ELCA News Bloghttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/ELCA establishes working group to explore ministry to same-gender couples, familiesELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/56http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/56<div class="ExternalClass0A96B56D05474ABDB6200354AA571C82"><p>​The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has established a working group to explore ministry and pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families. “Ministry to and with Same-Gender Couples and their Families” was established in response to action taken by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, approving a memorial regarding conversations about ministering to same-gender couples and families. Memorials are proposals for action presented to the churchwide assembly by the 65 ELCA synods considered during their individual assemblies.</p><p>The working group is tasked with exploring the ministry and “bringing a recommendation to the Church Council regarding appropriate next steps in carrying out these commitments to pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families,” said George Watson, chair of the working group. Watson is a member of St. Martin Lutheran in Port Huron, Mich., and an associate member of St. James Lutheran in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.</p><p>In its recommendation to the 2013 Churchwide Assembly, the memorials committee noted the commitments made by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in adopting the social statement on human sexuality. The social statement says, “This church acknowledges that consensus does not exist concerning how to regard same-gender committed relationships, even after many years of thoughtful, respectful, and faithful study and conversation.”&#160; The statement continues, “We<br>further believe that this church, on the basis of ‘the bound conscience,’ will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world.” The social statement contains four convictions about human sexuality based on the conscience-bound beliefs of members of the ELCA. </p><p>Watson said the working group will be intentional in obtaining information from members in all four convictions in order to “discover what conversation(s) are already happening, how they started and how they are going. We will also learn what resources are already out there, whether they need adjustments, and what is missing that people would find helpful.”</p><p>“One thought that seemed to resonate with the group is that the decisions made in 2009 are not the end of the conversation, but the beginning of an ongoing dialogue on how all members of the ELCA, regardless of which of the four convictions they fall into, can live into those decisions,” he said.<br>Watson, who is in a same-sex relationship, noted that “unless intentional ministry is done, there is a good chance that same-gender couples will feel, at best, second-class and, at worst, tokens and excluded. Many LBGT people come to the ELCA, or come back to the ELCA, with a great deal of hurt over having been treated in very harmful ways. They need special care to feel that they are indeed accepted and welcomed as they are. The alternative is that they may fall away from the church.”<br>The Rev. Erma Wolf, pastor of American Lutheran Church in Hawarden, Iowa, and also a member of the working group, said the first meeting “was the start of really listening to one another, of speaking with lowered defenses, and of beginning to find common ground with one another while also respecting our different convictions and perspectives.”</p><p>“As someone who finds herself closest to conviction two, I need to advocate for both conviction four and conviction one, that both are doing pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families and both need resources that are supportive of their convictions,” said Wolf.<br>&#160;<br>In the social statement, conviction two reads in part, “On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that homosexuality and even lifelong, monogamous, homosexual relationships reflect a broken world in which some relationships do not pattern themselves after the creation God intended.”</p><p>Wolf said an “important first step” for the working group “was talking about the existence of, and continuing situation of, there being a lack of consensus regarding same-gender committed relationships across the ELCA.” </p><p>Watson said ultimately the recommendations from the working group will “propose how to get conversations going throughout the church on ministry to and with same-gender couples and their families. We recognize that the conversations may be very different depending on where congregations and individuals fall within the four convictions described in the social statement. We recognize that it is not the purpose of these conversations to changes anyone’s position, but rather to discuss how and what kind of ministry can be done in varying contexts.”</p><p>Smith Heavner, a member of Christ the King Lutheran in Greenville, S.C., described the initial group meeting as the members realized “we’re all on the same page.” Heavner, who is gay, said that after sharing experiences with the group, he discovered, “this is the same pain, this is the same distress, of not feeling like I am important, of not feeling like I am valued. It was a very enlightening moment to realize we are all sharing the same pain,” he said.