Called to Common Mission topped the debates in most synods as assemblies concluded. (See July for reports from earlier assemblies. Additional reports will be in the September issue.) Most synods reacted to the 1999 Churchwide Assembly's decision to adopt the full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church, taking actions that ranged from affirming CCM to asking the Church Council to allow exceptions to the historic episcopate, a succession of pastors and bishops tracing back to the early church.
Synods affirming their support of CCM include: Southwestern Pennsylvania; Southeastern; Nebraska; Metropolitan Washington, D.C.; West Virginia-Western Maryland; North Carolina; New England; Metropolitan New York; Lower Susquehanna; and Northern Illinois. Quoting Ephesians 4:31-32, the Northern Illinois Synod called upon ELCA members to "work to foster mutual forgiveness and reconciliation where this issue has caused hurt, anger and harm."
While the West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod voted to remain "steadfastly committed" to the decision "by refusing any and all proposed planned exceptions to CCM," the Delaware-Maryland, Alaska and Nebraska synods supported the ELCA bishops' pastoral letter on implementation, which urged conversations about ways to allow exceptions to the historic episcopate. The Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod also asked that dialogue be continued.
The Montana and Grand Canyon synods opposed giving clergy freedom to accept or reject the historic episcopate but asked that bishops — in "unusual circumstances" — be allowed to authorize synod pastors to conduct ordinations. The South Dakota, Southwestern Minnesota and LaCrosse Area synods passed similar resolutions for "unusual circumstances." Similarly, the Minneapolis Area Synod asked the ELCA Church Council to explore changes "in the ELCA governing documents that would allow ordinations and installations to occur outside the Historic Episcopate."
However, 10 synods urged that members be allowed to freely accept or reject the historic episcopate on theological grounds. They were: South Dakota, Northwestern Minnesota, East-Central Wisconsin, Northwest Washington, Northwestern Ohio, Western North Dakota, Northeastern Iowa, Southwestern Minnesota and Eastern Washington-Idaho.
The Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod also requested that the ELCA Church Council amend the denomination's constitution to require all further full communion agreements to be ratified by two-thirds of all ELCA congregations.
And the Southwestern Minnesota Synod asked that its members "not be confessionally bound" by the 1999 Churchwide Assembly vote. The synod also called on its bishop to "express to the presiding bishop of the ELCA this synod's profound sadness and disappointment in the failure of the process leading up to the adoption of CCM."
Voicing concerns about the process that led to CCM's adoption, the Northeastern Iowa Synod encouraged the Church Council to "review all [CCM-related] ELCA activities and procedures [since the 1997 Churchwide Assembly]."
In that same vein, the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin called for Churchwide Assembly voting members from its synod "to take into account the will of this synod in their voting," with each person's name, address and phone number available to anyone in the synod upon request. The synod also asked the Church Council to propose constitutional changes to clarify the "representative role" of voting members.
Resolutions for exceptions to the historic episcopate were defeated in the Central/Southern Illinois, Southwestern Washington, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast, Montana, Grand Canyon, North Carolina and Northeastern Pennsylvania synods.
Saying the ELCA bishops' pastoral letter "did not go far enough," the Northwestern Ohio Synod urged the 2001 Churchwide Assembly to "further interpret" the ELCA's practice of the historic episcopate to mean that "there is no ontological change of a person's being taking place" and "no sacramental understanding" in ordinations of ELCA pastors or installations of ELCA bishops.
One synod, South Dakota, called for the 2003 Churchwide Assembly to "reconsider" the full communion agreement. But the following synods defeated resolutions to rescind CCM: Northwestern Minnesota, Southwestern Washington, Eastern Washington-Idaho, Montana and Oregon.
In six synods, no resolutions on CCM were presented: Northwestern Pennsylvania, Central States, Allegheny, Metropolitan Chicago, Upper Susquehanna and Upstate New York.
The Upper Susquehanna Synod adopted one resolution on CCM: a call for prayer for "peace, respect and healing" within the ELCA in regards to the full communion decision.
Same-sex unions, gay ordinations
Gay and lesbian unions and ordination of noncelibate gays continued to be a dominant topic at some assemblies.
In a memorial to the 2001 Churchwide Assembly, the Metropolitan Chicago Synod urged the ELCA to develop a rite of blessing for same-sex unions, as well as pastoral care and counseling materials for same-gender couples. They also called for the clergy "Visions and Expectations" statement to allow gay and lesbian people in committed relationships to become candidates for ordination.
The Metropolitan New York Synod approved the formation of a synod commission for gays and lesbians and called for a similar churchwide commission to be developed.
Of the Greater Milwaukee Synod assembly's call for same-sex union blessings, the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin said they would respond "with Christ-like understanding" and encourage congregations to "take the time necessary to discuss and debate the issue of same gender relationships within the ELCA."
