Associate in Ministry (AIM)
Associates in Ministry are called and commissioned for service in congregations, agencies, schools and institutions of the ELCA. Their primary areas of service are education, youth, spiritual formation, campus ministry, outdoor ministry, music and the arts, administration, service and general ministry.
One of the two major sacraments in the ELCA, the other being Holy Communion. In baptism God makes us His children, members of His church, and the Body of Christ; done with water in the name of the Trinity.
This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life.
A bishop is an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the ELCA, given the responsibility to provide pastoral care and leadership in a synod. The bishop is the chief executive officer of the synod, elected to a term of six years and may be reelected.
A person who assists the synodical bishop in carrying out the mission and ministry of a synod. A bishop’s assistant or associate may be an ordained minister, a rostered lay minister, or a layperson.
An ordained minister of Word and Sacrament who is a teacher of the faith of this church and provides leadership for the life and witness of this church. The Presiding Bishop is the chief executive officer of the churchwide organization, and is the chief ecumenical officer of the church. The presiding bishop is elected to a six-year term by the Churchwide Assembly and may be reelected.
The Book of Concord
The Book of Concord is the 16th century statement of the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (the most recent edition was published in 2000). Within it is the Augsburg Confession, which the ELCA accepts as a “true witness to the Gospel,” as well as other confessional writings that the ELCA considers “further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church.”
A call is the official invitation to a pastor, deaconess, diaconal minister or associate in ministry as he or she begins serving a congregation, institution or agency of the church. Rostered leaders may also be called to serve in other settings.
The church’s ministry in the setting of colleges and universities. Persons on any of the four rosters may be called to positions in campus ministry.
Candidacy is the process through which individuals may explore their own sense of being called to public leadership in the church. The candidacy process includes the period of discernment, preparation, and concludes when a person is approved for service. Synods are responsible for the candidacy process.
A person officially in the process of preparation for rostered ministry in the ELCA. A formal positive entrance decision is made by a synod candidacy committee in order to be designated as a candidate. The candidate must then complete all requirements and also receive an endorsement decision and an approval decision.
Derived from a Greek word meaning universal and may therefore be used to apply to all Christians. When it is used this way, it begins with a lower case "c"; when used with a capital "C" it is usually referring to the Roman Catholic Church.
A pastor or theologically trained lay leader serving in an institutional setting such as a hospital, nursing home, prison, or college.
This word is used to refer both to a local congregation (for example, Trinity Lutheran Church) and to the organization that includes congregations, institutions and agencies (for example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).
The Church Council of the ELCA is its board of directors, serving as the interim legislative authority between meetings of the Churchwide Assembly. The Church Council meets at least two times each year, and is composed of the four churchwide officers (presiding bishop, vice-president, secretary and treasurer) and 33 other persons, elected to six year terms by the Churchwide Assembly.
The Churchwide Assembly is the highest legislative authority of the churchwide organization. It reviews the work of the churchwide officers and churchwide units. It establishes churchwide policy and adopts the budget for the churchwide organization. It has the sole authority to amend the constitution and bylaws of the ELCA. The Churchwide Assembly meets biennially in regular session.
The churchwide organization functions interdependently with the congregations and synods of the ELCA. It is responsible for developing churchwide policy, standards for leadership, including ordained and rostered lay ministries, and the coordination of the work of the ELCA both globally and throughout the territory of the ELCA.
In the ELCA, the term “clergy” is normally used to describe those who are ordained pastors of the church.
A term reserved for the rite by which an Associate in Ministry moves on to the roster of the ELCA. A Commissioned Associate in Ministry is then called to a particular place for service.
One of the two major sacraments in the ELCA, the other being Holy Baptism. In Holy Communion, Lutherans recall the saving acts of God and enter communion with Christ and Christians of all times and places. In this Sacrament we are fed spiritually with the Body and Blood of Christ.
Conference of Bishops
The Conference of Bishops is composed of the bishops of the 65 synods, the presiding bishop, and the secretary of the ELCA. The conference meets at least two times each year and is a forum in which goals, objectives, and strategies may be developed and shared concerning pastoral leadership, care and counsel for the synods.
Confession of Faith
The ELCA Confession of Faith confesses the Triune God, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the written Word of God, accepts the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church, and accepts the Augsburg Confession and the other confessional writings in the Book of Concord as valid interpretations of the faith of this church.
