On May 20, over 400 clergy and lay leaders of the Pacific Northwest Conference (ELCA) gathered at Salem Lutheran Church in Mt. Vernon for the annual Synod Assembly. The theme of this year’s assembly was RISE. Representing Our Redeemer’s were: PastorsKathy Hawks and Gretchen Mertes, Terrence Rindler, Paul Oldenkamp, and Shelbe and Chauntae Kukowski. Also part of the Our Redeemer’s contingent were Pastor John-Otto (Joshua) Liljenstolpe and Don Boelter, Parish Administrator.
This year’s assembly,unlike recent years, was a one day meeting (instead of the normal two days). The festivities kicked off at 9am with worship, led by Pastor Ivar Hillesland and the rest of the worship team from Church of the Apostles (“COTA”). COTA is a joint venture of the local Episcopal diocese and the Pacific NW Conference, and was officially voted in by the assembly later in the morning as our conference’s newest congregation. COTA has been worshiping in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle for over ten years, and they are hoping to purchase the Fremont Abbey building where they meet.
Bishop Kirby Unti opened the business agenda of the assembly, and members voted for representatives to various synod positions and committees, and church-wide council and assembly representatives. Jonath Ochs, Our Redeemer’s Communications Specialist, was elected as a representative to the 2019 church-wide assembly in Milwaukee, WI. The assembly also approved a number of pro-forma changes to the synod constitution, approved a new budget, and passed three resolutions.
The first resolution affirmed the synod’s support for, and continued advocacy in backing of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. The secondresolution requests that the ELCA review its 2009 human sexuality statement to reflect changes in laws and language in relation to LGBTQ+ individuals and families, and that synod leaders continue their advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. The final resolution was a statement against Washington State Initiative I-1552 which would repeal current state protections for transgender individuals.
Former Assistant to the Bishop Kathryn Buffum was honored in absentia with a special resolution thanking her for her great service to the synod before having to step down recently due to developing a serious auto-immune disease. Our friends at Ballard First Lutheran were celebrated for their 100th anniversary, although Pastor Eric Wilson Weiberg noted that that was in error as they have actually been in Ballard for 123 years and are looking forward to their 125th anniversary in 2019!
In addition to conducting synod business, attendees were also able to learn more about many of the synod’s great ministry partners, including Reconciling Ministries (formerly “Lutherans Concerned”), which celebrated its 25th anniversary of providing information, services and support to the synod’s LGBTQ community, by providing cake for everyone at the assembly during the afternoon break.
Attendees also learned about the synod’s capital campaign “(Growing Anew) Because of You.” Through this campaign, the synod hopes to raise $3 million, all over and above congregations’ annual ministry support. 70% of monies collected would go toward equipping leaders for changing and emerging ministries, through initiatives like “Live Local” that the synod has already been supporting. 20% of the funds collected are earmarked for raising up and supporting new leaders, by providing student loan debt relief for seminary graduates. The remaining 10% would go towards the ELCA’s Always Being Made New campaign.
There will be no Synod Assembly in 2018 as the synod moves to a biennial assembly calendar. Instead, the plan is to have a ministry-centered (rather than business agenda) gathering next year with the hope that it will attract larger number of lay leaders in the synod. Attendees were invited to submit suggestions for what next year’s event should look like. The next Synod Assembly will take place in 2019, and will include a Bishop’s election.