* Several synods urged congregations to become safe havens for children by offering a positive environment for families and advocating for public policies that promote the health and well-being of children. The synods include: Southeastern, Northwest Washington, Delaware-Maryland, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Montana, Upper Susquehanna, Lower Susquehanna, Northeastern Pennsylvania, South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, North Carolina and Central States.
* The Metropolitan Washington, D.C.; Delaware-Maryland; and Central States synods supported affordable universal health care.
* The Metropolitan Washington, D.C., and Southwestern Pennsylvania synods called for such gun-safety measures as effective safety locks on all handguns, penalties for gun-owners if their loaded guns are used by children in violent acts, and conflict resolution programs in schools and churches.
At the Central/Southern Illinois Synod assembly, Bishop Alton Zenker and his wife, Marlene, gave a towel to every family present as a reminder to take towels in service to those outside church walls.
The North Carolina Synod's worship included songs from This Far By Faith, the new African American hymnal, and a festival brass service with two Moravian hymns. The East-Central Synod of Wisconsin's worship included Hands of Christ, an ecumenical deaf choir that signed a hymn.
The Southwestern Washington Synod enjoyed a sing-along banquet with piano improvisations by Chris Nolte, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Vancouver, Wash.
At the Grand Canyon Synod assembly, Charles Bolin — introduced as the only chaplain on the Las Vegas Strip — talked about his discipling ministry to the Riveria Hotel's 2,200 employees and 4,000 guests.
Resolutions recognizing the 30th anniversary of women's ordination and honoring the work of female pastors were passed by the Northwestern Minnesota, North Carolina, Metropolitan New York and Metropolitan Washington, D.C., synods. Anniversary celebrations were held in the Central States, Oregon and Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast synods.
Vote count, to date
Voted to affirm CCM: 15 synods
Voted to rescind CCM: 1
Voted to allow bishops to designate a synod pastor to conduct an ordination in "unusual circumstances": 8
Voted to allow exceptions to the historic episcopate for theological reasons: 16
Voted to find possible ways to make exceptions: 9
Voted NOT to make exceptions to CCM: 10
Voted NOT to rescind CCM: 8
Voted to pray for all in regards to CCM: 1
Made no resolutions on CCM: 15
Passed no resolutions on CCM: 24
Elected: Gerard Knoche, 57, as bishop of the Delaware-Maryland Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 17, on the fifth ballot, 291-112, over Phillip C. Huber, pastor of St. Matthew, Washington, D.C.
Bio: Pastor of New Hope, Columbia, Md. Graduate of Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass.; Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Conn.; and the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg, Pa. Served at the Lutheran Campus Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Gettysburg College; and Grace Westminster, Md.
Replaces: George Mocko, who retires Aug. 31.
Elected: David L. deFreese, 45, as bishop of the Nebraska Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 10, on the fifth ballot, 450-399, over Gordon D. Peterson Jr., assistant to the Central States Synod bishop.
Bio: Pastor of First, Kearney, Neb. Graduate of Augustana College, Sioux Falls, S.D., and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Served Immanuel, Bellevue; Christ, Pierce; Martin Luther Home, Beatrice; and Bethphage Mission, Axtell, all in Nebraska.
Replaces: Richard N. Jessen, who retires Aug. 31.
Elected: Warren D. Freiheit, 52, as bishop of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 10, on the fifth ballot, 250-165, over Dennis A. Meyer, pastor of Prince of Peace, St. Joseph, Ill.
Bio: Pastor of First English, Peoria, Ill. Graduate of Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa; Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; and Governor's State University, University Park, Ill. Served Immanuel, Lincoln, and Resurrection, Oak Forest, both Illinois.
Replaces: Alton Zenker, who retires Sept. 1.
Elected: Margaret G. Payne, 53, as bishop of the New England Synod, effective Sept. 1.
When: June 2, on the fifth ballot, 369-207 over Dennis P. Kohl, pastor of Pilgrim, Warwick, R.I.
Bio: Served Christ the King, Wilbraham, Mass., and Prince of Peace, Princeton Junction, N.J., and was assistant to the New Jersey Synod bishop. Graduate of Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., and Princeton [N.J.] Seminary.
Replaces: Robert L. Isaksen, who retires August 31.
Elected: James A. Justman, 43, as bishop of the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin, effective Aug. 1.
When: June 10, on the fifth ballot, 249-174, over John Meachen, pastor of Good Shepherd, Wausau, Wis.
Bio: Served as associate to the bishop of the synod for six years. Graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa. Served Our Savior, Oshkosh, and Zion, Appleton, both Wisconsin.
Replaces: John Beem who retires July 31.
Re-elected: Stanley N. Olsen, bishop of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod, June 10, on the third ballot, 410-202, over Randy Chrissis, pastor of Christ the King, Hutchinson, Minn.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers