The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Synod? Nope.

Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana wants to be known as a mission area

Kevin Kanouse is a bishop without a synod, and that's the way he likes it. Since 2009, Kanouse and leaders in Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana have been striving to take their synod apart and experiment with something new.

A series of summit meetings led to their goal: to deconstruct traditional ideas about the synod and concentrate on leader formation. The process was named "DiscipleLife."

People here don't use the word "synod" anymore. Instead, they have landed on "mission area" as a way to describe the territory and congregations where mission is carried out from the western edge of the Texas Panhandle to Monroe, La. Call it a gimmick, but the non-synod has caught on, aided by the bishop's early dictum that anyone using the word "synod" in a council meeting or at an assembly would fork over $25 to ELCA World Hunger.

"The word 'synod' wasn't particularly meaningful to our people, and for some it carried bureaucratic, negative baggage, like 'the powers that be,'" said Stephanie Varnum, vice president of the mission area.

Kanouse said, "We used the name change to promote conversation about what it means to be disciples. We want to keep asking: What can our 120 congregations do better together than they can do alone?"

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February issue


Embracing diversity