2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly Addresses Variety of Topics

8/28/2009 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The 11th Biennial Churchwide Assembly of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) acted on a variety of
topics including adoption of a full communion relationship with the
United Methodist Church, funding for a churchwide HIV and AIDS strategy,
development of a Lutheran Malaria Initiative, a social statement on human
sexuality, revisions of ministry policies, a social statement on justice
for women and budget proposals.
     The assembly re-elected Carlos Pena, Galveston, Texas, as ELCA vice
president for another six years. It acted on a variety of resolutions
from synods (memorials) and resolutions from voting members on topics
such as immigration, Israel and Palestine, and health care reform.
     The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, chaired his fourth
churchwide assembly.  Hanson is also president of the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) in Geneva.  ELCA secretary David D. Swartling assisted
Hanson and voting members.
     The Minneapolis Convention Center was the site of the assembly, Aug.
17-23. About 2,300 people participated, including 1,045 voting members.
The theme was "God's work. Our hands."
     The next churchwide assembly is Aug. 14-20, 2011, at the Orlando
(Fla.) World Center Resort.

Full Communion with the United Methodist Church Adopted
     By a vote of 958-51, the assembly adopted a full communion agreement
with the United Methodist Church (UMC).  This is the ELCA's sixth full
communion relationship and the first for the UMC. The assembly also
established a joint commission to oversee the relationship by a vote of
922-15. In 2008 the UMC General Conference adopted the same proposal.
Full communion means that the two churches identify in one another a
common Christian faith; agree to mutual recognition of Baptism and the
sharing of Holy Communion; worship together and recognize each other's
ordained ministers for service in either church; express a common
commitment to evangelism, witness and service; engage in common decision
making on critical matters; and agree to a mutual lifting of criticisms
that may exist between the churches.

Carlos Pena Re-elected Vice President
     Vice President Carlos Pena of Galveston, Texas, was elected on the
fourth ballot to a second six-year term as vice president with 580 votes,
60.8 percent of the votes cast. Pena was elected over Ryan M. Schwarz,
McLean, Va., who received 264 votes, and Norma J. Hirsch, Des Moines,
Iowa, who received 110 votes. There were 97 nominees on the first ballot.

HIV and AIDS Funding Proposal Adopted
     The assembly voted 884-41 to approve a proposal to raise $10 million
over three years to support the church's HIV and AIDS strategy. A $1
million goal encouraged by the 2007 Churchwide Assembly will be included
in the $10 million.  The ELCA Church Council approved the strategy in

Development of Lutheran Malaria Initiative Approved
     By a vote of 989-11, the assembly approved continued development of
an initiative to fight malaria, particularly in Africa.  The Lutheran
Malaria Initiative (LMI) is a shared effort with Lutheran World Relief
(LWR), the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the United Nations
Foundation. The assembly authorized continued receipt of gifts designated
for the LMI, and asked that a report and recommendations for a possible
churchwide LMI campaign be presented to the 2011 assembly.

Social Statement, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," Adopted
     The assembly adopted by a vote of 676-338 -- precisely two-thirds of
those voting -- "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," the ELCA's 10th social
statement, with editorial amendments. It also adopted 15 implementing
resolutions by a vote of 695-285. The social statement is a theological
and teaching document that builds on the key Lutheran principles of
justification by grace and Christian freedom to serve the neighbor. It
emphasizes that central to our vocation, in relation to human sexuality,
is the building and protection of trust in relationships. It affirms that
people are called to be trustworthy in their human sexuality and to build
social institutions and practices in which trust and trustworthy
relationships can thrive. The social statement addresses, among other
topics, marriage, same-gender relationships, families, protecting
children, friendships, commitment, social responsibility and moral
discernment. Regarding same-gender committed relationships, the statement
recognizes that members of the ELCA are not in agreement and identifies
the different perspectives that are present.

Ministry Policies Resolutions Adopted
     Voting members adopted resolutions proposed by the Church Council
based on those contained in a "Report and Recommendation on Ministry
Policies." The assembly determined Aug. 17 that majority votes would be
required on each resolution for adoption. The actions direct that changes
be made to churchwide policy documents to make it possible for people in
publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to
serve as associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal
ministers in the ELCA. The assembly adopted the resolutions in the
following order:

Resolution 3: Adopted by a vote of 771-230 as amended: "Resolved, that
in the implementation of any resolutions on ministry policies, the ELCA
commit itself to bear one another's burdens, love the neighbor, and
respect the bound consciences of all."

