Last weekend I attended the online synod assembly for the ELCA synod in which I was rostered before I retired. My two strongest impressions from the gathering are as follows.
First, the words that I heard most often were “diversity,” “inclusivity,” and “equity.” That is what almost everybody talked about and what everybody seemed to make their top priorities. After the assembly was over, I wished that I had kept track of the number of times that somebody mentioned Jesus. I did not keep track of the number, but I am certain that Jesus was mentioned far less often than diversity, inclusivity, and equity. I also definitely got the message that the diversity and inclusivity that they were talking about do not include people like me.
In mid-May that synod held an online pre-assembly gathering. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was one of the presenters. She told the group, “We talk about justice; we also need to talk about Jesus. We need to name the Name.” Please pray with me that what she said was meant, was heard, and will be heeded.
Second, the discussion about the proposed budget was amazing. It was mentioned that during the last nine years – from 2012 to 2021 – receipts from congregations to the synod have dropped from $1.4 million to $800,000. Which amounts to more than a 40 percent decline in nine years. And that does not include the drop during the years immediately following the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
The proposed spending plan for the 2022-2023 fiscal year included income of $899,000 (the major addition to the receipts from congregations was over $70,000 from the assets obtained from the sale of a former church property), but expenses of over $1.2 million. The assembly rejected the budget, not because it was not balanced, but instead because it did not provide funding for all of the favored ministries. The attitude of the assembly was, We need to sell more buildings from closed congregations, and we need to use more of the dollars already obtained from already selling buildings from closed congregations.
It is astounding to me that people want to fund their agendas, values, and priorities from the sale of properties built and paid for by people whose view of the Bible, theology, moral values, and view of the mission of the church they reject. They show neither appreciation for the past nor any concern to do their part to make the future viable. Rather they just want to have the financial resources today to fund their agendas, values, and priorities.
It was also mentioned during the assembly that twenty-five percent of the synod’s 107 congregations (twenty-seven congregations) do not have a regular pastor, and several more are challenged because of their size and/or financial instability.
If all that is not enough to tell the ELCA that something is very wrong, what would be enough?
To read the entire June letter from the director, click here.
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Dennis D. Nelson
Executive Director of Lutheran CORE
Lutheran CORE | PO Box 1741, Wausau, WI 54402-1741