SYNOD NEWS AND EVENTS - January 4, 2019
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Bishop Jon V. Anderson's Annual Report - 2018
You are all synod ministers. You are the synod as baptized ones living out your vocations in your everyday lifes, inside the communities of faith of Southwestern Minnesota and beyond. Thanks for all the ways you have lived out your faith, loved your neighbors, and invited people to join you in following Christ. Please share this  infographic that lifts up some information about our synod's life. We are also working on a new poster map to share with you that includes our vision statement.

Deepen Congregational Vitality

Congregations exist to proclaim the Good News we know in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus through word and sacrament. Growing gracious, generous Christians who follow Christ provide
energizing focus. We are thankful for churches' sending capacity to engage God's world. Our staff continues to use tools to help congregational leaders grow and engage the work of reforming congregations to serve our changing mission field.

These involve stewardship education programs, evangelizing training that will begin in the new year, and ongoing use of planning assessments. What is God up to in your community and your congregation? God is working in your midst.

I want to share the five steps of our "Leadership for Faithful Innovation" project with Luther Seminary. A cohort of leaders is learning to slow down to more deeply engage the adaptive challenges of our time.

We are called to be "listening to God, listening to each other, listening to ourselves, and listening to the world around us."
In addition to "Dwelling in the Word," we are also called to be "Dwelling in the World." We are called to reconnect spiritually with God's faithfulness, God's story, and God's promises to us as God's people. 
the challenges God has called us to face. 
"Leaders need to articulate the challenges congregations are facing in ways that invite others to learn by doing in order to discern God's movement and God's call to a new way forward." We have to be willing to change as congregations and leaders to speak to our time. 
"(I)nvolves whole congregations cultivating life together through spiritual practices and innovation focused on discerning God's presence and joining God's work."

Enhance Local and Global Mission
Congregations that have a mission beyond themselves are healthier. Congregations that have a focused sense of mission externally and internally live with greater joy and energy. Inside of even the most challenging situations are opportunities to serve in Christ's name.

Develop Servant Leaders
We continue our work of equipping God's people for service in God's world, developing people who serve in congregations and rostered ministry. Our dream to develop our synod's "culture of call" continues to develop.

Again, Thanks
We are grateful for each of you as you live out your faith and many callings. We are thankful for your congregations and the institutions of our synod. We are grateful for your support of God's whole church - the ELCA and our Global Companions. Thanks for your faithful witness in God's world. I also want to thank our staff (particularly Pr. Linda Pedersen who has concluded her service) and the committees, boards, and council of our synod.

Bishop Jon Anderson
Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA

IMPORTANT Dates and Information
Start checking off your to do list. At the beginning of every year we always ask you to share your congregation's information in many ways. These really important tasks help grow our ministry. Please take the time to fill out the following:

Annual Meeting Resources
Visit our annual meeting webpage for report covers, meeting documents and other helpful resources to help you get ready for your congregation meeting.

Mission Support Intents
As your congregation prepares a budget for 2019, please share with us your Mission Support Intent amount for the Southwestern Minnesota Synod by clicking here.
Deadline: ASAP
Update Your Congregational Leadership Data
The synod office uses this information for the call process, giving statements, and getting helpful resources to the correct person.
Click here to update now.
Deadline: ASAP

Forms A & C (Parochial Reports)
Watch for a letter in the mail coming from the ELCA Churchwide office with your congregation password. Online forms will be open soon! Click here to access the online forms. If you do not know your congregation ID or password please call the synod office at 507-637-3904.
Deadline: February 15th

Hope in the Heartland - Imaging Our Future as Small Congregations
Registration deadline is Friday, January 25th.
Click here for more information and to register.
Equipping Congregations Day
The 2019 ECD Early Registration ends February 1st.
New this year! Childcare and Kids Day Camp.
Click here for more information on registration.
Annual Ecumenical Worship Service
The annual Ecumenical Prayer Service for Christian Unity will take place at 3:00 on Sunday, January 20, 2019. This year the host site will be First Presbyterian Church (312 SW 6th Street) in Willmar. Leaders from the Southwestern Minnesota Synod and the Diocese of New Ulm are also planning the worship service and will participate. Christians from the various denominations represented in southwest and west-central Minnesota are invited and encouraged to attend this celebration of our common Christian faith. It is held as part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
A reception will follow.
The Nonprofit Parking Tax - what congregations need to know
+Pr. Stephen Cook, Synod Minister
In late 2017 Congress passed and the President signed the "Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," the most significant change to the federal tax code in over a generation. One provision was a new tax on any non-profit organizations, including local congregations, which own a "parking facility" such as a parking lot provided to employees. This tax is in effect starting January 1, 2018 but the draft regulations explaining how the tax will be calculated were only released at the end of November.

The good news is that there is a "safe harbor" in the regulations. A non-profit is exempt from the tax if 1) There are NO spaces reserved for staff and 2) more than 50% of the spaces are "available for use by the public during normal operations," such as Sunday/Wednesday program times.

Consider if your congregation hits into the safe harbor:
Think about a time in the week when all the staff are on duty in the church facility. Are there more than ½ of the parking spaces available, even if they are not used?
If there are any parking spaces signed or designated as reserved for staff these signs or barriers need to be removed by March 1, 2019.

If a non-profit organization does not fit in the safe harbor it will need to calculate the tax. The IRS regulations gives guidance as to how.

Other things to note:
The IRS regulations released in November ate temporary and subject to change.

There is a "technical corrections" bill in Congress that, as currently written, would address this tax and other unclear sections of the law. While in the past these have been routine following major legislation at this time it is stalled.

There will likely be challenges in the court as to the constitutionality of the non-profit parking tax. These suites contend that it is an income tax on an expense and is so vague as to be unenforceable.

The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has an excellent on-demand webinar that goes into more details, including guidance on how to calculate the tax if your congregation does not fit in the safe harbor.
This article is not intended to give specific tax or legal advice. Consult your own advisor if you have questions about how your organization is effected and what steps it might need to take.
Synod Events
Below is a list of all the upcoming synod events. Visit the synod events webpage for more information.
February 2, 2019
Trinity, Truman
Kvitseid, Milan
Kandiyohi, Kandiyohi

Equipping Congregations Day
February 23, 2019
Willmar, MN
Registration Open!

April 5-6, 2019
Lake Geneva Christian Center
Alexandria, MN

SW MN Synod Assembly
June 7-8, 2019
Redwood Falls, MN

Southwestern Minnesota Synod, ELCA 
PO Box 499, Redwood Falls, MN 56283
Phone: 507-637-3904