Yesterday, I attended the Cannon River Conference Assembly at St. Olaf College in Northfield. The Cannon River Conference is one of the five conferences of the SE Mn synod of the ELCA, and the others also convened yesterday in annual assemblies in various locations around the synod. Within the political polity of the ELCA, conferences serve as a stepping stone between congregations and synod assemblies and ultimately the biennial church wide assembly. In the SE Mn synod, the clergy and lay voting members to the 2011 churchwide assembly were nominated yesterday at the conference assemblies. These nominations will then be affirmed by the annual synod assembly in a couple of months (additional nominations from the floor are possible but rare).
So, our conference is merely one of over 300 conferences of the ELCA, and we are therefore just a small microcosm of the national ELCA. Thus, what happened at the Cannon River Conference was merely a thin slice of the whole, but interesting, nevertheless.
Of all the candidates for church wide voting members, both lay and clergy, not a single one expected the 2009 pro-LGBT decisions to be revisited in 2011. Not a single candidate expressed a desire for an agenda of reconsideration; instead, the clear preference was to move forward and to heal. Interestingly, of the four candidates for male, lay, voting member, the two who expressed a willingness to listen to both sides if the partnered gay clergy ministry policies reemerged as an issue in 2011 received fewer votes than the other two candidates who expressed unwavering support for the revised policies. In this conference at least, the overwhelming sentiment was that the 2009 church wide assembly did a good thing regarding partnered gay clergy, and it is time to move on.
In 2009, the synod received 96% of budgeted revenues based upon congregational pledges. Over half of the congregations achieved their pledged amounts and half of those actually exceeded their pledges. The synod itself achieved its pledge of over $1 million to the churchwide ministries.
But, 2010 is likely to be more challenging, and the synod’s budget will be reduced. One item receiving serious consideration is the practice of full time campus ministers. Bishop Huck suggested the synod is looking at a “town-gown” system whereby campus ministers would only be part time while also serving part time in local parish ministries.