</p><p>“But I think the greater ELCA is the same,” he continued. “If we look at Martin Luther’s teachings, we are a people who come out of questioning the people around us. And this culture, we’re kind of abandoning that if we don’t allow ourselves to live together when we don’t agree.” </p><p>“For all four convictions to be included as the social statement declares means that each conviction has a place at the tables of the ELCA, but no one conviction has a privileged place in the ELCA. This is so counter-cultural that it takes my breath away,” said Wolf, who emphasized that “to do serious public work to ensure that all four convictions found in (the social statement) are included, listened to, respected, consulted, and supported appropriately, can be an important step, perhaps a crucial step, to rebuilding a culture of trust and mutual care within this portion of the body of Christ.” </p><p>Watson says he hopes through the process of the working group, “the ELCA may discover that there is a need for continuing conversations about how to live together in the midst of our diverse convictions and that these conversations may prove to be life-giving for the church.”</p><p>Wolf acknowledged that there is “a lot of work ahead of us, in this working group and beyond. I ask the prayers of others in the ELCA for this group as we try to make this work, for the sake of the continued ministry of the ELCA.”</p><p><br>&#160;</p></div>08/08/2014Lutheran Disaster Response provides assistance for Ebola outbreak in Liberia ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/55http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/55<div class="ExternalClass11AE5D24C2A64BB6BB6AEA1DDD26CBA9"><p>​The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will provide $10,000 in humanitarian assistance in response to the Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia. The funds are being disbursed through Lutheran Disaster Response-International to Global Health Ministries at the request of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. Global Health Ministries provides medical supplies and funding for health care programs in Lutheran churches in 20 countries.<br>The funds will help cover air-freight costs to deliver supplies to Monrovia, Liberia. According to a Global Health Ministries press release, the shipment of supplies will include “five pallets of PPEs (personal protection equipment).”&#160; In addition, Global Health Ministries is sending a 40-foot container ship that will carry more “urgently needed medical supplies and equipment in care of Phebe Hospital and Curran Hospital.” Phebe Hospital, a Lutheran hospital, is the largest public health institution in Liberia.<br>“The Ebola virus disease has been deadly unmerciful,” said the Rev. Jensen Seyenkulo, bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. “It has especially taken a toll on our health workers. This has led to the closure of most of our hospitals.”<br>Seyenkulo said that patients at Phebe Hospital have “fled the hospital for fear of the disease.” He added that nurses have “abandoned the wards after seeing four of their colleagues and a doctor succumb to the virus.” <br>“With the help of funds provided by our friends around the world, among them Lutheran Disaster Response, some nurses have returned for training on how to protect themselves, protective gear are being provided, there is a mass awareness campaign, and isolation units are being built,” said Seyenkulo. “We are very hopeful that the virus will not overrun our second hospital and that it will remain open because of steps these funds are making possible.”<br>In an email to the ELCA’s Global Mission unit, Seyenkulo asked that the ELCA not deploy any new missionaries to Liberia because of the Ebola virus.&#160; <br>According to the Rev. Andrea Walker, ELCA area program director for West Africa, ELCA missionary personnel in Liberia currently on leave in the United States “will not be able to go back” to Liberia “until the spread of this virus is contained.”&#160; Others who are waiting to be deployed as new missionaries in the country are on hold until the situation is under control. <br>The virus outbreak has spread to several African countries, including Sierra Leone where the ELCA has missionary personnel. “We do have someone in Sierra Leone and we are making arrangements to have him leave as soon as possible,” said Walker.<br>“We continue to pray for the people affected by this virus that has no cure,” she said.<br>Lutheran Disaster Response provides assistance to survivors of natural disasters and humanitarian crises throughout the world. This support is carried out, both domestically and internationally, in coordination with local affiliates – social ministry organizations, agencies, partners and international companion churches – located in the disaster-affected communities.</p></div>08/05/2014Steven Ullestad re-elected bishop of ELCA Northeastern Iowa SynodELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/54http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/54<div class="ExternalClassF341BA83A1ED4C6E9B1E0EC2838BFCFB"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font color="#000000" face="Times New Roman" size="3">The Rev. Steven L. Ullestad was re-elected June 15 to serve a fifth&#160;six</font><a name="_GoBack"></a><font color="#000000"><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman">-year term as bishop of the Northeastern Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) during the Synod Assembly June 13-15 at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Ullestad was re-elected on the fourth ballot with 230 votes to the 41 votes received by the Rev. Elizabeth Olson, pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Hudson Iowa, and 32 votes received by the Rev. Ramona Bouzard, chaplain at Wartburg College. Wartburg is one of 26 colleges and universities of the ELCA.</font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman">Before Ullestad became bishop in 1992, he served as assistant to the bishop of the ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod from 1988 to1992 and as pastor of St. Timothy Lutheran Church, from 1979 to1987. Ullestad graduated from Wartburg with a Bachelor of Music Education degree, and he holds Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Theology, and Doctor of Divinity degrees from Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. Wartburg Theological Seminary is one of eight ELCA seminaries. </font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font color="#000000" face="Times New Roman" size="3">Information about the ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod is available at </font><a href="http&#58;//www.neiasynod.org/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><font color="#0000ff" face="Times New Roman" size="3">www.neiasynod.org</font></span></a><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Times New Roman">. </font></font></font>​</p></div>06/16/2014James Arends re-elected bishop of ELCA La Crosse Area SynodELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/53http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/53<div class="ExternalClassCFE5146D7DF04454BA2FBE9C5A7AA0BD"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman">The Rev. James A. Arends was re-elected June 14 to serve a second six-year term as bishop of the La Crosse Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) at the Synod Assemby June 13-14 at the La Crosse Center in La Crosse, Wis. Arends was re-elected on the first ballot with 220 votes of the 225 cast. His name was the only one on the ballot.</font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font color="#000000"><font size="3"><font face="Times New Roman">Prior to becoming bishop in 2008, Arends was a parish pastor for 30 years serving at Cross of Glory Lutheran Church in Brooklyn Center, Minn.; Community Lutheran Church in Geneva, Minn.; Trinity Lutheran Church in Spring Grove, Minn.; and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in La Crescent, Minn. Arends earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Augsburg College in Minneapolis and a Master of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. Augsburg is one of 26 colleges and universities of the ELCA; Luther Seminary is one of eight ELCA seminaries. </font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font color="#000000" face="Times New Roman" size="3">Information about the ELCA La Crosse Area Synod is available at </font><a href="http&#58;//www.lacrosseareasynod.org/"><span style="text-decoration&#58;underline;"><font color="#0000ff" face="Times New Roman" size="3">www.lacrosseareasynod.org</font></span></a><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Times New Roman">. </font></font></font>​</p></div>06/16/2014Louis Theodore Almén – pastor, professor, author – diesELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/52http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/52<div class="ExternalClass41FA942DA7194A7A973BD1074B43C73D"><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">The Rev. Louis Theodore Alm<span style="">é</span>n, 88, a former president of Thiel College in Greenville, Pa., one of 26 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) colleges and universities, died June 3 surrounded by family at his home in Oviedo, Fla.</font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Almén was a former executive director of the Board of College Education and Church Vocations and the Division for Professional Leadership of the former Lutheran Church in America (LCA), a predecessor church to the current ELCA.</font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">An author of several books, some of his more recent writings include “Vocation in a Post-Vocational Age,” “Now More than Ever,” “The Augustana Heritage Vis-à-vis the Role of the Church in Society” and “Augustana Heritage&#58; Resource for the Fuure.”</font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">Almén earned a Bachelor Degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., also an ELCA college. He graduated from the former Augustana Seminary in Rock Island, Ill., and was ordained in 1950 in the Washington Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He later earned a Master of Theology degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., and a doctorate from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa.</font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">As a pastor, Almén served Bartholomew Lutheran Church in Elizabeth, N.J., and Messiah Lutheran Church in Port Byron, Ill.</font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">In 1976 he was named president of the ELCA’s Thiel College, retiring in 1990. Previously he had taught at the former Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., and Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill., another of the ELCA’s colleges.</font></font></font></p><p class="MsoNormal" style="margin&#58;0in 0in 10pt;"><font size="3"><font color="#000000"><font face="Calibri">He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Ardis “Swanson,” their three children and five grandchildren.</font></font></font>​</p></div>06/09/2014Mark Holmerud re-elected bishop of ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/51http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/51<div class="ExternalClass6D51519C4ACE4808B7E0422D62EC279A">The Rev. Mark W. Holmerud was re-elected May 31 to serve a second six-year term as bishop of the Sierra Pacific Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He was re-elected on the fourth ballot during the Synod Assembly May 30-June 1 at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport in Burlingame, Calif.<br>Holmerud was elected with 283 votes to 63 votes for the Rev. Jeff R. Johnson, pastor of University Lutheran Chapel of Berkeley and campus pastor at the University of California, both in Berkeley, Calif. A total of 267 votes were needed for an election.<br>Prior to becoming bishop in 2008, Holmerud served as pastor of Lutheran Church of the Incarnation in Davis, Calif. He graduated from San Diego State University in San Diego in 1980, and Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary (now Luther Seminary) in 1984. Luther is one of eight ELCA seminaries. Holmerud was ordained in 1984.<br>Information about the ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.spselca.org/">http&#58;//www.spselca.org/</a>.<br>&#160;<div>&#160;</div><p>​</p></div>06/02/2014