By Bishop Mike Rinehart
1. Bayou, consisting of 14 congregations and two (and hopefully more) campus ministries in Louisiana.
2. Brazos Valley, consisting of 22 congregations and one campus ministry in Brenham, College Station and surrounding areas.
3. Central Houston, consisting of 16 congregations and one campus ministry inside Houston’s Beltway 8.
4. Colorado River, consisting of 13 congregations, and Lutherhill Camp, and Retreat Center in the LaGrange, Columbus, Bellville, Cat Spring and surrounding areas.
5. North Houston, consisting of the 12 ELCA congregations north of Beltway 8.
6. Southeast Houston, consisting of 20 congregations south and east of Houston, east of Texas 288, including our emerging new retreat center on Galveston Island.
7. Southwest Houston, consisting of 18 congregations south and west of Houston, west of Texas 288.
This totals 115 congregations, two camp/retreat centers, four campus ministries and more. An interactive map can be found at http://goo.gl/maps/0Wosu, and a list of congregations by conference can be found on the synod web page.
The Synod Constitution says, in S6.03, that the synod has responsibility for the life and mission of this church on the territory of the synod, therefore it shall:
“Foster the grouping of congregations in conferences, clusters, coalitions, or other area subdivisions for mission purposes.”
For many years we were organized into eleven ministeria, groups of pastors of congregations from various areas around the synod. Some of these consisted of 25 congregations, while some consisted of as few as four. Some met frequently, while some did not meet at all. Many lacked a sense of purpose and focus. The listening we did surfaced a sense of malaise about ministeria.
The 2012-2013 Strategic Plan: A Church for All People, called for us to:
“Reorganize ministeriums into new conferences and establish new opportunities for our deans to lead and serve.”
These pages contain a new plan to organize the synod into larger, more uniformly-sized conferences that have a clear sense of purpose. Clergy will meet, but key lay leaders will also have the opportunity to gather once or twice a year, so that they too have a sense of the church working together.
Lay leaders are a key in uniting us as one body. Congregations with a part-time pastor or no pastor, don’t participate in ministerium meetings, and therefore, have been disconnected.
Our new conferences will include lay leaders from each congregation in two meetings each year, one in the spring and one in the fall. In between these meetings, pastors will meet as before.
Conferences will meet for mission purposes. We will discuss growth of the mission in each area, coordinate efforts around campus ministry, discuss stewardship, and work together in global and local mission. These mission-driven conferences will revitalize our regional collaboration, while allowing congregations a chance to connect beyond their walls like never before. With the Spirit’s guidance, 2013 will be a year of new beginnings!