ELCA Conference of Bishops, others focus on future directions goals
By Candice Hill Buchbinder
The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) continues to discern the denomination’s future as outlined in the priorities and goals of Future Directions 2025. The conference is an advisory body of the ELCA that includes 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and the secretary.
Meeting here Sept. 27-Oct. 2 under the theme “While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near,” the conference engaged in discussions with senior leadership of the ELCA churchwide organization to explore in-depth the work that surrounds the five goals of Future Directions 2025 and the key priorities of congregational vitality and leadership.
“Just as the disciples on the road to Emmaus discovered, we experienced the transforming power of the risen Christ’s presence as we move forward together in new and deeper partnership within the conference and with other leaders and leadership teams of the ELCA,” said the Rev. William O. Gafkjen, bishop of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod and chair of the conference.
Other business for the conference included a report on the multicultural mission strategy to help assess where each synod is in implementing their goals toward increasing diversity in ELCA congregations. The strategy was developed in response to the resolution on racial justice adopted by the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The resolution encourages all rostered ministers to receive anti-racism training and every synod to develop or maintain resources for anti-racism training for rostered ministers and congregations at least every two years.
Addressing concerns about U.S. funding of Augusta Victoria Hospital and five other East Jerusalem hospitals, the conference issued a statement that strongly “affirms ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s Sept. 6 letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, calling for the ‘release of $25 million of U.S. FY 2017 funding that will help to ensure that there is no interruption in the treatment of Palestinians at the East Jerusalem hospitals.’ ” The statement urged the president to “instruct the U.S. Department of State to release this vital funding so these patients will receive the treatment and care they need.”
The Inter-Religious Task Force presented a draft of the inter-religious policy statement. Following discussions, the conference recommended two amendments to the text. The draft policy statement, along with recommended amendments, will be considered by the ELCA Church Council at its November 2018 meeting. If approved, the statement will be considered by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
The conference also reviewed and offered responses to the draft social statement on women and justice. The proposed social statement will be delivered to the ELCA Church Council at its April 2019 meeting for consideration by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
In other business, the ELCA Conference of Bishops received:
- A report on theological education from seminary presidents and leaders
- An update on Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. As of July 31, the campaign has received $198 million for campaign priorities; $160 million in cash and commitments and $38 million in planned gifts. The period of the campaign has been extended an additional five months to June 30, 2019.
- A report on the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering.
- An update on the entrance rite recommendation for the roster of Ministers of Word and Service.
- A report from the director for Mission Support. Mission Support is the financial offering from congregations shared with synods and the churchwide organization.
- Reports from the ELCA vice president, treasurer and secretary and updates from the Conference of Bishops’ various committees.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in more than 9,300 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
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Candice Hill Buchbinder
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