For Women of the ELCA to survive and thrive into the future, it must look “radically different,” said the organization’s Executive Director Linda Post Bushkofsky.
“The structural model that we are using goes back to the 1860s and 70s. It doesn’t fit today’s time,” she said in her report to the executive board that met in Chicago, Oct. 17-19. “If there is going to be a women’s organization of the church into the future, it needs to look radically different than it does now.”
At its October meeting, the executive board heard a report from the exploratory committee and adopted an agenda for the Eleventh Triennial Convention (2020). It also heard a Gathering 2020 progress report and installed a new member, Dawn Wicklund of Superior, Wis., who replaced a resigning member.
An 11-member exploratory committee examining potential organizational and constitutional changes convened in early 2019 “to investigate Women of the ELCA’s current business model” and mission and purpose. Formation of the committee was adopted at the board’s April 2018 meeting to address dwindling participants and fewer gifts to the organization.
The exploratory committee offered several possible constitutional changes that will go before the triennial convention. Those include streamlining the organization’s governance process by reducing to three the number of voting members attending conventions beginning in 2023. A recommendation to reduce the size of the executive board from 21 to 14 will be decided on in a Dec. 6 executive board conference call.
Other recommendations from the exploratory committee include:
- combining the 2023 triennial convention with the 2023 Conference of Presidents’ meeting;
- an addition of a young adult advisor to the executive board;
- the possibility of using video messages rather than executive board members to address SWO conventions beginning in 2021;
- surveying targeted groups, such as clergy, young adults, and younger women; and
- extending the work of the exploratory committee for another year.
Several of these measures will be discussed in the Dec. 6 executive board conference call and forwarded to the Eleventh Triennial Convention (2020) in Phoenix, July 14-16.
In reporting on current giving trends, Executive Board Treasurer Anna Sarver said that “giving continues to lag behind 2018.”
Through August 2019, Thankofferings at $95,761 are $8,140 below what they were this time last year. Likewise, Regular Offerings at $122,662 are $41,312 below this time last year. SWO convention and Conference/Cluster offerings show a similar pattern, she said.
“So, in these four key categories of offerings, giving in 2019 is lagging behind 2018,” she said. “This could be just a timing issue, or it could signal the continuing decline in giving to the churchwide organization, which has been our trend for the last 20 years.”
Looking at the overall picture, she said, expenses through the end of August are just over $1 million, and revenue is about $627,000. The difference is approximately $450,000. In this same period in fiscal 2018, expenses were approximately $1.36 million, and revenue was just over $1 million. The difference then was $310,792, she said.
Budget and finance committee
Laura Krueger, acting chair of the budget and finance committee, expressed “deep concerns” about the financial trends of the organization. Chair Sara Larson was unable to attend the meeting.
“The committee has a serious, and I mean desperate concern, that [the organization] has not yet set aside any money for the triennial convention,” Krueger said. “And it doesn’t look like we are going to have any this year.” The convention price tag is usually about $750,000. That includes travel, room and board, and convention facilities for 311 voting members, she said.
The board adopted a committee recommendation to move a total of $461,791.56 from the New Ministries Fund to cover money owed to the ELCA for 2018 expenses not covered by revenue.
Krueger said the move would reduce the New Ministries Fund by more than half. “And we might have to use the rest of it to cover expenses in the fiscal year 2019. So, there won’t be a lot going forward to do new ministries.”
The budget and finance committee was granted an extension for the preparation of budgets for FY2020 and FY2021. The committee will meet November 15 to receive additional research and strategic analysis by staff and then the committee will present draft budgets to the full board during its December 6 conference call.
In the Development Committee report, board members learned that:
- All 21 executive board members have made at least one gift of record in the current 2017-2020 triennium for a total of $22,753;
- Of 21 executive board members, 18 give automatically to Faithful Friends. Learn more about Faithful Friends and how to give automatically to the organization.
In other action, the board:
Presented Wyvetta Bullock, assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop and executive for administration, with a photo collage and resolution of thanks. The resolution offers Bullock, who retires Jan. 31, 2020, appreciation for her “untiring service to Women of the ELCA.”
- Approved the Eleventh Triennial Convention (2020) memorials committee and reference and counsel committee members and elected a nominating committee.
- Approved a recommendation to forward to the Eleventh Triennial Convention an endorsement of Thursdays in Black as approved by the Churchwide Assembly in 2019.
- Approved a recommendation to forward to the Eleventh Triennial Convention an affirmation of the apology at the Churchwide Assembly in 2019 of the ELCA to people of African descent for historical complicity in slavery and its enduring legacy of racism.
- Approved a recommendation that Women of the ELCA participants be encouraged to study the Explanation of the ELCA to People of African descent.
- Approved a plan to continue to reach out to presidents of synodical women’s organizations to strengthen relationships.
- Approved a recommendation to add a conversation about gender to the April 2020 executive board plenary agenda.
- Approved changes to the Florida-Bahama SWO constitution.
- Received racial justice training and participated in a stewardship education workshop;
- Heard reports from the Office of the Presiding Bishop, Lutheran Men in Mission, and staff.
Terri Lackey is director for communication for Women of the ELCA. Photos by Elizabeth McBride and Terri Lackey. Feature photo, clockwise from top left, Dinah Dutta, left, and Karen Voris; Lydia Davila, from left, Angela Bell, and Lois Bylund; Linda Post Bushkofsky; and Dawn Wicklund, left, Kandy Pflaster, and Lynette Todd.