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Sunday, August 16, 2009

 

ELCA Churchwide Assembly this week

I am here in Minneapolis this week for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA's) biennial churchwide assembly which begins tomorrow (Monday) evening at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I am registered as a "Congregation Observer" which means I do not vote but have a seat and receive assembly materials. I am also writing for the Reading "Eagle/Times" and the Lansdale "Reporter" newspapers.

Most of the attention at this assembly will be around the "Report and Recommendations on Ministry Policies," four recommendations that were directed by the 2007 assembly to "specifically address and make recommendations to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any policies that preclude practicing homosexuals from the rosters of this church." In four stepped resolutions the assembly will be asked if it is ready to find "ways to allow congregations and synods that choose to do so to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships" and if people in these relationships can serve as pastors and other professional leaders in the ELCA.

The votes on these four resolutions are scheduled for Friday morning but the first action related to them will occur during the opening assembly business session on Monday evening. At that session, I'm told, there will be an attempt to change the assembly rules, which currently call for these resolutions to be approved by a simple majority, to require a 2/3 vote for their approval. This change must be approved by a 2/3 vote so I doubt if it will happen.

Before Friday, the assembly will also vote on a proposed social statement on sexuality, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust." That vote is scheduled for Wednesday and must be a 2/3 majority (all ELCA social statements require a 2/3 vote for approval). If approved, this will be the ELCA's tenth social statement. Social statements are written to help church members respond to issues in church and society.

More on both the social statement and ministry policy changes can be found at www.elca.org/faithfuljourney .

Of course, the ELCA churchwide assembly will be dealing with many other matters, some mundane (if still important) like budgets and consitution changes, and some not mundane such as "Confessing Our Faith Together," the proposal for "full communion" with the United Methodist Church (allowing the exchange of pastors and encouraing more cooperation among congregations) and action on further development of a Lutheran Malaria Initiative and funding for the ELCA's HIV and AIDS strategy plus a proposal to develop a social statement on justice for women. You can read more online at www.elca.org/assembly .

I will be posting daily reflections here and adding assembly actions as soon as possible.

Eric

Comments:
Thanks for the updates, keep em coming!

Mark Ristine
 
I think this is my first time at your blog. I have a Google alert for ELCA and I'm trying to follow the assembly background issues, etc.
While I have some mixed feelings about the sexuality issues, I guess I'd call myself not-quite-liberal regarding the ordaining of homosexual pastors in relationships.

One part of the topic I find oddly worded is the part about life long relationships. How is that to be judged? We don't seem to ask for the same practice from our heterosexual leaders. I even know of a pastor who has been divorced three times, and he is a great guy, but I think his devotion to all his ministry projects drove the women away.

The other thing that troubles me is that when I've read statements, both within the ELCA, and from leaders in other groups, there is often some wording that assumes that homosexual people chose their orientation. (ie. Hispanic statement)

Thirdly, I was recently reading about democracy and should certain things require a 2/3 vote to pass. The author pointed out that requiring a 2/3 majority actually makes the minority more powerful. I suppose it depends on which side of the fence one is on as to whether that is a good thing.

Voting one way or the other because some churches might leave is, I think, the wrong reason for a vote.
 
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