Church Law Day – Aug. 18

When: Thursday, August 18
Where: Gustavus Adolphus College Heritage Room -OR- LIVESTREAM!
– $40 per congregation attending the event. (up to four people) Meals are on your own at the Gustavus cafeteria
– $25 for a Live Stream.
Register your interest online by clicking here.

Click here to download event flyer.

After multiple requests, the Southwestern Minnesota Synod is again sponsoring training on employment law and other legal issues that may affect churches and other religious organizations. The training is being presented in conjunction with the Southeastern Minnesota Synod and with the support of Gustavus Adolphus College. Attend in person or watch our live stream.

Who should attend?
Pastors, administrators, and council leaders.
This event is primarily aimed at ELCA Lutherans but ecumenically open to all denominations.

Our primary teacher will be Attorney Stephen K Knowles of the law firm of Davis & Kuelthau, s.c. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mr. Knowles has been counsel for the Greater Milwaukee Synod since its formation and also provides legal services for other ELCA synods, the ELCA’s churchwide organization, and ELCA congregations. We will have both synod attorneys also present:
– Attorney Jonathan Norrie from the SE MN Synod
– Attorney Bob Dalager from the SW MN Synod

Topics to be covered:

  • What You Need to Know About the Employment at Will Rule.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act and Revisions to Exempt Employee Salary Requirements.
  • Employment Policies and Employee Handbooks.
  • Interviewing and Hiring.
  • Discipline and Discharge.
  • What Is the Ministerial Exception and Why You Should Care.
  • “Quick Hits” on Other Legal Issues That May Affect Religious Organizations:
    • Unemployment insurance
    • Worker’s compensation insurance
    • Employment practices liability insurance
    • General liability insurance
    • Equipment leases
    • Space sharing agreements
    • ELCA constitution and bylaws
    • Embezzlement
    • Disclosure of significant events
    • Membership or attendance by sexual abuser or child abuser
    • Mandatory abuse reporting
    • Dealing with trouble makers


Better Together Better Together Somoli
As you know the Greater St. Cloud Community continues to change and grow more diverse. Jesus Christ call us to welcome and love the strangers who come into our communities and provide for their needs, saying: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35, NRSV). In hopes of building a stronger community and serving our God and neighbors, many local organizations including Catholic Charities, Local Faith Communities, Habitat for Humanity, Lutheran Social Services, SW MN Synod of the ELCA, Times Media, Thrivent Financial, United Way of Central Minnesota, #UniteCloud and the Central Minnesota Community Foundation will be sponsoring a food packaging event to bring people together to develop relationships and do something positive for the good of the community, as a community, because we are BETTER TOGETHER.

On July 28th, at Apollo High School, we plan to package over 200,000 meals and to distribute those meals to local charities, food shelves and disabled veterans’ support organizations. Online sign ups to serve at this event will begin in late June. In the meantime, please pray for this event and consider making a tax-deductible donation to help purchase food packaging supplies. Financial contributions can be sent directly to United Way of Central Minnesota at 3001 Clearwater Road, Suite 201, St. Cloud, MN 56301. Please denote the gift is for the BETTER TOGETHER event! Congregations and individuals may also give online at We will also accept gifts on the day of the event. Thank you for your prayers and support.


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Better Together Church Letter

better together bulletin or newsletter


2016 Synod Assembly – Day 2 Notes

river_of_hopeEmbrace God’s Mission + Equip God’s People
SW MN Synod Assembly
Saturday, June 11, 2016

Registration. Morning greetings. Returning to our places. Ready for the second day.

Sliding back into plenary with group singing led by Chad Winterfeldt, cantor of Christ Chapel, Gustavus Adolphus College.

Called back to order. Opening prayer.

Dr. Robin Steinke, president of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, shared this year’s ELCA report – sharing our work as the larger Church. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s points of emphasis: We are Church. We are Lutheran. We are church together. We are church for the sake of the world. “We all stand in God’s bread line.”

  • God’s work. Our hands.” Day of Service is Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. Resources are available.
  • World Hunger support from SW MN Synod last year = $1,034,000
  • Lutheran Disaster Response support from SW MN Synod last year – $73,000
  • Malaria Campaign has reached the 5-year goal of $15 million to fight malaria around the world.
  • Seminarian scholarship recipients were named – 13 of them this year.
  • ELCA Campaign has reached $1.3 million so far.
  • ELCA Churchwide Assembly and Grace Gathering, August 8-13, 2016, New Orleans, LA.

