The Conference of Bishops of the ELCA gathered virtually Oct. 1-2. This is the first time the conference has held a meeting online.
In her report to the conference, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton emphasized the generosity witnessed throughout the church, as evidenced by the COVID-19 appeal, which raised $1.6 million to support ELCA ministries best positioned to help those in need during the pandemic. In addition, 200 congregations raised more than $313,000, including $100,000 granted through ELCA World Hunger Daily Bread Matching Grants.
The presiding bishop also updated the conference on the development of the Future Church design. Eaton said the new structure is intended to activate a shared purpose across the ecology of the ELCA to “invite more people into the way of Jesus and discover community, justice and love. St. Paul said, ‘How will they know if they have not heard? How will they hear if someone has not been sent?’ This is a commission, a mission that Jesus has given to us.” The ELCA Church Council will vote on the Future Church design at its November 2020 meeting.
Eaton also spoke of the call, following the murder of George Floyd in May, for a reckoning in the long history of racism in this church and this country.
In key business, the conference approved the implementation of a revised first-call process for rostered ministry. The new plan was created to be more flexible and to respond better to the changing dynamics of the church.
In other business, the conference:
- Engaged in a conversation, led by the Committee on Appeals, about drafted updates to the church’s Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline. The document describes the grounds by which officers, rostered ministers, candidates for rostered ministry, congregations and members of congregations may be subject to discipline according to the practice of this church.
- Voted to recommend to the ELCA Church Council an edit clarifying language in the candidacy manual regarding the application of Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline to those in candidacy.
- Elected Deborah Hutterer, bishop of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod, to the executive committee of the Conference of Bishops.
- Received an update on the synod diversity goals, a multicultural mission strategy to help assess each synod’s progress toward increasing ethnic and racial diversity in its congregations.
- Received a report on the Strategy for Authentic Ethnic and Racial Diversity and Equitable Inclusivity, which included next steps for the Authentic Diversity advisory team.
- Received an update from Ann Svennungsen, bishop of the ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod, on the racial justice work being carried out by the Minneapolis Area Synod, the Saint Paul Area Synod and ecumenical partners in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
- Received written reports from the secretary and treasurer and updates from the conference’s various committees.