Funeral for The Rev. Fred Gustafson 

In the living hope of the resurrection, the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin announces the death of retired pastor from our synod

The Rev. Fred Gustafson 

There will be a funeral at 11:00 am on July 28th at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church,
204 N. 10th Street, Watertown, WI
with the Rev. Todd Iverson officiating.

Visitation will be from 9-11 AM that day.

Please hold his wife, Karen, and their family in your prayers.  

May the promise of the resurrection bring them peace.


Webinar: “Document Detention: Justice for Palestinian Children”  

You’re invited to join Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) for a LIVE webinar,

Date: Monday, July 30th
Time: 11:00 am-12:00 pm EST

RSVP Required: Please register to receive a link to the LIVE webinar


Each year, approximately 500-700 Palestinian minors in the West Bank between the ages 12-17 are prosecuted in the Israeli military court system. The widespread mistreatment of Palestinian youth within this system is well-documented: children are denied access to their parents or a lawyer and often sign confessions of guilt in Hebrew, a language they likely cannot understand.

Join on July 30th to hear from Brad Parker and Farah Bayadasi from Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCIP) in a conversation facilitated by CMEP’s Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon. This event will be a unique opportunity to hear from legal experts on the subject of child justice and mistreatment of Palestinian youth in Israeli military detention centers. You will also learn about opportunities to advocate on behalf of Palestinian youth with your congressional representatives. This webinar is part of CMEP’s Summer 2018 joint campaign with DCIP: Demand Child Justice: Document Detention in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Listening for God – Walking with Jesus” – Synod-Wide Women’s Fall Retreat

Saturday, September 22, 2018
at New Life (St. Matthew’s) Lutheran Church
7564 Cottage Grove Road, on the east side of Madison
Handicap accessible.  Free Childcare Provided.

Please join us and find renewal in this day-long retreat dedicated to listening for the voice of the Holy One in our lives.  Explore what might be when we walk through life with that Voice as the core of all we are and all we do.  Presenter Carla Stanton is a certified spiritual director from the La Crosse area.

Workshop options:  Prayer Practices & Creative Expression; Worshipping through Dance & Movement; or Walking, Strength, and Balance Activities for Health

Come spend the day with your sisters in Christ. This retreat is intended for women of all ages and stage of life. You are welcome to come even if your church does not have women’s group.  Bring a friend.

Registration starts at 8:30 am, Program starts at 9:30, Closing at 3:30 pm
Questions: 608-692-7553  or
For more information:

Watch What Matters for more information in the weeks ahead!

Greetings from Bishop Viviane

Greetings Siblings in Christ of the South-Central Synod,

I am so honored and humbled to be your bishop.  My official start date was July 1st but if you were involved in the MYLE and Youth Gathering 2018 you know I was in place a week earlier.  It was indeed a privilege to start my tenure with a focus on the youth of the South-Central Synod.  Their exuberance and welcome was heartening and brought me great joy.  Indeed, this did change everything!

On July 10th I was called into Bishop Formation, a time of learning and colleagueship with my class of incoming bishops and a group of mentors to guide us along the way.  In these days I’ve often referred to drinking from a fire hose.  Last week was another of those times.  I’m still trying to synthesize it all.  It was there that I learned, due to action from the churchwide, that there are some changes in the responsibilities of bishop.  I’ll share those with the constituencies involved at another time.

Whatever changes come, be assured that I am the pastor to this synod.  Though we don’t have a cathedral where I am in residence as some denominations do, I shall preach, teach and administer the sacraments in our congregations in accord with the Confessions of Faith of this church.  And, for constitution geeks such as myself, a myriad of other duties as enumerated in the constitution of this synod, Chapter 8. Most important of all, I will pray for you, support you and walk alongside you as we do the mission of this church to faithfully care for, connect and equip our congregations to be the heart and hands of Jesus.  I ask you to hold me in your prayers as I accompany you in this ministry.

I am looking forward to seeing you at the Installation Celebration on August 18th, 2pm at First Lutheran in Janesville.  Our journey together continues as we walk together in the Spirit.

Remember, water is thicker than blood.  We are church together!

Blessings and Peace,

Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld

Care for God’s Creation/ELCA World Hunger Team Mission Moment

We See God at Work In and Through this MInistry Team:

We are called to environmental stewardship and to care for the creation that God has given us. Climate change is impacting God’s creation. Humanity has an ongoing responsibility for restoration and stewarding all that God has given us. This journey of care can start with your church. The ELCA strongly supports actions to reduce climate change and calls congregations and individuals to environmental stewardship. The South-Central Synod of Wisconsin Care for God’s Creation Team works with congregations to raise awareness and recommend actions that you can take to help us be better stewards of all that God has created.

Who is on the team?

In December of 2015 this team met for the first time. Care for God’s Creation is part of the World Hunger effort of our church. At this time we have Pastor Mae Jean Zelle, Jane Harrison, Pastor Cindy Crane, Pastor Nick Utphall, Bob Lindmeier, Eleanor Siebert, and at our last meeting we were joined by a new member, Debbie Nelson.

Where is God at work in and through us?

Our emphasis is education and advocacy in the area of the environment.  We had a successful workshop and information table at both LEAD and synod assembly. We continue to educate about the Carbon Fee and Dividend issue.

This year we are prioritizing the formation of Green Committees in churches.  Bob Lindmeier continues to be available for speaking engagements and others of the team are also willing as time permits.  To schedule Bob, see the Speaker’s Bureau:

On October 6th in the morning at Good Shepherd, Raymond Road, the team will be presenting a time of information and learning about the good things that are happening in our area related to the environment.  More information will soon be available about this event.

What Can Your Congregation Do?  Visit our page on the synod website for First Steps Your Congregation Can Take:

Eleanor Siebert, Coordinator of the Care for God’s Creation Team


We know how much you appreciate hearing Mission Moments at synod events, so we thought we would share these in writing in between our events. Each week, What Matters will lift stories and updates from our ministry partners and synod ministry teams.  Together we are doing What Matters in God’s kingdom!  Please visit the synod website if you are interested in learning more. and click on “Ministries and Partners.”

Deacons: ELCA Constitution Addresses Ministry of Word and Service (Part 2)

Following is an educational piece and part two of a three-part series offered by Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld on the role of Deacons in this synod and in God’s church.

Part 2 – Deacons in SCSW: ELCA Constitution Addresses Ministry of Word and Service

There are 12 pages in the ELCA Constitution that address the Ministry of Word and Service, pages 42-54 specifically.  In an effort to assist us in understanding more about our deacons, I want to call you attention to the sections of the ELCA Constitution printed below.  (You may access the ELCA Constitution at )

7.51.  This church calls and receives onto the roster qualified persons to provide a ministry of Word and Service, exemplifying the life of Christ-like service to all persons and creation: nurturing, healing, leading, advocating dignity and justice, and equipping the whole people of God for their life of witness and service within and beyond the congregation for the sake of God’s mission in the world.

7.61.02.  Responsibilities. Consistent with the faith and practice of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, every minister of Word and Service shall:

  1. be rooted in the Word of God, for proclamation and service;
  2. advocate a prophetic diakonia that commits itself to risk-taking and innovative service on the frontiers of the Church’s outreach, giving particular attention to the suffering places in God’s world;
  3. speak publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice and proclaiming God’s love for the world, witnessing to the realm of God in the community, the nation, and abroad;
  4. equip the baptized for ministry in God’s world that affirms the gifts of all people;
  5. encourage mutual relationships that invite participation and accompaniment of others in God’s mission;
  6. practice stewardship that respects God’s gift of time, talents, and resources;
  7. be grounded in a gathered community for ongoing diaconal formation;
  8. share knowledge of the ELCA and its wider ministry of the gospel, and advocate for the work of all expressions of this church; and
  9. identify and encourage qualified persons to prepare for ministry of the gospel.

WOW.  Did you know all that?  Deacons have a valuable ministry in this church.  Deacons serve alongside pastors.  Note that, for the most part, deacons are not responsible for what I call the A, B, C’s of ministry – Absolution, Baptism and Consecration of Eucharist. This means deacons do not preside at Holy Communion or Holy Baptism or pronounce absolution at Confession.

Can you see why the ministry of deacons can be valuable in congregations, agencies, synods, and our churchwide organization?

More next time.

Bishop Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld

Installation of New Bishop – AUGUST 18, 2018

Festive Worship Celebration and Installation Service of Rev. Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld will be on Aug. 18 at 2 pm at First Lutheran Church in Janesville, Wisconsin.

View the Bishop Installation for more information



Big Read: Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism

“Just as Jesus defied Herod and then continued on with the work of liberating healing and justice-filled shalom, so too must Christians subvert every way that our society’s racial hierarchy is allowed to exist. This subversion must happen first and foremost in the church.”  Drew Hart, Author

This fall, Advent Lutheran of Madison would love to have participants in your congregation join a multi-congregational inter-denominational BIG READ of Drew Hart’s book Trouble I’ve Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, with the opportunity and resources for a variety of events and ways to engage. The book is very accessible and engaging for what is not an easy topic, and we have recently confirmed for the author to be here for the conclusion of the Big Read the weekend of December 1 & 2.

