In five months, the voting members from the 89 congregations of the Grand Canyon Synod will gather for the thirty-first annual assembly. We will meet June 14-16 at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Oro Valley, Arizona.

A key assembly decision will be the calling of the sixth bishop of this synod. Work is under way on the "synod profile" that will help inform voting members and others as we prepare for the assembly.

In early December, the last in the series of 2017 conference gatherings was held. By mid-December, the online survey conducted by the ELCA's Research and Evaluation staff was completed.

Observations offered by participants in the conference gatherings and the online survey will be part of the "profile."

Of the 209 survey responses, at least one came from 60 of the synod's 89 congregations. Ten responses came from Lord of Grace Church in Tucson and eight each from Holy Trinity Church in Chandler, Arizona, and Reformation Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Some 30 percent identified themselves in the survey as pastors or deacons; 60 percent as lay persons; and the remainder as "other."

In the survey, 55 percent reported they were 65 years or older. Of the deacons and pastors, 58 percent were between the ages of 41 and 64.

Of the key responsibilities of the bishop,

  1. 19 percent highlighted providing pastoral care for congregations and ministers;

  2. 13 percent, leadership recruitment and support;

  3. 12 percent, encouraging congregations to respond to human need, work for justice, care for the sick, and participate responsibly in society; and

  4. 12 percent, helping to develop new ministries and for the redevelopment of existing ministries.

Expectations of the bishop include good leadership and pastoral care as well as being a nurturing presence. Much greater detail will be provided in the forthcoming synod profile, which will be available on the Grand Canyon Synod website.

Large Territory

You may be interested to learn that 20 of the ELCA's 65 synods encompass 10,000 square miles or fewer. The smallest is the Saint Paul (Minnesota) Area Synod with 1,535 square miles.

By contrast, the Grand Canyon Synod covers 153,781 square miles. The almost 45,000 members of this synod account for only 0.05 percent of the general population of nine million. A continuing challenge in the years ahead is this: the membership of ELCA congregations is not keeping pace with the substantial increases in the population of this region.

Blessings for the New Year

God bless you, your congregation, this synod, and the entire Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in this new calendar year of 2018.

Sincerely in Christ,

The Rev. Lowell G. Almen

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