From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran Services in America is 'Building Communities'

Date Wed, 14 Apr 2004 11:38:38 -0500


April 14, 2004

Lutheran Services in America is 'Building Communities'

     ROSEMONT, Ill. (ELCA) -- "Building Communities" was the theme of the
2004 annual conference for Lutheran Services in America (LSA).	Almost 400
executives, staff members and friends of Lutheran social service agencies
studied facets of the theme through speakers, workshops and worship here
March 31-April 2.
     "We have at least 100 social ministry organizations represented
here," said Jill Schumann, president and CEO, Lutheran Services in
America, Baltimore.  "We have more than 85 chief executive officers here.
We have at least 14 organizations that have five or more people here.  So,
we have both depth and breadth," she said.
     LSA is an alliance of 296 social ministry organizations, the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran
Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).  The independent health and human service
organizations employed more than 150,000 staff members and served more
than 6 million people in almost 4,000 communities across the United States
and the Caribbean in 2003, and they reported combined revenue of $8.2
     "'Communities' is what Lutheran Services in America has been about
since its beginning," said Ruth Henrichs, chair of the LSA board and
president and CEO of Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Omaha.  LSA
organized in 1997.
     "Community is always built when people of faith come together to
worship and to learn and to share knowledge.  Community is always
strengthened through relationships and through sharing," Henrichs said.
The conference was both an opportunity to learn about how to build
communities and "actually doing it by building the relationships within
the LSA member network," she said.
     "We worked carefully as a planning group to identify speakers and
breakout sessions that would illuminate the theme and that would
illuminate it from different perspectives," Schumann said.  There were
four keynote addresses.
     Dr. John "Jody" P. Kretzmann, co-director of the Asset-Based
Community Development Institute, Institute for Policy Research,
Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., told the conference that every
community has the "assets" to solve its own problems.  A community must
identify those assets and have "the confidence to believe in what we
know," he said.
     The Rev. Arthur A. Just Jr., professor of exegetical theology, dean
of the chapel and director of deaconess studies, Concordia Theological
Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., said Jesus redefined community.  God's law was
often used to separate some people from the community, but Jesus made
God's love the community's core value, he said.  Concordia is an LCMS
     The Rev. Delores Brown-Daniels, vice president of mission and
spiritual care, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Chicago, said
community in the workplace is often defined by race, faith or class.  She
encouraged her audience to take the risks necessary to pull down those
barriers in their workplaces and build a community that treasures every
member through honesty, respect and spirituality.  Brown-Daniels is a
pastor of the American Baptist Churches and United Church of Christ.
     There are conversations across the ELCA about what it means to be a
"public church," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the
ELCA.  "Social ministry organizations are already that public church," he
said.  "Help us raise up leaders for a public church."
     Thirty-five breakout sessions were offered at five points in the
conference schedule.  Topics included building relationships between
boards and CEOs, advocating child-welfare legislation, linking services to
the needs of the community, caring for caregivers and diaconal ministry in
Silesia, a region of Europe chiefly in the Czech Republic and Poland.
Five of the sessions involved tours of Lutheran social ministry sites in
the Chicago area.
     Several groups met before the annual conference, including the
Council for Human Resource Management, Lutheran Adoption Network steering
committee, LSA board of directors, LSA Disability Network and National
Lutheran Counseling Coalition.
     A panel reviewed "Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor," a social
statement on health, healing and health care that the ELCA adopted in
August 2003.  Speakers were the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the ELCA
Metropolitan New York Synod,
the Rev. Donald A. Stiger, director, Lutheran HealthCare, Brooklyn, N.Y.,
and the Rev. Gregory J. Wilcox, director for spiritual ministries,
Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Sioux Falls, S.D.
     The Rev. Ronald W. Duty, assistant director for studies, ELCA
Division for Church in Society, hosted the pre-conference panel
discussion.  "A ministry of healing is integral to the life and mission of
the church," he said.
     The conference opened with worship provided by St. John Lutheran
Church, a Missouri Synod congregation in Wheaton, Ill.	St. Luke's
Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Park Ridge, Ill., provided the
closing worship service.
     LSA presented two 2004 Awards of Excellence in keeping with the
conference theme -- one for building community within the social ministry
organization and one for programs that contribute to the building of the
surrounding community.	Alaska Children's Services, Anchorage, won the
award in the internal category for its Service to Others projects; and
Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries, Allentown, Pa., won in the external
category for its work in Urban Congregational Health Ministries.
     During a one-hour business session April 2, members approved a budget
for fiscal year 2005 of almost $1.7 million for the alliance.  The budget
included a 3 percent increase in the LSA dues schedule.
     Representatives of the social ministry organizations elected three
directors to the LSA board: Dr. David Geske, president and CEO, Bethesda
Lutheran Homes and Services, Watertown, Wis.; Mark Peterson, president and
CEO, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minn.; and Patricia
Savage, president and CEO, Allegheny Lutheran Social Ministries,
Hollidaysburg, Pa.
     The ELCA appointed Chris Andersen, executive director, Lutheran
Community Foundation, Minneapolis, to the LSA board.
     Those completing their service on the LSA board were Madelyn Herman
Busse, diaconal minister and assistant to the bishop, ELCA Rocky Mountain
Synod, Denver; Jane Hartman, president and CEO, Lutheran Services in Iowa,
Waverly; Dr. David Jacox, president and CEO, Mosaic, Omaha, Neb.; and Gene
Svebakken, president and CEO, Lutheran Child and Family Services of
Illinois, River Forest.
     The LSA board elected Suzanne Gibson Wise, president and CEO,
Lutheran Family Services in the Carolinas, Raleigh, N.C., its chair-elect
for the next year.  Roger G. Miles, president and CEO, Lutheran Child and
Family Service of Michigan, Bay City, succeeded Henrichs as LSA board
chair at the close of the conference.  Henrichs remains on the board as
past chairperson.
     "There were all these wonderful leaders who helped in the formation
and creation of LSA seven years ago," Henrichs said.  "My role was to
transition the board through a second phase.  Now we're on the launch pad
to phase three," she said.
     "Phase three is taking the strengths of 296 wonderful social ministry
organizations and all of their connections and the church bodies and
mobilizing that for a different level of effectiveness and impact,"
Schumann said.
     "There are some things we can do together that are greater than the
sum of our parts.  This is the time to identify and to move forward on
those things that can best be done together," Schumann said, "for the sake
of the world and especially for the sake of the world in Christ's name."
-- -- --
     The home page for Lutheran Services in America is at on the Web.

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

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