David D. Swartling bid farewell as ELCA secretary, heralding numerous changes in the church over the past six years while acknowledging "there always will be unfinished business."
"I frequently have referred to service as secretary of this church as a multidimensional odyssey," he said in his report. "This odyssey has consisted of geographical and spiritual journeys, and I value all I have learned along the way."
Swartling didn't seek re-election and will return to Washington where he was a partner in a law firm.
He called the ELCA's constitution both a legal and planning document that "provide(s) templates to facilitate both strategic and operational planning," thus making it a "missional document."
He pointed to the work of the office that keeps the church's record and implements Churchwide Assembly actions, among other duties. It also provides legal counsel and coordinates insurance coverage. Further, as secretary he served on the boards of two separately incorporated church units, Portico Benefit Services and Augsburg Fortress, Publishers.
Swartling said "development of lay leadership" that works with clergy is crucial, but "the level of collaboration [is] uneven." In addition, he cited a "lack of ability to develop and disseminate 'best practices' " that resulted in "painful lessons ...," such as embezzlements in six synods.
Still, Swartling said he and his wife, Barbara, "depart with the expectation that the Holy Spirit will continue to infuse and animate the work of this amazing church."
© 2015 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers