Bishops are elected by synods, but are accountable to the whole church, as well. Because of that, bishops gather twice a year for multi-day meetings. I am just on my way home from one of those meetings. As I mentioned in my Words from the Bishop last week, bishops do more advising than legislating. But bishops are generally the ones who have to implement the decisions made by the Church Council. So bishops have good reason to be invested in the advisory process.
At the recently concluded meeting, bishops had significant input into a document that will be voted on by the Church Council. This document, “Trustworthy Servants,” replaces as earlier document, “Vision and Expectations,” which has been a part of the candidacy process since 1990. This document will be made public on March 7, in anticipation of the Church Council’s vote in April. Should the Church Council vote to adopt the document (with or without changes), it will immediately replace “Vision and Expectations.” The bishops have written a letter about the new document, and expressing regret for harm done to individual and the church in the past.
Bishops also had an opportunity to preview the latest draft of the proposed Social Statement on Women and Justice, before it goes to the Church Council and, ultimately, the Churchwide Assembly. Retitled “Faith, Sexism and Justice: a Lutheran Call to Action.” The Statement is much clearer and better than the draft we saw last year, in my opinion. It, too, will be released to the public soon.
Another document that will be voted on by the Churchwide Assembly is a document on Interreligious Relationships. This document is available.
Bishops also heard reports from Churchwide officers—Presiding Bishop, Secretary, Treasurer and Vice President, and heard updates on the Churchwide Assembly. Both the Secretary and the Presiding Bishop positions are up for election.
We learned about ELCA finances. January was a difficult month all around, with blizzards, a polar vortex in the Midwest, and the government shutdown. Congregations who had to cancel services are encouraged to try to find ways to make up missed offerings and mission support.
The Campaign for the ELCA is coming to a close June 30. Congregations and individuals are encouraged to make additional gifts and pledges to this campaign, especially in the areas of World Hunger, Young Adults in Global Mission, and Global Women’s Education-a program that brings young women from Lutheran World Federation Churches to Study at Lutheran Colleges and Universities.
Bishops also learn from one another. New spent most of a day listening to different approaches across the ELCA for encouraging Congregational vitality.
The bishops also sent a letter to the Lutheran Church in Venezuela, expressing prayer and solidarity for the suffering of the people of Venezuela. Additionally, Presiding Bishop Eaton wrote a letter to the United Methodist Church, and ELCA bishops from the West wrote to Western UMC Bishops to express understanding and prayers for the United Methodist Church as it ponders how best to move forward after the General Convention last week. ELCA congregations with U tied Methodist neighbors are invited to pray for them, offer a safe space for worship, if appropriate, but not to encourage “jumping ship.” The United Methodist Church is a full communion partner with the ELCA.
If you have questions, talk with me.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA