The Board of Directors of the Evangelical Luthearn Church in America (ELCA) approved a spirited plan for mission growth during their council meeting in Chicago, Ill., April 17-18.
Under the name ELCA Churchwide Assembly, Vision for Mission, the 11-year program is the means to support the churchs global and domestic missions. Members across the nation are called to support the mission initiative by celebrative giving and by offering individual gifts and endowments.
This year, the suggested date for the churchwide offering is May 16, 2004. However, according to the presiding bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, these offerings can be celebrated "any time through the year.
The council also approved a Mission Funding Initiative to create a supplementary development services unit in the church.
"Mission funding has been a topic of discussion for some amount of time," said Linda J. Brown, council member, Fargo, N.D. Brown serves as chair of the council's budget and finance committee.
"The proposal is to create an integrated services unit that brings together" a reporting relationship among "the ELCA Foundation, Fund for Leaders in Mission, Mission Partners, Mission Founders, Missionary Sponsorships, World Hunger and Disaster Appeals, Vision for Mission and an existing development service desk," Brown told the council. "This involves knowing what the right hand and left hand are doing," she said.
"The intent is that there's an executive director and assistant to lead this unit. Funding for the unit has been included in the 2004 spending authorization," said Brown. Other parts of the initiative include an "integrated donor database" and an advisory panel of "experts in resource development," she said.
According to Hanson, the initiatives change the way the church will raise the funds, not what the mission groups do with the funds.
"This is a change about how we're raising funds, not about shifting existing programs, said Hanson.
Hanson later added that three distinctive features of the new unit is the "integration of development efforts," stronger partnership between the churchwide organization and the 65 synods of the church, and "raising new dollars."