The Reno Synod Assembly
A report by Pastor Bea Chun
Each year, congregations like St. Francis, who are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), send representatives for an annual “synod assembly”. Our synod covers the areas of Northern California and parts of Nevada, and is called the “Sierra Pacific Synod.” This year’s synod assembly took place from June 3rd through the 5th in Reno, Nevada. Earlier this year, our congregation elected Carl Tebell to attend as a voting member. This made him one of 432 voting members present at the assembly. Together with visitors and presenters, we were 547 people. (I looked those numbers up on the synod website). I myself attended as clergy and as a voting member of St. Francis. Another St. Franciscan, Elaine Whitney, was in Reno as well: Elaine serves as vice president of the synod, so she was not only present, but was up on the stage throughout the assembly and gave a report at the beginning of our gathering.
What did we do in Reno? This year was not as weighty as in the years when we elect a bishop (every six years) or pass a significant resolution. What made the assembly special for me was the presence of the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. She was absolutely inspiring. I loved her sermons and presentations and thoughtful responses to the many questions we threw her way. Because of her brilliance, we even forgave her of rooting for the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.
Then came the great surprise when I was called upfront (together with a number of other clergy) and given a certificate in honor of the 25th anniversary of my ordination. It was signed by Bishop Eaton herself! Later she even added a personal note to remind me to go to the gym. (This is something I had resolved during the synod assembly once I heard that Bishop Eaton works out regularly. If she can find time to do it, what excuse do I have?).
One significant action that took place during the assembly was the reconfiguration of our conferences. In our current model, our synod has 17 conferences, which are convened by a Dean. For example, the 10 ELCA congregations in San Francisco make up the “San Francisco Conference” and are convened by Pr. Megan Rohrer as our Dean. The new model reduces the number of conferences from 17 to 9. Our new conference now includes congregations of the Peninsula. Starting in September, the “new” conference will be convened by a new Dean whom we elected in Reno. He is Pastor John Kuehner of Unity Lutheran Church in South San Francisco. This reconfiguration has been some time in the making; the new plan was developed by the synod council and the assembly voted on this plan.
We also held elections for the Synod Council, voting members to be sent to the next Churchwide Assembly in 2017, and new deans for the newly configured conferences. The assembly also voted on 6 resolutions, adopted the 2016-17 budget, approved changes to the Synod Constitution, and heard a great number of ministry reports.
The reports which inspired me the most were from the synod youth and the various ministries taking place in the Lutheran Church of Rwanda, which is our partner synod. Of course, each day there was a worship service, and having 500 Lutherans in one room all singing together is truly an experience!
For more about the synod assembly: http://spselca.org/documents/2016%20Synod%20Assembly/SPS%20Assembly%202016%20Final%20Recap.pdf