Report of the Bishop to Synod Council 5 December 2015

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:
    • Pastor Friesen-Carper, Pastor Sprang and I have visited all but one (1) of our 113 congregations, and have visited 85 congregations more than once.
    • I have preached in 87 of our congregations and plan to visit every one by All Saints 2016—26 in the next year.
  • Represent the Synod beyond the Synod:
    • One of the tasks facing our synod is to chart a sustainable direction for Lutheran camping and campus ministries in the Lower Peninsula.  I believe we are  well on our way to accomplishing this goal.
      • Living Water Ministries – The board continues to move forward on a plan for a finance committee and a strategic plan that includes a site plan for Stony Lake.
      •  Lutheran Campus Ministry – The New and Redeveloping Congregations Table will begin putting a grant program for campus ministry together and q draft copy of the grant form in process. I hope this synod will support Lutheran campus ministry that is geared toward students and provides (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.
    • I am in the process of drafting a letter to the governor on refugee resettlement. I will share it when it is finished.
    • Drawing on 50 years of national and international dialogue, Lutherans and Catholics together have issued the "Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist," a unique ecumenical document that marks a pathway toward greater visible unity between Catholics and Lutherans that finally leads to full communion. At the heart of the document are 32 "Statements of Agreement" where Lutherans and Catholics already have points of convergence on topics about church, ministry and Eucharist. These agreements signal that Catholics and Lutherans are indeed 'on the way' to full, visible unity. As 2017 approaches, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, this witness to growing unity gives a powerful message to a world where conflict and division often seem to drown out more positive messages of hope and reconciliation The document also indicates differences still remaining between Lutherans and Catholics and indicates possible ways forward. In October both the ELCA Conference of Bishops—an advisory body of the church—and the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received and unanimously affirmed the 32 Agreements. ELCA bishops requested that the ELCA Church Council accept them and forward the entire document to the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the denomination's highest legislative body. The document seeks reception of the Statement of Agreements from The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). The LWF is a global communion of 145 churches in 98 countries worldwide. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States. The conclusion invites the PCPCU and the LWF to create a process and timetable for addressing the remaining issues. It also suggests that the expansion of opportunities for Lutherans and Catholics to receive Holy Communion together would be a sign of the agreements already reached. The Declaration also seeks a commitment to deeper connection at the local level for Catholics and Lutherans. The text of the Declaration on the Way and more information are available online: http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/ecumenical-and-interreligious/ecumenical/lutheran/declaration-on-the-way.cfm
  •  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. 
      • Mission Storyteller - We are receiving very positive comments for our mission storyteller. A pre-seminary student in Presbyterian Church, Trinity Seminary, and the ELCA churchwide staff all praises this way of “knittin’ the mitten” and celebrating our mission. We began this program with a grant. As we build our budget, I request synod council to fund 1/2 grant for $3500 in 2016 and full funding of $7000 in 2017.
      •  Pictorial Directory – Production of the pictorial directory has taken a back seat. I welcome wisdom on how to put the images and information in a usable form.
      • Employee Handbook that include synod policies for credit cards, cars, phones, etc. We expected to bring a proposal to our December meeting. Our synod attorney continues to work on this project.
  •  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 34 call processes. 23 congregations are currently in the call process and I anticipate 11 more will enter it in the coming months.
      • Pastor Sarah has revamped the call process manual so that it works better for a synod with thirty congregations in transition. We hope to reduce synod staff visits from 3-4 to 2-3 by bringing call committees together for an overview of the process. We have also changed the voice and tone of the manual so that it is both more active and more grounded in and open to the Holy Spirit.  We ask for synod council endorsement.
    • Compensation
      • Pastor Sarah and Vice President Schlesinger have begun work on the compensation guidelines that will come before you in February.
      •   We continue to work on a plan for addressing rostered leader indebtedness. Regrettably, we were not able to bring a proposal for your consideration to our December meeting.
      • Portico plan changes – I encourage you to view this video on wellness from Portico. I am making personal wellness a goal and commitment for 2016. https://vimeo.com/143917436
    • Continuing Education
      • I am receiving many questions about Islam and would like to invite my friend, Mark Swanson, who teaches interfaith relations at LSTC, to come to our synod. Do you think there would be interest? When would be a good time?
    • 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!”
    • Find innovative ways to ensure the Lutheran proclamation of the gospel continues in every quarter of our state.
      • North Ottawa Lutheran Community - ELCA approved 1 year Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community Exploration in Grand Haven/ Spring Lake Area, with Pastor Justin Walker as developer-explorer, as an extension on the mission and ministry of Peace, Holland. The grant for $10,000 and begins January 2015. The Outreach Committee approved a $5,000 grant for the synod’s portion.
      • New and Renewing Mission Table (Outreach) – I request that Synod Council appoint Pastor Sarah Samuelson and Pastor Kjerstan Priddy for a three-year term. 
      • Pastor Sprang met with the Saginaw Geographic Parish Design Team monthly, made a presentation on Cooperative Ministry to Ludington Mission, and held an ELCA Renewal Ministries Consultation with Pastor Neil Harrison and our 4 congregations in Redevelopmentand our 4 congregations in Redevelopment.
    • Plant our next new congregation.
      • Sudanese Christ Lutheran has moved to a 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 brought a resolution to 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 and partnership with us. It was approved on November 10.
      • Children’s Bible Study is beginning at Neighborhood House in Saginaw, in partnership with Zion/LSSM
    • Grow our relationships with our global companions in Honduras, Latvia, and Papua New Guinea.
      • I am scheduled to visit Honduras January 27-31, 2016 as part of an ELCA roundtable.
      • I have accepted an invitation to visit and teach in Latvia June 5-13, 2016.
    • Strengthen ministry with children, youth and young adults.
    • Become a graceful Christian presence for victims of crime and prisoners.
    •  Claim our God of abundance by becoming congregations and a synod known for our generosity.
      •  The mission endowment committee had an initial meeting.
      •  To Whom Shall We Go/Making Us One – We are collecting materials requested by the synod attorney.
      • Macedonia Grant – We have additional funding to offer Preaching Stewardship again. It was undersubscribed in the fall so we will try again in the spring. 
`© 2006 Craig A. Satterlee ● North/West Lower Michigan Synod ELCA ● 2900 N. Waverly Rd. ● Lansing MI 48906 ● 517-321-5066