Sierra Pacific Synod
Congregations/ministries represented through gatherings/online survey: 90
Participants at gatherings: 111
Laity: 76 percent
Over 50 years: 55 percent
Under 50 years: 34 percent
Suburban: 57 percent
Urban: 23 percent
Rural/small town: 20 percent
Caucasian: 95 percent
Latino: 4 percent
African-American: 1 percent
Online survey responses: 118
Respondents under and over 50: 28 percent and 72 percent
Three synods responded to an e-mail â€¨request for experiences with self-studies:
• The Rocky Mountain Synod (169 congregations; covers more than 400,000 square miles) is in the midst of a multiyear emphasis—“Vision, Passion, Action.” A written survey and 15 gatherings drew 800 participants and revealed a need to focus on congregational conflict, find out what is life-giving in congregations and discover what God is calling Lutherans to in the Rocky Mountains. This resulted in a strategic plan.
“It is focusing us on what matters,” said Linda Bobbitt, synod council vice president. “The attitude throughout the synod has changed from one of feeling detached to working together and being more optimistic.”
• Before the 2006 election of Bishop Michael Keys, the Alaska Synod surveyed each of the 31 congregations dotting a 586,400-square-mile territory to determine priorities. As a result, Jan Brewer, synod council vice president, said Keys has tried to visit each congregation annually, helping congregations (some of which aren’t reachable by roads) to feel more connected to the synod.
The visits have improved relationships, but the council is concerned about Keys’ family time because of travel demands. Brewer said, “We’re looking now at how maybe the deans can help—maybe make them more a part of the synod’s work.”
Current plans call for a three-year study to facilitate the 2012 bishop’sâ€¨election.
• Metropolitan Washington, D.C. (77 congregations, 3,400 square miles) was one of 18 synods so far to do a survey (not a self-study) around the time of electing a new bishop (see the letter and audit).
The survey revealed synod strengths: economic and racial diversity, and a relatively small size—allowing the bishop, staff, pastors and congregations to work together. Its challenges include a lack of emphasis on youth and a more effective use of deans.
Sierra Pacific Bishop Mark Holmerud was elected in April after the synod completed its first-ever profile. The self-study was meant to focus conversation and help a new bishop consider priorities by identifying key concerns throughout the synod.
Synod participants and churchwide observers give the profile process high marks for connecting congregations and the bishop’s office—and for illuminating such challenges as structure and staffing in a large, geographically and economically diverse synod (see the Sierra Pacific's self-study blog). But Holmerud and some candidates for bishop were concerned that the profile might lead assembly voting members to expect the new bishop to singlehandedly fix synod problems.
|Bishop Mark Holmerud was elected after the Sierra Pacific Synod completed a self-study.|
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