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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Pensions, sexuality decisions and more

Several topics emerged as synod assemblies came to a close in June: the pension funds of the ELCA and Augsburg Fortress, the 2009 Churchwide Assembly decisions on human sexuality, support for ending world hunger, reducing greenhouse gases and the Lutheran Malaria Initiative. Two assemblies elected new bishops, while one synod bishop was re-elected (see "Elections").

Central/Southern Illinois

May 20-22, Springfield, Ill.

• Defeated a resolution asking the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to reconsider and remove the social statement "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust."

• Opposed asking the 2011 assembly to amend the constitution so all future assembly votes directly affecting qualifications for rostered and lay leadership or congregational policy be ratified by two-thirds of ELCA congregations.

North/West Lower Michigan
May 20-22, Lansing, Mich.

• Asked the 2011 Churchwide Assembly "to offer a public witness of energy stewardship" and challenge all ELCA expressions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 percent each year, to reach a total reduction of 25 percent to 40 percent by 2020.

• Urged its congregations to increase support to ELCA World Hunger through prayer and regular financial giving; encouraged awareness of how choices concerning use of water affect the community on a local and global level.

• Defeated a resolution calling for a "nongeographic conference for mutual support, prayer, study, reflection and discernment about ministry" for those who struggle with the policy changes made at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.

Greater Milwaukee

June 3-5, Waukesha, Wis.

• Called on the ELCA Church Council to consult with the Board of Pensions regarding decisions made concerning the Participating Annuity and Bridge Fund and to "explore and implement ... strategies to restore the reduction and cancel any future reductions to the recipients" of said fund.

• Set a goal to achieve a 10 percent youth and young adult voting membership in its assembly, council, committees and organizational units.

La Crosse Area
June 3-5, Decorah, Iowa

• Sent $30,000 from its disaster relief funds to Lutheran Disaster Response to assist in Haiti's recovery efforts.

• Asked the ELCA Church Council to direct the Board of Pensions to "explore and implement" strategies to correct the underfunding of the Participating Annuity and Bridge Fund.

• Defeated a resolution asking that the 2009 decisions regarding ministry policies pertaining to people in same-gender relationships be rescinded.

New England
June 3-5, Sturbridge, Mass.

• Asked the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to challenge the ELCA to reduce energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by at least 5 percent per year, leading to a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction by 2020.

• Endorsed the Kairos document, a statement of faith from Palestinian Christians; resolved to offer prayer and support for its companion synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

• Empowered its bishop and council "to issue public statement(s) denouncing Arizona's SB 1070 and similar legislation in New England" in keeping with the ELCA social policy resolution "Toward Compassionate, Just and Wise Immigration Reform."

• Urged congregations to support youth and young adults in meeting the ELCA resolution of 10 percent youth and young adult representation.

North Carolina
June 3-5, Hickory, N.C.

• Thanked its bishop, Leonard Bolick, for dedication in his call, and Gary Weant, 34-year pastor of Philadelphia Lutheran Church, Dallas, N.C., for "his faith, foresight, keen theological understanding, and careful articulation that brought about the Book of Faith initiative."

Southwest California
June 3-5, Burbank, Ca.

• Voted to promote gender equality; asked its council to forward a resolution to the Church Council to adopt 2011-2020 as "The Decade of Women."

• Committed to partner with the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, helping it to raise $75 million over the next decade.

• Defeated resolutions asking the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to reconsider and amend the social statement on human sexuality and rescind and amend actions on ministry policies.

Central States
June 3-6, Wichita, Kan.

• Urged families "to consider giving $10 in 2010 toward the Lutheran Malaria Initiative.

• Defeated a resolution asking the ELCA Church Council to create instructional material for those proposing or deliberating on a proposed social statement to apply Article XXVIII of the Augsburg Confession, which says, "Consequently, the powers of church and civil government must not be mixed."

Metropolitan Chicago
June 4-5, Rosemont, Ill.

