The 2018 Assembly of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod was gathered in Temple, TX April 27-28th. This was the 31st Assembly of the NT-NL and the first that was only two days in duration. This new schedule allowed the vast majority of our pastors and leaders to be in their congregations on Sunday morning. The 106 congregations and worshipping communities of the NT-NL are the heart of our work and mission. This schedule honored that priority.
Although a shorter schedule, we had a wonderful time in Temple and were warmly hosted by the Heart of Texas conference. We are grateful for the hospitality, time, and talents of our hosts, Assembly planning team, HOT Detour band, and volunteers. We give thanks for The Rev. Dr. Mandy Brobst-Renaud, who led us in engaging Bible studies and group discussions. Dr. Brobst-Renaud, who has served the people of St. Peter, Malone while working towards her doctorate in New Testament studies at Baylor University is leaving NT-NL to take a position as a professor at Valparaiso University in Indiana. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to honor her connections to NT-NL (the synod of her ordination) as well as the gift she will be to the wider church serving as a teacher at one of our Lutheran Universities.
NT-NL Easter Campaign Donations Received
The Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA is now in its fifth and final year. The emphasis for this year is on growing gifts for the Fund for Leaders in Mission. This fund provides 50 full-time scholarships each year for seminarians in the ELCA. Additionally, the NT-NL has its own Fund for Leaders, which allows us to give scholarships locally as well. NT-NL has benefited from these gifts in many and various ways.
Bishop Gronberg and the NT-NL Synod Council invited congregations to support the NT-NL Fund for Leaders by considering a special offering this Easter season. Giving thanks for the hope of the resurrection, we encouraged congregations to support those discerning a call to ministry and help us keep student debt to a minimum. Three congregations had stepped forward (King of Glory, Dallas, Preston Meadow, Plano, and Trinity, Fort Worth) with a challenge to match dollar-for-dollar the first $10,000 given to this Easter Appeal. The total funds received as of Assembly this past weekend are $14,409 (given) + $10,000 (match) = $24,409!!! Thank you for your generous support for the ELCA Campaign and Fund for Leaders. Thank you especially to Faith, Flower Mound, for giving $1,100, and to Ms. Marilyn McRoberts (Good Shepherd, Irving) giving $200, in the quilt auctions. Gifts may still be directed to the Synod office; please specify Fund for Leaders.
Together, we can invest in leaders for Christ’s church on a scale and scope we never could otherwise. Your gifts to the Fund for Leaders program empowers those whom God calls into ministry to go and serve as the church needs and the Holy Spirit leads.
NT-NL Fund for Leaders Recipients
Fund for Leaders scholarships were awarded to Austin Nickel, SAWL (LSPS Seminary) and serving First, Waco, and to Wm. Eric Saed, SAWL (Wartburg Seminary) and serving Trinity, Clovis (NM).
Support and Encouragement Requested for NT-NL Youth
Ms. Janelle Miller (Calvary, Richland Hills) gave a powerful report about being a part of the faith timeline of young people in our synod. She has helped coordinate our participation in the upcoming ELCA Youth Gathering, including the Bishop’s group (the first of its kind in the ELCA). As a result, 33 congregations are currently participating in the gathering by sending youth and adults. In addition, she reported that there are many ways for other congregations to support as well. She distributed note cards for assembly members to write encouraging notes to young people at the gathering. She showed a video sample of a women’s group at Calvary sending greetings to the youth. All of these are ways to help us reach Bishop Gronberg’s goal of 50% participation of congregations in the youth gathering in some way.
If your congregation is not sending youth and would like to send a message, help supply a meal, or support housing for one of our ethnic specific communities who are sending youth, please contact Janelle at Janellemiller@yahoo.com.
NT-NL Elections Results
Unlike in previous years, this year’s vital elections to synod executive team positions, synod council, and 2019 Churchwide Assembly were not held utilizing the electronic voting machines. These machines have proved increasingly unreliable, and confidence in their results has been low. As a result, we shifted back to paper ballots. While more time consuming, they also give a clear paper trail and ensure that no member of the assembly is unduly disenfranchised of their right to vote. The results of the elections are below. We are so very grateful for those willing to serve.
