Renewing the Ecology of the ELCA Task Force

Rev. Bob Bacher, PhD — Former ELCA Executive for Administration

Ms. Linda Bobbitt — Vice President, Rocky Mountain Synod

Ms. Deb Chenoweth — ELCA Church Council

Ms. Kathleen Elliott Chillison – Treasurer, LSA Board of Directors

Ms. Teresa Cintron — Strategic Development Consultant

Bishop Rev. Richard Graham — Metro Washington D.C. Synod

Ms. Debra Jacobs Buttaggi — President/CEO, The Patterson Foundation

Rev. Rollie Martinson, PhD — Academic Dean, Luther Seminary

Rev. Scott McAnally — Pastor, Lutheran Church of Hope (Broomfield, CO)

Rev. Dee Pederson (chair) — Pastor, Bethlehem Lutheran Church (St. Cloud, MN)

Dr. Richard Torgerson — President, Luther College

Mr. Erik Ullestad — Youth & Family Minister, Windsor Heights Lutheran Church (Des Moines, IA)

Resource Observers

Mr. Ron Schultz — Chief Administrative Officer, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod

Mr. Marge Watters Knebel — Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Resource Staff

Rev. Dr. Wyvetta Bullock — ELCA Executive for Administration

Dr. Kenn Inskeep — ELCA Executive for Research and Evaluation

Rev. Stan Olson, PHD (recorder) — Executive Director, ELCA Vocation and Education

Rev. Dr. Karl Reko (project coordinator) — Office of the Presiding Bishop

Mr. David Swartling — Secretary of the ELCA


26 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Darryl Thompson Powell on March 13, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    It looks to me that all of the official task force members are white. I sincerely hope I am wrong on this and that the ELCA has not slipped back to a 60’s in terms selecting/appointing membres of teams and task forces.


  2. Posted by Keith Meyer on March 24, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I applaud the creation of this task force. I understand one of the goals of the task force is hear the voice of the people of the Church. To that end, my question is, where are the laypeople on this task force? I see many learned people on this task force, which is wonderful, but where are the people in the pews represented in the membership of this group?


    • The LIFT task force consists of 12 people; 5 clergy and 7 lay. All are members of ELCA congregations.


      • Posted by Darryl Thompson Powell on March 25, 2010 at 10:20 am

        I think you missed what Keith was saying. Yes, there are 7 non-ordained people on the task force, but they don’t quite represent what most people see in their congregations when 5 of them have positions of authority in Lutheran organizations, one is president/CEO of a foundation, and the last is a strategic development consultant. Only an elitist mindset see this as a representation of what’s in our churches. And I say that acknowledging the fact that as a pastor I didn’t pick up on that until Keith mentioned it, which means I had an elitist mindset.

      • The gift of the LIFT process is that the task force exists to engage the whole church in conversations about the future of the ELCA. In so doing, everyone is able to participate in the work of the task force, especially “the people in the pews”. Anyone who wishes to share their input has many ways to do so. Now is the time!

      • Posted by Darryl Thompson Powell on March 25, 2010 at 11:46 am

        I see. And the only ones who can “engage the whole church in the conversation” are people in positions of leadership (which includes youth & family ministers!) in the church. I’ll say this again in a slightly different way: if the ELCA was more transparent and shared how the members of the task force were chosen, maybe it would alleviate some concerns about the make-up of the task force.

      • The LIFT task force was selected by the ELCA Church Council in consultation with the presiding bishop and the Conference of Bishops. You will need to contact those groups for the specifics of how they went about selecting the task force members.

      • No men of color? That is the group that the current church structure seems to be most “threatened” by – I am an ELCA candidate for Ordination and have been told that I needed to act like a white Scandinavian male to do ministry in this church by my candidacy committee – and I am a part of one of the five largest synods in this church. What a shame.

  3. Posted by Darryl Thompson Powell on March 25, 2010 at 7:09 am

    Good question, Keith. Putting our two questions together raises another question that I would love to see posted here: How was this task force selected? Sadly, the ELCA has not been the best in terms of transparency.


  4. Posted by Molly Beck Dean on April 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    I’m here learning about LIFT and what this process could do for our Church. I’m a little sad to see that there aren’t any youth or young adults on this task force. I’m guessing Erik is the youngest at 31. At CWA last summer, we moved forward with amendments to our governing documents that called for at least 10% youth/young adults on governing bodies and I would hope that such an important team as this would model that. I hope there are some intentional efforts to collect youth and young adult responses especially seeing they are not represented on the task force.
    Thank you to these team members for the work they are doing.


