One of the things I hear with disturbing frequency goes something like this: “This is a top-down church. The ELCA churchwide expression, the churchwide assembly, and the synod make decisions that are completely out of touch with me and my congregation. Nobody ever asks our opinion. The churchwide and synod actions don’t reflect the views of my community, my congregation, and me.”
I actually ponder that a lot. I worry about it a lot. I firmly believe, even amid today’s culture wars, polarizations, and anxiety, that most of us ultimately don’t have to “have our way.” But just like in interpersonal relationships, we do need to be seen, sincerely heard and understood, acknowledged, and valued. Minus any one of those things, we can’t really be in relationship together in any hopeful way.
Congregations are the foundational Word-Sacrament-and-Serving building block of this church in its three expressions. There is no synod or churchwide expression without congregations. Synods are just congregations working together to do things we can’t do on our own. Like agencies and institutions such as Lutheran Men in Mission—celebrating 100 years this month and providing disaster response, spiritual renewal retreats, and more—Lenoir-Rhyne University. Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary of L-R, Lutheran Services Carolinas, Agape+Kure Beach, NovusWay (Lutheridge and Lutherock in NC), Women of the ELCA Synodical Women’s Organization, Lutheran Youth Organization, Twin Lakes, The Mission Fund (supporting 10 mission congregations in NC), Region 9 Archives, the Home Mission Foundation, and the NC Synod Foundation which includes the Michael Peeler and Virginia Casey Funds.
Synods also help facilitate the call process for rostered pastors and deacons as well as Synod Authorized Ministers and Lay Preachers, help congregations with planning and vitality, help manage and fund over a dozen Lutheran campus ministries in NC, manage the Candidacy process for the preparation of rostered ministers, help mediate and guide conflict situations, provide continuing education for both lay and rostered ministers, help provide for the care and nurture and renewal of rostered ministers, help facilitate communication among all members of the NC Synod (are you signed up for our e-news?), and help congregations arrange to share ministry or ministers that keep them both vital and sustainable. And much more.
So, now there I go, telling you all what WE do—the NC Synod, the synodical expression of this church—and not listening to your input. So, where is your chance for input? Lots of ways. Those of us on the bishop’s staff are eager to be invited into your congregation, and one thing we can do when we come besides preach is to have a session where congregants can bring questions and concerns to us. Another thing you can do is write to or call the synod office. We get lots of calls, letters, and emails. All ELCA social statements provide localized workshops and/or input forms, encouraging the whole population of the ELCA to respond. Synod resolutions and memorials are other opportunities for input. (These used to be discussed at annual spring conference meetings—which, let’s face it, had dreadful attendance—but we’re hoping to change that with a new format for spring meetings.)
As of 2019, each year of an NC Synod Assembly (happening in odd-numbered years, like this one), we will combine all our conference meetings into three cluster meetings:
EASTERN: Sunday, April 23—4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at St. James, Fayetteville
WESTERN: Saturday, April 29—11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Calvary, Morganton
CENTRAL: Sunday, April 30—4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Becks, Lexington
Please plan for both clergy and lay Synod Assembly voting members to attend these preparatory cluster meetings that will include information about procedures including voting, resolutions and memorials received to be on the floor, various elections, and budget, as well as brief worship together and a meal. Synod Council members and members of the bishop’s staff will be present at each cluster meeting. If you plan to attend this year’s synod assembly, register for one of the cluster meetings here.
We value you and we value being church together. We hope you will avail yourself of the many ways your voice can be heard so that our mission is strengthened for the sake of the Gospel, this church, and the world!