Note: Women of the ELCA is raising $1 million for Katie’s Fund (officially the Katharina von Bora Luther Fund), an endowment that supports mission and ministry. Today’s blog and the one next week offer our readers background information about Women of the ELCA and the campaign. After reading both blogs, readers will be better equipped to make a contribution to the campaign 2122: Growing Katie’s Fund for the next 100 years.
Lutheran women in the United States have been gathering in mission and for study since the 1800s. Today’s women owe much to foremothers who responded to God’s call, created a place, and lived as disciples when women had little voice in the church. As the constitutionally mandated women’s ministry organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Women of the ELCA’s structure is parallel to that of the church. The organization exists in congregations (“congregational units”), in 64 of the 65 synods (“synodical women’s organizations”), and in the churchwide expression (“churchwide women’s organization”).
The churchwide organization provides a range of services and resources to the organization’s participants, all designed to support women in their daily walk of faith. The churchwide staff, under the direction of the executive director, supports the organization’s participants as they live out the mission of mobilizing women to act boldly on their faith in Jesus Christ. Direction comes from the churchwide executive board as it sets policies and envisions the future of the organization. Further direction comes from the triennial convention and its voting members.
Ministry in the last 35 years Women of the ELCA has always been at the forefront of justice issues, including anti-racism and anti-trafficking efforts, domestic violence prevention, fair trade, and supporting those living in poverty. Various program initiatives have come and gone, meeting the needs of women at a particular time. These include banning plastic foam cups, celebrating anniversaries of women’s ordination, exploring cross-cultural programming, and eliminating landmines.
Rachel’s Day was initiated in 1996 to set aside a time to mourn the loss of children and to renounce the forces of fear and violence, especially gun violence. Raising Up Healthy Women and Girls, the organization’s health initiative, began in 2005. Bold Women’s Day, an annual celebration of our mission and the women who accomplish it, launched in 2007.
Bible study is essential to the women of our organization. Gather, the award-winning magazine of Women of the ELCA, offers three Bible studies and at least two devotionals each year. In addition, Gather offers a mix of articles, theological reflections, and stories of comfort and challenge that help readers grow in faith and engage in ministry and action.
Gathering together to study
The organization has created many in addition to the Bible studies published in its magazine. Resource books were popular in the first years of the organization. Themed series followed. For the last decade, the organization has produced program resources designed to assist women in living out the mission and purpose of the organization. Resources exist for personal or group use, for single or multiple sessions. Topics are as diverse as hospitality, discipleship, grief, and creating sacred spaces.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Women of the ELCA quickly shifted from offering primarily in-person events to hosting online events. A wide range of events have been offered including a Women’s History Month series; webinars on multiple topics including anti-racism and servant leadership; Blue Christmas services; and monthly author-hosted dinners sponsored by Café, Women of the ELCA’s online magazine and podcast for and with young adult women. Recordings of many of these events are available on the organization’s YouTube channel. All these efforts have been designed to sustain community and provide support in the challenging days of the pandemic.
The triennial convention is the highest legislative authority in Women of the ELCA. Between conventions, the 15-member executive board functions as the board of directors for the organization and the interim legislative authority.
The churchwide organization currently has a $1.6 million annual budget. Approximately $200,000 on the revenue side comes from Regular Offerings and $400,000 comes from Thankofferings, both of which are collected in congregational units. A monthly automatic giving program called Faithful Friends was created in the last decade to allow for sustainable giving through a credit card or withdrawals from a checking account. On the expense side of the annual budget, the churchwide organization has various operating expenses (including information technology, accounting, audits, and human resources costs) in addition to staff salaries and benefits along with program, communication, and governance costs.
The organization has approximately $7 million in assets held in endowments, a few of which were created during the life of this organization and the rest of which were passed down from predecessor organizations. The earnings on these endowments are used consistent with donor intent, ranging from scholarships to international mission. Approximately $5 million of the $7 million in assets fall into this restrictive category in which Women of the ELCA stewards the endowments created by others.
To learn more about 2122: Growing Katie’s Fund for the next 100 years, visit the Katie’s Fund page where you’ll also find information about contributing to the campaign.