The assembly celebrated the completion of the Bishop’s Challenge, a one-year effort that nearly doubled the commitment of synod congregations to ELCA World Hunger with over $360,000 in gifts. A parade of 90 decorated wooden cows, representing the 130 congregations that gave a gift to World Hunger since the last assembly, filled the hall. The assembly re-elected its bishop (see below) —Marc A. Stutzel
North Carolina, May 31-June 1, Greensboro, N.C. Gathering under the theme “Congregational Vitality,” the assembly heard from leaders across the synod whose ministries exemplify the definition of vital congregations: communities of Jesus that nurture life-changing relationships with God, each other and the world. Ruben Duran, ELCA director for congregational vitality, offered inspiring thoughts on the assembly theme. Worship honored the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women of color in the ELCA, including the six women of color who serve in North Carolina and the first ordained woman of color, Earlean Miller, who served her first call in the synod. —Catherine Fink
Northeastern Iowa, June 14-16,2019, Waverly, Iowa. With the theme “Celebrating Renewal: Katherine von Bora Luther—Faith in the Home,” the assembly focused on ways that faith can be practiced in the home. Keynote speaker Kathryn Kleinhans of Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, shared background about Katie Luther’s role as a reformer’s wife and reformer, and how she managed a large household centered on faith. The assembly approved a resolution to memorialize the 2019 Churchwide Assembly to adopt the proposed social statement “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action.” It also passed a resolution encouraging synod congregations to pray, advocate and work for justice for all who are affected by sexism and patriarchy. —Marcia Hahn
Northeastern Pennsylvania, June 1, Hazleton, Pa. Gathered under the theme “Freed in Christ for a New Day,” Bishop Sam Zeiser emphasized that many congregations will face challenging situations in the coming years and need to be open to new things that God may have in mind. Offerings were received for ELCA World Hunger ($3,600) and the Campaign for the ELCA ($3,300). Macaroni and cheese was collected for Hazelton-area food banks. The assembly voted to study the need for increased leadership for youth ministry at the synodical level. —Paul Braden
Northern Illinois, June 14-15, Rock Island, Ill. The synod’s new mission statement, “Walking Together. Loving Christ. Loving All. For the Sake of the World.” was the assembly theme. Along with the mission and vision statements, Bishop Jeffrey Clements shared the core values: worship/prayer, innovation, leadership, equipping, and evangelism. “I remain committed to walking with you on this road we travel because we will travel so much further if we travel together,” he said. “We are 145 congregations working together to do significant ministry that no single congregation can do on its own.” The Bishop’s $10,000 Challenge for the ELCA campaign raised over $22,0000. —Karin Graddy, deacon
Northwestern Minnesota, June 7-9, Moorhead, Minn. The synod’s new bishop, William Tesch (see below), told the assembly, “I’ll be collaborating with the people of this synod to explore how we can raise up leaders, both rostered and lay leaders. I’ll also be exploring how we can collaborate and reach out to people who have experienced marginalization, including our Native American brothers and sisters.” The assembly’s theme of “Building a Bigger Table” focused on God as the “Master Table-Builder,” and how we are all called to welcome everyone to God’s table. —Hope Deutscher
South Carolina, May 30-June 1, Spartanburg, S.C. The theme, “Joining God in the Neighborhood,” was inspired by Luke 10:27. The synod welcomed its companions from the Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church. Keynoter Molly Spearman, the South Carolina superintendent of schools, shared about the state of education and the role the church can play in the improvement of schools. A “Lunch & Learn Discussion” centered on making ordination the entrance rite for deacons, and a dinner discussion focused on the election of a synod bishop in 2020. —Neal F. Fischer
Southwestern Texas, May 31-June 2, Corpus Christi, Texas. The theme “Open Eyes, Burning Hearts” was based on the road to Emmaus story from Luke 24 and the synod’s purpose statement: “God’s grace transforms and connects us to learn, to love, to lead.” The assembly heard from Peggy Hahn, a deacon and assistant to the bishop, on adaptive leadership and faithful metrics. Voting members passed a resolution calling for expanded engagement and dialogue in the Holy Land. The assembly welcomed two new synodically authorized worshiping communities. —Darcy Mittelstaedt, deacon
Southwestern Pennsylvania, June 13-15, California, Pa. Based on the theme “New to the Neighborhood—Always Being Made New,” keynote speeches focused on the global refugee crisis and redefining “neighbor” from a geographic term to a moral concept. The assembly passed a resolution to condemn the separation of migrant children from families. Forums offered education on funding the synod’s mission, creating safe and welcoming congregations, and the ELCA’s proposed interfaith policy. The assembly re-elected its bishop (page below). —Janice Jeletic
Upper Susquehanna, June 14-15, Selinsgrove, Pa. The assembly, gathered under the theme “On the Way Together: United, Serving, Supporting,” featured conversations with geographic conferences to talk about how to implement the synod’s new mission strategy. The assembly heard from ecumenical partners and passed a memorial to encourage ELCA members, congregations, synods and the churchwide organization to expand relationships and dialogue with nonchurch groups and individuals in the Holy Land. —Chad Hershberger
Upstate New York, May 30-June 1, Rochester, N.Y. “You Will be My Witness” was experienced through testimony, writing our Jesus stories and launching a storytelling video campaign. A resolution and two memorials were another witness of our faith in caring for the earth and living out the proposed social statement “Faith, Sexism and, Justice.” Witnessing to our neighbor’s need, $38,775 was raised for ELCA World Hunger. —Kathy Neugent
Virginia, June 7-8, Salem, Va. Voting members pondered the questions: “How can we be faithful to God and ourselves? How can we hear one another speaking in their language? Churchwide represenative Sandra Chrostowski, ELCA director of relationships with the directors for evangelical mission, said “we all weep” at the loss of Missy Langer, a Lutheran among the 12 killed in the Virginia Beach, Va., shooting. “We are so sensitized [by shootings]. We wonder if it will ever change.” Mary Hinkle Shore from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary of Lenoir-Rhyne University, announced that the seminary will offer-full tuition grants. —George Kegley
West Virginia-Western Maryland, May 31-June 1, Wheeling, W.Va. Keynoter was Victoria Flood, ELCA director for Mission Support. Some workshops explored budgeted ministries and synodical work. Voting members facilitated elimination of draw-on reserves offset by reductions in share and expenses. The assembly adopted memorials on Holy Land engagement and on praising assembly cost reductions. Representatives of United Lutheran Seminary answered questions during an open hearing. —Bishop Matthew Riegel
Elected: Susan Candea as bishop of the Central States Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 8, on the fifth ballot, with 223 votes. David Whetter, pastor of Salem Lutheran Church, Lenexa, Kan., received 131 votes.
Bio: Associate to the synod bishop and director for evangelical mission. Served King of Glory
Lutheran Church in Loveland, Colo.; Our Savior Lutheran Church in Topeka, Kan.; and Immanuel Lutheran Church in Wakeeney, Kan. Received degrees from California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, and Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.
Replaces: Roger Gustafson, who will retire Aug. 31.
Elected: Yehiel Curry as bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 8, on the fifth ballot, with 258 votes. Heidi Torgerson, director for mission personnel and leadership formation with ELCA Global Mission, received 226 votes.
Bio: Pastor of Shekinah Chapel, Riverdale, Ill. Earned degrees from Lewis University, Romeoville, Ill., and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
Replaces: Wayne N. Miller, who will retire Aug. 31.
Elected: Constanze Hagmaier as bishop of the South Dakota Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 1 on the fifth ballot, with 250 votes. Bill Tesch, director for evangelical mission and associate to the synod bishop, received 247 votes.
Bio: Served Trinity Lutheran Church, Madison, S.D. Earned degrees from Ruprecht Karl’s University in Heidelberg, Germany, and affiliated with Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., after emigrating to the United States in 2000.
Replaces: David B. Zellmer, whose second term (term-limited) will end Aug. 31. —Sawyer Vanden Heuvel
Elected: Regina Hassanally as bishop of the Southeastern Minnesota Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 1, on the fifth ballot, with 237 votes. Emily Carson, the synod’s director of communications, received 206 votes.
Bio: Pastor of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Goodhue, Minn. Previously served as director of shared ministry at St. John Lutheran Church in Northfield, Minn. Received degrees from Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa, and Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa., with a Lutheran year spent at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.
Replaces: Steven Delzer, who will retire Aug. 31.
Elected: Laurie Jungling as bishop of the Montana Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 1, on the fifth ballot with 143 votes. Jason Asselstine, an assistant to the synod bishop, received 138 votes.
Bio: Interim pastor of Gold Hill Lutheran Church, Butte. Previously served as an intentional interim pastor for the Montana Synod; Hope Lutheran Church, Powell, Wyo.; St. Paul Lutheran Church, Cut Bank, Mont.; Redeemer Lutheran Church in Great Falls, Mont.; Buffalo (S.D.) Lutheran Parish; and as a professor of religion and ethics at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D. Earned degrees from Montana State University, Bozeman; Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; and the Graduate Theological Union/Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif.
Replaces: Jessica Crist, who will retire Aug. 31.
Elected: Michael L. Lozano as bishop of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 15, on the fifth ballot, with 71 votes. William Coleman, pastor of Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, Erie, Pa., received 61 votes.
Bio: Pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Sharon, Pa. Served two Pennsylvania congregations, St. Paul Evangelical in Catawissa and Evangelical in Mount Holly Springs; and Gethsemane in Gainesville, Fla. An active U.S. Reserve chaplain, he served this call full time from 2008 to 2014. Earned degrees from Mansfield (Pa.) University and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (now United).
Replaces: Ralph E. Jones, who will retire Aug. 31.
—Ellen G. Shulin-Rutherford
Elected: Leila M. Ortiz as bishop of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 15, on the fifth ballot with 150 votes. Jeanette D. Leisk, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Va., received 121 votes.
Bio: Assistant to the bishop for mobility and candidacy. Served Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Gaithersburg, Md., and was pastor-in-residence at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Herndon, Va. Earned degrees from Wagner College, Staten Island, N.Y.; and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (now United). She is currently a doctoral candidate at United.
Replaces: Richard H. Graham, who will retire Aug. 31.
Elected: Kevin L. Strickland as bishop of the Southeastern Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 2, on the fifth ballot, with 199 votes. Tiffany C. Chaney, pastor of Gathered by Grace, Montgomery, Ala., received 158 votes.
Bio: Assistant to the bishop and executive for worship with the Office of the Presiding Bishop in Chicago. Served as pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Nashville, and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Maryville, both in Tennessee. Received degrees from Newberry (S.C.) College and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C.
Replaces: H. Julian Gordy, who will retire Aug. 31.
—Carolyn Nottingham Davis
Elected: William Tesch as bishop of the Northwestern Minnesota Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 9, on the fifth ballot, with 265 votes. Genelle Netland, pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church, Bemidji, Minn., received 161 votes.
Bio: Director for evangelical mission of the South Dakota Synod. Previously was assistant to the synod bishop and pastor of Messiah New Hope Lutheran Church, Sioux Falls, and St. Peter Lutheran Church, Madison, both in South Dakota. Earned degrees from the University of Wisconsin in Madison and Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.
Replaces: Lawrence R. Wohlrabe, who will retire Aug. 31.
Re-elected: Tracie L. Bartholomew as bishop of the New Jersey Synod on the second ballot, June 7, with 298 votes. A total of 267 votes were needed for election.
Re-elected: Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt as bishop of the Southern Ohio Synod, June 7, on the first ballot, with 252 votes. A total of 216 votes were needed for election. —Susan Barton-Nonno
Re-elected: James S. Dunlop as bishop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod, June 8, on the fourth ballot, with 319 votes. Stephen R. Herr, pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Gettysburg, Pa., received 141 votes.
Re-elected: R. Guy Erwin as bishop of the Southwest California Synod, May 31, on the third ballot, with 208 votes. A total of 196 votes were needed for re-election.
Re-elected: Richard E. Jaech as bishop of the Southwestern Washington Synod, June 7, on the first ballot, with 170 votes. A total of 161 votes were needed for election.
Re-elected: Kurt Kusserow as bishop of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, June 14, on the second ballot, with 232 votes. A total of 219 votes were needed for election.