June 15, 2021
A Brief Summary of the 2021 Southeastern Synod Assembly
The Southeastern Synod of the ELCA met in Assembly on June 5, 2021 via the LUMI digital platform. 280 Voting members were present with 153 being Lay Voting members and 127 being Rostered Ministers. Visitors were able to view the live stream of the Assembly on either the Southeastern Synod’s Facebook page or the Southeastern Synod’s YouTube channel.
The theme for Assembly was “Equip, Empower and Engage the Beloved Community.” Prior to the Assembly both Voting Members and Visitors were able to participate in two opportunities on Friday, June 4th for a workshop hosted by the Southeastern Synod’s Diversity and Justice Taskforce, “Conversation and Guidance on Becoming a Reconciled in Christ (RIC) Congregation” or a hearing on the 2022-2023 Ministry Spending Plan hosted by Treasurer Steve Gehret.
Assembly opened with Pre-service music provided by videos from across our synod and with live music from the Redeemer Lutheran Jazz Quartet. The Southeastern Synod Worship Committee provided worship that was also live-streamed through the digital platform and social media. The Rev. Dr. Albert Starr, served as the preacher for this service and Pastor Justin Eller, Assistant to the Bishop for Latino Ministry and Pastor Morgan Gordy, Assistant to the Bishop for Disaster Response were installed by Bishop Kevin Strickland in their roles on the Synod Staff.
During the Assembly, Voting Members were tasked with several elections, including electing Pastor Randy Jones to a second term as Synod Secretary. Voting members were elected to serve at the 2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to be held in Columbus, Ohio, as well as Synod Council At-Large members, members to the Discipline and Consultation Committees. Conference Representation to Synod Council were elected at a Pre-Assembly Gathering and ratified by the Synod Assembly.
The 2022-2023 Ministry Spending Plan was adopted, as well as approving the 2022 Compensation Guidelines. The Assembly also dealt with several Synod Constitutional changes including voting to approve a new Mission Endowment Fund and the bylaw and continuing resolution to establish the committee to manage the endowment with oversight by the Synod Council.
In 2017, the Southeastern Synod established the Robert S. and Jean E. Graetz Advocacy Award. This award was named after them for their lifetime of work for civil and human rights and their courage and faithfulness to the Gospel, lived out in their work. During the 2021 Assembly, we acknowledging Mr. Hilton Austin as the 2020 Robert S. and Jean E. Graetz Advocacy award recipient. Due to the lack of an Assembly in 2020 and Mr. Austin declining health, Bishop Strickland and Pastor Matt Steinhauer presented Mr. Austin the award in December 14, 2020 prior to his death. Mr. Hilton Austin was instrumental in establishing the first State Public Policy Office in Atlanta, GA, organizing the first Human Trafficking Bill in the state of Georgia and his service as the Director of Advocacy for the Southeastern Synod and founding the Georgia Interfaith Public Policy Center, where he served as the chair of the Board of Directors. During the Assembly, Pastor Steinhauer presented the 2021 Robert S. and Jean E. Graetz Advocacy award to Mr. Jerry Weyrauch. Mr. Weyrauch received this award for his lifetime of work to preventing suicide. Mr. Weyrauch and his late-wife, Elsie following the death of his daughter from suicide fueled their passion to work with suicide survivors and raising money for research. Jerry and Elsie went on to develop a national suicide prevention strategy and founded the Suicide Prevention Advocacy Network. Mr. Weyrauch continues to encourage education of the rostered leaders by funding an educational opportunity, QPR training and developing a national cross-denominational gathering of church leaders to equip faith leaders in this important work.
The Assembly was blessed by Pastor Tina Culpepper, Pastor Nyahaley Labor and Deacon Adrian Gray serving as Assembly Chaplains.
We are grateful to Redeemer Lutheran Church, Atlanta for their hospitality and use of their facility and expertise of their staff assisting the Southeastern Synod’s staff in the live-stream. We are also grateful for the Worship, Election and Nominating Committees work and the Synod Council members who assisted the Assembly behind the scenes.
During the Assembly and during the breaks there were videos from Southeastern Synod Ministries and our ministry partners. These videos are available for congregations to use in their ministry via our YouTube channel, and can be downloaded here.
Being the “Beloved Community” has looked different during this time of pandemic and the Southeastern Synod Assembly embraced the digital platform that allowed us to learn how we are En Conjunto – altogether – with one another as we look at expanding our Latinx ministries and how we are caring for those in the aftermath of a disaster and how we can prepare our congregations to respond. There is no finish line to this work, that we do together. God calls us to be the beloved community and in order for us to “be” we must be active in the work of the Gospel.
For many this Assembly was a technical challenge and we are grateful for your patience with the platform and with the process that this pandemic has forced us to use, to allow us to safely gather to do the work of the Synod. We are looking forward to being together in 2022 in Chattanooga, Tennessee at the Chattanooga Convention Center on June 3, 4, 5, 2022.
We also would appreciate your feedback. If you are able to take a few minutes of your time, please fill out this survey:
2021 Synod Assembly Evaluation
Together in Christ,
Pastor Jill Henning
Assistant to the Bishop for Leadership and Administration