Order books at Let them know you’re part of the MCC (Madison Christian Community) ordering, and you’ll receive 40% off the cover price, so books are only about $10 each!

Contact Pastor Nick Utphall at for more information or to let him know you’re interested!

ELCA WORLD HUNGER – 2019 Domestic Hunger Grants’ Application NOW OPEN!

Go to: to learn more about the grants, how to apply and how to attend a webinar reviewing the grant process (webinar July 19).


“On the Misuse of Scripture to Justify Injustice” – WCC Statement

On the Misuse of Scripture to Justify Injustice
A Statement by the Wisconsin Council of Churches (from

As the crisis surrounding immigration continues to unfold, we, the members of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, raise our voices in protest at the policies being implemented and at the inappropriate appeal to scripture by government officials in support of these policies.

With a signed Executive Order instructing the indefinite detention of families, the reunification of children separated from their parents unlikely to occur, and National Guard troops from Wisconsin being sent to support ICE activities along the border, it is clear that our government intends to continue using its authority in ways that perpetrate trauma.

We, the members of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, have covenanted “to pray and work together for the unity and renewal of the church and the healing and reconciliation of the world.” That means, whenever possible, we will strive to give clear expression to the Christian faith that unites us, especially when that faith has been publicly perverted or maligned, and stand with the weak and powerless when they are being exploited, maltreated or neglected – especially by those who are officially responsible for the public welfare.

We are especially concerned with the Attorney General’s appeal to scripture to support the policy of separating parents from their children, and by extension, the indefinite detention of undocumented immigrants and the rejection of asylum seekers.

The Attorney General appeals to Paul’s statement in Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God.”

We reject this theological misrepresentation of Scripture, specifically, and of Christian teaching about the State, generally, in justification of such obvious injustice.

This verse has been used in many contexts: by Nazis demanding that Christians submit to and participate in the genocide of Jews; by South African Christians defending the injustice of Apartheid; by American Christians defending the institution of slavery. The historical echoes are profoundly disturbing and we call the church and society to attend, that the past not be repeated.

The Apostle Paul, author of these words, was himself imprisoned and executed by the Roman Empire. He wrote this sentence in a larger context, in a letter written to Christians in Rome, who were an illicit community and in danger of persecution. He wrote it as part of a larger argument that includes not only his insistence that governmental authority is ordained by God but that such authority has its limits.

Paul asserts that there is a higher law, a higher principle to which any government, any human community, any human is subject: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).

We declare that our common Christian witness is imperiled by inauthentic Christian teaching in the public square, and the church’s own limited, episodic responses to injustice. When Christian teaching is perverted by those in governance and that twisting of scripture is allowed by the Christian community, we stand in a dangerous place.

Throughout Hebrew and Christian scripture, there is an understanding that all human authority is subject to divine judgment and justice; that laws are just only to the extent that they conform to divine justice. The Hebrew prophets railed against the injustices of kings and societies that ignored the plight of the poor, of widows and orphans, of strangers and aliens.

It is not only the government which bears responsibility for a just society; the voice of the people addressing their government, the witness of the Church and its prophetic voice offered in encouragement and admonition must not be absent. We must not only speak a Word into these perilous times, but be ready to act, as well. We pray for the guidance of the Spirit that our words and actions may be true.

The criminalization and detention of undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers is manifestly unjust. As Christians, we cannot stand by idly; we cannot remain silent in the face of injustice and oppression.

We call on the churches and their pastoral leadership to remain steadfast and bold, both in Christian teaching and public witness, that misrepresentations of Scripture not be allowed to stand.

We call on the members of our congregations, lawmakers, and people of good will to rise up in protest against this injustice, to ensure that people seeking asylum, refugees, immigrants hoping to make a better life for themselves and their families, be welcomed, embraced, and allowed to help make this a better, more inclusive and diverse, stronger nation.

Approved by the Board of Directors
June 25, 2018

The members of the WISCONSIN COUNCIL OF CHURCHES  (WCC), which includes all ELCA synods in this state, “have covenanted to ‘pray and work together for the unity and renewal of the church and the healing and reconciliation of the world.’ That means, whenever possible, we will strive to give clear expression to the Christian faith that unites us, especially when that faith has been publicly perverted or maligned, and stand with the weak and powerless when they are being exploited, maltreated or neglected….”

See also the WCC study guide on “Becoming Welcoming Communities – Immigration Reform.”