From the ELCA News Service yesterday afternoon:
ELCA Council Recommends 2009 Assembly Rules, Acts on other Topics
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) recommended rules of procedure to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, focusing discussion on votes related to social statements and recommendations from a task force report, both of which will be considered at the next assembly.
The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and serves as the legislative authority of the church between churchwide assemblies. The council met here Nov. 14-17. Assemblies are held every other year; the next is Aug. 17-23, 2009, in Minneapolis.
The council's actions related to a proposed social statement on human sexuality, currently in the final writing stages, and a separate report with recommendations on ministry standards. Both documents are being prepared by a task force. They will become public Feb. 19, 2009, and will be transmitted by the council with recommendations to the 2009 assembly for consideration.
The social statement was requested by the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The 2007 Churchwide Assembly requested the task force report and recommendations. That assembly asked the task force to "specifically address and make recommendations to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly on changes to any policies that preclude practicing homosexual persons from the rosters of this church." The ELCA maintains a roster of its ordained clergy and three rosters of its lay ministers: associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers.
The council recommended the 2009 Churchwide Assembly retain rules that require a two-thirds vote to adopt social statements and amendments to the ELCA Constitution and Bylaws, both required by the ELCA Constitution. It declined two proposals to recommend that a two-thirds vote be required to adopt recommendations or resolutions related to a task force report. If the assembly agrees, only a simple majority will be needed for such proposals under Robert's Rules of Order, unless the proposals call for constitutional or bylaw changes, said David D. Swartling, ELCA secretary.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, abstained from voting on the rules because he chairs the assembly, he told the council. Swartling reminded the council that the churchwide assembly has the final say on its rules of procedure.
The council heard a variety of reports and took several actions:
+ The council received an update on the work of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality. At its March 27-30, 2009, meeting here, the council will consider the proposed social statement on human sexuality with implementing resolutions, and the report on recommendations concerning possible changes to policies regarding ELCA rosters. The council will transmit those documents with its recommendation to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly. From April to June, the church's 65 synod assemblies will discuss and respond to the proposed social statement and implementing resolutions, and the report on the church's rosters.
+ Hanson described as "turbulent" and "expectant" the current environment in the church and in the world. He challenged the council and other church leaders to exhibit "generous, faithful and fruitful" leadership, by sharing resources and imagining "how to put them to work for the sake of the gospel and God's mission in the world." He called for "evangelical, missional and imaginative" leadership by letting go of any resistance to claiming "evangelical" as part of who ELCA Lutherans are; and he called for a deepening of faith practices in light of recent reported drops in average weekly worship attendance.
+ Swartling said the financial giving total from ELCA congregations reflected a slight increase from 2006 to 2007. According to his written report, total receipts were $2.82 billion in 2007, up 2.5 percent or $68 million. Total assets of ELCA congregations are more than $20 billion. Swartling reported a decline in average worship attendance of 211,043 or 13.4 percent over the past six years.
+ The council amended the ELCA Manual of Policies and Procedures for Management of the Rosters to allow newly ordained clergy to serve their first calls as mission developers starting new ministries. The church may authorize lay people to serve in ministries of Word and Sacrament where ordained clergy are not available; and another amendment to the manual says such people serving in long-term ministries will enter the ELCA candidacy process for ordination.
+ The council recommended the 2009 Churchwide Assembly call for development of a social statement on the topic of "justice for women in church and society" for presentation to the 2015 Churchwide Assembly. The recommendation came from the ELCA Church in Society program unit.
+ The council recommended to the 2009 Churchwide Assembly that the assembly accept an implementing resolution as the basis for a full communion relationship with the United Methodist Church (UMC). Earlier this year, the UMC General Conference adopted the proposal.
+ The Rev. Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, former bishop, ELCA South Dakota Synod, has been named ELCA coordinator for the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI), effective Dec. 15. The council previously authorized preparation for a potential Lutheran malaria initiative education and fundraising campaign. With the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Lutheran World Relief as LMI partners, an LMI fundraising campaign is expected to be considered by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
+ Carlos Peña, ELCA vice president, Galveston, Texas, told the council he is willing to serve another six-year term as vice president of the ELCA. In his report, Peña said he is "grateful for the time spent in this position" and "willing to accept the decision" of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly as "God and the assembly see fit." The assembly is scheduled to elect a vice president, a layperson who serves as chair of the council and as an ELCA officer.
+ The council called on the U.S. Department of Defense to ensure that the Eucharist be available to military personnel each week with a presiding chaplain who is recognized by the ELCA and Episcopal Church. The department considers non-Catholic Christian chaplains "Protestant," a category that includes clergy who are unfamiliar with the eucharistic liturgy.
+ The council adopted a revised policy document for the acknowledgement of independent Lutheran organizations (ILO). Organizations that function as umbrella organizations are expected to provide information about constituent organizations, and each must meet the criteria for ILO status.
+ The council received an update on the work of Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR), a collaborative ministry of the ELCA and LCMS. The Rev. Kevin A. Massey, LDR director, said 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of LDR. He said the anniversary occurs in one of the "worst years" for natural disasters in the United States, with a record number of tornadoes and the "most property damage" from hurricanes sustained since 2005.
+ The council received the initial report of a 12-member communal discernment task force it established in April to explore ways for the ELCA "to engage emotional and divisive issues, seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and make difficult decisions as a church body in ways that will increase mutual trust, build respect for each other as the body of Christ, and deepen spiritual discernment." The council encouraged planners of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly to review preliminary recommendations of the task force, and it approved provisions for the task force to continue through August 2011.
+ The Rev. M. Wyvetta Bullock, ELCA executive for administration, reported that the leaders of the church's three financial services units -- Board of Pensions, Foundation and Mission Investment Fund -- have been discussing ways to "coordinate the practices" of the units without changing their structures. The council received an implementing resolution and joint operating guidelines adopted by each unit's board.
+ The Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, executive director, Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission (EOCM), reported that EOCM is placing a staff person in each of the church's 65 synods to work with bishops to strengthen ELCA congregations and grow local ministries.
+ Kristi S. Bangert, executive director, ELCA Communication Services, introduced the new ELCA brand mark, which contains the ELCA emblem, the name of the church and its tag line, "God's work, our hands."
+ The council approved an initial current fund spending authorization for fiscal year 2009 of $82,447,200, which is $527,200 more than the $81,920,000 proposed by the ELCA 2007 Churchwide Assembly. For the ELCA World Hunger Program, the council approved a revised spending authorization for fiscal year 2008 of $22.7 million, which is $2.7 million more than the $20 million proposed. Christina Jackson-Skelton, ELCA treasurer, said world hunger income through September is $2.6 million above what was anticipated this year. The council also approved an initial spending authorization of $20.6 million for the World Hunger Program for fiscal year 2009.
+ The council heard an update on a "feasibility study" to determine the possibility of a fundraising effort or "churchwide campaign" that embodies the church's three expressions -- congregations, synods and churchwide organization. A proposal for a possible churchwide campaign is to be brought to the March 2009 council meeting for transmission to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
+ The council received and reviewed a draft of a churchwide strategy on HIV and AIDS. A strategy is to be presented for consideration to the March 2009 council meeting.
+ The Rev. Mark A. Cerniglia, Columbia, S.C., was appointed to fill a vacancy on the program committee of ELCA Multicultural Ministries.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Commentary will follow...