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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Churchwide Assembly Summary

A Letter from our Florida-Bahamas Synod Bishop, Bob Schaefer, on the highlights of the recently completed Churchwide Assembly.

Bishop Robert Schaefer writes from the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly that met last week in Pittsburgh, PA. 
Dear sisters and brothers,

I am writing to you just hours after the close of the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly:  Always being made new. 25 years together in Christ. As I sit in my hotel room in beautiful downtown Pittsburgh, pondering the events of the past week, Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians continue to run through my head.  “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

Both the gracious Holy Spirit and the voting members proved Paul’s words to be true as the powerful  winds of the Spirit blew through the assembly (which by the way, was made up of 17% youth/young adult voting members).  The assembly took many actions.  I want to highlight just a few that, I believe, will be significant for our life together.

A new presiding bishop and secretary: In the midst of deep appreciation and love for the gifts and work of Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson; the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, bishop of our Northeastern Ohio Synod, was elected presiding bishop of the ELCA and will be installed in October.  Bishop Eaton will be the first woman to serve as presiding bishop of this church.  She is theologically articulate, values the various positions that ELCA members hold in conscience on a variety of issues, is a fine preacher and brings a great sense of humor to the office.  For Bishop Eaton, Jesus is at the center and we are about making disciples! The Rev. Chris Boerger, who has just finished serving as bishop of the Northwest Washington Synod based in Seattle, was elected to a six- year term as secretary of the ELCA.  Our own synod vice-president, Cheryl Stuart, finished third in the balloting for secretary.  In a field of some of the most distinguished leaders in this church, Cheryl represented herself with vigor and grace.  I am both proud and thankful that she is coming home with us!  There is no question, God is making the leadership of this church new!

A new social statement: The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries.  This social teaching statement address significant issues that face our nation and in many ways, the state of Florida.  While giving thanks for our nation’s principles regarding justice and for the many in the system who serve their professional vocations with competent and humane performance, this statement recognizes serious deficiencies. An underlying punitive mindset, budgetary constraints and persistent inequalities based on race and class frequently challenge our basic principles and are addressed in this statement worthy of study.

A renewed resolve for comprehensive immigration reform:  For those of us in Florida this is critical!   This month this is critical!   The assembly overwhelmingly approved ongoing advocacy for adoption of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that supports an earned pathway to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship; ensures humane and just enforcement of U.S. immigration laws; protects families from separation; provides resources and protections to integrate of refugees and others; and ensures the protection of U.S. citizen and migrant workers.

A new campaign:  Voting members also proposal for the ELCA's first major fundraising campaign.  The five-year campaign, to begin in 2014, is designed to increase this church's capacity to renew and start new congregations, educate and develop its leaders, bolster its global mission efforts and expand the impact of its relief and development work.  The heart of this effort is to reach more communities with the good news of Jesus Christ, train more leaders who will become missionaries, pastors and lay leaders and contribute to the alleviation of hunger and poverty.

Thanks be to God, we are a church that is deeply rooted—and always being made new.

The peace of Christ be with you all,


The Rev. Robert G. Schaefer

Bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod

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