ITASCA — The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met Sept. 29–Oct. 1 at the Eaglewood Resort in Itasca, Ill. The conference, an advisory body of the ELCA, comprises 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and the secretary.
The gathering was grounded in worship and prayer as the bishops met to build on mutual relationships within the conference and address leadership in the ELCA. The conference also celebrated Holy Communion with the ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship recipients, in attendance for the annual FFL banquet.
“We come together as the Conference of Bishops to give and receive encouragement as we serve in our respective synods,” said the Rev. Tracie Bartholomew, bishop of the ELCA New Jersey Synod and conference chair. “We are at our best when we work collegially and celebrate all that God is doing throughout this church.”
In key business, the conference:
- Adopted the revised ELCA Conference of Bishops relational agreement, which outlines the collegial nature of the conference. The agreement will be reviewed annually.
- Adopted a revision to the rostered minister profile disclosure questions.
- Approved recommendations from the Roster Committee related to policy exceptions for rostered ministers on leave from call and to the congregational three-year rule (which requires initial calls to be at least three years in a congregational setting), and approved nonstipendiary calls and ministry in unusual circumstances.
- Approved a recommendation to the Church Council to remove the dagger — designating a required provision — from Section 11.04 of the Constitution for Synods, which states, “The Mutual Ministry Committee shall be appointed by the Executive Committee of the Synod Council to provide support and counsel to the bishop.” Removal of the dagger will make this provision optional.
In other business, the conference:
- Engaged in a conversation addressing racial justice work, led by Jennifer DeLeon, director for ELCA Racial Justice Ministries.
- Provided feedback to the Leadership Committee on a bishop transition resource that guides actions and conversations between an outgoing bishop and a bishop-elect.
- Engaged in discussion and shared experiences, led by the Congregational Vitality Committee, about congregations on either end of the vitality spectrum: those that are thriving and those that are fragile and face possible closure.
- Engaged in small-group conversations to review the 2022 Churchwide Assembly, including the Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church called for in the memorial “Restructure the Governance of the ELCA.”
- Received an update on the candidacy leadership working group and held small-group discussions about candidacy with seminary leaders. Established during the conference’s spring 2022 meeting, the working group comprises 12 diverse leaders from across the ELCA who will explore ways to adapt the church’s candidacy process to serve the church’s current and future needs.
- Received recommendations from the Roster Committee related to the memorials on specialized ministry and on-leave-from-call status, which were approved by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.
- Received an update on ELCA chaplains from the Rev. Christopher Otten, director for ELCA Federal Chaplaincies.
- Received a report from the ELCA presiding bishop, written reports from the ELCA secretary and treasurer, and updates from the conference’s various committees.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 3 million members in more than 8,700 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands.,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
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