ELCA NEWS SERVICE
November 14, 2012
ELCA Church Council adopts message on mental illness
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted “The Body of Christ and Mental Illness” as an official social message of the church when it met here Nov. 9-11. The message lifts up the ministries of ELCA congregations, social ministry organizations and others and the urgent need for efforts to make a place for and with people who suffer from mental illness in the church and in society.
One-half of U.S. citizens in their lifetimes will have a serious mental health condition but fewer than half will receive treatment, and the need for understanding and treatment is a crisis affecting the entire nation, according to the statement.
A study in the church found that 16 percent of male clergy and 24 percent of female clergy suffer from depression. Ten years of extended overseas military campaigns have also resulted in a large population of combat veterans who are experiencing mental health issues and are prone to suicide. At the same time, “the veterans’ health system is widely deemed inadequate to address the massive mental health needs among our troops,” it states.
The ELCA social message serves to encourage learning and moral discourse about mental illness and to shape the ELCA as a church that offers hope, prayer and support for people seeking treatment and support for caregivers and mental health professionals.
The ELCA has 12 other social messages on topics ranging from homelessness to immigration, from AIDS to terrorism.
In recent visits to ELCA congregations the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, told the council in his report that he could “feel the excitement” among ELCA members to bear an evangelical witness “in a culture that often sees a very different face of Christianity, hears the gospel in a different accent, if not a different gospel altogether or no gospel, only the law.”
“We can be a different face of Christianity,” said Hanson. “We are united in our shared commitment to respond together to human suffering,” he said. “It is who we are and what we do.”
“We share a commitment to God’s baptismal calling to work for justice and peace,” and “We share a commitment to the vitality of congregations as centers of proclamation and service,” Hanson said. “I believe the moment we have been given as the ELCA is to give a clear, evangelical witness to the gospel and to show forth a face of Christianity that reflects the cruciform, merciful presence of God in the midst of suffering.”
The presiding bishop framed his report to the council around four questions: What is the basis of our unity in the ELCA? How is leadership shared, and how and for what are leaders being prepared in this church? How shall we fund the mission of this church? And, for what shall we be known in 2017?
“What a great opportunity we have as the ELCA, celebrating 25 years together in Christ and preparing to mark 500 years of the ongoing Lutheran Reformation to renew our commitment to find ways to share and live this Good News in our rapidly changing, increasingly diverse local and global contexts. We can be a different face of Christianity.”
The ELCA will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2013 under the theme, “Always being made new.”
“What an opportunity we have been given in our 25th anniversary year to explore what it means to be rooted in the Living Word of God, which is the Word of God incarnate in Jesus the Christ, the Word of God proclaimed as law and gospel, the Word of God recorded in Scripture,” said Hanson.
Centering its work and time together in daily worship and frequent prayer, the council commended the “Evangelical Lutheran Worship Prayer Book for the Armed Services” as a resource for chaplains and as “a companion for all who serve,” and it commended the “Stand for Welcome Sunday” resource for use in congregations seeking mission and ministry opportunities among newcomers.
The council received a progress report from the Living Into the Future Together Advisory Committee. The committee is charged with providing ongoing advice and evaluation on a series of actions taken by the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly that sets a course for the church’s future, its relationships and structure.
The council acknowledged that the implementation of the assembly’s actions remains a “work-in-progress.” Actions approved by the 2011 assembly include a call for ELCA congregations to develop plans for mission, leadership development, the building and strengthening of global partnerships, recommendations for renewed and sustainable financial support for the ministries of the church and more.
The council also received a report from the ELCA Mission Funding Task Force and adopted recommendations that acknowledge the need for ongoing conversations on strengthening ELCA Mission Support -- financial contributions from congregations to synods and the ELCA churchwide organization.
The council invited synods to partner with one another to pilot ways to strengthen and build mission support, including ways that emphasizes stewardship and promote lateral accountability among synods. The council requested that the ELCA’s Mission Investment Fund explore the development of a “remittance process system” that would improve the process for transmitting mission support and other funds to synods. As part of the action, the council requested that the ELCA Conference of Bishops help monitor the pilot programs.
In other business, the council:
+ encouraged conversation and discernment across the church regarding the election of churchwide officers at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. It affirmed the use of a proposed outline to facilitate conversations with voting members of the assembly and in other venues across the church;
+ received an update on plans for the 2013 assembly. There will be 952 voting members -- more than 16 percent are under the age of 30, and more than 40 percent of the clergy are female, the highest ever for both groups. According to ELCA Secretary David Swartling, there may be some changes in the composition of voting members before the assembly, but preliminary demographics are encouraging;
+ pledged to join the church’s 65 synods and nearly 10,000 congregations in greeting tribal nations, which originally inhabited the North American Continent, to apologize for injustices rendered in the past and work together in the future;
+ endorsed in concept a 25th anniversary campaign;
+ received an update on the ELCA Malaria Campaign. To date, $5 million has been received. The goal of the campaign is to raise $15 million by 2015;
+ requested that the ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop provide a report with recommendations about the church’s changing landscape in leadership development, theological education, candidacy, call and rosters for presentation to the council’s April 2013 meeting;
+ approved an initial 2013 fiscal year current fund spending authorization of $69,006,305, and an initial 2013 fiscal year ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $19,000,000;
+ received a report from the Rev. Linda Norman, ELCA treasurer, who cited the generous response from ELCA members in support of the church’s recovery efforts following Hurricane and Super Storm Sandy;
+ received revisions to 2012 and 2013 synod mission support plans;
+ approved a plan for elections for service on the Church Council and boards of separately incorporated ministries in respect to the transition from a biennial to triennial Churchwide Assembly;
+ recognized that Portico Benefit Services is undertaking the process of revising its philosophy of benefits to meet societal changes, as well as pending health care reform;
+ affirmed the preliminary conclusion of the Word and Service Task Force designed to move towards the creation of a single, unified lay roster of Word and Service ministry. The task force was authorized to continue its work and bring a final proposal to the council before the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly;
+ authorized the creation of an Ecclesiology of a Global Church Task Force to review ELCA governing documents for the purpose of addressing how the church can affirm and strengthen its ecclesiology and self-understanding as part of The Lutheran World Federation;
+ received a proposal from the staff of the churchwide organization to observe the 500th anniversary of the evangelical (Lutheran) Reformation and requested that a progress report be brought to the Conference of Bishops at its March 2013 meeting and to the Church Council at its April 2013 meeting, in order for a report to be forwarded to the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly;
+ approved program changes to Missionary Sponsorship, which will hereafter be referred to as “ELCA Global Church Sponsorship,” and Mission Founders, which will hereafter be referred to as “ELCA New Congregations”; and,
+ received reports from churchwide unit executive directors, officers and others.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com