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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Wednesday at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly

On Wednesday, August 19, the proposed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) social statement, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," was approved by voting members of the assembly meeting in Minneapolis by a vote of 676 to 338, exactly the 2/3 vote that was needed for approval! I have been involved in the process leading to this vote since 1993. I will have more reflections later on this historic vote and my small role in the process leading to it.

Before this vote, the assembly spent several hours in debate on the statement, extending the afternoon plenary (business) session into the evening to allow for more debate time. There were several minor amendments made to the social statement and much discussion. A key "sticking point" for some was the social statement's section on homosexuality which indicates that there is no consensus on this issue in the ELCA. However, homosexuality is only a small section of the social statement, the majority of which supports traditional marriage and family, opposes sexual abuse and exploitation and much more. You can read the full statement online at www.elca.org/faithfuljourney . The Congregation Council at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansdale, where I serve as Senior Pastor, voted in May to endorse this social statement. I also wrote about it in the "Journal of Lutheran Ethics" - www.elca.org/jle - in February and June of this year.

The assembly met on Wednesday afternoon through terrible local weather including a tornado which touched down in the convention center area, damaging the steeple of Central Lutheran Church next door. There was also some minor damage on the convention center itself, although that damage was not near the area we were meeting. For an hour or so the assembly voting members were asked to stay in the meeting room, which we were told was one of the safest places in the area.

Before the social statement vote, there were a number of items of other assembly business items:

* The first ballot for ELCA Vice President was held. The ELCA Vice President is a lay (non-clergy) volunteer position with a six year term. On the first (nominating) ballot, assembly voting members could nominate any one of the nearly 5,000,000 ELCA lay members! Current ELCA Vice President Carlos Pena, a business man from Galveston, Texas, received 607 votes, but that was short of the 686 (a 3/4 majority) needed for election on the first ballot. The second ballot, also needing a 3/4 majority, will be held on Thursday. (Mr. Pena preached at my 2006 installation as Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansdale).

* A resolution to approve a three-year, $10 million fundraising campaign for the ELCA's HIV and AIDS strategy was approved. More online at www.elca.org/aids .

* The first report of the Memorials (resolutions) Committee brought three resolutions to a vote, all of which were approved. One of the these memorials (assembly resolutions) was on "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" which noted "this church's historical commitment to immigrants and refugees," urged a "comprehensive reform of immigration policies and processes in the United States" and called for "the suspension of immigration raids until such comprehensive reform is enacted." The vote to approve this resolution was overwhelmingly positive, 873 yes to 82 no. More at www.elca.org/memorials .

* There were greetings from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and ELCA military chaplains. The ELCA Treasurer, Christina Jackson Skelton, delivered her report as did the assembly's Youth Convo. There was a Bible study led by Luther Seminary Professor Dr. Diane Jacobson - Jacobson is also director of the ELCA's Book of Faith (Bible) Initiative. There were college corporation meetings for four ELCA colleges.

My evening ended with dinner with Beth Lewis, CEO of Augsburg Fortress, Publishers, and her husband, Rick Rouse, and Michael Cooper-White, the President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. Mike is also my roommate at this assembly (I snore, he does not!)

Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Stay in One Peace, Tim

I'm appreciating your blog postings as much as the official reporting from the news team. And I almost like your reports on members of the ELCA "family" as much as the reports on the official CWA business! Great to catch up on who's doing what and who is where through you!

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