Issue 8 | August 29, 2022
And our CWA VOTING MEMBERS of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA
REFLECTIONS ON CWA 2022
I have to confess, going into our ELCA Churchwide Assembly, I was anxious. As 850 Lutheran Voting Members, along with hundreds of non-voting visitors and guests, gathered in Columbus from August 8-12, rumors were rampant about actions and motions that would lead the Assembly into chaos and contention. While there were certainly moments of conflict, discomfort, and confusion – mostly, I was surprised how much work got done, and how many different voices got to express themselves and move our church forward into real transformation. Bottom line: I was surprised to return home, feeling so hopeful.
First and foremost, from my perspective, was the election of Imran Siddiqui as the next Vice President of the ELCA – the highest office held by a lay person in our church. The voting proceeded by ecclesiastical ballot, the same process we use to elect bishops – and I was impressed by the qualifications and the faith stories of all of the top seven candidates. When it got to the last round, all of the final three were younger persons of color. Our new VP is from the Southeastern Synod, lives in Atlanta, and grew up as a Muslim. He became a Lutheran in 2011, after interactions with some Lutheran folks and a connection he felt with our emphasis on God’s grace. The ELCA Vice President’s position is a volunteer role; the VP chairs the Churchwide Council and works closely with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, but also provides a different perspective and is expected to be independent from the churchwide office. I appreciate that Mr. Siddiqui has also served as a synod vice president; and he brings strong experience from his “day job” as a senior investigator for the U.S. Department of Labor. Click here to find out more about our new ELCA Vice President.
VP Siddiqui was just one of many newer and younger voices who made themselves heard at this CWA. A lot of the anxiety about this event came from the fear that young people were going to move us into radical change, and didn’t care if they disrupted or even destroyed the institution and the constitution of the church while they were at it. What actually happened was, that they moved us forward by showing up, fulfilling their roles as voting members, and working within the constitutional systems and norms. They came prepared to work, they made their motions, they brought forward debate on memorials and resolutions, they made their cases, and they accepted the decisions and compromises that the Assembly made, together. Now, I hope they will hold us all accountable to what we decided, and what God calls us to do.
Big change is ahead. But Christ, as our head and cornerstone, is leading the way and grounding us in the best of our identity and our history, as followers of Jesus, and as reformers and transformers like Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King Jr. I am thankful and in awe of the five days I spent in this work – especially with our AWESOME Voting Members from NEPA Synod (SEE PHOTO ABOVE). Those Voting Members are making plans now to get around our synod and share what they learned and did – as well as helping us to bring that work to life here in NE PA. For more information on all the work that was done at CWA, click here.
On the Way of Jesus together,
Bishop Christopher deForest
Picture of Voting Members in attendance at 2022 Churchwide Assembly (from left): Mr. Jeffrey Gilbert, Ms. Mary Rowe, Rev. Samantha Drennan, Mr. Christopher Williams, Rev. Nelson Quinones, Mr. Roger Ruggles, Rev. Susan Ruggles, Ms. Ashley Teter, Ms. Sara Neidig, Mr. Thomas Engle, Rev. Rachael Dietz (with her service dog, Chipotle), Rev. Charles Grube, Ms. Madison DeLuca, Ms. Elizabeth Leibenguth, Mr. Mark Stana, Mr. James Marra, Ms. Nancy Reichelt, Rev. Bradley Carroll, Bishop Christopher deForest, Mr. Beau deForest, Mr. Alvin Sellers, Ms. Kristen Edelman-Weiner, and Rev. Rebecca Knox.