By Michael Rinehart, Bishop of the TX-LA Gulf Coast Synod
Last month, May 17-18, 2019, over 250 people gathered at Kinsmen Lutheran Church in Houston for the 32nd assembly of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod. Our theme was “Sacred Shift.” Our focus was on the shifts we are all feeling in our world, our North American context, and in the Church, and how we might see this as sacred rather than stifling.
One of the things I appreciate about this synod is the willingness to try new things. This year we had a two-day assembly instead of a three-day assembly, we met in a congregation instead of a hotel, and we did all of this during a bishop election year. We finished an hour early after re-electing a bishop, passing a resolution, updating our bylaws, approving a memorial, passing a budget, electing council members and other leaders, holding workshops, meeting in conferences, hearing four 45-minute keynotes, celebrating Holy Communion, and more.
I want to say a deep word of thanks for the privilege of serving in this call as Bishop of the Gulf Coast Synod. As I said at assembly, much of what a bishop does is actually done by staff. Your affirmation is in many ways an affirmation of their tireless work. Thank you Gretchen, Aimee, Blanca, Chris, Tracey, Peggy, and Beth. Thank you Synod Council and Deans. I am deeply grateful.
The purpose of our assembly is to strengthen our unity as a church working together. We gather to do some of the business of the church. We want people to leave feeling inspired, renewed in faith, and energized for ministry. Gretchen Lundquist is our Office Manager. She holds primary responsibility for the organization and execution of the synod assembly. Beth Hartfiel was contracted to handle logistics. Both of them did an excellent job with the help of other staff and volunteers.
Our theme was SACRED SHIFT. Our key texts were,
- Isaiah 43:18-21
- Romans 12:1-2
- Matthew 9:14-17
We passed a resolution to become an AMMPARO Welcoming Synod. You can read more about AMMPARO here: https://www.elca.org/ammparo.
We memorialized the Churchwide Organization to sign the Earth Charter. A memorial is a detailed motion in which a synod requests action on the part of the Churchwide Assembly. You can read more about the Earth Charter here: http://earthcharter.org/discover/the-earth-charter/.
Below is a first glance look at the evaluations and a list of everyone who spoke at assembly; names appear with contact information. This last part, the list, is something we’ve never done before. Someone asked me for it, and it made my head spin, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be interesting to see. The list is staggering, a testament of our work together.
The overall rating was good. People liked the venue at Kinsmen. There were traffic and parking concerns mentioned. Most, but not all preferred the congregational setting. Some people found the first day to be a little bit too densely packed. Lots of praise for the organization of the assembly. Some helpful critiques that we will incorporate.
Some wondered about budget and costs. It’s about a $70K budget. There are facility rental costs, registration software fees, publicity, signage, speaker honorariums, musician honorariums, AV costs, translation, environment, food and beverage ($20K), Staff/volunteer/Council costs and more.
When asked if it was a positive experience, 100% said yes. This is a stunning response rate.
People involved with assembly
Position Name Contact
Office Manager/Event Planner Gretchen Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org
Logistics Coordinator Beth Harfiel email@example.com
Bishop’s Associate, Mission Chris Markert firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop’s Associate, Leadership Tracey Breashears Schultz email@example.com
Assistant to the Bishop, LEAD Peggy Hahn firstname.lastname@example.org
Communications/Slides Aimee Elles email@example.com
Bookkeeper/Translation Blanca Tovar firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop Mike Rinehart email@example.com
Synod Secretary/Parliamentarian John Turnquist firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Robert Rivera email@example.com
Treasurer Kathy Collins firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop’s Election Chair Carol Flores email@example.com
Elections Committee Chair Lynette Bartel firstname.lastname@example.org
Nominating Committee Mark Warpmaeker email@example.com
Reference and Counsel Bill Mintz firstname.lastname@example.org
Credentials Committee Charles Parnell email@example.com
Tech Support Chris Lake firstname.lastname@example.org
Help Desk David Hansen email@example.com
Guidebook Bunny Stoutes firstname.lastname@example.org
Host Ele Clay email@example.com
Organist Marvin Havard firstname.lastname@example.org
Simple Man AV Jonathan Zitelman JSZitelman@gmail.com
Churchwide Representative Wyvetta Bullock email@example.com
Pastor Bullock’s handler Marcia Kifer firstname.lastname@example.org
Kinsmen Contact Julie Hughes email@example.com
Band leader from Joyful Life Joel Bates firstname.lastname@example.org
Slides Tiffany Michaelis
Host Pastor Beth Warpmaeker email@example.com
Host Pastor Mark England firstname.lastname@example.org
Mission Investment Fund Jerry Johnson email@example.com
Perú Companion Synod Report Judy Biffle firstname.lastname@example.org
Central African Republic Report Lisa Rose email@example.com
Guitarist (This Little Light) Jolene Wickel firstname.lastname@example.org
Guitarist (Lutherhill Meeting) John Vickery
Guitarist (Closing) Clayton Faulkner email@example.com
Brazos Valley Campus Ministry Mindy Roll firstname.lastname@example.org
Live On Endowment Fund Dudley Piland email@example.com
Visiting Bishop (SW Texas) Sue Briner firstname.lastname@example.org
Visiting Bishop (North TX/LA) Erik Gronberg BpGronberg@ntnl.org
Saturday Morning Devotions Jen Kindsvatter Jen@lutherhill.org
Lutherhill Executive Director Matt Kindsvatter email@example.com
Saturday Closing Devotions Kari Niedermeier firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition to these folks, a multitude of volunteers served as greeters, ushers, worship assistants, food servers, musicians and behind-the-scenes helpers. A special word of thanks to Kinsmen Lutheran Church for sharing their beautiful worship space, and for the many Kinsmen staff and volunteers who offered outstanding hospitality and attention to detail.
Next year’s Synod Assembly (May 15-16, 2020) will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, and our predecessor bodies. This summer, the Churchwide Assembly will deliberate and likely adopt a new social statement on women and justice, called “Faith, Sexism, and Justice.” Just in the last few years the #MeToo movement has shown the need for open and trusted conversation in society at large and also in the workplace.
At the assembly, we will have opportunity to take stock as to how far we’ve come and what still needs to be done regarding women in ministry. To celebrate our humanity as baptized children of God, we will explore the art of conversation with one another, and anyone who is “other” than us, male, female, race, ethnic background etc. We will use the experience and gift of ordained women to empower all who still find themselves at closed doors to articulate and live out their unique calling.