Called Forward Together in Christ. This conversation/invitation is for us to pray and think together about who God is calling us to be – and why. What kind of church is God calling us to become? What are the top 3 things that are most important in the next 5-10 years? (Lots of holy buzz in the room!) Toolkit is available online to discuss these things in our congregations –

Credentials report = 56% of the possible attendees are here.

Pr. Bryant Kaden presented the Bread Basket Award. Why do we do the work of World Hunger support? Those who are helped are our friends! Many individuals and congregations contribute to this important cause. The award went to Borgund, Madison, who contributed $34.10/baptized member to World Hunger this past year.

World Hunger offering was received — $4,960.

Jodi Harpstead, president, reported on the important work of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. Homeless. Hungry. Youth. Refugees. More. The Servant of Christ Award was presented to all of the pastors of the Great River Conference for helping to develop “My Neighbor Is Muslim”, a resource that has grown from their conference, to the synod, to the nation, to the world.

Vice President Gwen Arneson’s report. How do we maneuver the intersections of our lives? We are in the very middle of God’s mission.

Bp. Jon Anderson shared background information about the gift of the Lilly grant received to help with the economics and financial literacy of pastors and churches, then continued onto the work of the financial initiative. This will help to maintain the important things that have happened continue to happen. We need to break the silence and be able to talk more about financial matters. A video was shared with particular emphasis on debt loads of new pastors.

Oh, here’s Rocco. He’s not quite getting the message about the Ministerial Excellence Fund – not Fun. This fund will be established through matching gifts raised in response to Lilly’s challenge, growing that gift of $250,000 to $500,000.

Yikes! Another referee interruption. Here’s whistle-tooting Pr. Julie Anderson to point out the foul according to her funding initiative rule book. Time out for Pr. Jon Dahl to present Bethel Lutheran, Willmar’s gift of $10,000.

Get up and stretch – and sing – with Chad Winterfeldt.

Winners of Augsburg Fortress prizes – Rick Sandry, Viola Bengston, and Ian Graue.

Winners of LMM prizes – Bible – Pr. Bob Lehner; Faith Chest – Char Kingstrom.

Lutheran Trust’s Kindle Fire winner is Dave Pedersen of Grace, Brownton.

Resolution 16.02 Regarding Receiving River of Hope, Hutchinson, as a newly chartered church of the ELCA was read by Sec. Charles Stewart. We have a unanimous ballot! Applause – standing ovation! Celebration – waving banners, vuvuzelas, noise makers, horns, tambourines. Pr. Laura Aase, “The Holy Spirit works best with messes!” First met 6 years ago by the river. About 4 years ago, they started asking why. Why? “We go out to transform lives through Jesus Christ.” Started with 30-50, now more than 300 River-of-Hopers. Thank you!

Bp. Jon’s second report included staff reports. First up – Sarah Hausken, Youth Ministry Coordinator, about her work with the LYO president and others. Next – Kathryn Skoglund, Engaging Leaders Synod Minister, about her work with candidacy. Third – Linda Pedersen, Equipping Congregations Synod Minister, about her work with call processes. Fourth – Larry Strenge, Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA staff embedded in our staff, about his work with developing congregations. We are church together! – For the sake of the world.

Bp. Jon told about Amy Bigot and her work as the planned giving coordinator, willing to help individuals and congregations as an unpaid advocate for estate and financial planning. Bp. Jon also recognized new conference ministers, equipping ministry staff, and support staff.

Tammy Devine of Portico Benefit Services greeted the assembly, showed a video about her work, and highlighted the wellness reformation efforts in the ELCA.

Announcements. Closing prayer. Break for lunch and Let’s Do Lunch sessions. Recess.

* * *

Sliding into plenary – this time led by Jay Beech of the Center for Worship and Music. A little plug by Bp. Jon about available scholarships for people attending courses at the Center.

Opening prayer.

Dr. Brian Konkol’s Bible study based on 2 Corinthians 4:1-7. Why, how, what? God’s missionary what? This reflects the question of the where of God’s mission. St. Peter is 64 miles south of the Mall of America. The Mall of America represents so much consumption – and is our mission context. Is buying and selling the only way to tell if we are well in our society? We live in the wealthiest nation on earth, our productivity goes up every year. Do we think our lives will be easier next year? The what: religion is the means by which we advocate and accompany. We are equipped to embrace God’s mission – to advocate more – to accompany. Clay jars – filled with brokenness. We have treasures in clay jars.

Video: Develop Servant Leaders. Internship served at Grace, Dawson. A rural ministry opportunity for some urban and suburban candidates for ministry.

Perplexed puppet Rocco is not jiving with the last Bible study. Why would Chaplain be saying we should be tripping God’s people? Jeff Kjellberg of Kairos suggested that perhaps Rocco should consider Portico’s wellness efforts – and get his ears checked! After further explanation by Jeff, Rocco summed up the entire 3-part Bible study. If the message can get through to Rocco, everyone ought to be able to understand.

Andrew Lenz, treasurer of the LYO board, introduced the video of their activities. Andrew challenged us to have someone under age 35 at every table at next year’s assembly.

The Companion Synod report was presented by Pr. Harvey Nelson. He was accompanied by two guests from South Africa – Nomalungelo (Noma) Msimango and Lindokuhle (Lindo) Shandu. Lindo brought greetings from Bp. Buthelezi. Youth is the future of the church, so the youth should be in decision-making in the church. Make them part of the church! Noma expressed gratitude for our partnership. As part of Lakeland Conference’s partnership, these two will be counselors at Green Lake Bible Camp this summer.

Get up and stretch – and sing again with Jay Beech. “Hallelujah! We Sing Your Praises!”

Talk about one of the best blessings in your community of faith this last year. (holy buzz)

Bp. Jon’s report was about the life of our synod over the past year:

  • Pastors do things digitally now, but they don’t stop by the office to visit.
  • Numbers are down, so we need to recruit pastors. All bishops of Region 3 (except 2 Twin Cities synods) went to the city, sat down with pastors waiting for calls in the city, and explained to them the advantages of serving in our synod.
  • Pastors in the room may have attended seminary for free because their churches thought that was important. That doesn’t happen so much anymore.
  • Who do you think God is calling to be the future leaders? Those who are quiet and content or those who are willing to face and facilitate change?
  • We’re called to be church in the world.
  • Lay preaching workshop offered by Region 3. Last winter’s class led by our own Pr. Rachel Wrenn and Pr. Scott Fuller.
  • Continuing education is important. “I want my doctor, my dentist, my attorney and my accountant doing continuing education. My pastor, too.” We want to encourage our pastors and other rostered leaders to be intentional about their continuing education.
  • Four newly assigned to our synod – ready to accept calls and be ordained in the coming months.
  • Currently our synod has 23 candidates for ministry at seminaries.
  • Candidates approved and waiting for calls – 4 of our candidates plus gay or lesbian candidates.
  • We’re a first-call synod and received 6 in the past year.
  • We received the $500,000 Lilly grant – a gift of God – which will transform our leaders’ lives.
  • Anniversary celebration shift – Bp. Jon wants to talk about what God is calling you to do in the next 5-10 years. He has some anniversaries booked and he’s not baling on those, but he’d like to get together on a Sunday morning, stay into the afternoon, and have that discussion.
  • Beth Lewis of Augsburg Fortress turned the publishing house around financially:
    • Listen, test, learn
    • Communicate a clear vision
    • Grow, hold, fold
    • Identify and retain the best talent
    • Drive out complexity
    • Provide creative space and the best tools you can afford.
  • LMM Retreat – theme of Vocation – thanks-giving, struggling, discerning. Go deeper in our relationships.
  • Story shepherd training with Jim Barkley.
  • TIM visits in our conferences.
  • Congregations have closed – University Lutheran Church of the Epiphany, St. Cloud; Kenneth, Kenneth; Swede Home, Clarkfield; Eidskog, Ortonville; Siloah, Graceville. We give thanks to God for all they have done in Jesus’ name.
  • Angels with legs – 3 different places with angels with legs visible — what does this mean? Let that remind us that all of us with legs are called to be messengers of God’s Good News.

Referee Linda Pedersen blows the whistle with another violation. Rule #5: gifts ought to be made during our business session. Marv Isder, member of the lead team, presented an estate gift received during the silent phase of the initiative: dedicated to Global Mission $16,400.

Voted: To adopt the proposed 2017 Compensation Guidelines as presented.

Voted: To approve the proposed Budget for Fiscal Year Ending January 31, 2018, as presented.

Prize give-aways:

  • Deepening Congregational Vitality – First Lutheran, Marshall (MAP and interpretation $1200 value)
  • Local/Global Mission – Danebod, Tyler (options of up to $1,000 – food packing event, backpack program, or fund a mission trip for congregation)
  • Developing Servant Leaders – Tripolis, Kandiyohi ($1,000 scholarship options, website building training, or an event with a Bible teacher)

The packet information about the funding initiative provided in assembly materials is for individuals. More information will be shared later for participation of congregations. Keep the momentum going. Stay tuned! Game on!

Announcements. Recognition of Pr. Jeff Sackett of Celebration, Sartell (Rocco).

Closing worship. Closing of the assembly. Safe travels, everyone.