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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

 

Wednesday at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly

Many folks have asked me here how it is to be a voting member (delegate) rather than a staff member as I have been for all of the past ELCA assemblies. They are used to seeing me runnnig around the assembly plenary hall with two sets of headphones, (usually in a suit and running shoes!) trying to stay on top of all the assembly communication needs. I am happy to say that that is my former life! This time I am enjoying sitting and listening, singing and praying and voting. My assembly days are not much shorter, I've found. We have sessions mornings and afternoons and many evening activities. So, I'm sleeping more than at past assemblies, but still not much more!

Today the assembly heard Bishop Hanson's Presiding Bishop's report as well as a keynote from Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro. Those fine presentations filled most of the morning session. We did have time to pass resolutions on the war in Iraq (opposing further escalation) and Genocide in Darfur, Africa. Both passed overwhelmingly without debate. We also approved the ELCA Strategy for HIV/AIDS and later asked the ELCA Church Council to find $1 million for this effort. We began discussion on the Blue Ribbon Committee on Mission Funding and heard reports from the ELCA Treasurer, the Mission Investment Fund, and Justice for Women. We heard the second Bible study (Galatians 1: 1 - 10) and heard greetings from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. The day ended with college corportation meetings for four of our ELCA colleges which must have official meetings here at the assembly.

A motion from the floor changed the day's agenda so that we had the first ballot for ELCA Secretary this afternoon instead of Friday. The ELCA Secretary is a full time, paid, Chicago based postion, open to any member, lay or ordained, in the ELCA, all 4.9 million of them! The Rev. Dr. Lowell Almen has held this position for all of the ELCA's 20 year history and has announced his retirement. Similiar to the bishop's election, except with many more possible nominees, the first ballot becomes a nominating ballot. We will see the results posted in the hotel lobby later this evening. The second ballot should happen Thursday morning after folks who are here have been given the chance to remove their name. The third ballot will be limited to the top seven from the second ballot. This is an exciting election with, I believe, no front runner. (I voted for my dear friend Michael Cooper-White on the first ballot for secretary). More on this election as it unfolds.

Perhaps, the most interesting agenda item today was what was called a "quasi committee of the whole" this afternoon to discuss the various synod resolutions (memorials) relating to homosexuality. This was open discussion, alternating between speakers favoring the recommendation of the Memorials Committee to delay these resolutions until 2009 when they could be part of the Human Sexuality Social Statement due at the assembly and those wanting this assembly to vote on these resolutions at this assembly. The key issue is a desire by some (many?) to change ELCA standards to allow ordained pastors in committed homosexual relationship to remain as ELCA pastors, something that currently is not allowed. Or, to wait to vote on this possible change as a part of the larger sexualtiy discussion at the 2009 assembly. (Our SE PA synod asembly approved a resolution asking for this change at this assembly, a position I personally also favor). There was no vote, just a series of "pro" and "con" two minute statements, some of which were quite moving. There appeared to be many more speakers (only 30 or so could be heard) waiting to speak in favor of change now, but I certainly could not tell if this means the assembly is leaning this way. We will see when official debate on the resolutions comes on Friday.

Worship today included a fine sermon by Dr. Almen. Tonight the assembly is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Lutheran Campus Ministry as well as the ministry of ELCA colleges and universities.

Another full day, also full of inspiration!

Eric

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