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Lutherans gather in Greensboro to worship, learn and vote

SALISBURY – More than 500 voting members and guests from congregations of the North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America gathered for the June 2-3 assembly in Greensboro.

The assembly theme was “We Are Lutheran.”

The assembly included information on commemorations of this year’s 500th anniversary of the Reformation, including an ecumenical worship in Charlotte in September and another in Chapel Hill in October. Congregational resources are available on the synod website, and a Reformation 500 display provided every congregation with a newly published book on Martin Luther.

Bishop Timothy Smith’s reflections reminded the assembly that Jesus cannot be just one slice of the pie in our lives. “If there is any Jesus at all, Jesus is the whole pie,” he said.

He said the church’s vision of justice is rooted in the prophetic visions of scripture spoken through the likes of Amos and Micah.

A Christian vision of life together, Smith said, can embrace such ideas as being “first” and “great” only through the words of Jesus, who says to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26-27).

The assembly voted on synod council members, approved a budget and guidelines, and installed conference deans. The Rev. Sara Ilderton was installed as a new assistant to the bishop.

Resolutions were adopted to recognize three synod staff members on their retirement this summer: the Rev. Beth Kearney, assistant to the bishop; the Rev. John Mocko, director for Evangelical Mission; and Melanie Bookout, synod administrative assistant.

Rostered ministers celebrating significant anniversaries were recognized, and a brief service was held in memory of the eight ministers who had died since the 2016 assembly.

The Rev. Alfredo Oviedo, pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Hendersonville, served as chaplain. The Rev. Heidi Torgerson, director for Global Service in the church’s Global Mission unit, brought greetings to the assembly from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. She lifted up the “Top 10 Reasons to be an ELCA Lutheran.”

The assembly also heard reports from mission congregation pastors, the Rev. Shanitria Cuthbertson of Emmaus, Charlotte, and the Rev. Matt Simpkins, Christ-South, Charlotte, about their ministries.

The assembly gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro for a worship service including Holy Communion, a welcome to deacons, and a godspeed for retirees Kearney, Mocko and Bookout. Pastor Beth Kearney preached, and Bishop Smith presided.

N.C. Synod Vice President Diana Haywood offered final remarks, ending the assembly with a quote from Kearney’s sermon: “We are called to prophecy. We have this good news. Why would we not share it?”

More details about the assembly can be found at https://nclutheran.org/assembly-news/.

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