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Walking Together: 200 Years of Mission and Milestones

By The Rev. Lisa Isenhower

In a video celebrating two centuries of ministry in the South Carolina Synod, The Rev. Dr. James Aull (1988-96), the Rev. Dr. David Donges (1996-2008), the Rev. Dr. Herman Yoos (2008-2020) and Rev. Virginia “Ginny” Aebischer (2020-present) reflected on their years of service in the South Carolina Synod, celebrating the synod’s 200 years of mission and milestones. 

Each bishop expressed pride in something they experienced during their tenure. Bishop Aull shared that he was most proud of the people of the synod, faithful pastors and lay people who served in South Carolina. For Bishop Donges, it was the three-volume history of the SC Synod of which he is most proud. Bishop Herman Yoos said that he felt most proud of the South Carolina Synod’s efforts to be “agents of God’s reconciling love” in the aftermath of the murder of the Mother Emanuel Nine in Charleston. And for Bishop Virginia “Ginny” Aebischer, it was the synod’s ability to pivot in the face of the global pandemic, finding new ways to use technology and do ministry in new ways.

All four bishops reflected on challenges they encountered during their time in office. From ministering in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo and September 11, 2000 to adjusting to the decisions of the 2009 churchwide decisions on rostering gay and lesbian persons to coping with the high level of anxiety in our churches and society in the wake of the pandemic, our bishops have had many challenges.

In the midst of challenges, the South Carolina Synod has also experienced growth. Since the founding of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the synod has developed companion synod relationships with our siblings in Japan, Colombia, and the Southwest Diocese of Tanzania. The synod has also grown in its leadership capacity. The synod has helped congregational leaders adapt to change through book studies and workshops, and most recently, the development of Bible study materials to be used throughout the synod.

These bishops have seen other changes in the South Carolina Synod also. The incorporation of Lutheran Homes of South Carolina was part of a significant expansion of ministry to the aging. Bishop Donges noted that the mission of the synod didn’t change, but society was changing rapidly. Bishop Yoos spoke of equipping congregations for navigating transitions. Bishop Aebischer has worked to lead congregations in understanding the importance of abiding by synod compensation guidelines.

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ELCA South Carolina Synod
1003 Richland Street
Columbia, SC 29201
Telephone 803-765-0590
Fax 803-252-5558

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