Bishop’s Report to Synod Council

12 September 2015

In worship on the Sunday after our synod council retreat, congregations that follow the Revised Common Lectionary will consider the question:  Who do people say that Jesus is?  (Mark 8:27-38) A student once reflected on that question this way: 

Rarely do I hear names of prophets past as Jesus’ disciples offer.  Instead, the range of answers is vast.  Some examples… Jesus is a relic, a tired concept based loosely on some long-ago discredited religion. Jesus is the name Christians use to try and oppress others.  Jesus is a talisman, a magic word that can be used to try and make things that I want to happen. Jesus is a nice guy, a moral example and life coach that demonstrates one of many honorable ways of moving through the world.  Jesus is my dear and personal friend and savior who takes care of me as long as I am good.  Jesus is part of my national and ethnic identity and a cultural icon. Jesus is someone I used to think I knew, but I’ve matured beyond that now…

In Mark’s gospel, Peter gets it right, and all wrong at the same time.  Peter acknowledges Jesus as Messiah, the anointed one, but then demands Jesus conform to his expectations.  Whatever those expectations are, they do not include suffering and death.

Suffering and death are certainly part of Jesus’ ministry and, in the time in which we live, suffering and death seem to be part of the ministry of Christ’s body, his Church. We experienced suffering and death in the sale of a beloved camp. We face it again in the restructuring of campus ministry and rebranding of LSSM. Congregations in our synod will either embrace the suffering that comes from the death of yesterday’s church or of the way the church used to be, or they will surely face the suffering that comes with the literal death of their faith community. 

Preparing for this meeting, I am mindful that the way we tackle the business before us, and the decisions we make, bear witness to and proclaim who we believe Jesus is.  Perhaps the best way to prepare for our meeting—in addition to all the reading—is to prayerfully contemplate Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8:29).

My answer:  Jesus is the one who brings life out of death.  Jesus is the one who makes it so we not need be afraid. Jesus is the one who frees and empowers us to dare to share in his own work of bringing life to others and to the world.

It will be good to be with you!

The Rev. Craig Alan Satterlee, Ph.D., Bishop

* * * * * * *

This report is organized under the four priorities agreed upon by synod council (bold) supplemented with goals I sense emerging as mission priorities (italics). Action items are identified with an asterisk (*).  While this is the report of the bishop, it is an ensemble effort and includes input and contributions from the synod staff.

  • Preach and Preside across the Synod as a visible expression of our unity in Christ:
    •  Please see the updated summary of the synod called staff’s congregational visitation. Inasmuch as I believe the foundation of everything the Church does is to proclaim Christ-centered good news, this report reflects worship—preaching and presiding—and does not include the many other ways we are in the congregations of our synod.
    •  Pastor Friesen-Carper, Pastor Sprang and I have visited all but three (3) of our 113 congregations, and have visited 76 congregations more than once.
    •  We know that people desire to see the bishop, I am pleased to report that I have visited 78 of 113 congregations personally, 18 more than once, with visits to 18 of the remaining 35 scheduled. I plan to visit every congregation personally by November 6, 2016. 
  • ·Represent the Synod beyond the Synod:
    • *We get to appoint an additional voting member (person of color) for churchwide assembly - Abraham Mach (Christ Sudanese)
    • One of the tasks facing our synod is to chart a sustainable direction for Lutheran camping and campus ministries in the Lower Peninsula. 
      • Living Water Ministries – The executive director and board are clear that the sale of Michi-Lu-Ca gives us our best chance to chart a sustainable course, but no guarantee. The board is putting a plan for a finance committee in place and will undertake a strategic plan that includes a site plan for Stony Lake. Summer camp registration was strong and the spirit very good. Living Water led tours at the ELCA Gathering in Detroit. Plans are underway for the Gathering. I led worship for the Stony Lake camp staff in July and Cathy hosted a dinner for the staff, organized and provided by Pastor Sprang.
      • Lutheran Campus Ministry - At its August meeting, the Lutheran Campus Ministry Board voted to disband this administrative structure, effective the end of the fiscal year. Oversight of campus ministry will revert directly to the bishop and synod council. We are responsible for MSU and Western.
      • I have been slow to weigh-in on campus ministry. Early on I asked about goals and metrics for measuring the effectiveness of campus ministry and experienced resistance and shaming from members of the board, some campus ministries—not East Lansing, which welcomes this conversation—and the regional coordinator. It is becoming incumbent on this synod to identify what we value in campus ministry. It seems to me Lutheran campus ministry should be geared toward students and provide (1) a welcome to campus, (2) worship grounded in Word and Sacrament, (3) opportunities for fellowship or community, (4) study and discussion that connects faith and life, whether that be social issues, vocational discernment, or something else, and (5) opportunities for service. Campus ministry should also (6) cultivate relationship with partner Lutheran congregations.  We should also be able to say how we are doing in these areas. Some say this is an outdated model.
      • Moving forward, I believe we should embrace campus ministry as part of our mission, placing it under the New and Renewing Congregations table. We should appoint a synod representative to any campus ministry board that we fund. Funding should be open to all congregations engaged in campus ministry and modeled after the grants programs of churchwide and our synod’s outreach committee—we fund mission rather than maintenance that is moving toward sustainability.
      • Lutheran Social Services of Michigan – LSSM is engaged in a process of rebranding (new name sans Lutheran), which it believes will increase viable partnerships and enable it to serve more people. Bishop Kreiss and I hear little enthusiasm for this change among our constituents. I am choosing not to invest energy in this conversation. Deans and pastors who participated in a recent meeting on this subject, requested by LSSM, came away convinced that LSSM is not listening and has no interest in engaging in dialogue.
      • The board of directors of Trinity Lutheran Seminary voted to undertake a capital campaign and will expect to solicit contributions in our synod.
      • I participated in the ELCA Worship Jubilee in July with Pastor Rachel Laughlin, chair of our synod worship committee, and others from our synod.  I provided a workshop on liturgical preaching. I will participate in the Lutheran and Episcopal Bishops Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. September 22-24—the pope is upstaging us. I will attend the Conference of Bishops in Chicago October 1-6, and a seminary visit to PLTS (Berkley) October 12-15, where I will preach.
      • Pastor Sprang participated in the ELCA Congregational and Synodical Mission Review Table for Grants Aug. 4-6 in Chicago to assist in vetting and giving $2.5 million in grants to 144 ministries. He is assisting the ELCA in writing a resource on How to Be the Second Pastor – Strategies for the second Chapter in the life of a congregation. He finished third in the Faster Pastor Race at Tri-City Raceway, July 24 as a Fundraiser for St. John, Saginaw Community Dinner.
      •  Pastor Friesen-Carper attended a meeting of the Covenant Cluster in February in Nebraska on vocational discernment for youth and young adults.  She also attended the Assistants to Synodical Bishops Gathering in Jacksonville in March.
  • Help the synod council communicate what a synod and bishop do:
    • Celebrate all that we as a synod are doing together. We need to communicate all that we see and strengthen the connections between natural partners. 
      • Synod assembly – I continue to hear very positive about synod assembly (“inspirational,” “felt like church,” “fun,” “meaningful”). While a few lament there was nothing to fight about, most seem to comprehend and appreciate synod assembly as hope and strength for the journey.
      •  Pictorial Directory – Carrie is working on a plan to produce the pictorial directory. 
