2015 Synod Assembly – Day 3

By Carla Klawitter

Closing Worship

Closing Worship

We’re sliding into plenary one more time with the beautiful music of the Praise Band. Voices greeting. Voices in conversation. Voices singing. Voices together. We are church together.

Liza Fagen leads our opening prayer.

Bp. James Mauney presents one more time of learning – one more BAHHble study – about the road to Emmaus story. The disciples are telling what has happened on the road. The Lord has risen! He has been made known in the breaking of bread! This is the Good News we have when we are church together. Sharers of the gospel. Sharers of gifts. Sharers of distress. Walking with. Standing with. Building up. Giving grace. We are church together – in Christ.

One congregation in the Virginia Synod will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2017! Bp. Mauney teaches us more about his synod. The geography. The history. Churches on battle sites. Effects of the avian flu in the valley a few years ago. Seeking to deepen the faith of people, young and old. We are church together.

Pr. John Gabrielson presents the credentials report.

Thirteen synod council members who have completed their terms are acknowledged with gratitude.

Pr. Julie Anderson presents the Endowment Committee report. Seminary student debt reduction. Seminary scholarships. The Plunge for young adults. Innovative ministry events. Funds available for 2016. Pension equity grants. Youth ministry. Global missions. American missions. Prosper, Invest, Endow (PIE). All possible because of generous people.

Amy Bigot, regional gift planner, will help congregations establish endowment funds and assist congregation members with their legacy and estate plans. The ELCA Foundation has tools to help achieve your goals. Free. Family-focused. Nothing to sell. PIE workshops. We are church together.

Budget 2016: Wendy Seefeldt moves the adoption of the 2016 budget as proposed. Voting is complete. Adopted.

Compensation Guidelines 2016: Marv Isder moves the adoption of the 2016 guidelines as proposed. Voting is complete. Adopted.

If in our congregations, if in our leadership, we don’t talk about the short, middle, and long terms, we will not know where we’re going. Equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Old tools. New tools. Planning tools. Stewards of the gospel. Dramatic changes between the generations. Joys of the synod. Concerns of the synod. What are your hunches? What is God up to?

Jeff Kjellberg of Kairos, a consulting firm, shares what they have learned through this year’s Listening Project. Deep listening. More than 800 people respond to their survey. Summits. Meetings. Gatherings. Discoveries. You care. You care deeply. You are healthy. You are engaged. Deep level of trust. What are your yearnings? Your longings? We are proud to be ELCA Lutheran congregations in our contexts. We are open to change. It is an exciting time to be church together.

We are working to identify our assets and possibilities. Where can we make the deepest impact? Who are the “gifts of God in human wrapping” around us? We seek to make good decisions.

Clarifying aspirations and goals is important. The church is not dying. God is alive and well. The church is alive and well. It’s just re-forming. We are part of that movement. We are better together. The synod is you. We have roles. We have skills. We have assets. Next step: Equip God’s People – Embrace God’s Mission.

Kintsukuroi – to repair with gold – more beautiful for having been broken. God is making something more beautiful of us in spite of our pain, in spite of our challenges.

Theresa Endres of Portico Benefit Services reminds us that it’s better to do the right thing poorly than to do the wrong thing really well. We hear of the work of Portico. We hear of our work to be good stewards of our personal wellness. When our leaders are healthy, we are a stronger church together.

The next SW MN Synod Assembly will be June 10-12, 2016, again at the Gustavus Adolphus College campus.

Carla Hamre leads us in prayer to close the plenary.

We all move to Christ Chapel for worship, Holy Communion, and closing of the assembly. “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth. I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit which abides. Lo, I will be with you always, to the end of time.” We are church together!

2015 Synod Assembly – Day 2


Bp. Jon Anderson & Bp. Phemba Buthelezi

By Carla Klawitter

“You are holy, you are whole.” Gathering music reminds us you (plural) are holy, you (plural) are whole…we are whole…complete…church together.

Faces of friends, soon-to-be-made friends. Faces set with pondering, faces with smiles. Conversations, silence. All gathered because we are part of the synod, because we are church together.

Pastor Kirk Meseck leads opening prayer for energy and guidance in our work together. An hour-long bishop forum is first on our agenda this morning; questions have been submitted by assembly attendees.

Credentials: Shetek Conference has all 63 registered voters checked in this morning. Of the total 567 possible registered voters, 547 are checked in this morning.

Balloting #2 for Bishop: Sec. Chris Boerger reminds us that a 2/3 majority is needed to elect. Voting via keypads is complete. Results will be announced later.

Other elections: All uncontested nominees will be elected. Voting is completed for five synod council at-large positions and two consultation committee positions. Results will be announced later. Churchwide Assembly 2016 voting member elections are next. Complete election results will be posted on the synod’s website.

Bp. James Mauney of Virginia Synod leads us in another Bible – or is that BAHHble? – study, again concentrating on the road to Emmaus story when Jesus’ shares a meal – breaking bread – breaking bread for all – for all God’s children around the world. We are church together.

