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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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At synod assemblies

Voting members consider issues of disciplinary restraint, leadership and social concerns

The Rocky Mountain Synod gathered under
The Rocky Mountain Synod gathered under the theme, “Holy Places, Holy People,” in Albuquerque, N.M., April 28-30. The assembly opened with Native American eagle dancers from the Jemez Pueblo near Albuquerque calling participants together into community from the Four Directions.
Several synod assemblies meeting this spring reacted to resolutions passed by an October 2005 special assembly of the Metropolitan New York Synod. Those resolutions asked for restraint in discipline as leaders navigate candidacy and discipline processes after the 2005 Churchwide Assembly votes on sexuality.

The Minneapolis Area Synod voted 310-190 to encourage “the exercise of prophetic witness and disciplinary restraint by the [synod] bishop, synod council, candidacy committee, and any disciplinary committees ... in the administration of any policies that impede gay and lesbian persons living in covenanted relationships from full service in rostered ministry.” The resolution also called for synod leaders to “be guided primarily” by “mission and pastoral needs.” It encouraged other synods and seminaries to endorse similar disciplinary restraint.

Voting 238-159, the New Jersey Synod approved a similar resolution.

With a 314-174 vote, Minneapolis voting members also called for a delay in “action to remove rostered leaders solely because of [same-sex] covenanted relationships,” asking that such leaders be allowed to continue “on leave from call” status beyond the three-year limit.”

The Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod endorsed “the conclusions of the ELCA Church Council regarding the resolution from the Metropolitan New York Synod.” The council found that the resolutions weren’t in concurrence with ELCA governing documents (May, "Council: Synod resolution conflicts with policy").

The Rocky Mountain Synod postponed indefinitely and the Northwestern Minnesota Synod voted not to consider resolutions related to the New York synod’s actions. The latter’s council recommendation of “do not consider” read: “The [resolutions] did not establish policy for the synod” but “only sought advice and clarification from the ELCA Church Council.”

Some synods considered unrelated sexuality recommendations.

Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana encouraged its congregations to welcome gay and lesbian people and “continue in prayerful conversation on issues related to their full participation in our congregations.” They also asked the synod to help provide rostered leaders with information about resources “to assist and support them as they provide counseling and pastoral support for gay and lesbian persons and their families.”

The Southwestern Texas Synod assembly defeated 177-270 a resolution to remove its name from Lutherans Concerned/North America’s list of Reconciling in Christ congregations (opening and welcoming of gays and lesbians). The synod also encouraged pastors and congregations to seek ways to carry out the will of the 2005 Churchwide Assembly related to ministry with gay and lesbian people, and as well as to engage in the ongoing ELCA human sexuality study.

Leadership and governance

The Northeastern Minnesota Synod assembly defeated 187-168 asking the Churchwide Assembly and others to revise the ELCA Constitution to allow congregations “primary authority to recruit, train and appoint lay people to preside at Holy Communion when an ordained leader is not available.”

Citing “a steep decline in the number of long-term, full-time overseas missionaries” coming out of its synod, Eastern North Dakota committed to renewed cooperation with ELCA Global Mission in sending long-term (seven to 10 years) missionary personnel overseas.

The Northwestern Minnesota Synod asked its congregations and members to undertake at least one new evangelism or outreach initiative each year for the next 10 years, and contribute $1 per member per year to a synod evangelism fund.

Eastern North Dakota took a first vote in approving the election of its bishop from synod conference nominations rather than ecclesiastical ballot.

Rocky Mountain voting members asked for a comprehensive, synod-funded program of recruiting young people into rostered leadership.

Northwestern Minnesota asked its council to request that the ELCA Church Council prepare a plan to restructure the ELCA pension plan toward “equalization or at the very least, setting a base minimum of pension payments for all pastors.”

Alaska Synod voting members urged the Churchwide Assembly to support the Board of Pensions’ efforts to “more effectively manage health-care costs” for rostered ministers and increase public advocacy efforts toward improved health care for all people. They sent related requests to the ELCA Conference of Bishops and Church Council.

The South-Central Synod of Wisconsin asked its council and others to study and, if possible, change synod bylaws “to eliminate the category ‘persons of color’ in the electionprocess” for synod assemblies and have both clergy and lay categories include people of color and diversity.

Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana asked its congregational life commission to provide materials to help congregations understand other cultures and ethnic groups.

The Western Iowa Synod asked its council to begin formulating a synod plan for Latino ministries.

Social issues run the gamut

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod called upon its members and congregations “to join with all Christians in taking up political responsibility as their faith and conscience demand.” The desire to see Lutherans take up responsibility in the public sphere was reflected in severalsynods:

• The South-Central Synod of Wisconsin opposed the death penalty’s reintroduction in the state, urging congregations to study the ELCA social statement on the death penalty.

• The Alaska Synod voted to continue discussing “creating [a synod] advocacy office,” citing a “disconnect between our state officials and the needs of the ‘least of these.’ ”

• The Northeastern Minnesota, Southeastern Minnesota and Minneapolis Area synods supported “A Minnesota Without Poverty, Where All Children Thrive: A 2020 Vision,” which seeks to end poverty in Minnesota by 2020.

Rocky Mountain voting members asked the 2007 Churchwide Assembly to begin developing an ELCA social statement on criminal and restorative justice in the U.S.

• The Minneapolis Area Synod asked its bishop to urge state legislators to amend the Minnesota Personal Protection Act and “restore to religious institutions their historic freedom to ban firearms from all of their properties.” The resolution criticized congregations’ inability to ban firearms in church parking lots or tenant spaces, as well as the requirement for a state-worded sign in order to ban firearms from worship spaces.

Minneapolis Area urged the synod to help military personnel and their families to “make a healthy and successful reintegration into the civilian community,” with counseling, resources, workshops and yearly data on the number of congregants impacted by military service.

• The Florida-Bahamas Synod encouraged its congregations to get involved in the Jubilee USA Network’s support of debt cancellation for impoverished countries.

Environment

The Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana assembly urged its council and congregations to become partners in the Breath of Life clean air initiative begun by Texas Impact. Northern Great Lakes encouraged congregations and ministries to support an interfaith “Earth Keeping” effort. Western Iowa commended Caring for Creation, the 1993 ELCA social statement on the environment, to its congregations.

Immigration

Calling it a “complex and controversial issue,” the Rocky Mountain Synod asked congregations to study and discuss immigration using the 1998 ELCA message on immigration.

Minneapolis Area asked its bishop to communicate to state officials “the strong opposition of the [synod] to any legislation that criminalizes undocumented immigrants or those who do ministry with them, as well as the [synod’s] support of bipartisan efforts to address justly the issue of immigration reform.” Voting members also asked ELCA Church in Society to prepare materials on comprehensive and just immigration reform.

The New Jersey Synod urged Congress to develop and pass comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to legal status for undocumented people. It also asked its congregations to pray for and “respond in love, with spiritual care and support for those affected by the current wave of anti-immigrant feeling.” Voting members expressed their opposition to any legislation that would make it a felony to be undocumented, or a crime to provide aid to an undocumented person.

Northern Great Lakes asked its bishop to convey the synod’s “thanks to our ... congressional delegation for working on legislation that seeks a process for addressing the issues of those who are illegal immigrants.”

Relationships

The Southwestern Texas Synod asked the 2007 Churchwide Assembly to direct appropriate people within the churchwide organization to work toward a full communion relationship with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (see story, page 14).

Southwestern Texas affirmed the ELCA’s Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine. Southeast Michigan Synod encouraged congregations to pray, study and speak out against the wall/barrier and its effect on Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Campus ministry

The Florida-Bahamas, Rocky Mountain, Northeastern Pennsylvania, Minneapolis Area, Northwestern Minnesota and Southeastern Minnesota synods adopted resolutions of support for celebrations of 100 years of Lutheran Campus Ministry during 2007. The Southern Ohio and Southwestern Texas synods referred similar resolutions to their councils for implementation.

Other highlights

The Montana Synod held its every other year abbreviated business session and extended theological conference. Keynote speaker Mark Allen Powell, a professor of New Testament at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, discussed “How Lutherans Interpret the Bible.”


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