Resolution 1: Adopted by a vote of 619-402: "Resolved, that the ELCA
commit itself to finding ways to allow congregations that choose to do so
to recognize, support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous,
same-gender relationships."

Resolution 2: Adopted by a vote of 559-451: "Resolved, that the ELCA
commit itself to finding a way for people in such publicly accountable,
lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered
leaders of this church."

Resolution 4: Adopted by a vote of 667-307 as amended: This resolution
called on members to respect the bound consciences of those with whom
they disagree; declared the intent to allow structured flexibility in
decision-making about candidacy and the call process; eliminated the
prohibition of rostered (associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and
diaconal ministers) service by members in publicly accountable, lifelong,
monogamous same-gender relationships; recognized and committed to respect
the convictions of members who believe that the ELCA should not call or
roster people in committed same-gender relationships; called for
development of accountability guidelines; directed that appropriate
amendments to ministry policy documents be drafted and approved by the
Church Council; and urged that the church continue to trust
congregations, bishops, synods and others responsible for determining who
should be called into public ministry.

More information about the social statement and the ministry policies
resolutions is at http://www.ELCA.org/faithfuljourney/faq on the Web.

Budget Proposals for 2010, 2011 Adopted
     By a vote of 863-71 voting members adopted churchwide budget
proposals for 2010 and 2011.  For 2010, voting members approved a current
fund income proposal of $76.69 million for the churchwide organization
and an ELCA World Hunger Appeal income proposal of $18.7 million. For
2011, they approved a current income proposal of $76.78 million and a
World Hunger income goal of $19 million.

Social Statement on Justice for Women to be Developed
     By a vote of 754-176 the assembly approved development of a social
statement on the topic of justice for women, to be considered by the 2015
Churchwide Assembly.

Assembly Adopts Memorials, Resolutions
     + Immigration: Adopted 873-82.  The assembly called for
comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration policies and processes, called
for suspension of immigration raids until reform is enacted, and asked
for a message on from the ELCA on immigration this year.
     + Lutheran Disaster Response: Adopted 929-20.  The assembly
acknowledged this collaborative ministry of the ELCA and the LCMS and
acknowledged that a strategic planning process for LDR is under way. It
encouraged the ELCA "to continue to deepen and develop its process for
working together with churchwide units, synods and social ministry
organizations in times of specific disasters."  The assembly asked that a
progress report be presented to the Church Council in 2010, and amended
the proposal to recommend creation of a permanent LDR advisory committee.
     + Israel/Palestine: Adopted 690-125.  Voting members resolved to
advocate for a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and
Palestine. They called the ELCA to lift up the voices within both
communities, especially those who are victims of violence. The resolution
also calls for care for the people of Gaza and support for U.S. financial
assistance that funds "peace and cooperation for all parties to the
conflict." An amendment to the memorial called for the ELCA to "evaluate
and refine its peace-making efforts to demonstrate as fully as possible
the balanced care for all parties" expressed in the "Churchwide Strategy
for Engagement in Israel and Palestine."
     + Worship, liturgical materials in Braille: Adopted 926-10. This
memorial called for affirmed and celebrated materials being provided to
people with impaired vision, acknowledged funding challenges and limits
for this work, and asked for a report to the Church Council in 2010.
     + Project Connect: Adopted 919-19.  The memorial recognized "the
immense contribution of communities of color within and beyond this
church," encouraged those involved with Project Connect to share
learnings with the wider church, renewed the ELCA's commitment to
confront racism, and encouraged review of factors that inhibit people of
color from "the fullness of leadership in this church."
     + Human disability message: Adopted 785-88.  The assembly declined
to authorize development of a social statement on human disability, but
requested that ELCA Church in Society instead consider developing a
message on human disability.
     + Health care reform: Adopted 799-126. The resolution provides
that "each person should have ready access to basic health care services
that include preventive, acute and chronic physical and mental health
care at an affordable cost." The assembly requested that the urgency and
sense of the resolution be communicated to Congress and the White House.
     + Batak Special Interest Conference: Adopted 845-15.  The action
strikes from the ELCA's bylaws reference to the "Batak Special Interest
Conference of North America," a move supported by Batak members of the
Indonesian ministries of the ELCA.     
     + Thanks: The assembly also adopted resolutions expressing
appreciation for ELCA churchwide leaders and staff, plus local hosts and
the people of the Twin Cities.  Other memorials and resolutions were
referred to the Church Council or churchwide units for response.
     Information about the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is at
http://www.ELCA.org/assembly on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog


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