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Schmeling case, social issues and more

Several synods in May and June took actions related to calls from a discipline hearing committee constituted to consider charges against Bradley E. Schmeling, a Southeastern Synod pastor who is in a same-gender relationship (see "Discipline upheld, pastor defrocked"). The committee suggested that assemblies memorialize the 2007 Churchwide Assembly to work toward revising guidelines for ministry and discipline to allow those in committed same-gender relationships to serve on the ELCA roster.

With some synods voting by narrow margins, New Jersey, Northwest Washington, Northeastern Pennsylvania, Greater Milwaukee, Grand Canyon, Southeastern Iowa, Southwest California, New England, Northern Illinois, Metropolitan Chicago and Upstate New York asked that prohibitions against ordination of people in same-gender relationships be removed from ELCA governing documents and for reinstatement for leaders removed from the roster because of this policy.

Northwest Washington; New England; Metropolitan Washington, D.C.; Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast; Grand Canyon; Southeastern Iowa; and Northeastern Pennsylvania want the 2007 assembly to urge synods, synod bishops and the presiding bishop “to refrain from disciplining those rostered leaders in a mutual, chaste, and faithful committed same-gender relationship” and to refrain from disiplining those who “in good conscience and for the sake of outreach, ministry and commitment to continuing dialogue—call, approve, ordain, commission or consecrate otherwise-qualified candidates.” Several of these synods, including Metropolitan Washington, D.C., passed additional resolutions asking the 2007 assembly to endorse restraint in applying ELCA policies related to rostering those in committed same-gender relationships.

The Southeastern Iowa Synod requested that the Conference of Bishops and the ELCA Church Council consider not defining “suitability for service to God through rostered ministry” by “the language of sexuality.”

Metropolitan Washington, D.C., requested a rite for blessing same-gender unions and that the 2007 assembly reject “any therapy that seeks to change one’s sexual orientation.”

Others against ‘reopening’ issue

Upper Susquehanna, Northwestern Pennsylvania and Southwestern Pennsylvania asked the 2007 assembly to refer all memorials and resolutions related to same-sex unions or ordination of noncelibate gays and lesbians as information to the ELCA Task Force for Studies on Sexuality, which is preparing a proposed social statement on sexuality for consideration by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly (see "Responses to human sexuality lag"). Northeastern Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia-Western Maryland, North Carolina and South Dakota called for a similar moratorium until 2009.

Northeastern Iowa urged the 2007 assembly and the Church Council to “make no changes” to ELCA
governing documents.

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod asked the 2007 assembly “to notify all ELCA synods, pastors and congregations to urge them to refrain from public blessings of same-sex unions unless and until such blessings are approved by the Churchwide Assembly,” adding that a related action by the New England Synod council “is in violation of the decision of the 2005 Churchwide Assembly.”

Grand Canyon reaffirmed “compliance with the ELCA national body on issues related to ordination of noncelibate homosexuals” and same-sex blessings. Northeastern Iowa said it would maintain current standards, guided by the 1993 Conference of Bishops’ statement, and not authorize same-sex blessings “as an official action of this church’s ministry.”

Military & Middle East

Metropolitan Washington, D.C., asked members to honor all people in the military, especially those killed or wounded. South Carolina honored synod member Marine Lance Cpl. David P. Lindsey and all others who gave their lives. North Carolina honored Tuskegee Airman William McDonald, a synod member and African American aviator in World War II.

La Crosse Area asked the 2007 assembly to oppose escalation of the Iraq war. Northwest Washington voted to “publicly stand in opposition to the war in Iraq,” asking the 2007 assembly, Church Council and Conference of Bishops to take similar stands. Northwest Washington called upon the U.S. president and Congress “to be expeditious in bringing our troops home, while pursuing nonmilitary political solutions with Iraq and [other] nations of the region.”

Metropolitan Washington, D.C., encouraged the ELCA presiding bishop to press for stabilization of Iraq, asking its synod bishop to tell the president and Congress “our strong opposition to the abuse of detainees and abrogation of their rights.” It urged congregations and members to engage in moral deliberation related to U.S. foreign and military policies and study “Kairos: A Time to Speak, A Time to Act.”

Choosing not to call for a firm timetable of withdrawal from Iraq, Greater Milwaukee asked the U.S. government to pass laws that help military families and to “continually and faithfully discern the just uses of all our American military forces.”

New England urged ELCA congregations and agencies to pray and engage in advocacy related to U.S. involvement in Iraq and “a just peace.” Northern Illinois asked the 2007 assembly to challenge the policy of preemptive war, urging legislators to debate whether preemptive war is the best way to achieve world peace.

Metropolitan Chicago supported Christians in the Holy Land and approved a resolution related to understanding and confronting Christian Zionism. New England asked the 2007 assembly to urge congregations to learn about, pray for and ask Congress to advocate for peace between Israel and Palestine, and peace in Darfur, Sudan. It also asked for the 2007 assembly’s support for continuing dialogue with representatives of Islam.

Leadership & mission

La Crosse Area resolved to “tell the story of Jesus and his love in our homes, in our congregations, our communities and in all the world.”

North Carolina and Metropolitan Chicago asked for increased churchwide support for ministries in chaplaincy, pastoral counseling and clinical education, with “at least one [churchwide] staff person” and work to “rectify the dramatic decline of rostered persons” serving those calls.

