Astounding Giftedness and Blessing

As I write this, the 2023 NC Synod Assembly ended just late yesterday afternoon. It was wonderful really. Lots of visiting between sessions and during meals, joyful worship, and presentations that were not only informative but inspiring. A highlight for me was receiving Comunidad Amada de Cristo (Christ’s Beloved Community) as an official congregation of the NC Synod, which we will, in turn, commend to the ELCA for their inclusion. We elected a LOT of people because of our new Synod Council rotation of serving four years with each assembly year (odd years) and half of the council rolling off. And we elected churchwide assembly voting members who will not be attending until 2025 but it’ll be too late in June of 2025 to register them. And a new synod secretary—perhaps the youngest synod officer ever?—the immensely capable and qualified Pastor Cassie McIntosh Overcash. And Discipline and Consultation Committees. And two years’ worth of budget and compensation guideline approvals. A lot!

Even though this is my job and I have a decent handle on what we do as synod, even I was astounded with the breadth and giftedness and the blessing of this synod represented and shared on that stage in Greensboro. So many faith-filled and inspiring, and even entertaining presentations, though I may need therapy for the Agent Goins costume visual! Deacons, pastors, laypeople, heads of affiliated agencies and institutions, all working together and stronger together for the sake of the Gospel!

This assembly was also the first time in quite a while—at least six years—since we’ve really had quite a controversial resolution on the floor. This one was about new NC access to abortion law and ELCA teaching on abortion. We all realize that having such tough discussions in today’s culture in particular are extremely hard. Frankly, I was struggling with which way to vote on this one, not so much from a content perspective but from a “purpose of ELCA social statements” perspective. All our social statements acknowledge that Christians of strong and sincere faith may well (and do) land on different ends of the spectrum in controversial debates around social issues. Not only that, but ELCA social statements, while intended as guides, teaching material, and resources for discussion, are not binding on synodical bodies, local congregations, or individuals. Stated another way, my being an ELCA member does not imply or assume that my or my congregation’s opinion matches that of any social issue statement approved by an ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Our paid, neutral, registered parliamentarian, did a good job of keeping us on task, declaring people out of order on both sides of the debate deemed to be speaking to their passions and convictions around abortion but not specifically on the “resolveds” proposed.

I’m grateful for Synod Director of Finance and Administration, Michael DeNise, who even with a spring audit, much of the staff being new with this being their first assembly or their first time with a particular responsibility, and in the wake of his father’s recent death, planned an assembly that went smoothly and successfully. Pastor Danielle DeNise also helped immensely with the agenda, programming, script, etc. All the staff jumped in, adapted, changed on the fly, etc. And Diana Haywood, our synod vice president, is simply a rock star. She presided over the most difficult parts of the assembly and again did a stellar job, even though she hardly got any sleep Friday night after the room above her hotel room flooded and crashed down into her room after midnight, necessitating a total room change in the middle of the night! And I didn’t even know that until AFTER the assembly was over. Synod council, as ever, was helpful as well.

We are blessed to be in NC. Or as VP Haywood says, “The North Carolina Synod is the place to be.” Sure, we have rough spots and kinks we need to work out. But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.


Walking with you,

NC Synod Bishop
Bishop's reflection

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