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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Facing critical issues

Voting members to address sexuality, restructuring,worship andethnic ministry

When you hear Orlando, Fla., what comes to mind? Cartoon mice? Theme parks? Vacations? How about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly?

This week the Florida-Bahamas Synod is hosting the 2005 assembly, welcoming 1,018 voting members and about 1,000 additional participants to Orlando’s World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center.

More than 2,000  participants converged
More than 2,000 participants converged on the World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center, Orlando, Fla., for the 2005 Churchwide Assembly, Aug. 8-14.
Under the theme “Marked With the Cross of Christ Forever” (from the ELCA mission statement), theassembly could have far-reaching consequences for the ELCA. Voting members will act on proposals related to the Studies on Sexuality, restructuring the churchwide organization, the Renewing Worship project, two ethnic ministry strategies and interim eucharistic sharing with the United Methodist Church.

Sexuality

Voting members will consider three recommendations from the ELCA Church Council on whether the church will bless committed same-gender relationships and allow those in such relationships to serve on the ELCA ministry roster. The council based its recommendations on the report of the Task Force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality.

The task force’s four-year study of sexuality was mandated by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly. Closely following the task force recommendations, the council:

• Called for the church to “concentrate on finding ways to live together faithfully in the midst of disagreements, recognizing the God-given mission and communion that we share as members of the body of Christ.” The council recommended that this be subject to a majority vote.

• Asked the ELCA to “continue to respect” the 1993 Conference of Bishops’ statement, which opposes same-sex blessings but asks the church to “welcome gay and lesbian persons into its life” and allows congregations to explore the best ways to offer pastoral care for gay and lesbian people. The council also asks the ELCA to “trust pastors and congregations to discern ways to provide faithful pastoral care to same-sex couples.”

• Asked for a process to allow exceptions for ELCA ministers in committed same-gender relationships. Based on the task force’s recommendation, the council developed a bylaw that outlines a process that would allow synod bishops to seek exceptions to ELCA policies for partnered gay and lesbians to serve on ELCA ministry rosters.

Also on the agenda:

• A proposal to amend ELCA governing documents and restructure the churchwide organization into program units and service units.

• Whether to authorize the Office of the Presiding Bishop to complete a liturgical review of content for a worship book and resources from the Renewing Worship project.

• Consideration, after nearly 30 years of theological talks between Lutherans and the United Methodist Church, of a Church Council recommendation that the ELCA enter a relationship of interim eucharistic sharing toward possible full communion, where clergy could serve either church.

• Two ethnic strategies to increase the ELCA’s outreach and commitment to congregations and people of African descent and of Arab and Middle Eastern heritage.

• Elections of members to the Church Council and churchwide boards and committees.

• Resolutions from synods and voting members on issues ranging from hunger to conflict between Israel and Palestine.

• The churchwide budgets for 2006 and 2007.


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