With an unprecedented number of new board members elected at the spring annual convention, six to be exact and all lay members, there were several new faces and names at the board of directors' meeting in New Brighton, Minn., on June 29-30. With the new faces came a variety of talents, backgrounds and specialties that all seem very much handpicked for engaging in the leadership of the WordAlone Network in the near and distant future. Areas of expertise and experience include the fields of business, education, medicine and law.
This change in configuration will very much help WordAlone to be more representative of Lutherans in the local churches and will help to make the WordAlone organization more effective. It is a refreshing new start as we move forward with the implementation of the WordAlone Institute, prepare for the churchwide assembly in August, concentrate on the production of educational resources, remodel board operations and consider ways to nurture and grow the Network for the next few years and beyond.
A full report of the current status of the launching of the WordAlone Institute for educating lay leaders, pastors and professors was brought to the board by Dennis Bielfeldt, the Director. Encouraging and hopeful news was shared about the recent kick-off event held at Mount Carmel in Alexandria, Minn., which included a banquet, preaching by Dr. Jim Nestingen and classes led by Dr. Steve Paulson. The numbers of those who attended were very encouraging – a good mix of laypersons, pastors and theologians. The evaluation of the event itself and support for the establishing of the Institute were high.
The Institute's first class in Lutheran theology will be offered in Sept. and be taught by Jim Nestingen at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Fridley, Minn. We are hopeful that the mix of people from all aspects of the church that were present at the Mt. Carmel event will be the paradigm for our course offerings in the future.
The board appointed a task force to begin a study of the future possibilities of how the Institute will be legally formulated and how it will be autonomous in function but related to the WordAlone Network.
The board approved the part-time employment of Pastor Steven King for the production of educational resources for the WordAlone Network. Pastor King will join the staff on August 1.
Mark Chavez, director of WordAlone and Lutheran CORE, the coalition for reform that includes 5 independent reform groups within the ELCA, reported on activity leading up to the churchwide assembly this August in Chicago. Results of synod assembly actions were summarized and time was spent reviewing plans and strategies for the churchwide assembly efforts of the WordAlone Network together with Lutheran CORE.
In an effort to be proactive and not reactive, Lutheran CORE, with WordAlone's support, has planned a post-churchwide assembly gathering on Sept. 28 in Chicago. This meeting will be a time to review what happens at the churchwide assembly, prepare for election of voting members to the next assembly and plan for 2009 and beyond.
Harry Wendt, President of Crossways International introduced the board to Crossways International's global educational ministry. Future possibilities for working together more closely were proffered.
Closely related to this is the vision for a center for Lutheran education and ministry. The staff is considering possibilities for locating such a "center" within a church dedicated to deeper theological reflection and exploration of a new paradigm for engaging in the call of the church in these post-modern times. The center, which would be theologically centered and confessionally committed, would model extended ministry that is heavy on relationships and light on hierarchy and institutionalization. Such a "center" would bring together the ministries of the various independent Lutheran agencies, which are already effectively doing ministry, into a loose association for the benefit of the local churches. The old paradigm of a centralized headquarters with many divisions has sadly enough proven to be costly and ineffective. The hope is that change can come by modeling a new way of organizing and actually getting on with doing the ministry, not just talking about it.
WA's fall theological conference, at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake, Minn., on Nov. 11-13, was discussed. The conference will focus on the work of the Holy Spirit. The board also made suggestions for a theme and speakers for the annual convention in April 2008. Look for more information about these events to come soon.