After 25 years “there is much to celebrate,” ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eatonwrote to church leaders. “And yet, we know God is calling us to do more. Share the gospel. Stop malaria. Start new congregations. Expand ministries to people living with disabilities. Break the cycle of hunger and poverty. Engage youth and young adults. Support our church’s future leaders.”
Speaking at a launch event designed to encourage 100 percent participation in financial commitments to the campaign from ELCA churchwide staff, Eaton talked about raising funds in challenging times. Her home synod of Northeastern Ohio raised more than $200,000 for the ELCA Malaria Campaign. “Ohio took a big hit during the recession,” she said. “But we realized something: We were not helpless. Neither were we poor. God is the one who will provide generously for us.”
Linked to the ELCA’s 25th anniversary, this first-ever comprehensive campaign was approved (671-242) by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to help sustain and expand the church’s ministries in the U.S. and around the globe. The assembly approved expanding the designated funding goals for the priorities lifted up in the campaign from $121 million over five years by another $77 million, to a total of $198 million.
ELCA members, congregations, synods and other groups will be able to make gifts above and beyond regular giving for existing and new ministry initiatives (see chart). Gifts can be designated for specific campaign priorities or for wherever the need is greatest.
There’s already quite a bit of passion behind the campaign, as voiced by campaign steering committee members.
Committee chairs Loren and MaryAnn Anderson, ELCA members from Minneapolis, believe the campaign is uniquely poised to strengthen the church’s mission in the world. “We’re healthiest as a church when we’re focused on our mission, more than our ministry,” Loren said. “It’s not that ministry isn’t important, but mission adds life and vitality to our ministries. So for us, this [campaign] is about mission.”
MaryAnn added, “It’s a kairos moment. The last 25 years of the ELCA have been about coming together and figuring out what we’re about. Now we’re able to grasp that and go forward in a way that will strengthen ELCA congregations and members with what we can do together. The ELCA’s campaign can have an incredible impact on our outreach to our communities.”
Loren points to what faithful Lutherans have done year after year in funding ELCA World Hunger and the ELCA Malaria Campaign. “These are the kinds of things we Lutherans have long done well,” he said. “ ‘Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA’ is a chance to strengthen our hand. For example, we desperately need the best pastors we can educate, which is a particular challenge now with the cost of education.”
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© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers