Determined to do God's work
Kathleen Elliott Chillison is Lutheran by choice, although her grandmother had much influence. Baptized in the Baptist church, Kathleen was confirmed at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Los Angeles. She has been an active member ever since.
Determined to do God's work, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, Kathleen became actively involved with New City Parish, an urban social ministry organization ministering in areas near Los Angeles, and served as a member of its board of directors.
She is also on the board of directors for Lutheran Services in America based in Baltimore, is enrolled in the deacon program of the African American Lutheran Association and is taking lay leadership courses through the ELCA Southwest California Synod's Equipping Leaders for Mission program.
"I have never been a part of something that I did not believe in," says Kathleen. She realizes that the ELCA is Christ's church and that there is a place for her here.
"I believe in the mission of the ELCA. It is what I have in my life, and it is good."
That's why Kathleen served as a member of the ELCA's Living Into the Future Together task force.
Commissioned by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the task force was called to recommend options for the future of the ELCA in light of its call to God's mission.
"I was thrilled when Living Into the Future Together came about, because it's about time we study and amend the direction of the church," says Kathleen. "It is inspiring to witness what faith can do when the object of that faith is Jesus the Christ, who never fails."
Voting members of the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly -- meeting at the World Center Marriott in Orlando, Fla., Aug. 15-19 -- will consider a report and recommendations drafted by the task force. The report and implementing resolutions address the ELCA's structure, interrelationships and the future.
ELCA members are encouraged to follow the assembly's actions through live video streaming or social media, including an official assembly news blog and on Facebook.
Lutherans have something unique to offer
For Erik Ullestad, who is the youth and family-life director at Windsor Heights Lutheran Church in Des Moines, Iowa, renewing the church is important.
"Research tells us that Millennials are not connecting with the good news of God's creative and redeeming presence in the world in the way their parents and grandparents did," he says.
"As someone with feet firmly planted in the Generation X and Millennial (generations of young adults), this is perplexing and disheartening," says Erik.
"I have seen the power of the Lutheran witness in my own life and in the lives of young people around the world. We have something uniquely profound to offer to a generation that embraces dialectic tension and desires to reside in the messiness of human relationships.
"We have the message. We need to renew our engagement with media, recast our medium and rethink our methods so that our neighbor can 'taste and see that the Lord is good,'" says Erik.
What is God calling this church to be and do?
As the task force developed its report, members were guided by two primary questions: "What is God calling this church to be and do in the future?" and "What changes are in order to help us respond most faithfully?"
They invited members and friends of the ELCA to consider these questions and share scenarios of what could be or should be in the church, based on experience and history, hopes and dreams. This feedback informed the report of the task force and its recommendations for this church.
"Change needs to happen. We need a place where God's grace can keep us," says Kathleen. Although members of the ELCA may not always see the benefit of change initially, Kathleen is convinced that Lutherans are called, claimed and sent by God to serve others.