The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Sexuality, mission are front-burner issues

Of the assemblies reporting in by presstime, June 4, several responded to a call from a discipline hearing committee constituted to consider charges against Bradley E. Schmeling, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Atlanta, who is in a same-gender relationship ("Mixed ruling on openly gay pastor," page 33). The committee suggested that assemblies memorialize the 2007 Churchwide Assembly to work toward revising guidelines for ministry and discipline so those in committed same-sex relationships could serve on the ELCA roster.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania, Oregon, Metropolitan New York, Southwestern Washington, St. Paul Area, Minneapolis Area, Rocky Mountain and Northeastern Minnesota synods asked the Churchwide Assembly to remove from ELCA governing documents prohibitions against ordination of people in same-sex relationships, and to provide for reinstatement of leaders who are no longer on the ELCA roster because of the regulations.

Northeastern Minnesota also approved 171-170 sending to the Churchwide Assembly a request for synods, synod bishops and the presiding bishop to “refrain from disciplining” rostered leaders in committed same-gender relationships, as well as those who “call, approve, ordain, commission or consecrate ... otherwise qualified candidates.” Similarly, Southeast Michigan asked the 2007 assembly to encourage restraint in disciplining rostered leaders and congregations “except in cases that involve abuse or the misuse of power.” Oregon, Rocky Mountain, Minneapolis Area and St. Paul Area asked for similar restraint.

Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana wants the Churchwide Assembly to continue with the present sexuality study and timeline and not consider the issue of ordination of noncelibate homosexual people pending the possible adoption in 2009 of a social statement on human sexuality.

Northwestern Ohio
voted 267-160 to ask that the issue of ordination of noncelibate homosexuals not be reopened before 2009. It also requested reaffirmation that the 1993 Conference of Bishops statement doesn’t approve official same-sex blessings, and communication telling all ELCA synods and congregations to refrain from public blessings that “imply approval of same-sex sexual relationships.”

Florida-Bahamas opposed becoming a “Reconciling in Christ” synod (a Lutherans Concerned/North America program that works toward the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church).

Southwestern Texas defeated resolutions asking for restraint in disciplining rostered leaders who are in committed same-gender relationships or who are “practicing homosexuals.”

At the SoutheasternSouthwestern Texas, South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, Northwestern Ohio and Eastern Washington-Idaho assemblies, resolutions failed that asked for the amendment of ELCA governing documents so people in same-sex relationships can serve on the ELCA roster.

Mission and ministry

Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana adopted six “DiscipleLife” strategic priorities for 2007-2012: cultivating a culture of congregational growth and renewal; affirming our evangelical Lutheran identity; nurturing and supporting youth and families; a public witness to peace and justice; encouraging generous hearts; and strengthening partnerships. Voting members also resolved that its pastors and congregations will “actively encourage friends and families who live in new developments” to seek out nearby ELCA congregations.

Pacifica encouraged congregations to use the Natural Church Development process for self-evaluation and planning. It resolved to develop a network of coaches that congregations can use to revitalize their ministries.

Southwestern Washington adopted a strategy for ministry with Latino people.

Northwestern Ohio approved an ethnic mission strategy “to strengthen” the synod “in the understanding of and witnessing to people of all colors.”

Southeastern Pennsylvania asked its worship committee to develop a strategy that encourages clergy and congregations to commune weekly.

A number of synods encouraged congregations to hold 2007 celebrations of 100 years of Lutheran Campus Ministry and support campus ministries, including Eastern Washington-Idaho, Southeastern and South-Central Synod of Wisconsin.

Middle East, military

Southeast Michigan asked the Churchwide Assembly to encourage members, congregations, synods, the churchwide organization, agencies and institutions to advocate for and support U.S. efforts “to create a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” including “the option of a two-state solution.” It also asked that the Churchwide Strategy for the Engagement in Israel and Palestine be sufficiently funded. Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana and Pacifica passed similar resolutions.

South-Central Synod of Wisconsin urged its congregations to regularly and deliberately pray for peace and justice in the Middle East, while also advocating for U.S. policy based on human rights, justice and economic well-being for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Northeastern Minnesota asked the Churchwide Assembly to help advocate for improved medical and psychiatric care for military personnel and their families; to use the ELCA Web site and publications to increase awareness of the needs of military families; and to encourage congregations to assist and reach out to returning military personnel and their families.

St. Paul Area asked the Churchwide Assembly to urge all ELCA congregations to support returning military personnel and their families. Voting members asked the synod to provide information about pastoral counseling and other resources for military families.

Leadership issues

South-Central Synod of Wisconsin moved from the ecclesiastical ballot to a process that identifies candidates for bishop prior to the assembly.

Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana asked its synod council to help build funding for members of the synod attending seminaries.

Southeastern Pennsylvania, Northwestern Ohio and Minneapolis Area asked the 2007 assembly to request development of specific recommendations to reverse declining numbers of ELCA leaders who serve in chaplaincy, pastoral education and clinical education.

Southwestern Texas defeated a resolution that asked the ELCA Board of Pensions to reverse its 2005 decision to allow congregations that left the ELCA to continue as participants. Northern Great Lakes wants the Churchwide Assembly to require that the pension board amend its disability benefits to provide church workers “under call” who are past “ ‘full retirement age’ a temporary total disability benefit equal to the current benefit ... not to exceed a predetermined time limit such as six months from the onset of the disability.” The resolution aims to prevent congregations from having to contribute disability benefits for pastors over the Social Security full retirement age, who “are not under this benefit even as their congregations are paying for it.”

St. Paul Area and Southeastern asked the Churchwide Assembly to encourage congregations, adult youth ministry leaders and pastors to join the ELCA Youth Ministry Network and attend the annual extravaganza, Feb. 7-11 2008, in Anaheim, Calif.

Social concerns

East-Central Synod of Wisconsin asked that during the 2007 assembly people who are physically able dedicate one meal “to a time of fasting and prayer” and, above other personal offerings, donate part of their per diem meal check to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal.

Southeastern challenged each synod member to give 47 cents for continued disaster recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Metropolitan New York
asked the 2007 assembly to direct the ELCA Communication Services unit to begin a media campaign to raise “awareness about the issues surrounding HIV disease.”


Tim Fisher

Tim Fisher

Posted at 3:00 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/19/2007

Dear editors of the Lutheran:

The story titled "Sexuality, mission are front-burner issues" contained at least one glaring error. The story stated that the Minneapolis Area Synod "failed" to pass a resolution "that asked for the amendment of ELCA governing documents so people in same-sex relationships can serve on the ELCA roster.” Actually, the Minneapolis Area Synod PASSED that resolution, as did 21 other synods. As someone who worked many, many hours preparing for the Minneapolis Synod assembly, I ask that print a correction in the next issue. 

Thank you,

Tim Fisher

Nokomis Heights Lutheran Church, Minneapolis
Voting Member to the 2007 Minneapolis Area Synod



Posted at 12:37 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/27/2007

Thank you for alerting us. At presstime we were directed to the Minneapolis Area Synod's Web site for the full text of resolutions and the action taken. We printed the resolutions out on June 6 but were not alerted that there was later an update on the Web site. The Web version of our story is now updated.

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Embracing diversity