News & Announcements

Fall General Council Meeting Report

By Karen Conger

The General Council (GC) of the Swedenborgian Church of North America (SCNA) met in a hybrid format Friday and Saturday, November 3 and 4, 2023, at Mercy Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The business undertaken included hearing reports from the officers and others, such as the chairs of the Council of Ministers, the Committee on Admission to the Ministry, the Dean of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies (CSS), the Chair of the Board of Trustees of CSS, and the editor of Our Daily Bread.

Under unfinished business, Rev. Rich Tafel reported on the progress of the New York Legacy Fund, explaining that, at the present time, the church property having been sold to the government of Serbia, there are two boards. The “old” NYNC board will stay active until all legal matters pertaining to what was the NYNC have been finalized, and a new board, which held a retreat at Temenos in September, which agreed to focus on a mission that might involve fund expenditures of $1M a year in three grants over ten years (this is tentative).

In addition, President Rev. Jim Lawrence reported on the formation of an At-Large Membership Review Committee whose recommendations included the recognition of all our camps (Almont, Fryeburg, and Paulhaven) as constituent bodies, should they so choose, and the encouragement of all of the associations and conferences in the SCNA to consider the recognition of an at-large membership category. Currently only the Pacific Coast Association has such a category; it appears to be working very well for them. It was subsequently moved, seconded, and carried to adopt both recommendations.

The Church of the Open Word in St. Louis reported that they have established The Woodlands Conservancy Project, which comprises of roughly two acres of woodlands surrounding the structure. The Society wishes to investigate the possibility of adopting this to raise money for supplemental support for the church. This would result in a “land reservation” which cannot be developed, though it would not prevent the property from being sold.

An amendment to Bylaws Article XVIII will be brought to the floor of convention in 2024 to clarify and simplify the term structure of the Investment Committee, to whit:

“An Investment Committee of five members shall be appointed by the General Council for a term of five years and each member may be reappointed without term limits. The Treasurer of the Convention shall serve as Chair of the Investment Committee ex-officio with voting rights.”

An article will appear in the next Messenger presenting the amendment in time for a vote to be taken on the floor.

Several liaison reports were presented and listened to with interest. This program continues to be important in order to maintain good communication between the GC and our various ministries.

Regarding the National Church, Rich and Jennifer brought the Council up to speed on the negotiations between the DC Society and the denomination. There is a draft document in process which eventually will go to legal counsel for advice. The property will be sold, all debts satisfied, and a 50/50 split of the balance will be realized, with criteria placed upon the DC Society with regard to membership numbers and the presence of a Swedenborgian ordained minister. An oversight committee will be formed made up of four people from the denomination and four from the Society, who will see to the management of the grant process. There remain a number of issues to be discussed and agreed upon.

Amongst other valuable discussions held was one around how well Convention is working as an organization. The SCNA is congregational in polity, horizontally based with a democratic function with offices that have terms, etc. At one time it was a departmental structure, which subsequently moved to the Support Unit structure in an effort to get more of the rank and file involved in the actual processes of the denomination. Dream Weavers arose and the Structure Review Committee came from that, its purpose being to keep its collective finger on the pulse of how things were actually working. Subsequently the Support Units were sort of collapsed and consolidated in an effort to make the working parts less complex. The former MINSU might be said to have not translated well into the new format, and the Structure Review Committee has been asked to take a look at this.

The GC will meet in a virtual format for its Spring 2024 meeting on Saturday, March 9 at 11:00 AM ET. 

Read the full issue of the January – March 2024 Messenger

Meet Karen Conger

Karen Conger has been the recording secretary for the Swedenborgian Church of North America for the past ten years. She is a lifelong, third generation Swedenborgian who was raised in the Church of the Holy City in Washington, D.C. Karen is currently a Member-At-Large of the Pacific Coast Association.