The ELCA's Churchwide Assembly (CWA) is in session this week in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One can follow the proceedings live as they happen from the ELCA's website. That particular link will likely expire shortly after the the CWA's adjournment, but www.elca.org/assembly will get you not only to the current assembly, but to the whatever is kept on the ELCA's permanent web archive of past CWAs, too.
There are other ways to keep up with what is happening, too. Pr. Dick Johnson, editor of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau's monthly Forum Letter, is doing up-to-date reports on ALPB Forum Online; just click the "ELCA Churchwide Assembly 2013" section. As at earlier CWAs, he also offers some commentary and behind the scenes reporting; and other members of the pan-Lutheran online forum comments, too.
In addition, this is the first CWA in which, rather than printing everything on paper, most everything is being done electronically, with Voting Members being provided iPads (or using their own tablet device) for just about everything. Most of the material is available to anyone through the apps at the 2013 Assembly Guidebook web page, or this page for any web browser, which include the ELCA's own news blog.
An ELCA Churchwide Assembly receives reports of what is happening within the church, elects people to various offices, sets the budgets for the upcoming years, and acts on various subjects and matters that are part of this church's life. Among the "significant" matters for this one is a proposed Social Statement on Criminal Justice, "The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries," the ELCA's 25th Anniversary, and the elections of a Presiding Bishop and Secretary.
At the moment, it is the Presiding Bishop's election that most observers are focussing on, and it is initially a bit more interesting than most anticipated. The Rt. Rev. Mark S. Hanson was first elected in 2001 (ELCA Bishops have 6-year terms), has led during a time of great controversy, and had announced earlier that he was available for election to a third term. At the Churchwide level, there is no "campaigning" ahead of time at least officially ;). Rather, for the first ballot serves as a nominating ballot, with every ELCA pastor eligible for election.
An election can happen on that first ballot if a pastor receives 75% of the votes, which is what happened in 2007, when Bishop Hanson was re-elected. Every pastor's name written on that first ballot appears on the second ballot, unless the pastor deliberately withdraws, again with 75% needed to elect. A third ballot would be limited to the top 7 vote getters, election happening with 2/3rds of the votes. Fourth ballot has 3 pastors, 60% required for election; fifth ballot is the top 2, majority vote elects.
To be continued...