Shifts happen

A most blessed New Year to each of you!

As you read this, I am at Bishops’ Academy (annual continuing ed. for bishops) and preparing for our January 9 synod-sponsored trip to the Holy Land. I want to share with you some re-visioning that our (mostly new since I took office 2 ½ years ago) synod staff has been praying and working on and that Synod Council is now pondering and tweaking and that will come to fruition in, we hope, increasingly tangible ways in this new year.

First of all, we have four main points of vision/priority we want to lift up and pursue in virtually all that we do.

• Cultivate and celebrate vital congregations
• Identify, equip, and nurture whole and healthy leaders
• Embrace and engage in collaboration
• Proclaim the promise of the resurrection with a prophetic voice

As we pursue that vision and those priorities for what we believe to be a synod, I want to highlight some synod staffing shifts:

Leadership Development: Tammy Jones West has been on our staff for a long time and has been rostered as a deacon for several years. She will be leading our convergence and expansion of the “Leadership School” and “Leaders Learn” projects. At last month’s Synod Council meeting Tammy received a call to serve officially as an Assistant to the Bishop, given her gifts, her tenure, and her increasing responsibilities.

Conflict: It used to be that Diane Ryan, that winsome and helpful voice that usually answers the phone at the synod office, was instructed, upon notification of a conflict in a congregation and/or with a rostered minister, to direct sexual misconducts to Beth and all other conflict to Phil. With Beth now retired, and realizing that one person’s responding to most conflict as a “silo” is depressing and inefficient, we plan to manage conflict as a larger bishop’s staff, depending on situation, location, availability, etc. That is to say that Sara, Phil, Danielle, Tammy, and I are all being trained together to assess and respond to conflict/crisis situations in the synod. Often we will work in teams, which we have always done in the case of sexual misconduct situations. We will also process conflict situations as a team, much like we handle call process as a team with Sandra, Phil, me, and sometimes Danielle and Sara.

Assembly: Since Tammy will be taking on more leadership, conflict, and general bishop’s assistant roles, the huge task of planning and running assembly will be shifting to Michael DeNise, our Director for Finance and Administration. He will shadow Tammy for the 2018 assembly to learn the ropes, and in 2019 it’ll be his baby.

Stewardship for all Seasons has done quite well in the 20 or so pilot congregations of the past two years, with an average increase in giving in those congregations of 15-18% annually. Synod Council called Pastor Mike Ward to oversee that program in as many of our congregations as possible. Please contact our Director of Evangelical Mission, Danielle DeNise, to learn how your congregation might participate.

Justice and Advocacy ministry has been solidified as Synod Council has recently called GeoRene Jones (who will be consecrated at St. John’s in Salisbury on Feb. 18 as a deacon). This position is funded entirely by outside grants but will help us live into priority and vision #4 above.

I realize this sort of information is not necessarily inspiring, but I will say that new personalities as well as clarity of vision and priorities are bringing new excitement, energy, and inspiration to our staff, and we are here to bring that excitement, energy, and inspiration to you.

As always, we are immensely grateful to all of our congregations for their Mission Support in 2017 that fuels the synod’s collaborative ministries including Candidacy, Call Process, Campus Ministry, 9 stellar agencies and institutions, Leadership, Stewardship, Congregational Vitality, LYO, and countless other ways we are blessed to share as the NC Synod. In addition, as we forward more than $1 million to the ELCA’s churchwide organization, your gifts have far-reaching national and global implications for ministry—everything from Young Adults in Global Mission to Domestic Mission starts (seven in NC) and redevelopments (five in NC) to Worship Resources and so much more. The synodical and churchwide expressions exist primarily to help our congregations be more vital and our leaders (lay and rostered) be healthy and strong so that Gospel ministry might flourish!

Your partner in the Gospel,

Tim signature

Bishop Tim Smith