      • *Appointment of Nominating Committee for 2016 SA (7 people – 4 can be reappointed). We will bring the nominations we have to the meeting.
      • *Approval of Crowne Plaza Grand Rapids as the site for 2016 SA (May 15-17, 2016).
      • *Committee Name and Responsibility changes. We have continued to work on updating synod committees and are pleased to bring a proposal for your consideration.  I believe I explained at synod assembly that these changes reflect our being “church together” and provide a common language as we seek grants from churchwide. More name changes are coming at the 2016 churchwide assembly, so get ready.
    • Our auditors requested that we update the employee handbook to include synod policies for credit cards, cars, phones, etc. We will bring a proposal to our December meeting. The Executive Committee is also working on responding to IRS rulings around reimbursing employees for non-covered medical and health expenses.
  • Listen across the synod for direction in shared ministry:  
    • Recruit the best pastors and rostered leaders for our congregations. Strengthen a culture of support, collegiality, accountability and compensation so that our rostered leaders are fulfilled in their calling and excited to be in the mitten.
      • Call Process
        • The call process continues to constitute the bulk of our work as a staff. We have completed 32 call processes. 22 congregations are currently in the call process and I anticipate 10 more will enter it in the coming months.
        • Some congregations lack clarity about what they desire in a new pastor; others desire what is truly not possible. Call committees are taking their time to decide whether to interview candidates only to find candidates have accepted other calls. The decision not to be open to pastoral candidates who are gay limits the pool of available candidates, as do gender and family composition.
        • A few congregations are, in essence, “firing” their pastor without consulting the Office of the Bishop, which constitutes a violation of constitutional process. When things “blow up,” as they always do, we go in and work to negotiate an amicable severance. We work to provide worship leadership. These congregations do not receive candidates until issues are resolved. To help this work, we encourage congregations to avail themselves of the synod bridge building team.
        • Due to the shortage of interim pastors in our synod and the church, I have reclaimed from decades past and other parts of our church the position of vice or administrative pastor—a neighboring pastor who takes pastoral and administrative responsibility for a vacant congregation and oversees “pulpit supply” for Sunday mornings. We have developed a position description and four administrative pastors are currently serving (Trinity/Manton, Resurrection/Saginaw, Faith/Sidney, Spruce/Spruce).  
      • Pastor Sarah will lead an ELCA Candidacy Discernment Retreat at the Dow Hotel and Conference Center/Hillsdale September 18-19. Joint Michigan Candidacy Committee Meeting is November 12-13 at St. Francis Retreat Center/Dewitt.
      • Compensation
        • We continue to work on a plan for addressing rostered leader indebtedness and intend to bring a proposal for your consideration to our December meeting. Carrie is taking the lead on this and is in conversation with other synods and churchwide. We also plan to consult a tax attorney.
        •  We discovered a resolution passed some years ago that directs the synod to compensate interim pastors at some level while they are between assignments. The executive committee will give this an initial review.
        • Portico plan changes – Congregations and rostered leaders have been informed of portico changes for 2016. Our Portico rep will meet with the synod staff on September 3 and we have offered open forums with her for pastors and congregational leaders.
      • Continuing Education
        • Rostered Leader Event: The rostered leaders of the three synods in Michigan will come together for a Fall Leadership Event on Mackinac Island, hosted by the Northern Great Lakes Synod, September 27-29.
        • Community Organizing for Small Town and Rural Congregations – Oct. 14-16.
        • Wally Taylor Week – October 19-23. Text study for pastors and preachers. Palestinian-Israeli Conflict for everyone.
          • 10/19 7 pm Zion/Comstock Park Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
          • 10/20 10 am-3 pm Zion/Comstock Park Text Study 
          • 10/21 10 am-3 pm Christ United/DeWitt Text Study
          • 10/21 7 pm Christ United/DeWitt Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
          • 10/22 7 pm Peace/Gaylord Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
          • 10/23 10 am-3 pm Peace/Gaylord Text Study
        • Coworkers in the Gospel (St. John Lake City, October 24) is designed for congregation council and other leaders. The workshop will feature speakers, discussion, and idea sharing with other leaders on leadership, synod resources, boundaries, your church building as a mission, and topics for treasurers. The spring event was well received.
        •  Anti-Racism Training (St. Luke’s/Grand Rapids, October 24)
        •  Boundaries Training:  Boundaries Training for Lay Leaders (October 3, Christ United/DeWitt). Boundaries Workshop (November 3, Zion/Comstock Park and November 10, St. John/Grayling).
        • First Call Theological Event (Christ United/Dewitt, November 15-17).
        • Thanks to all who joined me in learning the roles of the Consultation and Discipline Committees from ELCA Secretary Chris Boerger on August 15 at Zion in Cadillac.  
          • *Consultation Committee - Authorize the expansion of the committee by 6 (from 6 to 12 based on Secretary Boerger’s recommendation) and appoint 2 females (1 replacement, 1 not elected at SA) for a total of 8 appointments. We will bring nominations to the December Synod Council meeting.
