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Tuesday, August 07, 2007


First report from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly

I am finally finding both the time and the available (free) computer with internet access to write some reflections from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly meeting on the Navy Pier in downtown Chicago from August 6 - 11.

The assembly opened yesterday (Monday, August 6) with a wonderful service of Holy Communion with ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson preaching. Wonderful music, good preaching, Holy Communion, 1,500+ voices - what more could one ask for?

This service was followed by a quick dinner and then the first Plenary (business) session Monday evening. Major business this first evening was the adoption of the assembly rules and order for business. There was only one minor change to the assembly rules so we quickly moved to the first ballot for ELCA Presiding Bishop.

Similar to a synod bishop election, this was an "ecclesiastical" ballot, that is the first ballot was a nominating ballot and any ELCA pastor could be nominated. We voting members (delegates) were invited to write the name of any ELCA pastor (all 19,000 of us) on that ballot. This balloting ended the session.

Today's morning plenary session (Monday, August 7) began with assembly action to accept the new "Evangelical Lutheran Worship" (ELW) as the official worship book for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. That resolution was overwhemingly approved with no debate. We did have a chance to sing several ELW hymns! See www.elca.org/assembly/votingmatters/EvangelicalLutheranWorship.pdf .

We then heard the report of the first ballot for Presiding Bishop. A 3/4 majority was necessary to elect on this ballot. Bishop Hanson missed that 3/4 by only two votes, when he received 765 of the 1013 votes cast! 101 pastors received one or more votes. Those present were then allowed to withdraw before the second ballot. Most of the other nominees who were present withdrew. This plenary session ended with the Second Bishop Ballot.

Before that ending, the assembly also approved a second major action: "Book of Faith: Lutherans Read the Bible," the new Bible reading and study program/process that will be implemented across our church over the next five years. The document is online at www.elca.org/assembly/votingmatters/BookofFaith.pdf . Much more will be coming our way on this exciting program but you can read more now at www.elca.org/bookoffaith . Every congregation will have the chance to become an ELCA "Book of Faith Congregation."

We also heard the presentation of the ELCA budget for 2008/2009, a moving greeting from an ELCA military chaplain and the first presentation of all the items coming before the assembly from the ELCA Church Council.

Our Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod Bishop Claire S. Burkat was the preacher for today's noon Service of Holy Communion, another wonderful worship experience. Bishop Burkat's sermon is or will soon be online at www.elca.org/assembly/worship/ .

When we returned from lunch, the results of the second ballot for ELCA Presiding Bishop (3/4 again needed for election) were waiting for us at our places. Bishop Mark S. Hanson was elected to a second six year term as ELCA Presiding Bishop with 888 votes of the 1027 cast (86%!) Bishop Hanson responded that he was deeply moved by this strong affirmation of his call as ELCA Presiding Bishop.

Other business this afternoon included the introduction of the ELCA Social Statement on Education, "Our Calling in Education" - see www.elca.org/assembly/votingmatters/OurCallinginEducation.pdf and the introduction of an ELCA Churchwide Strategy on HIV-AIDS - see www.elca.org/assembly/votingmatters/ChurchwideStrategyonHIVandAIDS.pdf . There was time to approve two Memorials (resolutions) from ELCA synods, one on support for military veterans as they return home from military service and other callnig for the ELCA to develop a social statement on Criminal Justice for presentation to the 2113 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

This evening we have hearings on various assembly agenda items.

Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land is here at this assembly. When I greeted him this morning, he sent his special greetings to Trinity members and made it a point to tell me how important his January visit had been for him.

One story: Yesterday, a pastor from the New England Synod stopped me as I walked by her. She told me that some years ago I had been at their synod assembly and had spoken on stewardship. In that speech, I had stated that Kris and I had begun our giving to our congregation at 10% of our income and had tried to move up from there and added special giving and giving other charities after/above this tithe (10%) to our congregation. This pastor told me that she thought to herself, "Well, if he can do that, so can I!" and she began tithing and trying to move up from that point. She proudly told me that her giving has now reached 20% of her income! And, I don't even remember saying what she remembered! Shows again that what we do and say as Christians, remembered or not, can have important results and responses!

I'll try to blog again soon and do hope to share some reflections on the ELCA Worship Jubilee which I attended here over the weekend. Remember that assembly plenary sessions for the rest of this week can be viewed live online at www.elca.org/assembly most every morning and afternoon.

Living in God's Amazing Grace,


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