The Women of the ELCA executive board concluded its spring meeting, April 20-21, 2018, with a commitment to planning strategically and examining the organization’s business model.
Board members also voted to support their sisters in the Caribbean synodical women’s organization in the aftermath of hurricanes in 2017.
“While we have some issues to iron out related to setting and balancing budgets, we’re hopeful as we look for alternative ways to successfully carry out our mission and move into the future,” said Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director of Women of the ELCA.
Staff reductions in November 2017 created “a slight reconfiguration in some staffing,” Bushkofsky said. “We are without administrative support now, and, in fact, we are our own support. We are learning and doing fine.”
Ann Hightower, former executive assistant to Bushkofsky, assumed responsibility as director for budget and finance, a newly created position.
And, Jennifer DeLeon, an educator, grassroots organizer and consultant with faith-based organizations, joined Women of the ELCA as director for justice April 9.
Income and expenses
The executive board received a detailed report on fiscal year 2017, learning that expenses for the Tenth Triennial Convention came in under budget; that revenue from the 2017 Triennial Gathering fell short of expectations by approximately $122,000; and that annual operating expenses exceeded income in fiscal 2017.
The shortfalls were met by the board authorizing the use of money from two funds held by the organization, explained board treasurer Anna Sarver. “Some of these challenges can be attributed to a multi-year trend of fewer dollars coming to the churchwide organization in Thankofferings and Regular Offerings,” reported Sarver.
The board approved a budget and finance committee recommendation to create an exploratory committee to investigate Women of the ELCA’s current business model along with its mission and purpose, suggesting how best to fulfill that mission and purpose in a changing world. The New Ministries Fund will cover committee costs; it’s anticipated that the committee should be in place by October 2018 and offer its findings by October 2019.
“We are very aware our business model is not meeting our [financial] needs, and so we are recommending we have an exploratory committee to look at how we need to move forward as an organization,” said Sara Larson, chair of the budget and finance committee.
A time of grace
The board voted to extend “a time of grace” to the Caribbean Synodical Women’s Organization (CSWO) as it recovers from the 2017 hurricane season. The grace period relieves CSWO of its responsibilities and gives the churchwide organization leadership until the grace period ends. Efforts will also be made to coordinate support through the partner synods of South Central Synod of Wisconsin and the Slovak Zion Synod. Spiritual support will be offered to those remaining on the islands and those who have relocated to the mainland.
Additionally, half of the offering taken at the board meeting was given to Lutheran Disaster Response and designated for disaster relief in the Caribbean Synod.
The board viewed a Women of the ELCA strategic plan outlined in 2010, participated in a nonprofit snapshot quiz that assessed the health and function of the organization and agreed to move forward in updating the plan in future meetings.
“This will be an ongoing, disciplined process involving the board, staff and participants in Women of the ELCA,” Bushkofsky said.
Quoting a French writer and aviator, Bushkofsky said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish,” adding, “And we’re going to do more than just wish.”
In other matters, the board:
- Set the voting member count for the Eleventh Triennial Convention (2020) at 311 (excluding at-large members).
- Collected a total of $1,600 in offerings, $800 of which will go to Lutheran Disaster Response to be designated for disaster relief in the Caribbean Synod.
- Heard reports from representatives of the Office of the Presiding Bishop, the ELCA Conference of Bishops and Lutheran Men in Mission.
- Heard a report from ELCA Disaster Response.
- Held and participated in a Women and Justice Social Statement hearing.
- Received stewardship training from Audrey Riley, director for stewardship and development.
- Received racial justice training from Jennifer DeLeon, Women of the ELCA’s new director for justice.
- Referred to the executive director a request from the 2017 Conference of Presidents to more quickly address current and developing events that face the nation, one example being the fatal shooting of 17 school children in Parkland, Fla.
- Delayed action on a Conference of Presidents recommendation seeking a constitutional change to Article VII, Section 4, Item 1 “to state that in order to be a member of a synodical Women of the ELCA board, you must be a member of an ELCA congregation rather than a member of a Women of the ELCA unit.” The board is seeking further clarification on the recommendation and will report back in the October meeting.
The next board meeting is October 19-21, 2018, in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Feature photo: Clockwise, from top left: Keala Simeos, l, Sara Larson; board members iron out active unit details with Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director; Lynette Todd, left, and Karen Voris, laugh during a break; Becky Shurson, vice president, l-r, Lisa Plorin, president, and Laura Krueger, parlimentarian, look over business.