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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Governance 'has to change'

Church Council discusses decision-making, budget shortfalls

At the Church Council's April 16-18 meeting, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said he saw "a growing, if not pervasive," ambivalence in the ELCA. "Are we ambivalent about being church beyond the congregation?" he asked. "How many of our leaders stand up and declare, 'We are part of the ELCA,' and how many view the larger church as 'something else' or 'someone else'?"

Hanson's comments set the stage for a conversation on church governance, facilitated by Kenneth Inskeep, director of the Department for Research and Evaluation. Inskeep described the results of a 2004 survey on decision-making in the ELCA (www.elca.org/
planning). The survey included lay people, parish pastors, congregational presidents, churchwide committee and board members, synod bishops and council members, Church Council members, and presidents of ELCA colleges, universities and seminaries.

Inskeep said a minority of those surveyed believe current ELCA processes to choose "decision-makers make it difficult to be representative [and] some decisions wouldn't be made if we followed a different process. ... Because this view represents a significant minority of people and not a majority, we can't tell if shifts in the [current process] would improve the situation or simply shift dissatisfaction to another group." He said more conversation is needed.

"I don't think it's possible to have this [governance issue] decided by November," said William Lloyd Jr., a council member from Somerset, Pa.

Hanson said, "A significant majority of bishops and other leaders say something has to change about the governance. Not to respond at all would be irresponsible and not listening."


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