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Make connections, presidents says

 April 21-24 board meeting. photos By Sarah Carson

by Terri Lackey

“Now’s the time to connect and show our passion for the organization,” said Women of the ELCA executive board president Patti Austin.

Addressing the executive board during its April 21-24 meeting, she said, “We don’t have forever. We only have two or three meetings left, and we need to make a difference,” referring to the 2014-2017 triennium during which the current board is serving.

The board met in downtown Chicago on the Loyola University campus where it approved offering designations for the triennial convention and gathering and a basic schedule for the triennial gathering. It acted on recommendations from the Conference of Presidents in February, dealt with a 2015 fiscal year deficit of nearly $150,000 and engaged in visioning for the Women of the ELCA grants program.

“We have a purpose here. We have a purpose statement. We have a passion for the organization and now it’s time to make connections,” Austin said in her president’s report. She was speaking to all board members, but specifically those who are rotating off.

Austin said at the Conference of Presidents in February, she asked the presidents to think about three questions:

1. How did you come to be involved in Women of the ELCA?

2. What do you think is God’s purpose for the ministry of the women in your synod?

3. What vision do you have for the future of your synod and for the Women of the ELCA?

“For me, these three questions lead us to the critical factor in the success of our organization—connection—connection to God; connection to each other; and connection to women and girls all around the world...” Austin said.

“Connection is the key, and the conventions that we each attend are the perfect time to start making new connections,” Austin said. “Ask how we can support their work. Share with them our many ministries and resources. Share your own personal WELCA story.

“When you speak, speak from your heart. I love this organization,” she said. “I love the work that’s being done.”

Women of the ELCA grants program

Inez Torres Davis, director for justice and coordinator of the Women of the ELCA grants program, asked the board to help envision a new future the grants program.

She took them through an exercise that helped determine “how we can fulfill our mission and purpose statements through the grants program” and “how we can strengthen the grants program by making it simpler and more focused.”

Torres Davis said the grants program is on hiatus this year as a team works to “create a clear, crisp and succinct description for our program.”


In financial matters, the board plans to deal with a 2015 fiscal year deficit of $146,230 by asking the executive director and treasurer to send letters to those synodical women’s organizations (SWOs) that did not submit any offerings in 2015.

Those letters “of encouragement and support” would affirm the SWOs participation in the organization, observe the SWOs lack of giving and seek feedback for further conversation.

If income is not at the level needed by July 31, the board will recommend churchwide spending be reduced by 10 percent across the board in FY2016.

“We—executive board and staff—are called to shepherd this organization at this time in history,” said Women of the ELCA executive director Linda Post Bushkofsky.

She said the board and staff have the responsibility to “steward the organization … to the best of our ability knowing that God is calling and supporting Lutheran women in this ministry.

“Whatever our current financial challenges—and there will always be some financial challenges—the organization will survive, even thrive, all in God’s time.”

During the meeting, the board collected an offering of $1,905 that will go to the ongoing ministry of the churchwide organization.

Audrey Riley, director for stewardship, reported that “100 percent of our churchwide board” made a gift of record in 2015.

“Women give. Women are very generous. That is what we do,” Riley said.

Board actions

In its spring meeting, the board: 

—adopted a recommendation to designate the Tenth Triennial Convention (2017) offering to be distributed:

  • 50 percent to Women of the ELCA ongoing ministries, and
  • 50 percent PV for Phebe Hospital, addressing a memorial passed at the Ninth Triennial Convention. (Photovoltaics [PV] is the name of a method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity.)

—adopted a recommendation to designate Tenth Triennial Gathering (2017) offerings in the following way:

  • The offering at the opening worship service will be a Thankoffering to support the ongoing ministries of Women of the ELCA
  • The offering at the closing worship service will be distributed as follows:
    • 50 percent to the ongoing ministries of Women of the ELCA
    • 25 percent to PV for Phebe
    • 25 percent to Cherish All Children, a social ministry organization affiliated with the ELCA that equips congregations to prevent sexual exploitation of children.

 —adopted a recommendation to put 10 percent of a $50,000 bequest received in April from the Estate of Theda Suggs toward the Tenth Triennial Convention (2017).

 —adopted a motion en bloc to address in various ways recommendations from the Conference of Presidents.

 —agreed to pass on recommendations for India endowment grants to the executive director for review and distribution. Funds for grants to ministries in India come from specific restricted-purpose endowments of predecessor women’s organizations and are awarded on an annual basis. Approximately $16,200 will be distributed to five different women’s ministries in India.

 —adopted a recommendation to ask SWO convention presidents to place in registration packets a “listening post” questionnaire to encourage feedback from convention attendees.

 —adopted a continuing resolution that the president appoint a SWO convention coordinator and that she be considered a necessary presence at the annual Conference of Presidents.

 —adopted a recommendation under Article VI, Section 3 of the SWO approved constitution to add an amendment that states, “Pre-convention reports shall be distributed to each voting member-elect at least 20 days prior to the SWO convention.” The amendment must go to the Tenth Triennial Convention for consideration.

 —adopted a recommendation to place the Tenth Triennial Convention Rules of Procedure on the table until the October 2016 meeting, awaiting consultation with the parliamentarian.

 —adopted a proposed 2017-2020 calendar.

The board also heard reports from the treasurer, staff and standing committees; engaged in stewardship education and racial justice advocacy education; received reports from advisors; and reviewed board members’ participation in the 2016 conventions of synodical women’s organizations.

The executive board’s next meeting is Oct. 20-23, 2016, at the Lutheran Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

Terri Lackey is director for communication for Women of the ELCA.