Archbishop Musa Filibus, president of the Lutheran World Federation and archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, reminds assembly voting members that the Lutheran church is an international church.

By Bob Hulteen

Bishop Ann Svennungsen expresses gratitude to the assembly after her second-ballot election to another six-year term as bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod.

Under the theme, “I Will Pour out My Spirit,” more than 450 voting members of congregations participated in the 2018 Minneapolis Area Synod (MAS) Assembly May 4-5, 2018, at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ramsey, Minnesota. The assembly keynote speakers were Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus, judicatory leader of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria (LCCN), one of the MAS’s companion synods, and ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.

The 2018 synod assembly included a bishop’s election. The Rev. Ann Svennungsen was re-elected as bishop, and will serve a second six-year term. In the final ballot, Svennungsen received 337 votes, exceeding the 75% threshold by two votes. Rev. Jeffrey Nehrbass, pastor of Gethsemane, Minneapolis, received 50 votes; Rev. Connie Tiede, pastor at Zion, Anoka, received 42 votes; and Rev. Gary Kinkel, pastor at St. John, Shakopee, received 28 votes. These four candidates were all nominated at conference assemblies on February 25; all additional nominees on the ecclesiastical ballot (cast at the opening of the assembly) eventually withdrew.

“Drawing on the Acts 2:1-18 text about the pouring out of God’s Spirit, Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus explained, ‘The challenge for elders will be seeing a vision that doesn’t match what was comfortable and what worked in the past.’”

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve as your bishop for another six years,” reflected Svennungsen. “I have a deep sense of calling to do this work. I look forward to work with our continuing and our newly elected leadership.”

Ms. Felicia Boone, a member at Calvary Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, was elected Vice President of the synod. She has served on the Synod Council for two years, replacing Ee Thao who resigned when her job responsibilities changed. Boone succeeds Mr. Craig Johnson, a member at Our Saviour’s Lutheran in Minneapolis, as Vice President.

Newly elected Synod Vice President Felecia Boone addresses the assembly, including her out-going predecessor Craig Johnson (seated center).

Filibus, traveling to the United States with his wife, Pastor Ruth Filibus, reminded assembly participants in his first plenary presentation that the spirit of the Reformation is never static and “it exists across the entire world.” Drawing on the Acts 2:1-18 text about the pouring out of God’s Spirit, he explained, “The challenge for elders will be seeing a vision that doesn’t match what was comfortable and what worked in the past.”

Luther Seminary Artist-in-Residence Joe Davis offers a creative encouragement assembly participants to be one body in Christ.

“If culture and cuisine don’t define us, what does?” asked Eaton. She answered her own question: “The gospel!” Perhaps anticipating the election of two female African-American bishops within the next 24 hours, Eaton added, “Let’s not talk about being ‘colorblind’; let’s be color-amazed. Diversity is a beautiful gift from God!” (The Rev. Patricia Davenport was elected bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod on May 4 and the Rev. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld was elected bishop of the South Central Wisconsin Synod on May 5.)



SPOKEN WORD ARTIST Joe Davis added his own sense that “the rebirth of empathy” might be able to happen if we “exchange hate for humility.” In one of his most famous lines, he reminds it that there “is no grace period. There’s only grace. Period.”

Former Luther Seminary professor Michael Chan jumps into Isaiah 61 and Luke 4.

Dr. Michael Chan, formerly a professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, led Bible studies. Referring to himself as a possible “Lutheracostal,” he declared that “God is in the business of raising the dead.” His insight that “praying, ‘Come, Holy Spirit,’ invites us to our own death” was augmented by the encouragement that this “apocalyptic age … is pregnant with God’s promises.”

Eaton, who preached for the opening worship and oversaw the bishop election process, offered “People can trust that our service isn’t just an attempt to get into heaven. Who wants to be the unsuspecting victim of good works?”

“’If culture and cuisine don’t define us, what does?’ asked Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.”


IN ADDITION TO BUDGET and by-law changes, the voting members discussed and approved a resolution concerning the prevention of gun violence and a memorial asking ELCA Churchwide to support efforts to recognize the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women, which will be recognized in 2020.

The gun violence prevention resolution asked for the formation of a task force to develop resources to aid discussion about preventing gun violence. It also asked the Office of the Bishop to encourage synod leaders to speak out against gun violence.

Kendrick Hall (left) explains policy proposals supported by Lutheran Advocacy–Minnesota to the Rev. Mike Rusert.

The memorial on commemorating the ordination of women by the predecessor bodies of the ELCA offered a number of ways that various organizations and institutions related to the ELCA could both recognize the anniversary and work to make ordained ministry more tenable for women. It also recognized special contributions and barriers for women of color as ordained leaders.

“Ms. Felicia Boone, a member at Calvary Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, was elected Vice President of the synod.”

Jonathan Rundman invited members of Bread of Life Deaf (BOLD) Lutheran Church to join him on stage to sign along with his singing.

One of the most positive new elements provided at the assembly this year was childcare for participants. More young children and babies attended this year’s synod assembly than any in memory, according to a voting member who has attended many assemblies over the years.

Building on a commitment to work toward becoming a zero-waste assembly, 25 bags of compost, four bags of recycling, and only two bags of trash were gathered during the assembly. “I love that organics recycling has really caught on at our synod assemblies now; it’s clear that people get how it works and are still excited about it,” said Emilie Bouvier, the synod’s congregational organizer for environmental justice. “It really wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of our stellar EcoFaith volunteers and the gracious help of the staff at Lord of Life.”

Jonathan Rundman and his band (including his children) provided music during the opening worship and throughout the synod assembly.

The 2019 Synod Assembly will again be held at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ramsey on May 3-4.

All photos by Michele Jokinen: