Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod

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The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the regional ELCA judicatory of the Philadelphia metropolitan area. The synod covers Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties as well as the City of Philadelphia.

The synod, consisting of rostered leaders (pastors, associates in ministry, deaconesses, and diaconal ministers) and approximately 172 congregations and missions, is located in an area rich in German and Swedish history, with the latter bringing Lutheranism (as missions of the Church of Sweden) in the 1640s before the subsequent takeover of Tinicum (present-day Chester) by the British and the formation of the Province of Pennsylvania under the Quaker William Penn, who invited scores of people, mostly British Quakers and German Lutherans and Anabaptists (Amish and Mennonite), to settle the land. Its predecessor body, the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States, the oldest Lutheran synod in America, was organized in 1748 at Philadelphia by the Lutheran patriarch, Pastor Henry Melchior Muhlenberg of Trappe, Pennsylvania. The synod is also the home of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), under which the ELCA maintains the main office of the seventh region, which oversees the ELCA's New England, Upstate and Metropolitan New York Synods, the Slovak Zion Synod, New Jersey Synod, and two of the ELCA synods in Pennsylvania.

The highest legislative authority of the synod is the Synod Assembly, which meets annually. The Synod Council is the board of directors of the synod and is its interim legislative authority between meetings of the Synod Assembly. The Synod Council normally meets five times every year and consists of 29 members. The Bishop is elected by the Synod Assembly and may serve an unlimited number of six-year terms. The other synod officers are the Vice President (who must be a layperson), Secretary, and Treasurer (either a layperson or a rostered pastor), all of whom may serve an unlimited number of four-year terms.

The synod's current office is located on the grounds of LTSP, having been moved from its previous office in Norristown, Pennsylvania in 2008. Since the Called to Common Mission with the Episcopal Church, it has been in ecumenical partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, allowing the synod and the diocese to share both pastors and staff. Symbolically, the synod gave the diocese a baptismal font with the consecration of the new Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral located in Philadelphia's "University City" section (near the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University). In 2006, the Rev. Claire Schenot Burkat, a Lutheran pastor who had been both on the synod's and diocese's "deployed staff," in support of the formation of new congregations, was elected as the synod's fourth bishop, and the first woman to hold the title. She was formally installed on October 14, 2006. Her co-consecrators included ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and the Rt. Rev. Samuel Colerman, former Episcopal bishop of Connecticut and former assistant bishop of Pennsylvania under the Rt. Rev. Charles Bennison.

Geographically, the synod shares the same five-county area as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania. The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, part of the larger Philadelphia Episcopal Area (which includes the Peninsula Delaware Conference), is also located within the geographic boundaries of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, but also includes territory located within the ELCA's Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, mostly the Lehigh Valley and Pocono Mountains regions.

Bishops of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod[edit]

The following individuals have served as Bishops of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod since its inception in 1988 with the formation of the ELCA:

  • The Rev. Lawrence L. Hand (1983-1987, Bishop, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, Lutheran Church in America [LCA]; 1988-1990, Bishop, Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA)
  • The Rev. Michael G. Merkel (1990-1994)
  • The Rev. Roy G. Almquist (1994-2006)
  • The Rev. Claire Schenot Burkat (2006- )