Delaware-Maryland encouraged congregations and other synod ministries to adjust wage practices for church organization employees “with regard to their fairness, justice and sufficiency, taking into consideration the concept of ‘living wage’ for their location.” Southeastern Minnesota asked its congregations to pay tuition for seminarians in their congregation or conference or contribute to a synod fund for seminary debt relief.

Alaska asked its congregations to help fully fund the Seward Peninsula Endowment Fund by 2012. The fund supports ministries in a region with a primarily subsistence lifestyle.

Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast sent several memorials related to the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes to the 2007 assembly, asking for a roster of retired clergy for interim ministry or pulpit supply in disaster-stricken areas; an ELCA response plan to help clergy and congregations impacted by disaster; the Mission Investment Fund to allow moratoriums on loans for disaster-stricken congregations; and Lutheran Disaster Response to “allow money contributed to LDR to be used for the rebuilding of churches devastated by disaster.”

South Dakota asked the 2007 assembly to request production of two Vision and Expectations documents: one for congregations with “guidance for faithful discipleship as a faith community,” and another for all members “from the perspective of a Lutheran theology of vocation.”

Southern Ohio approved a process for electing a synod bishop, where congregations provide a list of “gifts” sought, as well as names of potential nominees.

Several synods took youth-oriented actions. South Carolina added 164 synod voting members—at least one layperson under age 30 for each congregation. Northeastern Iowa encouraged youth and young adults to continue congregational involvement and leadership after confirmation. Delaware-Maryland called for a synod task force for young adults. Southeastern Minnesota called for a task force to develop a synod strategy for children, youth and family.

Southwestern Pennsylvania, Northwest Washington, Lower Susquehanna, Southwest California and Metropolitan Washington, D.C., asked the 2007 assembly to encourage congregations to support the ELCA Youth Ministry Network by sending adult youth ministry leaders to the annual Extravaganza, Feb. 7-11, 2008.

Immigration

Northwest Washington urged the 2007 assembly to request that the ELCA presiding bishop call a national meeting of church workers, theologians and lawyers to develop “strategies for accompanying undocumented immigrants, including the establishment and support of sanctuaries in congregations.” It also asked that the presiding bishop and Conference of Bishops encourage all synods to establish committees on immigration and to include leaders from the Latino community.

Southwestern Pennsylvania asked the 2007 assembly to lobby for “a change in U.S. law so that genuine refugees are not barred on grounds of material support,” calling this “the unintentional consequences of REAL ID and Patriot Act II.” Grand Canyon asked its congregations and members “to advocate for provisions of new legislation commonly referred to as the “Dream Act” that provide legal status for young people.”

Hunger

Northern Illinois, Nebraska, Southeastern Minnesota and Northeastern Iowa urged increased support and giving to the ELCA World Hunger Appeal. Delaware-Maryland pledged to be a ONE synod and invited congregations to join, including pledging 1 percent of their budgets above and beyond mission support to the hunger appeal.

Northwestern Minnesota and Southeastern Minnesota voted to support ending poverty in Minnesota by 2020.

Southwest California asked the 2007 assembly to “speak more boldly on behalf of the poor,” urging the ELCA to “decry human rights abuses wherever they may be found.”

Southeastern Iowa asked the ELCA Church in Society to broaden the ELCA economic life social statement to include resources for discerning faithful, biblical stewardship practices; to adapt and contextualize a 1984 American Lutheran Church statement on gambling; and to add a social policy resolution that clarifies fundraising and stewardship practices.

Environment

Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast asked the 2007 assembly to revise the ELCA social statement “Caring for Creation”; encourage congregations and members to work with governments to promote sustainable environmental practices and policies; and reduce energy use and water by at least 10 percent. It also urged the Mission Investment Fund to incorporate incentives for environmentally responsible design, construction and site choice.

Nebraska was declared a “green synod” and congregations were asked to do energy audits. Southwestern Pennsylvania also asked congregations to do audits and reduce energy use. Greater Milwaukee, La Crosse Area, New England, Northern Illinois and Metropolitan Chicago took similar actions.

Other highlights

Southeastern Iowa asked the 2007 assembly to set a goal that at least half of all synods will implement “Cherish Our Children” by 2015. Aimed at preventing childhood sexual exploitation, this initiative also received support from Western North Dakota.

Northwest Washington and Western North Dakota voiced support for Lutheran Campus Ministry, celebrating 100 years of ministry. The Indiana-Kentucky Synod gave more than $17,500 for the synod’s campus ministries. Delaware-Maryland voting members filled 240 backpacks with school supplies for campus ministry students to distribute to needy children.

Northeastern Ohio, Central States and Central-Southern Illinois sent no memorials to the 2007 assembly.


Comments

Jeanette Cool

Jeanette Cool

Posted at 12:20 pm (U.S. Eastern) 8/1/2007

On the issues of same sex marriage/union and standing firmly against war, it is high time the Lutheran Church take a real stand -- where in Christianity do we embrace or accept armed conflict and especially "pre-emptive war", occupation etc. -- and when would Jesus EVER stand in the way of committed love between anyone?

To not stand strong and move forward with strength -- makes us weak as Christians.



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