Monday, October 11, 2010

Change of Seasons

“It’s a sad day for the ELCA.”

The is the sentiment held by many upon hearing the news that 60 full-time staff positions and 5 global mission positions have been eliminated from the Churchwide Organization. 

All over Facebook, people have expressed their prayers of grief, lament, and sadness for those who were affected by these cuts and for those who have been grappling with this decision in recent months.

I weep for the people that now face the dark uncertainty of unemployment in a crappy economy.  Many of the people who were laid off are friends of mine.  These are good people who have faithfully served the church in countless ways.  

If I put on my Pollyanna glasses, though, I think this could mark a very positive day for the ELCA and its people.  

Much of the conversation and research on the LIFT Task Force has pointed to something painfully radical:

The mark of a vibrant organization in a post-modern, open-source world is not a large national expression headquartered in a high-rise building, but instead consists of strong, healthy local expressions that network together for mission and ministry.

As such, the new Churchwide structure might be smaller, but that also might mean expanding the structure and function of congregations, conferences, synods, and networks.  My hope is that the people who have lost their jobs in the Churchwide organization can still live out their vocation through other expressions of the church.  

Becoming a smaller, nimbler church doesn’t come without pain and loss.  It also doesn’t mean that we have to say “goodbye forever” to the people who have served the larger church.  I pray that we can be bold enough, creative enough, daring enough to cast a vision for how we can embrace these 65+ individuals in the other aspects of the church.

At the risk of being cliche, I have spent the last few weeks dwelling in the Word that comes from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  I think it's instructive as we discern the new season our church is entering.

3For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up; 
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 
5 a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away; 
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.


  1. Well said, Erik. It's unfortunate that we had to arrive at the set of circumstances that expedited the needed restructuring, but I dare say that this was going to happen sooner or later regardless of other mitigating factors.

  2. You know what else is outdated? Laws that allow church workers to be ineligible for unemployment.

  3. Pastor Joelle,
    The laws at least in our state, allow church employers to choose whether or not to participate in unemployment. I'm guessing our CWO did not choose that expense. Unfortunately, 65 people now are without that safety net.

  4. There should not be exemptions for churches from the laws and putting it all on the employee is not the answer.

    I think perhaps there was a time when the church could take responsibility and take care of their employees perhaps even better than the government. That is no longer true so the church needs to be subject to the same laws as other corporations.


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