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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Assembly debates, adopts rules

Most of Monday night’s first plenary session was consumed by debate over whether to require a simple majority or a two-thirds vote by the Churchwide Assembly on certain recommendations related to sexuality.

Voting members met late into the night, more than two hours past the scheduled 9 p.m. adjournment, as they worked to adopt rules of organization and procedure related to recommendations from task force reports. After a torrent of motions, amendments, requests for clarification and even a rescinding of a previous motion, the group adopted two paragraphs out of six proposed in one section.

Under the rules adopted, 2005 assembly voting members must have a two-thirds majority vote to adopt recommendations from a task force report or amendments or substitute motions related to them that “require amendment of a constitution or bylaw provision for implementation” or “would establish for this church a new practice or policy that is contrary to an existing policy that has been adopted by the Church Council upon recommendation of a board or committee, as authorized by the constitution or bylaws of this church.”

Voting members accepted an amendment by Bishop Chris Boerger, Northwest Washington Synod, to add the language “or amendments or substitute motions related to them” to the rules about task force report recommendations.

The assembly defeated moves to delete additional paragraphs of four other proposed rules. Yet those rules still failed to receive the two-thirds majority needed for adoption. One would have required a two-thirds majority vote of the assembly to adopt any task force recommendations that establish a new policy or practice that contradicts statements of predecessor church bodies. With only 58 percent of the assembly voting to adopt, the rule failed. Afterward, several voting members stepped to microphones to express confusion or dismay that the rule was no longer under consideration.

James Crumley, South Carolina Synod, said: “The confusion itself ought to indicate we should require a two-thirds vote. ... American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America statements, which on this issue are very close together, ought not to be ruled out.”

Speaking against the rule, Tim Fisher, Minneapolis Area Synod, said: “This ... has the effect of elevating statements of predecessor bodies to the same level as those of the Churchwide Assembly.”

“The ALC and LCA statements are considerably different,” said Paul Tidemann, St. Paul Area Synod. “It is unfair for us to change the rule this late in the date to require [a two-thirds] vote.”

After lengthy discussion and debate, the assembly voted 666-322 to reconsider the rule. Yet again, the rule narrowly failed (630-355) to receive the two-thirds majority needed for adoption.

Rules also failed that would have required a two-thirds vote for the assembly to approve recommendations from a task force report “that would establish policy for the oversight by synods of the official rosters of this church,” or provide “advice to congregations of this church.” Where the two-thirds majority vote rules were not adopted, Robert's Rules of Order applies.

“If we have anything less than a two-thirds majority, no matter what the decision is, this is not going to be helpful to this church ...,” said Bishop Donald McCoid, Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod. “If it doesn’t have [the assembly’s] strong support, it should not be adopted.”

Yet Laura Erisman, Sierra Pacific Synod, said: “I would urge us to consider being a little less safe and a little more trustworthy of the process.”

During the evening session, the group also considered but rejected giving visitors, not just voting members and certain resource people, voice at assembly hearings.


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September issue

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