What is a Synod?
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is one church in three expressions – congregations, synods and the churchwide organization. These three expressions are interconnected and interdependent.
Our English word synod comes from two Greek words syn + hodos that literally means “a way together.” In and through synods, congregations and other ministries “walk together.”
The Slovak Zion Synod expression of the ELCA cares for the health and vitality of Christ’s Church in member congregations from New York to Chicago. The congregations of the Synod meet in assembly to elect a bishop to be their pastor, and the bishop appoints staff members to help carry out the varied ministries of that office. Our Synod is really all of us – congregations, pastors, individual members, as well as the many other ministries which we support – walking together as Lutherans to witness to Christ’s presence among us and in our communities.
Our Synod is a network of relationships and resources that connect you and your congregation to others to provide support and the tools for ministry in the 21st Century. The bishop, staff, deans and a multitude of teams and committees help build bridges among congregations and leaders to fulfill our purpose:
“Activated by the Holy Spirit, we equip the saints and congregations for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ.”
– Ephesians 4:11-13
Great, but what does the “synod” do?
The synod organization – bishop, staff, council and committees — serves to link congregations to each other and to their common mission. These connections foster collaboration between congregations, call and equip leaders for ministry, bring congregations and people together to carry out Christ’s commission to make disciples and meet human needs, and build ecumenical and interfaith bridges with other Christian denominations and other faith traditions.
Just as congregations have pastors to shepherd them, the synod elects a bishop, who is constitutionally the pastor to the whole synod. The bishop and staff provide pastoral care and oversight to the congregations and members of the synod as well as to the lay leaders and pastors on its roster.
The Office of the Bishop:
- — walks with congregations in times of transition and conflict;
- — helps congregations keep their focus on God’s mission;
- — assists rostered leaders in times of life changes or ministry crisis.
The ministry of the synod is broad, and seeks to equip our congregations and leaders to live out their baptismal and vocational callings.
Candidacy (vocations) helps individuals discern their call to service in the Church, and provides a process to nurture personal and spiritual growth that parallels seminary education. The candidacy committee must approve all candidates for ordination, consecration or commissioning within the church.
Communications/mission interpretation tells the story of the Church’s ministries to our congregations and members, and to the world at large. Our Communications Desk produces materials (including what you are now reading) that interpret the work we do together, and publish them via email (SZS News Service), Internet, apps, print, video and in-person presentations. In addition, communications provides teaching and sharing opportunities for congregations, works with print and broadcast media to tell the story of our work in the name of Christ to the public, and consults with congregations about working with the media in a crisis. Communications/mission interpretation provides resources and occasions which strengthen spiritual formation and foster mission outreach.
The Office of the Treasurer stewards the resources that you provide to fund the ministries of the larger church, and which is used for synodical, churchwide, and global ministries, and provides guidance to congregational treasurers and finance committees.
Our global vision is tended by our Ecumenical & International Relations Committee, which oversees our strong partnerships with the Lutheran Churches in Central & Eastern Europe, and lifts up global concerns, including world hunger and disaster response, in the life and ministry of our congregations.
How is all this ministry funded?
In the ELCA, synods are primarily funded by partnership support offerings from congregations and members. The expectation in the ELCA is that congregations at least tithe — that is, give at least 10% of their regular giving receipts – to the work of their Synod.
In turn, the Synod passes on a portion of these receipts to the ELCA for ministries of the churchwide organization. Through our prayerful and generous support of ministries outside our local congregations, the congregations of our Synod "walk together" to make a difference in the name of Christ to others in need. Indeed, showing the love of Christ to others never empties the heart, nor does giving empty the hand.