ELCA NEWS SERVICE
November 16, 2009
Reinstatement Process Revision Adopted by ELCA Church Council
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a revision to the reinstatement process for former clergy and other professional leaders who were removed from the church's official rosters for disciplinary reasons or resigned in lieu of discipline -- solely because they were in a lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship.
The change, adopted Nov. 15, applies to former ELCA associates in ministry, deaconesses, diaconal ministers and ordained ministers.
The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and serves as the legislative authority of the church between churchwide assemblies. It met here Nov. 13-15.
The action was a response to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which adopted proposals to change ELCA ministry policies. One change created the possibility for Lutherans in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, deaconesses, diaconal ministers and ordained ministers. The assembly also adopted a social statement on human sexuality by a two-thirds vote.
The revision to the reinstatement policy applies only to people in lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships. The council's decision makes it possible for a person to begin the application process for reinstatement beginning Jan. 1, 2010 through Dec. 31, 2011.
Until the 2009 Churchwide Assembly adopted a social statement on human sexuality and changes to ministry policies, any same-gender relationship was considered sexual misconduct and cause for discipline. Under the new policies, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly acknowledged there are different views within the church of these relationships and that these views are held by faithful people who understand Scripture in different ways.
Without the policy change, people in same-gender relationships removed from the church's rosters solely because of that relationship would have to wait a minimum of five years before an application for reinstatement could be considered.
The ELCA Conference of Bishops endorsed the reinstatement policy change when it met in October.
Even under the new reinstatement policy, a final decision on an applicant's reinstatement request cannot be made until other policy documents are revised and approved. Documents undergoing revision are "Vision and Expectations" for associates in ministry, deaconesses, diaconal ministers and ordained ministers, said the Rev. Stanley N. Olson, executive director, ELCA Vocation and Education. Also being revised are "Definition and Guidelines for Discipline," plus an ELCA candidacy manual and other policies, he said.
The revised documents will be reviewed by an ad hoc committee and the ELCA Conference of Bishops at its March 4-9, 2010 meeting. After consultation with the bishops, recommendations will be sent to the ELCA Church Council. At its April 9-12, 2010 meeting, council members will consider the revisions and may adopt the revised policy documents.
Vocation and Education, the ELCA Office of the Secretary and the ELCA Committee on Appeals are revising the policy documents collaboratively, Olson told the council. The ELCA Board of Pensions is also in "close conversation" with the drafting teams concerning effects of the changes on pension and benefits plan, he said.
"We intend to carry out the directives of the assembly ... to welcome people who are in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships into rostered (professional) ministry, and to make provision to respect and preserve (a) place in this church for those whose convictions, (and) bound consciences, are at a different place," Olson said.
Current ministry policy documents, links to assembly actions and draft revisions are at http://www.ELCA.org/ministrypolicies on the ELCA Web site, he said. Drafting teams welcome comments on the suggested revisions, Olson said.
"This is a complicated process," said David D. Swartling, ELCA secretary, of the effort to revise policies. Swartling added the language in all of the documents must be "consistent and congruent."
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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