  5. Posted by Lea Ann Webb on April 27, 2010 at 11:51 am

    Ecology of the Church. Really? It is popular now to refer to oganizations such as the church as “organic” but to be quite honest I think it has no meaning to the average church member. It is necessary to have been reading the latest oganzational literature or have a solid background in science for this terminology to be relevant to a person’s mindset. One of the things I love most about the Lutheran Church is that our Pastors are well educated theologians, but at some point we do come off as being elitist. Using terminology such as this is an example of not framing our conversations in a way that an average person finds interesting. And there I go – “framing a conversation”. Let’s just say this – We need to use plain talk, and we need to tell it all!


  6. Posted by Rev. Rebecca Wegner on May 24, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you for your efforts. I am intrigued by the process and look forward to seeing some of your results. One thing that might improve the quality of your responses would be an opportunity for respondents to indicate where they reside/worship. I have a hunch that our responses to questions will be very different if we live in New England or in Minnesota.


  7. Posted by Roy Gulliford on May 31, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Any way to contact Members? Questionair didn’t get to my issues and I can’t find an email address for contacting them.


  8. Posted by Roy Gulliford on June 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I was told by Robert Marshall that all 3 judicatory heads at the merger,were disappointed in what became the ELCA. Not surprised-many of us were sick at the the PC behemoth-with tower- feeling it would collaps of its own over weight. Please, God, let the right people be selected this time. We don’t have many more chances.


  9. Posted by Pastor Daniel Ostercamp on June 24, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    When I looked over the membership of the Task Force, I thought to myself that they were “company people” taking up a “company project”. It is hard for me to get very hopeful about a process that intends to “speak for the whole church” when the filter has already been set in a predictable manner. A major stumbling block within the structure of the ELCA is a self-perpetuating process for nominations and appointments.


    • Pastor Ostercamp – the process is open for anyone to share their ideas for how to “renew the ecology of the ELCA”. Though we may not be able to speak for every contingency group within our 4.6 million member denomination, we hope to engage the whole church in a conversation about how to faithfully live into the future together. We are eager to receive and discuss all suggestions, comments, and feedback. Our ears and minds are open!


  10. Posted by Peter Larsen on July 16, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Like Molly Beck Dean, I’m disappointed that there aren’t any youth or young adults on the LIFT Task Force. People in the youth/young adult demographic are sadly underrepresented in the leadership of the ELCA as a whole, and this was a golden opportunity to not only show them that they are an appreciated, integral part of our ministry as a Church, but also to add new depth to the Task Force’s deliberations.


  11. Posted by Ryan Radtke on July 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you, LIFT folks, for at least starting a conversation. I know the frustration of trying to begin a new ministry or new effort of any kind to be met only with questions of what you aren’t doing. To the folks who are pointing out what’s missing from the Task Force, I hope that you are also having conversations with other ELCA folks and even non-ELCA folks as well. And as to who isn’t on the board, let’s face it – by and large our denomination is mostly white; many youth leave the church between confirmation and having their own children years later; and most of the folks willing to even be a part of this type of task force and effort will end up being professionals, “company people,” and those comfortable enough to have the time to lend to it. Let’s let our criticism be constructive and continually invite more folks, all folks, to be a part of the conversation, instead of in effect hamstrining it before it has barely begun.


    • Posted by Peter Larsen on August 2, 2010 at 5:34 pm

      I agree with you, Ryan. Our Church is mostly white (97%), and many of those in the Church who are youths and young adults are not as active in the ELCA. BUT doesn’t that mean that it’s vitally important to solicit input from those groups in this process and have their representation on the task force? As I said before, it can only deepen the conversations and show them that they are full partners in ministry, and not token representatives or ignored “side groups”.

      This also isn’t just being noisy or nitpicking for the sake of being complaining. The ELCA has passed resolutions at Churchwide Assembly (which are now a part of the ELCA Constitution) encouraging ALL Boards, Councils, Committees, Task Forces, etc. of all three expressions of the Church be composed of 10% youth and young adults (15-30) and 10% people of color or who’s primary language is not English. In my opinion, it’s a good idea to follow these guidelines as a bare minimum. Doing so can only help our Church to grow.


  12. Posted by sharon zeilstra on August 17, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    These are all points well-made and hopefully well-taken. Perhaps a few people who do not pull a paycheck from “the church enterprise” can be included in the routine activity of the LIFT group?

    Then, we can get all this passion and energy directed toward moving forward in light of what God has told us is critical: sharing the love of God, the grace of Christ and the communion of the Spirit with all of God’s children.

    Just a thought…


    • Thanks for your comments, Sharon. The LIFT task force is always open to feedback, suggestions, and insights from all people, regardless of vocation.


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