A congregation is a community of baptized persons whose existence depends on the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments and whose purpose is to worship God, to nurture its members, and to reach out in witness and service to the world. To this end it assembles regularly for worship and nurture, organizes and carries out ministry to its people and neighborhood, and cooperates with and supports the wider church to strive for the fulfillment of God’s mission in the world.
A term reserved for the rite by which Deaconesses and Diaconal Ministers move onto the roster of the ELCA. A Consecrated Deaconess or Diaconal Minister is then called to a particular place for service.
Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions
The basic commitments of the ELCA as well as its organizational outline, structural patterns, and rubrics of governance are expressed by its constitutions, bylaws, and continuing resolutions. These documents govern the life of the ELCA as congregations, synods, and churchwide organization.
A category of rostered lay minister in the ELCA and an outgrowth of the European Deaconess movement of the 19th century. ELCA deaconesses are called and consecrated, and serve in congregations, agencies and institutions of the ELCA. They are members of the Deaconess Community of the ELCA, and participate in the life of that community.
The official community for deaconesses of the ELCA. This community has its offices in Chicago, Illinois.
A category of rostered lay minister in the ELCA, established in 1993. ELCA diaconal ministers are called and consecrated, and serve in congregations, agencies and institutions of the ELCA. Their focus for ministry is the extension of the church’s ministry of witness and care into the world.
This term is used to refer to the organizational and legislative functions of the church.
The beliefs and practices of those who desire and work for world-wide unity and cooperation among Christian churches.
Endorsement is a step in the ELCA candidacy process in which the synod candidacy committee evaluates and affirms the candidate's continued growth in preparation for, and sense of call to, rostered ministry. It is also part of the approval process of those preparing for ministries in specialized pastoral care and clinical education.
From the Greek word for “gospel” and its German derivative. Original designation for the early reformers that is still used in German-speaking areas for non-Roman and non-Orthodox Christians. Historically unrelated to twentieth-century evangelical movements in the United States.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The name, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as used herein, refers, in general references, to this whole church, including its three primary expressions–congregations, synods, and the churchwide organization. The name, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is also the name of the corporation of the churchwide organization to which specific references are made herein.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship
Evangelical Lutheran Worship is the new primary worship resource for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and was published in paper and electronic versions in October 2006. Evangelical Lutheran Worship replaces the Lutheran Book of Worship.
FCTE (First Call Theological Education)
First Call Theological Education (FCTE) is a three-year structured program of theological education designed to assist newly called leaders in the transition to rostered ministry.
ELCA chaplains serving in Federal Prisons, Veterans Administration hospitals, and the Armed Services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard).
The Fisher’s Net makes use of computers and the internet to deliver theological education courses and resources to learners worldwide.
A “Full Communion” relationship between denominations is not organic union between church bodies. It is an acknowledgement that there is enough agreement on matters of faith and life between denominations to commit to joint ministry, witness, and service, as well as mutual accountability in making decisions about church life.
The gospel is the gracious good news of the Triune God. This news tells us of God the Father who has created and sustains everything that is; of Jesus Christ who lived, died and was raised from death to give us life and salvation; of God the Holy Spirit who gives us faith and makes us holy.
Hein-Fry Lecture Series
The Hein-Fry Lecture Series is an endowed theological lecture series of the ELCA fostering original scholarship and enriching theological dialogue throughout the church and is coordinated by the Vocation and Education unit in cooperation with the eight seminaries of the ELCA.
Horizon Internship Grant
The Horizon Internship Program is a cooperative venture of the Vocation and Education unit, synods, and seminaries of the ELCA.
Word and Sacrament ministry by a pastor serving temporarily in a congregation, following the resignation or retirement of a congregation’s pastor. This ministry is sometimes done by a person who has received special interim ministry training.
A term that refers to all the people of God. This word typically distinguishes a person from one who is ordained by the church. A related category is “lay rostered,” which describes those who serve in leadership roles as an associate in ministry, deaconess or diaconal minister.
Life Long Learning
Sometimes referred to as continuing education, this concept describes the formal and informal learning done by persons of all ages. The ELCA expects all of its pastors, associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers to engage in 50 hours of lifelong learning per year.
Martin Luther, 1483-1546, was trained as a priest and a monk. His efforts to bring reform and renewal to the church were part of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
Lutheran Book of Worship
Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) was the primary worship resource for use within the ELCA and its liturgical texts and patterns of worship are considered the norm within the ELCA. It is supplemented by the worship resources, With One Voice (1995), Libro De Liturgia Y Cantico (1998), and This Far by Faith (1999).