The bishop election results: There were 513 votes cast; 2/3 (342) needed to elect. Tim Wittwer 8, Steve Olson 21, Lyle Snyder 27, Laurie Skow-Anderson 110, and Jon Anderson 349. Bp. Jon is declared elected. Appreciation is expressed for all participants in this process.

Bp. Phemba Buthelezi of the South-Eastern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa teaches us about the church at work in our companion synod. They are experiencing growth, full churches on Sundays. Companionship has a sense of equality. He encourages the continued relationships between our conferences and their circuits. He invites us to visit South Africa – before we die! We need each other. We are church together.

Bp. Buthelezi is presented with a stole from our synod. Khayo M. from the Durban area is also introduced and welcomed.

Marv Isder presents the proposed 2016 Compensation Guidelines. This will be voted on tomorrow morning. There will be time for discussion at a designated table during lunch break.

Bill Fenske, who is completing his term as synod treasurer, presents the audit report for years ended January 31, 2015, and 2014, and the proposed 2016 budget. The audit is received by vote of the assembly. Wendy Seefeldt, chair of the Mission and Management Committee, presents a narrative regarding the proposed budget and your mission support dollars. Voting regarding adoption of the budget will occur tomorrow.

Pastor Art Wiese leads our closing prayer.

Plenary #4

We are called back to order after enjoying more music by the Praise Band. Julie Rath leads our opening prayer.

Vice President Gwen Arneson reports on all of the “God’s Work. Our Hands” stories gathered from around the synod. A “Post-It” note patchwork of ideas and accomplishments.

Votes are cast again as needed to complete the election process for our Churchwide Assembly voting members for 2016.

Tammy Moses reports the recent work of the Luther Social Services of Minnesota and presents the LSS 2015 Servant of Christ Award to former Augustana Synod churches. The entire list will be posted on the synod’s web site in the coming days.

Ann Hanson, our synod’s World Hunger coordinator, presents the Bread Basket Award to Borgund, Madison, for their largest amount given per baptized member; the top 10 are announced.

An offering is collected for World Hunger totaling $10,437.09 today.

Sec. Boerger presents the ELCA report to update us on how we are church together through their ministries.

Election results for the remaining Churchwide Assembly voting members are announced. See the list on our website soon.

Prizes are awarded by some of the display organizations, so some announcements are made.

The next Equipping Congregations Day date has been set – 2/20/16 – sweet treats are distributed – how sweet it is to be church (together) with you!

One-minute videos about our shared ministry partners are shown at different times during our plenary sessions. They are good reminders of how we are church together.

In his second report, Bp. Jon announces that the word of emphasis for the next year for the synod will be EQUIP. Pastors Mark and Margaret Yackel-Juleen share their stories of how they have been equipped in and for their lives. They are the founders of Shalom Hill Farm, where rural ministry education happens in partnership with some of our seminaries. Pr. Margaret has been the synod’s coordinator for our first-call theological education work. Pr. Mark has also been an internship supervisor for 15 interns, many of whom are in this room. Pr. Margaret has been called to another 4-point area parish in Iowa. Pr. Mark has been called to Wartburg Seminary. They have discovered the gift of hospitality in their blood, so they have purchased a bed and breakfast where pastors and others can go for some time of rest. One word for us to remember: Listen.

Dr. Jim Boyce, chair of our candidacy committee, thinks of many but names his father as a major equipper for his life. Learning the 23rd Psalm on his parents’ knees was key. Jim was 7 years old when his father went to college. When Jim was confirmed, his father was ordained, so he went through all of that with him. “I’ve never been ashamed to preach the gospel,” his father told him. What a joy it has been for Jim to be part of the equipping process for our candidates! One word for us to remember: Pentecost.

Pastor Kathleen Ulland-Klinkner acknowledges many people who affected her life. Rev. Stan Olson and Rev. Paul Rohde were key to equipping Kathleen. She’s a minister at Augustana and East Sveadahl, St. James. She works with Practice Discipleship. Find more information at http://www.practicediscipleship.org. The team will go out and teach in your setting – at no cost. She reminds us to use your gifts and name others’ gifts.

Announcements are given by Joyce Piper and Linda Pedersen. The session is recessed for the afternoon workshops – an excellent opportunity for learning – for being equipped. All workshops are by our shared ministries and will have an emphasis on how we are all church together. We’ll all gather again for a banquet this evening, followed by a reception for our newly elected bishop.

Signe Gray, one of our conference ministers, leads the closing prayer.

We’ll slide back into plenary again tomorrow morning at 8:15.

2015 Synod Assembly – Day 1

Pre-assembly Hunger Event

Pre-assembly Hunger Event

By Carla Klawitter

Welcome to the 2015 Assembly of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod!

Before we formally begin the assembly, we have hundreds of people of all sorts gathered for the hunger event to pack 110,000 meals to be delivered to food shelves, backpack programs, veterans, and other agencies throughout the 29+ counties of the SW MN Synod, where 76,000 people suffer hunger each day! We are church together.

