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Assemblies take stand on CCM and same-sex unions

With nearly half of all ELCA synods reporting, several have expressed concern regarding the historic episcopate provision of Called to Common Mission, the full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church.

The proposal passed at the 1999 Churchwide Assembly and will be voted on at the Episcopal convention this month. The historic episcopate refers to a succession of bishops as a sign of unity back to the earliest days of the Christian church.

The Northeastern Minnesota, St. Paul, Northwest Wisconsin and Western Iowa synods urged the Churchwide Assembly to alter the agreement so it provides full participation in the ELCA by those who can't accept the mandatory imposition of the historic episcopate. The change also would ensure that anyone whose ordination in the ELCA is irregular due to the absence of a synodical bishop would be fully a pastor of the church.

In similar resolutions, the Milwaukee and Southeastern Minnesota synods proposed that changes be made to CCM that would create ways to allow a synodical bishop, in unusual circumstances and with appropriate consultation, to authorize another ELCA pastor to preside at an ordination.

The Southeastern Iowa Synod agreed that the ELCA should take action that would allow every approved candidate for pastoral ministry the opportunity to "enter ordained ministry of this church without being ordained by a bishop in the historic episcopate as practiced in the Episcopal Church." But the synod rejected a resolution to allow every "otherwise-qualified candidate for the office of bishop or presiding bishop the opportunity ... to serve in those offices without standing in the historic episcopate, when his or her conscience requires it."

The Southeastern Iowa Synod also voted against asking the Churchwide Assembly to make needed constitutional changes to allow congregations, pastors and bishops to freely accept or reject the implementation of the historic episcopate.

The North/West Lower Michigan Synod rejected by a 226-44 vote a resolution that would provide for conscientious objection to the historic episcopate.

The Southern California (West) Synod (which voted to change its name to Southwest California Synod) rejected the exception to the ordination requirement of the historic episcopate. It voted instead to affirm and support the implementation of CCM.

Other synods that affirmed CCM without alterations include Indiana-Kentucky, Southeast Michigan, South Carolina and Rocky Mountain (the latter two synods voted to reject a compromise on the historic episcopate).

The Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod rejected a resolution to suspend CCM, and eight other synods took no action regarding CCM.

Same-sex unions


Gay and lesbian issues were another dominant topic at some assemblies.

The Milwaukee and the Southeast Michigan synods approved resolutions recognizing and affirming the blessing of same-sex unions.

Debates, which continued after the Milwaukee meeting ended, prompted a response by the ELCA presiding bishop and the bishop of the Milwaukee Synod, who stated that the synod did not oppose the current ELCA constitution, which upholds heterosexual marriage as the appropriate context for intimate sexual expression.

"What the people supporting this action were seeking to say was, 'We as a church welcome and affirm gay and lesbian people in our community, and we seek to be supportive of them as we are supportive of each other as a church,' " said Peter Rogness, bishop of the Milwaukee Synod. The Milwaukee Synod resolution, adopted by a 141-103 vote, specifically "affirms the blessing of such committed same-gender relationships by pastors of this synod after counseling with the couple seeking such a blessing."

The Virginia Synod approved almost unanimously a time of prayer, study and conversation, beginning now, to consider whether a committed same-sex relationship should be defined in the ELCA as one characterized by fidelity, monogamy, endurance and mutual love, and that the church consider at its 2001 assembly affirming the freedom of ELCA pastors to find that blessing appropriate.

The Sierra Pacific Synod encouraged its bishop to do everything possible within the guidelines to avoid the expulsion of University Lutheran Chapel at Berkeley, Calif., from the ELCA. The chapel recently called Jeff Johnson, who is not on the ELCA roster. He was denied approval because the ELCA requires its gay and lesbian pastors to remain celibate.

At the last Churchwide Assembly, a resolution passed calling for more study of the issue. The Southeast Michigan and Northeastern Ohio synods passed a resolution calling for an ELCA commission for sexual minorities while the Southwestern Texas Synod rejected it.

The Southern California (West) Synod voted 175-144, with 10 abstentions, against removing a requirement that gay pastors abstain from those types of sexual relations.

The Southwestern Texas Synod passed after much debate a resolution that it be included on the Lutherans Concerned/North America roster of welcoming synods.

The Northern Great Lakes and the Southeastern Minnesota synods voted to encourage continued education, discussion and prayer on the issue of homosexuality.

The Southern Ohio Synod voted to encourage gay and lesbian people to feel welcome within its congregations, but it rejected a resolution to become a Reconciling in Christ synod.

Other resolutions

* Several synods voted to become a safe haven for all children. The resolution calls on congregations to work at becoming a positive environment for families and to advocate for public policy that advances the well-being of children. The synods include North/West Lower Michigan, Southwestern Texas, St. Paul, Indiana-Kentucky, South Carolina, Southeastern Iowa, New Jersey and Florida-Bahamas.

* An effort has been put forth to increase giving to the World Hunger Appeal, making it an integral part of ELCA ministry. The synods voting for a stronger support of the appeal include Southwestern Texas, St. Paul, Southern Ohio, Southeastern Iowa and Milwaukee.

* The Milwaukee and Northern Great Lakes synods supported a campaign to fight global warming through education and awareness.

* The Northeastern Minnesota and St. Paul Area synods urged the ELCA to produce resources on the victimization of youth by the sex industry.

* The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod asked Lutherans to write their state senators to support Senate Bill 1266, which expands funding for education and training to help move people from welfare to self-sufficiency. It also protects children in danger of being cut off from welfare benefits by providing an additional renewal process.

* The Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod encouraged the ELCA to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws concerning pastoral calls.

The New Jersey Synod asked the ELCA to oppose expanded legalized gambling in New Jersey.

Highlights

The South Carolina Synod held an outdoor ministry fair, which taught assembly members about its various committees, commissions and institutions. There were magicians, musicians, games and other activities. "Colors of Faith," a synodical art event for children, was exhibited, with works from 17 congregations displayed.

Celebrations were held in three synods for the 30th anniversary of the ordination of women. Margaret Wold was honored by the Southern California (West) Synod for her role in paving the way for women's ordination, and the Western Iowa Synod included women clergy in its processional, which was led by its bishop, Curtis Miller. The North/West Lower Michigan Synod lifted the anniversary up in its assembly worship with words of thanksgiving for "all who supported women clergy in the ELCA to be true to their calling."

The Northern Great Lakes Synod broke ground for Shepherd of the Sea Lutheran Chapel and Retreat Center in Copper Harbor, Mich.

The Pacifica Synod celebrated raising half of the $1 million goal in its Jubilee 2000 campaign for debt relief to heavily indebted congregations.





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