The global COVID-19 pandemic disrupted routines and plans for everyone, including Women of the ELCA. Schedules, budgets, conventions, and gatherings–all these and more have had to be changed quickly, sometimes more than once.
Our churchwide organization leaders are working out what the pandemic means for Women of the ELCA, now and into the future.
In its October 24, 2020, virtual meeting, the churchwide executive board proposed constitutional amendments, discussed decreased giving to Women of the ELCA, and considered the organization’s future, all in the light of the novel coronavirus.
In her report, President Lisa Plorin thanked executive board members for serving an extra year since COVID-19 required the Eleventh Triennial Convention’s postponement when their terms would have ended. The pandemic has “forced us to be flexible and ready to adapt to change at the spur of the moment,” she said.
The executive board approved a committee recommendation to propose amending Articles XII and XIII of the churchwide constitution clarifying lengths of office terms to answer questions arising from the postponing of the 2020 triennial convention. The proposed constitutional amendment would provide that the terms of churchwide officers and board members extend to “the next convention,” rather than specifying three-year terms.
The board further proposed a recommendation to amend churchwide and synodical organization constitutions and bylaws to allow for virtual conventions and board meetings, provided the number of participants constitutes a quorum.
These proposals will be sent to the Tenth Triennial Convention (2017) voting members for consideration. Those participants continue to function in their role as voting members until the next convention.
Budget and finances
At the end of August, Regular Offerings, Thankofferings, SWO convention offerings, and conference/cluster offerings total about $265,200, said Anna Sarver, churchwide treasurer. As of October 1, no Regular Offerings had been recorded for six SWOs in this fiscal year.
“We keep hoping our income will turn around, and by the end of the year, SWOs will encourage participants to remember to send in their offerings even though they are not meeting in person. The main thing we can do is pray.”
While expenses are down, revenue is down further. Income is lagging more now than it has in previous years, said Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director of Women of the ELCA.
“Our primary expenses in 2020 include the Conference of Presidents (held in February 2020), salary and benefits for staff, and our monthly payment on the service level agreement with the ELCA,” Bushkofsky said.
Sarver said, “It’s really hard to make a guesstimate of what our income will be at the end of the year.” About two-thirds of annual revenue is received in the final quarter of the fiscal year (November, December, and January).
Because the year-end revenue is challenging to predict, Sara Larson, chair of the Budget and Finance committee, requested extra time to provide the board with a 2021 budget proposal.
“The staff has done a fabulous job of working within expectations and obligations, and yet here we are,” she said. “There is a very strong likelihood there will be a reduction in services, programming, and staff.”
Larson said the committee is waiting for more information from the ELCA before drafting a 2021 budget proposal for the board’s consideration.
“Things will not and cannot continue as they have because the funding is not there,” she said. “I need people to understand that very clearly.”
Bushkofsky said that she is proud of what the staff has accomplished during the seven months of the pandemic and working at home.
“To be sure, we have great challenges ahead,” she said. “Most challenging for all us is the lack of surety about what the future looks like.”
Triennial Convention and gathering
Women of the ELCA’s triennial convention and gathering are scheduled for August 2021. Becky Shurson, executive board vice president, who works in event planning, said that the convention center and hotels in Phoenix “would likely consider it too early to negotiate any changes.”
The executive board plans to decide in late winter about the convention and gathering: whether either or both can go on as planned, be postponed or canceled, or held online.
Leadership training event
The executive board heard plans for a virtual event for all SWO leaders on Feb. 18-19, 2021, under the theme of “Pivot, Not Panic.”
“It’s been called Conference of Presidents for a long time,” said Plorin. “Since we’re doing it via Zoom, we’re turning it into a leadership event so all [synodical women’s organization] board members can be part of this leadership training. I’m way excited about this.”
In other action, the executive board
- Approved a recommendation to revise the board’s investment policy regarding unrestricted bequests and gifts of $25,000 or more with this language: “Based on the current financial situation of the organization, priority should be given to funding current expenses. Then consideration may be given to contribution to Katie’s Fund, the scholarship funds of Women of the ELCA, and the reserve fund of Women of the ELCA.” The previous policy had a more complicated formula to distribute gifts of $25,000 or more.
- Approved a request from the South-Central Wisconsin SWO to introduce constitutional amendments to require notice to voting members six months before either annual or biennial conventions, thus bringing Articles X.2.2. and X.2.4 of the model SWO constitution into congruence.
- Approved a recommendation that SWOs with questions about officer terms of service seek guidance from the churchwide executive director, with the further recommendation that “those who are in office remain in office until another is elected to that office.”
- Approved a resolution “in loving memory of Nancy Giddings,” a former churchwide executive board member (2014 through 2017) who died on March 28, 2020.
- Approved a recommendation to stay connected with each other virtually in various ways, including texts, virtual get-togethers, and through private Facebook conversations.
- Learned that all 21 members of the executive board have made at least one gift of record to the organization in the current term. As of October 12, board members and officers’ total giving since the end of the 2017 convention is $37,672.
- Heard reports from the Office of the Presiding Bishop, Conference of Bishops, Lutheran Men in Mission, and staff.
Gifts to the organization can be given online, by mail, or through our automatic giving program, Faithful Friends.
Make checks out to Women of the ELCA and write “Where needed most” in the memo line. Mail the check to:
Women of the ELCA
ELCA Gift Processing Center
P.O. Box 1809
Merrifield, VA 22116-8009