The beliefs and form of church governance associated with the 16th century reformation and Martin Luther. There are presently over 150 Lutheran church bodies around the world with more than 66 million members.
Individuals become members of the ELCA through local congregations by baptism, confirmation, affirmation, or transfer.
Used both as a synonym for the word “pastor” and as a reference to the work of all the baptized. See Pastor and Ministry in Daily Life.
The ELCA affirms the universal priesthood of all its baptized members and commits itself to the equipping and supporting of all its members for their ministries in the world and in this church.
Ministry in Daily Life
God's people fulfill their priesthood in a variety of ways. Some — the clergy — are given special offices of preaching the Word and administering the sacraments. But the laity have their priestly functions too. According to Luther, they are to pray for each other. They are to listen to their sisters' and brothers' confessions of sin and cries of distress. They are to speak God's cheering word of forgiveness and consolation. They are to be agents of God's overflowing goodness by ministering to the poor and oppressed.
Occasional Services, published in 1982, is a companion to Lutheran Book of Worship and provides services for specific occasions and specific situations, as distinguished from services of worship of a more general character.
The ELCA confesses that within the people of God and for the sake of the Gospel ministry entrusted to all believers, God has instituted the office of ministry of Word and Sacrament. To carry out this ministry, the ELCA calls and ordains qualified persons.
The rite by which a pastor moves on to the roster of the ELCA after being called to a particular congregation for service.
The normal term used to describe an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament. A parish pastor serves in a congregational setting. The term pastor may be used to describe an ordained minister serving in a non-congregational setting as well.
One of the key public actions of the church. Preaching is the proclamation of the texts of the Bible, exploring the Word of God’s grace for the church throughout the ages, and speaking the Word of God’s love for each individual.
See Bishop, Presiding
Principles of Organization
The ELCA understands itself as one church, recognizing that all power and authority in the Church belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. The congregations, synods, and churchwide organization of the ELCA are interdependent partners sharing responsibility in God’s mission.
A word most frequently used to describe the religious, social, political, and economic movement in the 16th century that led to the establishment of various churches including the Lutheran Church.
One of the branches of the 16th century reformation. Denominations that are part of the reformed tradition include various Reformed Churches, Presbyterian Church and United Church of Christ.
There are nine geographic regions within the ELCA, recognized as a partnership among groups of synods within the region and the churchwide organization.
Among the principles of organization, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has determined that at least 60 percent of the members of assemblies, councils, committees, boards and other organizations shall be laypersons; that, as nearly as possible, the lay members shall be 50 percent female and 50 percent male, and that, where possible, the representation of ordained ministers shall be both female and male. It is also determined that a minimum goal of 10 percent of the membership of its assemblies, councils, committees, boards, or other organizational units be persons of color and/or persons whose primary language is other than English.
The official listings of those who have been ordained, consecrated or commissioned and are called to service, on leave from call, retired, or disabled.
Sacraments are rites of the church that communicate the promises of God through words and physical means. Lutherans celebrate the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
The Use of the Means of Grace (Augsburg Fortress, 1997) was adopted for “guidance and practice” by the Fifth Biennial Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA as a “statement on the practice of Word and Sacrament.”
A word often used to refer to the Bible, the sacred scriptures include the 66 books that are divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The institutions that offer theological education and professional training to leaders in the church and to others interested in graduate-level study of theology. The ELCA has eight seminaries.
There are 65 synods in the ELCA. Each synod, in partnership with the churchwide organization, bears primary responsibility for the oversight of the life and mission of the ELCA in its territory.
The Synod Assembly is the highest legislative authority of the synod, with a regular meeting held at least biennially (with most synod assemblies meeting annually). All ordained ministers and all rostered lay ministers are voting members, as are representative lay members from every congregation within the synod.
TEEM (Theological Education for Emerging Ministries)
Theological Education for Emerging Ministries (TEEM) is a process by which the ELCA approves for the roster of ordained ministers those persons "who by reason of age and prior experience" (Constitution 7.31.14) are qualified to participate in an alternative program of preparation for ordination.
A word used to refer to the study of God and God’s interaction with the world. Formal study of theology usually includes study of the Bible, church history, ethics and worship, and may also include study of the practice of ministry.
Vision and Expectations
The ELCA Church Council adopted the document “Vision and Expectations — Ordained Ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” in 1990 as a statement of this church about the vision for ordained ministry in the life of the ELCA and the expectations of those who serve in that ministry. It is used primarily in the candidacy process.