The Churchwide Assembly, the primary decision-making body of the church, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) will meet in New Orleans, Louisiana, from August 8-13, 2016. Among their many agenda and business items will also be an election for vice president. Several people have made themselves available to stand for election, including Elaine Whitney, long time member of St. Francis Lutheran Church.
What does the vice president do? Under the governing documents of the ELCA church, the vice president serves as chair of the Church Council, and, in the event the presiding bishop is unable to do so, as chair of the Churchwide Assembly. The vice president serves under the presiding bishop, providing leadership as specified in provision 11.33. of the constitution of the ELCA. The vice president is elected to a six-year term by the Churchwide Assembly. It is important to emphasize that this is not just an election; it also is a call process. As such, we pray that the Holy Spirit will be with the assembly as they engage in discernment regarding this election.
The following is an excerpt from the application Elaine submitted for this nomination.
What gifts do you believe you would bring to the office of vice president?
I am an eloquent public speaker and I deeply enjoy my life of service in the church. I am an experienced and competent facilitator of meetings using Roberts Rules of Order. My work life in education has prepared me to read and analyze many different types of documents and reports. I have had the privilege to work in a variety of educational settings and am comfortable with people from many different avenues of life. I am a confident leader and excited about the future of the ELCA. I am an African-American and worship in a RIC congregation. I bring a mission to make our church welcoming for all people.
What is your concept of the primary role of the vice president of the ELCA?
The vice president of the ELCA is a lay leader of the church. The vice president brings a unique perspective to the team of officers who serve under the Presiding Bishop. The vice president chairs the Church Council and represents the ELCA at events throughout the year. The vice president must be confident in leading large meetings, in speaking at different church events, and in giving voice to the vision and mission of our church. The vice president also needs a comprehensive understanding of the different expressions of the church (congregation, synod, church) and how they work together to make the whole ELCA.
What is the key skill required of a leader in the church?
A leader in the church needs to live fully into the good news that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A leader must be able to envision the church as evolving and meeting the needs of all the people of God. A leader must be able to listen and respond to the needs of others. A leader must be able to share joy, goodwill, and opportunities to serve. A leader understands the responsibilities of the office, to which she or he is called, and brings a willingness to lead by example. A leader of the church trusts in God and steps forward into God’s work with reverence and faith.
How do you practice care for others and for yourself?
I serve as a deacon for my congregation. I visit people in their homes, in hospitals, and in care facilities and bring communion and prayers from the congregation. I pray with people during worship service. I work in a juvenile detention facility and I pray with students, staff, and colleagues at their request. For myself, I meditate and pray daily as well as engage in daily exercise. I sing with my church choir when my schedule allows and I provide service in my community. Service activities connect me with the Body of Christ and that connection revives my mind, body, and spirit.
May God bless Elaine and the whole assembly as they enter this process.