From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Bishops Discuss Mission Support Needs

Date Tue, 12 Aug 2003 13:13:12 -0500


August 12, 2003

ELCA Bishops Discuss Mission Support Needs

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The Conference of the Bishops of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) discussed declining
mission-support funds to the churchwide organization from synods,
and asked its executive committee to develop a plan for
continuing discussion on the topic.
     The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body,
consisting of the church's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and
secretary.  It met here before the start of the ELCA Churchwide
Assembly, Aug. 11-17.
     What set the stage for the discussion was a report offered
Aug. 10 by ELCA Treasurer Christina Jackson-Skelton, who said
mission support to the churchwide organization from the church's
65 synods was $26 million through June 30.  That represents a
decrease of $1 million from one year ago and $1.5 million lower
than budgeted, she reported.
     Mission support is "the elephant in the room," a subject
that some are uncomfortable talking about, said the Rev. Philip
L. Hougen, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Iowa Synod, Iowa City.
Hougen, who is part of a mission support team with some staff in
the ELCA churchwide office, led the discussion.
     The bishops should be conscious of the "huge disparity"
among the synods in how much they each contribute to the
churchwide organization.  "It's growing," Hougen added.
     "This is a threat to our unity as a church," he said.  "It
feels like a lot of ministries that were churchwide ministries
are being shifted to synods."
     Hougen called for discussion on two points: should synods
share funds with the churchwide organization by a strict
percentage, and if synods change their percentages, should they
be held accountable to other synods?
     "We have a crisis in stewardship," said the Rev. Stephen P.
Bouman, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod.  "When we
reduce giving to the churchwide organization, what are we
     In recent years, synods could commit their share of
churchwide funds as much as 1.5 years in advance, said the Rev.
Michael J. Neils, ELCA Grand Canyon Synod, Phoenix.  "Now, we
can't event predict what will happen six months from now," he
     There is a crisis among ELCA pastors who may be "distancing
themselves" from the ELCA because they don't know what will
happen on issues related to homosexuality, Neils said.
     The Rev. Gary M. Wollersheim, bishop of the ELCA Northern
Illinois Synod, Rockford, said when pastors enter the synod, the
synod staff shares expectations about growth in mission support.
Professional leaders must be challenged to do more to grow in
their giving to mission support, he said.
     Professionals at ELCA colleges have expertise in seeking
financial gifts for their institutions and could be helpful to
synods, said the Rev. Steven L. Ullestad, bishop of the ELCA
Northeastern Iowa Synod, Waverly.
     "The issue isn't money at all," said the Rev. David A.
Donges, bishop of the ELCA South Carolina Synod, Columbia.
"There's plenty of money.  We're talking about attitudes."
     In addition to their conversation on mission support, the
Conference elected four of its members as advisory bishops to the
ELCA Church Council.  The council serves as the church's board of
directors between churchwide assemblies, held every two years.
     Elected to represent ELCA Region 2 was the Rev. Dean W.
Nelson, bishop of the ELCA Southwest California Synod, Glendale;
Region 4, the Rev. Kevin S. Kanouse, bishop of the ELCA Northern
Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, Dallas; Region 6, the Rev. Gary
L. Hansen, bishop of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod,
Lansing; and Region 8, the Rev. A. Donald Main, bishop of the
ELCA Upper Susquehanna Synod, Lewisburg, Pa.
-- -- --
Information on the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is available at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home