The body that is the ELCA Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod was called together in assembly for worship by the words from Corinthians that describe a body as one but composed of many parts, each with its own function.
At the end of the brief worship service, Bishop Richard Graham declared the fall session of the assembly open. In his report, early on the agenda, he opened with the statement, “We are in a time of great transition and change,” noting that everybody present already knows this. It is a time of transition and change at various levels – in congregations, in the synod, and in the greater ELCA.
In this period, what it means to be a Christian community is being talked about an examined, the bishop continued. We are trying to figure out how to go from “Here I stand” to “here I go,” he quipped. He explained that there are big issues and small decisions that the synod is dealing with but most notably it must deal with a huge number of middle-sized decisions – changes and transitions that are up to us as a synod to manage, ones that are in our hands.
The biggest of these middle-sized decisions that the assembly will consider today is the 2011 mission spending plan, which will be the business of the afternoon. He outlined the proposal from the synod council coming out of an ongoing discussion about how much of the synod’s undesignated income should be shared with the ELCA’s churchwide expression. This is an issue the synod should continue to discuss in a responsible way, he said.
Looking at the broader picture, the bishop reminded the assembly that we are connected to a global environment. He introduced a guest at the assembly and in the synod for a few weeks – Sylvia Shiwa Heita, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia, working in the western diocese of that church, far in the northern part of the church, near the border of Angola. Pr. Heita brought greetings and thanked those who are hosting her in the synod.
Members of the synod’s Middle East Working Group briefly highlighted their work and encouraged assembly participants to attend their afternoon workshop.
Concluding his report, Bishop Graham talked about what he has seen congregations struggling with in this time of transition and change – doing things differently. Drawing on a personal experience of playing lacrosse in college, he recalled the words of his coach, who said, “The best teams play well in transition.” He said he wanted the synod to play well in transition.