Synod Treasurer (4 year term)
Synod Council Positions (nominees come from the related conference – 4 year term)
Latin@/Hispanic – Ordained: The Rev. Violeta Siguenza
Eastern Conference – Ordained: The Rev. Russell Vardell
Heart of Texas Conference – Lay Female: Glenda Phillips
Heart of Texas Conference – Lay Male: Dr. Douglas Krug
Conference Out West – Lay Female: Teresa Swecker
Conference Out West – Lay Male: K. Fritz Leifeste
ELCA Church Council Members (nominees to be then voted on at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly)
TWO Rostered Ministers of Word and Sacrament: The Rev. Russell Vardell and The Rev. Nick Billardello
ELCA 2019 Churchwide Assembly Voting Members
Rostered Minister of Word and Sacrament – Female: The Rev. Kristin Klade
Rostered Minister of Word and Sacrament – Male: The Rev. Edy Santos
Lay Female (preferably 35 or younger): Bianca Blaney
Lay Female (36 or older): Shirley Wilson-Sigler
Lay Male (preferably 35 or younger): Thomas M. Blaney
Lay Male (36 or older): Don Heller
Generosity and Challenge Conclude Assembly
As the Assembly was ending, two impassioned speeches were given to support our work #InMissionTogether. Pastor Rusty Sullivan (Faith, Flower Mound) came to the microphone during the approval of our mission plan. He named the reality that without growth in mission support, increased operational expenses would continue to limit our ability to fund mission programming. Rather than complaining, he instead pledged to go home and challenge his congregation to increase their mission support giving by 1% in the coming year. He encouraged other leaders to do the same. In addition, lifting up Bishop Gronberg’s goals of synod participation, he encouraged the 18% of NT-NL congregations who gave no mission support in 2017 to make a gift to our life together.
Pastor Paul Mussachio (Preston Meadow, Plano) then asked for the floor responding to the report of Briarwood Acting Director Matt Baumhardt and his powerful story of a Briarwood supporter who sent a monthly $7 check to the ministry. In the memo line each month, it simply said “Love Gift.” Matt shared how, although the gift was financially small, during challenging times, that line “Love Gift” gave him energy and faith to continue on. Pastor Mussachio offered $7 to support Briarwood each month and then encouraged others to see if they would give $7 as well. In response, $777 was collected by the end of the assembly as a “Love Gift” for Briarwood. Others who wish to set up an ongoing “Love Gift” sustaining offering to Briarwood are invited to do so at http://www.briarwoodretreat.org/ways-to-give.
We are grateful for all our leaders and particularly those who challenge us to consider how we can all play a part in sustaining and, more importantly, growing our ministry #InMissionTogether.
The assembly was a great success. The spirit of the gathering, the worship, preaching, bible studies, affinity group conversations ,and banquet honoring anniversaries of ordination, retirements, and other occasions was held in grand fashion. The Mayborn Conference Center proved to be a fine setting and the vendors and attendees all gave high marks to the facility and accommodations. The assembly title “Under Construction” was a tongue in cheek reference to the many many many years of construction on I-35 the folks in Temple have endured. While some of our attendees had a bit of trouble navigating the construction this was a small challenge compared to what the folks in Temple have been dealing with for years.
A highlight of the assembly was the unveiling of two quilts. A request had been sent to all the congregations of NT-NL to send in swatches of cloth to create a quilt for the assembly. Quilting for Lutheran World Relief is something the HOT Conference has particularly been invested in and this was seen as a way to honor that legacy. Almost 80 of our congregations sent in a swatch of cloth and some sent even more. As such two quilts were created. One that was given as a gift to the office of the Bishop and the other offered at auction at our banquet to support the fund for leaders. The quilt was eventually auctioned off for $1,100 graciously given by the people of Faith, Flower Mound. Those funds, along with the synod offering helped (as noted above) our gifts to the Fund for Leaders from this assembly to exceed $24,000. This was by far the largest synod assembly offering in many years.
We honored many leaders from NT-NL and the wider church at our assembly. Ms. Kathryn Lohre was our churchwide representative. She is the assistant to the presiding bishop for ecumenical affairs and has been a key catalyst in many of our recent ecumenical gatherings and connections. Her presentation was insightful and received gratefully. We also honored Ms. Hattie Hammer who is retiring from her role as Director of the NT-NL Mission Endowment Fund. She has led that fund for many years and seen it grow from a small pool of capital into a fund capable of granting over $75,000 a year in mission grants. We are so very grateful for her leadership and she was honored and greeted with a standing ovation.
The 31st assembly of the NT-NL is now in the history books. The minutes will record the actions, but they cannot record the spirit, graciousness, and the proclamation of good news that happened as we gathered. It was a joy to be together again, we look forward to new things in 2019 when we will gather, for the first time, on the campus of a congregation (Calvary, Richland Hills). Again we are seeking to be good stewards of God’s abundance in our midst and also make assemblies as accessible as possible for all our communities. We are #InMissionTogether and our time in Temple demonstrated that in full. Thanks be to God.