At 3:00 we are gathered at Christ Chapel on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus. We have come from rural areas, towns, and cities. We have guests representing the ELCA; several other synods, including our Partner Synod – Virginia; and our Companion Synod – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa, South-Eastern Diocese. We are men, women, youngsters, middlers, oldsters, military, civilian, praisers, pray-ers, scholars, workers, leaders, soon-to-be leaders, rostered persons, lay persons, brothers, sisters. We are people enduring losses, celebrating new life, anticipating new callings, striving to be God’s witnesses. We are church together.

We are nearly 500 gathered to worship, including music, confession, forgiveness, Holy Communion. During the installation of Sarah Hausken as a new associate in ministry, all connected to pray a blessing for her and her ministry among us. Worship leaders are: ELCA Secretary Wm. Chris Boerger, preacher; Pastor Maggie Cumings, presider; Michael Schaner, organist/pianist; Ryan Prondzinski, lector; and Pastor Stephen Rasmusson, installation presider.

And so we begin. We are welcomed by Rev. Grady St. Dennis. We adopt the agenda, procedures and guidelines for resolutions, and the supplementary rules regarding nominations and elections. The six candidates for synodical bishop – Rev. Dr. Laurie Skow-Anderson, Rev. Paul Lutter, Rev. Steve Olson, Rev. Tim Wittwer, Rev. Lyle Snyder, and Bp. Jon Anderson – answer prepared questions in our first bishop forum of the assembly.

Before recessing for dinner, we end with the table grace. Nearly 500 voices. A capella. In harmony. And here it comes…the beautiful, tear-inducing “AMEN.” We are church together.

Plenary 2

With voices, keyboard, guitar, brass, and percussion, we slide back into plenary with the Praise Band from St. Cloud.  Pastor Ted Kunze leads our opening prayer.

Emily Peterson, chair, acknowledges with appreciation the Synod Assembly Planning Committee’s working all together to carry out the details, details, details of this gathering.

Introductions of and appreciation for officers, staff, Gustavus Adolphus workers, and technical crews assisting with the assembly are given.

Brief reports are given for the Nominations and Resolutions Committees.

Credentials: As of 6:00 p.m., 518 registered voting members have checked in.

Voting members receive a lesson in how to use their voting keypads by Dana White of Qwizdom.

ELCA Secretary Wm. Chris Boerger guides the voting process for the bishop election. He reminds us that all here are the call committee in this spiritual process. He reviews what a synodical bishop is and does – pastor to the entire synod, servant to respond (appropriately) when you call with a need, CEO of a corporation, a worker for the unity of the Church (other denominations and faith groups). We are led in prayer, and the vote is completed. Results will be announced later.

Bible Study #1 – Bp. James Mauney of Virginia Synod – our partner synod – introduces his study based on the road to Emmaus story and how that relates to how we are church together. He is wondering if his allotted 15 minutes includes the reading of the text. He asks us to consider he’s from Virginia so it might be slower – it must be OUR accent! And this is the “BAHHble study – (not Bible study) – BAHHble study!”

The road to Emmaus has been a violent road throughout time and is still so today. It’s a “cross” road. BUT, they’re on the road TOGETHER. They have each other. They are church together. They are worn out. They are in despair. HERE is where the Risen Christ comes! He’s THE engaging leader (from our mission statement). Jesus interprets the scriptures to them. He turns it all upside down. Jesus is alive! The gospel is for all of us – not for the few. It can’t be a gospel for some. God so loved the WORLD. We are church together.

Results of Ballot #1: There were 496 votes cast; 75% (372) needed to elect. Paul Lutter 11, Tim Wittwer 16, Lyle Snyder 16, Steve Olson 24, Laurie Skow-Anderson 115, Jon Anderson 314.

Pastor Lutter’s name will be removed from the next ballot. Tomorrow morning at 8:45 there will be another nominee forum. Questions may be submitted until 9:00 tonight. Next ballot will be at about 9:35 a.m. tomorrow.

Bp. Jon’s report #1: “You have been formed to serve.” Our synod is made up of 10 conferences, 29 complete counties (33 with parts in SW MN Synod), and 248 congregations. In stories of different service activities and ministries throughout his report, Bp. Jon concludes, “You were there…” and the people respond, “We are church together.”

Before closing, Bp. Jon asks all from areas affected by the avian flu to stand. A large number of people. We hold you in prayer. We want to help. We are church together.

Visiting bishops are recognized: Bp. Larry and Joy Wohlrabe of NW MN; Bp. Phemba Buthelezi, ELCSA – SED; Bp. Rick Hoyme of North-West Wisconsin; Bp. Steve Delzer of SE MN; and Bp. Rodger Prois, Western Iowa.

By a vote of 458-yes and 9-no (plus 1 paper vote), Resolution 15.01 regarding funding strategies for the synod is adopted. The effect is to allow the synod council to decide if and when we move forward with financial planning for the synod, including the Lilly Grant opportunity.

The Praise Band leads us in our closing hymn, “We Are Called”.

The next plenary session will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Registration will close at 8:15 a.m. so the credentials committee can do their work for report before the second ballot.

Pastor Joyce Graue leads us in closing prayer.