Every three years, people from across the entire ELCA meet for the Churchwide Assembly. It is in Milwaukee this year, starting on Monday, August 5th. Twelve members of the Montana Synod will be there as voting members—from Sidney to Ronan, from Cody to Havre—and places in-between. These Voting Members are listed in the weekly prayers. Please pray for them, and for our church, the ELCA, as we gather to make important decisions about how we will be church together.
There will be elections. We will elect or re-elect a Presiding Bishop. We will elect a new Secretary. We will also elect a number of new people to the ELCA Church Council, the governing body that determines policy and procedures between Churchwide Assemblies. Two Montana women will be on the ballot—Mary Hutchinson from Billings and Loni Whitford from Rocky Boy. The Assembly will elect one of them to serve on the Church Council on behalf of the Montana Synod and the Eastern Washington Idaho Synod.
There will be a kickoff for the 50th Anniversary of Women’s Ordination in 2020. In Friday morning, the Rev. April Larson, the first woman to be elected a Bishop in the ELCA, will be a featured speaker. On Friday evening, the Rev. Beth Platz, the first woman ordained in the Lutheran Church in the US, will speak at the celebratory banquet, at which Congregational resources (Bible Study, Study Guide, Worship Resources) will be launched.
There will be a Social Statement on Faith, Sexism and Justice. The Assembly will have an opportunity to debate and vote on adopting this Social Statement, which has taken longer from proposal to completion than any previous statement.
There will be a policy statement on Interreligious Dialogue. This proposed statement is a followup to the statement on Ecumenism adopted early in the ELCA’s life. We live in an increasingly diverse world, and knowing how to discuss issues of ultimate importance with people who have different faith traditions is critical.
There will be a proposal to ordain Deacons. The ELCA has been evolving in our understanding of the role of ministers of word and service. At the beginning of the ELCA, lay professionals (who had different nomenclature in the different predecessor chores.) were called Associates in Ministry. Eventually, we added another lay ministry category, Diaconal Ministers. And there were Deaconesses. In 2016, they were all merged into Deacons. Now, in 2019, the Assembly will vote on the recommendation that ordination (as opposed to consecration, commissioning, or anything else) be the entrance rite for Deacons.
There will be followup conversations and resolutions on racism. The 2016 Churchwide Assembly adopted several resolutions on racism, and asked for report back in 2019. Anti-racism training in every Synod and anti-racism goals for every Synod were requested, as was a proposal on “authentic diversity.” The 2016 Churchwide Assembly also passed a resolution on the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, with action steps, but little has been done on a Churchwide level to fulfill those commitments.
There will be daily worship and Bible Study. Churchwide Assembly worship is a highlight for many people. Excellent preaching, inspiring music, thoughtful liturgies keep participants grounded in why we are really here. Bible Study leaders challenge and teach.
There will be resolutions from Synods. Synods have the opportunity to send memorials to the Churchwide Assembly for consideration. The topics range from environmental issues to Seminary debt to church governance.
Watch for photos and interviews on the Synod page, as well as live streaming from www.elca.org.
And keep us in prayer.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Luke 18:16
Summer is a time when we have special activities for children. We host Vacation Bible School, and invite kids to bring their friends. We have world-class camping programs that teach our children about God’s love for them and all creation, while having a lot of fun and learning outdoor skills. Our camps, Christikon and Flathead, are responsible for the ongoing faith formation for generations of people.
But not all children are so fortunate. Refugee children fleeing violence in Central America are not so fortunate. Separated from their parents in some cases, warehoused in inhumane conditions in many cases, these children are not so fortunate. If animals were kept in similar circumstances, those responsible would be prosecuted. I cannot help but recall Dachau, the German concentration camp. At Dachau, there was a small zoo for the entertainment of the children of the Nazi officers who ran the camp. They were rigorous in their care for the zoo animals—in stark contrast to the prisoners who lived in filthy quarters and were half-starved.
What are we, as Christians, to do about the detention of refugee children at the border, and the inhumane conditions to which they are being subjected? A number of Montana Synod folks have asked this very question. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a statement, along with a number of other faith leaders. It was in the last News from the Montana Synod, and is available at www.elca.org. In this week’s News, please find a note from Vice President Dick Deschamps with a link to more ELCA resources. And Lutheran Immigration and Refugee services (www.lirs.org) has resources on how to help children in detention.
Here are some stories from the border:
From the Grand Canyon Synod:
“We have an ecumenical partnership with Cruzando Fronteras in Nogales, MX. It is encouraging that many of our Southern Arizona congregations have collected donations of dollars and in kind and taken them as they visit. Many bring the stories back to their congregations and have found ways to be engage in Tucson area.
The biggest area of involvement is in Phoenix. The city has processed about 1500 people a week. ICW was dropping women, children and men off at bus stops, and then LSS-SW, IRC and Catholic Charities leaders collaborated. We have about 15 Lutheran churches and a DoC church who have opened their doors for welcome and reception. ICE transports groups to the churches. The churches offer a welcome and orientation, provide phones so connections and travel arrangements can be made to the sponsors and then food, clothing, medical help and transportation to the bus station or airport is provided. While 15 churches have provided space, many more have provided financial and in-kind donations.”
Bishop Deborah Hutterer
From the Southwestern Texas Synod:
“In our Synod, we’ve got a task force, with a retreat scheduled on the border in Eagle Pass, July 26-27, made up of ecumenical partners, the task force, latino leaders, synod council and deans, and other leaders passionate about this. Our hope is to provide concrete plans for advocacy, training and direct service, but we’ll need partners to help fund our ongoing work. Part of the challenge is that the landscape/hotspots keep changing on an almost daily basis, based on who is crossing where from where and for what reasons.
Eagle Pass is also where we have a brand new SAWC out of our existing congregation, called Eagle Pass La Frontera Ministries, which provides temporary shelter and spiritual care for processed asylum seekers as they head out from Eagle Pass all over the country. That’s a ministry of opportunity because of who’s coming across the border right now, and we’re partnering with the Methodists to make it happen.”
Bishop Sue Briner
From the Executive Director of the Lutheran Seminary Program of the Southwest:
“Thought for the day: I cannot worship on Sunday and leave the justice work to others on Monday. While in the Rio Grande Valley I visited the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen and saw the crowd of immigrant families being served by faithful volunteers. A family member was able to enter the local detention center on a maintenance contract and related how the “stench” was overwhelming and horrific. He was told “not to look at them!” If you think the media is exaggerating the conditions at these “concentrations camps,” you are mistaken. It is very real and dehumanizing. Yes, worship on Sunday, but than on Monday, look for Jose, Maria y Jesus in the concentration camps of your community!”
The Rev. Dr. Javier Alanis
“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Jesus
Jessica Crist, Bishop
At our Synod Assembly this year we were privileged to have Bishop Motsamai Manong and Pastor Adam Khunou present, visiting from our companion synod, the Cape Orange Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa. It is always heartening to spend time with Christians from another part of the world, to share how God is at work in our different contexts. In addition to meeting people at the Synod Assembly, our South African visitors were able to see some of Montana’s agricultural country, visit a reservation, see Yellowstone, and see various social ministries sponsored by congregations around the Synod.
This next week the Montana Synod will be hosting a visitor from another part of the world. Gustavo Driau, based in Argentina, is the ELCA’s representative in Latin America. He assists our companion church, the Bolivian Evangelical Lutheran Church, and works with us as the IELB and the Montana Synod accompany one another. Gustavo Driau has lived in Latin America all his life, and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to his position. He previously served with the Lutheran World Federation in Latin America.
ELCA missionaries from around the world gather for a missionary conference every couple of years. Because Gustavo was going to be in Chicago, we invited him to Montana to meet with sponsoring congregations, and others who are interested. Many congregations donate to global mission. Some support Young Adults in Global Mission. Some support a specific missionary, maybe who has a history of relationship with their congregation.
You are invited to meet with Gustavo Driau at one of the following events:
July 7 - 9:30 am Bethel Lutheran Church, Great Falls—preaching and adult forum
July 8 - 6-8 pm Open House at the Synod House for LPAs and others to meet and greet
July 10 - Evening program at Christ Lutheran Church in Libby
July 14 - 8:15 am at Hope Lutheran, Bozeman
10:00 am at Christ the King Lutheran, Bozeman
Afternoon/evening event in Bozeman, TBA
Our companion synod relationships, our missionary sponsorships and our promotion of Young Adults in Global Mission remind us that the church is bigger than any one congregation, any one country. I invite you to learn more about global mission, and to become more involved.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA