Post-Assembly Recap

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2024 Synod Assembly

Thank you for gathering in the room and online, united by the Assembly theme, “One Body in Christ” (Romans 12:5).

This Assembly once again represented a “first.” In 2020, an Assembly was cancelled for the first time due to COVID. The 2021 Assembly, which included the bishop election, was conducted entirely online. Assembly 2022 was cancelled due to lack of quorum and still-confusing masking guidelines. Last year, the Assembly finally met fully in person. And 2024 marked the first hybrid Assembly – ever! Thank you for being part of yet another “first.” As we walk together in life and in the church, “firsts” are our new normal. Thanks be to God and to you for the joy of being “synod” together.  

Friday Night was planned to be a time for celebration, and it was! Congratulations to congregations who reached the milestone of 75, 125, and 150 year-histories. Rostered Ministers who had retired and reached milestone anniversaries of ordinations or 10, 25, 50, 55, and 60+ years of ministry were applauded. We also celebrated the fine work of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Redwood Falls, who was presented with the Lutheran Social Service of MN Servant of Christ Award for their ministries serving people in the community and far beyond. 

We were honored to have the presence of Companion Synod partners of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa: Presiding Bishop NkosiNathi Myaka and Diocesan Council Chair Mr. Mkhize. This was the first time our partners had been able to attend an Assembly with us since 2014. Their teaching time focused on the state of the church in South Africa, which is impacted by devastating weather changes, political instability, economic challenges, and continuing health needs. Yet Bp. Myaka and Mr. Mkhize clearly proclaimed God’s power and presence in these times, and then united us in singing and dancing as the evening concluded.  

The foundation of Synod Assemblies is worship: gathering for prayer and praise around the gifts of word and sacrament. We chose to hear readings appointed for the weekend, which allowed me to preach about how Jesus often surprises us and turns upside-down things we thought we knew. I was able to draw upon the meaning of the 3rd Petition of the Lord’s Prayer to consider how God’s will might be done to, for, in, and among us in our congregations and communities. And it was a joy to install and officially welcome Rev. Seyward Ask as Synod Minister.  

The credentials committee reported that there were (onsite and on zoom) 217 Lay Leaders and 159 Rostered Ministers, for a total of 376 in attendance. We definitely made quorum!  

During this Assembly, we were so blessed by the speakers. Keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Aaron Suomala Folkerds wove together personal stories and Scripture to teach concrete tools for better connections with others. Quoting Mother Theresa he noted, "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." He suggested tools available to us that maintain connection: connection helps us deal with the sufferings of life; be in awe; anything mentionable is manageable; be an illuminator and not a diminisher; laugh at life; sleep and exercise; gratitude; wisely use the phone, reframe and resilience; forgiveness; and Jesus binds us all together. Visit the Synod Assembly's webpage for recorded video of Rev. Suomala Folkerds and to download his slides.

We are so grateful to the Rev. Dr. Philip Hirsch, ELCA Executive Director for Christian Community and Leadership for bringing the ELCA churchwide report. He reminded us that, “If any church can renew and reshape itself it should be the church of the Reformation.” You can find his slides/message on the Synod Assembly's webpage.

Once again, Borgund Lutheran Church was presented with the Breadbasket Award in recognition of raising over $34 per member to support the ELCA efforts to end world hunger. They also issued a challenge to other churches to go beyond their achievement!  

My report focused on 5 signs of life and health that I see across our synod as God’s will is being done “to, for, in, and among us.” In a time when ministry is rapidly changing, I believe these signs can point the way into the future: 

  • Living as one 
  • Living as a body 
  • Living together in Christ-like, healthy relationships 
  • Living as partners with each other 
  • Living in Christ as hope for the world 

This report also included a story from the memorial service giving thanks for the life of Shirley Anderson, wife of former synod bishop Rev. Charles Anderson. Shirley’s memorial was held at St. John’s Lutheran in Northfield, and Rev. Jonathan Davis told the story of how he and Charles began to challenge themselves to figure out how to summarize the Gospel in as few words as possible. When it came down to choosing one word, Rev. Davis said it is “with” because this is the most fundamental thing about God, about the Incarnation, and how we are to be with each other. I believe this is what it means to be church together and a synod, literally “walking with” each other.  

The Assembly did its very important work of taking action: electing leaders, approving compensation guidelines, approving constitutional changes, and adopting the budget for FYE 2026. Significant in preparing the budget is the principle of aiming to move toward a balanced budget over the next few years, and no longer drawing upon reserves that had been in place and intended to be used. As the economy and ministry are changing, we are committed to wise and healthy stewardship. I am very grateful to Treasurer Bob Haines for his diligent work with our synod finances and the budgeting process. 

Two resolutions regarding the Human Sexuality Statement had been received from the Shetek Conference Assembly. One was withdrawn, the other was not adopted. In the coming year and years, a churchwide taskforce will be studying the sexuality statement and there will be opportunities for feedback. We will also study the social statement here in our synod. Click here to read a little background information. In the document there are links where you can read the reconsiderations from the 2022 Churchwide Assembly and the ELCA social statement. It is important to remember that social statements in the ELCA are teaching and study documents; they are not prescriptive, nor are they decrees. Understanding these reports takes time, so if you did not have the chance to read and study these documents individually or in your congregation prior to the Assembly, please do so.  

During the Assembly, we also gave thanks for the life and ministries of rostered ministers who passed away this year, including Synod Minister Pr. Naomi Mahler. 

Thank you for the generosity of the Mission Support you share with this synod for our many ministries so that the people of our communities live out and share the good news of Jesus Christ, especially in these changing times. Synod staff walk with you to equip lay and rostered ministers for leadership and training; seek candidates for calls; equip Church Councils and Call Committees; provide pastoral care and consultation; communicate with you; support synod committee and governance work; support global partnerships; and provide a link to our many partners across the state and churchwide. Thank you! 

In an effort to learn more about ministry in your setting and hear from you, the Generosity Team asked Voting Members to complete a brief survey. The responses from this survey will be shared in listening sessions in various synod locations this fall and will assist us in planning for how to best support your ministries in the coming year. If you haven’t yet done so, please complete the survey by clicking here. Thank you! Your voice matters! 

Thank you to all of the committees whose hard work led to the actions before the Assembly: the Synod Council and its Executive Committee – including Vice President Maria Lokensgard and Treasurer Bob Haines, the Compensation Guidelines Committee, Policies & Procedures Committee, and the Management & Mission Support Committee.  

Huge events like Assemblies do not take place without the planning and hard work of so many people. Thank you to: Assembly Manager Tammy Schacher; Synod Staff Kristin Bakeberg, Maggie Berggren, and Synod Minister Pr. Heather Culuris; Assembly Planning Team members Pr. Paul Bravinder, Shane Hagstrom, Deacon Erin Kuehl, Pr. Scott Richards, Pr. Emmy Swedland, Pr. Janine Olson, and Pr. Austin Krohnke; Technology Coordinator Chris Kiewel; and the wonderful staff at Gustavus Adolphus College.  

Thank you, Voting Members, for dedicating your energy and time to be present in person and online for this first hybrid Assembly, and to the individuals and congregations who held our work in prayer. I give thanks to God for you! 

+ grace and peace, 

Bishop Dee Pederson

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