          • *Discipline Committee – 2 males. Jim Allen (to fill vacancy) and 1 to appoint (not filled at SA)
    • Equip congregations to carry the gospel to their communities. Become a church that moves out of the pews and into the streets proclaiming, “The kingdom of heaven has come near to you!”
      •  *At this meeting we will consider charter approval for Open Hearts, Open Church, a group committed to accompanying and equipping congregations that want to open themselves to all people.
      • *As a synod council, we need to come to an understanding of how the called staff will respond when asked to perform marriages. Since our constitutional responsibility is to “Provide for pastoral care of congregations and rostered leaders in the synod” (*S.6.3.a), we do not ordinarily provide direct pastoral care for members of congregations; it is inappropriate for us to “replace” anyone’s pastor. My own practice is to perform marriages of rostered leaders or for members of congregations without a pastor. Yet, exceptions arise, often out of longstanding relationships. I therefore propose: 1) pastors called by the synod, including the bishop, will discuss performing marriages in conversation with one another and in consultation with the called pastor of the congregation where the person or persons belong; 2) synod pastors, including the bishop, will make every effort to partner with the called pastor of the congregation; 3) synod pastors, including the bishop, will only officiate at same gender marriages as part of the ministry of congregations that have engaged in conversation and resolved to be open to this ministry. In keeping with current practice, I will 4) inform the Conference of Bishops when I (or one my assistants) performs a same-gender marriage. 
    • Find innovative ways to ensure the Lutheran proclamation of the gospel continues in every quarter of our state.
      • Pastor Sprang writes:  The synod council is a partner in mission and ministry within our synod. As Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton reminds us, “We Are Church Together.” Especially in New Start Congregations, Synodically Authorized Worshiping Communities, and in Redevelopments, the synod council is a partner on behalf of the synod. With that in mind I wanted to update the council on those particular partnerships that are exist and what is new.
      • New Starts – See Plant our next new congregation below.
      • Redevelopment
        • Trinity, Battle Creek – Final year 2016 – ELCA $6,000, synod $6,000
        • Our Savior’s, Muskegon – First year 2015 – funding began Aug 1 with new redeveloper, Pastor Jane Mountain – ELCA $25,000, synod $12,000.
        •  Zion, Saginaw – grant submitted for redevelopment to combine Anglo and Latino ministry. Grant returned for re-write (Outreach Grant - $10,000) given for 2015.
        • St. Stephen and Calvary, Lansing – Ministry adjustment for addition of staff for Youth, Young Adult, and Young Family ministry – ELCA 2016-$6,000, and synod $4,000.
        • Cooperative Ministry Conversations – Ludington; Saginaw (geographic parish); N. Grand Rapids; Montcalm County,
    • Plant our next new congregation.
      • Sudanese Christ Lutheran is moving from New Start/Congregation Under Development to Synodically Authorized Worship Community while they raise and train a new leader – Abraham Mach applying to seminary.
      • *Peace, Holland is seeking to explore ministry opportunities in Grand Haven. Pastor Sprang and I are bringing a resolution that the synod council to authorize a synodically authorized worshipping community exploration, for one year, in partnership with Peace/Holland and the ELCA, for Grand Haven/Spring Lake. See attached.  The ELCA requires a “synod council resolution” to move forward as a sign of respect for us and partnership with us.
      • Meetings being held to explore a worshiping community at Neighborhood House in Saginaw – partner with Zion/LSSM
    • Grow our relationships with our global companions in Honduras, Latvia, and Papua New Guinea.
      • We were fortunate to have a summer camp counselor come to Stony Lake from Papua New Guinea.
    • Strengthen ministry with children, youth and young adults.
      • National Youth Gathering - Pastors Sprang and Friesen-Carper and I were thrilled with the National Youth Gathering participating as we could in all aspects. The Synod Day, which Pastor Sarah spearheaded, was a particularly moving event for the youth of our synod and showcased some of the talents of the young people in the Mitten. Many volunteers from this synod helped to make that a very special event for more than 30,000 youth and adults. Pastor Sprang was in his glory as Proclaim Justice – Service Skilled Labor.
      • Youth Ministry Report- Pastor Friesen-Carper will provide a report on the status of youth ministry in our synod. I expect that our effort will be best served by strengthening the connections between natural partners.
      • I have offered to participate in the December Gathering and been invited (and accepted) to participate in the Bass Lake Music Festival at Stony Lake in July.
    • Become a graceful Christian presence for victims of crime and prisoners.
      • I continue to receive inquiries and encouragement in this direction.
    • Claim our God of abundance by becoming congregations and a synod known for our generosity.
      • *We recommend that synod council appoint Rebecca Bossenbroek, Dan Smith, and Rev. Shirley Ross-Jones to serve as the three at-large members of the mission endowment committee
      • To Whom Shall We Go/Making Us One – Margie completed the work in tracking down the campaign funds.  We will bring a report to our meeting.
      • Macedonia Grant – We have additional funding to offer Preaching Stewardship again. It will be October 11-12 and November 8-9 at St. Francis Retreat Center/Dewitt. ELCA is using this as a video model.   







`© 2006 Craig A. Satterlee ● North/West Lower Michigan Synod ELCA ● 2900 N. Waverly Rd. ● Lansing MI 48906 ● 517-321-5066