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Rocky Mountain Synod
We are Church. Better Together.
The word synod comes from a Greek word meaning "to travel a common road––to walk together." The congregations, the people, and the ministries in our expansive geographical region of the Rocky Mountains––this is synod. We walk a common road–– together––as the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Rocky Mountain Synod is one of 65 synods in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). It is the largest synod, geographically, in the lower 48. The synod is further divided into ten conferences. The Rocky Mountain Synod territory reaches from Wyoming to the north, Utah to the west, Colorado to the east, and New Mexico to the south, with the unique addition of El Paso, Texas, along the southern border. Our 163 congregations are as unique as our landscapes. From fertile farmlands and desert plateaus to craggy mountain peaks and green quiet meadows, from bustling cities to expansive ranchlands, the Good News is proclaimed in every setting.
About 2/3 of Rocky Mountain Synod congregations are in Colorado, with the highest concentration along the Front Range from Fort Collins to Pueblo. The remaining 1/3 of our congregations are located in the other four states.
The Office of the Bishop
The Rev. James Gonia serves the Rocky Mountain Synod as its bishop. The Office of the Bishop is located in unincorporated Adams County, just north of Denver, at the site of a congregation that closed five years ago.
The Synod Council
The Synod Council serves as the board of directors and as the interim legislative authority between meetings of the Synod Assembly. It may make decisions between meetings of the Synod Assembly.
The ELCA is a result of a merger among The American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) (which had earlier withdrawn from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod after 1975). The three churches agreed to unite in 1982. They formed a 70-member Commission for a New Lutheran Church, which planned the merger.
The plan was approved by church conventions in 1986, and the ELCA constituting convention was held April 30-May 3, 1987, in Columbus, Ohio, with the church actually beginning operations on January 1, 1988. The Rocky Mountain Synod is one of 65 synods that came into existence when the ELCA came into being. The territory of the Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA, closely follows what had been the LCA Rocky Mountain Synod which included Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and El Paso, TX. The ALC Central District Territory had covered the states of Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
Bishop Wayne Weissenbuehler was elected to serve as the first Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA. He served for five years until he was called to serve as the senior pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village.
Bishop Allan Bjornberg was elected to serve as the second Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod on November 13, 1993. Serving for 18 years, Bishop Bjornberg celebrated the synod’s diversity and unity through synod-wide events and initiatives, including “Gathered, Gifted, & Sent,” “One Bread, One Body,” “Invitation to Service," and “Vision, Passion, Action.” The Rocky Mountain Synod also piloted the ELCA brand campaign: “God’s Work. Our Hands.”
Two visits to Madagascar to build relationships with our companion synods have resulted in one of the ELCA's most significant global mission partnerships of accompaniment, sharing the joy of the Gospel together. Bishop Bjornberg’s gift of leadership and witness also served the church through his roles as Chair of the Conference of Bishops and co-chair of the Lutheran-Methodist Dialogue, which resulted in a full communion relationship with the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Jim Gonia was elected to a six-year term at the 2012 Synod Assembly in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 28, 2012. He was installed as bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod September 23, 2012, at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colorado. Bishop Gonia was re-elected to a second term at the 2018 Synod Assembly in Westminster, CO on May 3, 2018. Having served as a missionary in Madagascar, as a parish pastor, and in ELCA Churchwide ministries, Bishop Gonia brings an expansive view of what it means to be the church. His ministry as the Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Synod is guided by our mission statement: Christ's Church, Better Together.