Several women gathered in January to discuss how to best fulfill Women of the ELCA’s mission and purpose in a changing world.
An 11-woman exploratory committee met in St. Louis, Jan. 4-6, and centered its work on investigating the organization’s current business model. The committee was created at the behest of the churchwide executive board’s budget and finance committee at the board’s April 2018 meeting.
“On my flight home [from the meeting], I had some time to reflect over the course of the weekend and felt a full and grateful heart,” said Lisa Plorin, churchwide president for the 2017-2020 triennium. “It was inspiring to be in the presence of women from all corners of the United States who have the same passion for this organization as I do.”
Plorin said she is looking forward to seeing how the committee’s plans grow to ensure the life and vitality of the Women of the ELCA. Plorin supported the work of the committee in an ex officio capacity.
The committee began its work examining the organization’s governance structure, communication methods, constitutional structure and financial realities. Following a small group brainstorming session, the Rev. Leila Ortiz, chaplain for the committee and an assistant to the bishop in the Metro D.C. Synod, led a Bible study based on 2 Kings 5.
She reminded committee members that everyone is relevant to the issue. Ortiz asked, “Who is not at this table? Who could give the organization new life? Who has wisdom to share?” Like Naaman’s experience in the biblical passage, the process of bringing about new life will likely be messy, Ortiz said and may take several different approaches.
Ortiz offered the committee members a repeated question over their weekend meeting: What must die so Women of the ELCA can come alive again?
The many assets of Women of the ELCA
The committee listed the many assets of Women of the ELCA: people (participants, subscribers to Gather magazine, elected leaders, staff), publications (Gather, Interchange/Intercambio, Bold Connections, Daily Grace, Café, program resources, synodical newsletters); giving to annual budget, Katie’s Fund, restricted funds, synodical-held funds, congregational unit-held funds, expectation of planned gifts, intellectual property).
Over the next several months, the committee will engage participants in a variety of ways, asking questions and gathering data. The engagement begins in February at the annual Conference of Synodical Presidents. In advance of the conference, synodical women’s organization presidents will be asked to consider the following three questions:
- If you could make changes to our constitutions to encourage more participation in the organization, what would they be?
- The triennial convention costs approximately $2,400 per voting member. Annual revenue from offerings has been insufficient to pay for the convention over the past two triennium. How could your SWO assist with the costs?
- Why is this organization important to you? If this organization went away tomorrow, would you miss it? Would it matter? Why?
The committee broke into two sub-groups, one to examine constitutional issues and one to create assessment tools. Following this in-person meeting, the committee will continue its work by email and conference calls. The committee will offer an interim report to the churchwide executive board at its April 2019 meeting, with another report scheduled for its October 2019 meeting.
The following women are serving on the committee:
- Ms. Cindy Arnett, Sierra Pacific
- Ms. Desiree Cole, Metro Chicago
- Ms. Sheena Foster, Metro D.C.
- The Rev. Susan Haukaas, Eastern N.D.
- The Rev. Gwen King, Southeastern Pa.
- Ms. Laura Krueger, Grand Canyon and a member of the churchwide executive board, 2017-2020
- Ms. Sara Larson, Southwestern Minnesota and a member of the churchwide executive board, 2017-2020
- Ms. Raeann Purcell, Florida-Bahamas
- Ms. Phyllis Rude, Alaska
- Ms. Jody Smiley, Virginia, and chair of the committee
- Ms. Camille Trott, Metro D.C.
Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director of Women of the ELCA, and Gabriela Contreras, director for meeting planning, also attended the meeting.
Photo, left to right, front row, Lisa Plorin, Susan Haukaas; second row, Sheena Foster, Cindy Arnett, Camille Trott, Jody Smiley; third row, Raeann Purcell, Gwen King, Laura Krueger, Phyllis Rude; back row: Sara Larson, Desiree Cole, Leila Ortiz