THE REV. SUSAN CANDEA, BISHOP
Central States Synod, ELCA
We are the Central States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. What does it mean to be a synod of the ELCA? What does it mean to be the Central States Synod?
A synod is a geographical region within the larger denomination of the ELCA. There are 65 synods in the ELCA and we are the region that includes the entire states of Kansas and Missouri. That is a large geographic area that covers a diversity of landscapes from the plains of western Kansas to the rolling hills of mid-Missouri and Lake of the Ozarks, large urban areas in St. Louis and Kansas City, and again two very different states.
But more than geography, being a synod means that we walk together, not in spite of our diversity and large geography, but because together we give a stronger witness to the gospel and together we do the ministry of being the church, followers of Christ who love and serve God’s world. Just as it is not really possible to be an individual Christian because being a follower of Christ means we are part of the body of Christ and therefore always part of a community, so it is not really possible to be individual congregations or ministries. We are in this, (being the church), together.
As the bishop of this synod, I invite us to be together focusing on two primary things, two emphases that are part of our whole culture of being together as the ELCA, Congregational Vitality, and leadership.
Congregational vitality (which applies to all our ministries, not just our “congregations”) is about being followers of Jesus who are transformed by our relationship to God, our relationship to one another, and our relationship to the world. That is what it means to be church. It is not about protecting an institution or being part of a social club or hanging on to traditions to try and keep the chaos of the world from overwhelming us. It is about God and relationships. It is about the world that desperately needs to hear and experience gospel and grace. It is about being transformed and participating in God’s transformation of the world. It is about purpose and mission. And it is challenging work in the midst of diminishing resources and a changing culture which is why we are in this together.
To do this challenging work of being the church together, of being synod and walking together, we need leaders, both rostered and lay, who can challenge and comfort us, who are courageous and compassionate, who are discerning and open to the ways in which the Spirit continues to work in and through us. In the midst of anxious systems, we need leaders who rely on the Spirit, not fear, to help us be the church today. As a synod we provide support and learning opportunities not just for rostered ministers but lay leaders as well, recognizing that leadership is not a role to which one is appointed, but the using of our gifts to equip and empower all the baptized.
As your Bishop I am committed to challenging each congregation and ministry to get clarity about their purpose and mission, to keep the central things central - our connection with God, each other and the world - and to challenge leaders to breath more deeply into their own spiritual wellspring, grow in their own discipleship so that we can walk together as God’s people in this place and time. What a gift to be given this challenge, this opportunity, to participate in what the Spirit is up to in this time and this place. So let’s keep walking together and see what adventures await!