• Asked the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to "encourage the full implementation of the social statement on human sexuality"; requested that the Office of the Presiding Bishop provide a report on the implementation status to the 2013 Churchwide Assembly.

• Endorsed the "Kairos Palestinian document as an expression of faith from our Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine."

• Asked the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to challenge all expressions of the ELCA to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Nebraska
June 4-5, Grand Island, Neb.

• Defeated resolutions asking the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to request reconsideration of the human sexuality social statement and to rescind the related ministry policies.

South Carolina
June 4-5, Newberry, S.C.

• Asked the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to rescind actions and changes in policy documents that made it possible for "people in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church" and to reconsider the human sexuality social statement.

• Encouraged conversation among the ELCA's four rosters and asked Vocation and Education to develop "theologically coherent language" for use among them that "honors that commonality of the rosters while respecting their differences."

West Virginia-Western Maryland
June 4-5, Wheeling, W.Va.

• Requested that the ELCA foster deeper theological conversation with regard to sanctification, the authority of Scripture, and ecclesiology; asked the executive directors for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations and Vocation and Education to develop teaching statements on these issues to be presented to the 2013 Churchwide Assembly.

• Stated that the decisions made by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly are "at variance with the constitutionally mandated confession of this church [and] are ... in conflict with the confessions and constitution of this synod."

Western North Dakota
June 4-5, Dickinson, N.D.

• Encouraged congregations to meet synod guidelines for compensation of rostered leaders, taking into consideration the cost of living but also a true raise.

• Defeated resolutions asking the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to remove the human sexuality social statement and rescind changes to ministry policies.

Indiana-Kentucky
June 4-6, Covington, Ky.

• Urged families to donate $10 to the Lutheran Malaria Initiative's Nothing But Nets campaign.

• Asked congregations to use resources from its hunger task force and ELCA World Hunger; challenged congregations to urge members to give $5 in 2010 to World Hunger in addition to regular benevolence.

• Defeated a resolution asking the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to rescind 2009 decisions on human sexuality and ministry policies.

Southeastern
June 4-6, Chattanooga, Tenn.

• Urged the synod to remain unified and respect varied views on the ministry changes and sexuality statement passed in 2009; encouraged congregations to post the Southeastern Synod Lutheran Youth Organization "Harmony Letter" in the spirit of unity.

Montana
June 4-6, Billings, Mont.

• Collected more than $1,900 in offerings for Lutheran World Relief's recovery efforts in Haiti.

Virginia

June 4-6, Salem, Va.

• Postponed indefinitely five resolutions related to the human sexuality social statement.

• Postponed indefinitely a resolution affirming marriage as "a covenant of mutual promises, commitment and hope" and stating "that intimate sexual relationships belong exclusively within the biblical boundaries of a faithful marriage between one man and one woman."

South-Central Wisconsin
June 5-6, Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

• Asked for a synod task force that will partner with Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin to develop congregational committees to sponsor newly arriving refugees and to develop other strategies for ministry with immigrants and refugees.

• Directed the synod to form a "Leadership for Mission Initiative" for "developing processes, establishing priorities, fostering communication, and implementing plans to further the mission of the ELCA and this synod."

Upstate New York
June 6-8, Rochester, N.Y.

• Asked the synod and all expressions of the ELCA to "hold in prayer those who are negatively affected by the changes in the pension plans of the ELCA and Augsburg Fortress Press" and also hold in prayer those suffering due to the economic climate worldwide.

Allegheny
June 10-12, Altoona, Pa.

• Called for unity and mutual respect of beliefs regarding the social statement on sexuality passed by in 2009; asked that churches, synods, the Conference of Bishops and the Church Council pray for guidance and discernment.

Delaware-Maryland
June 10-12, Gettysburg, Pa.

• Named Nov. 21 as "Delaware-Maryland Synod ELCA World Hunger Appeal Sunday"; asked congregations to lift up the World Hunger ministry year-round.

• Adopted a plan to return mission support for churchwide to 55 percent by 2015.

Lower Susquehanna
June 10-12, Grantham, Pa.

• Defeated a memorial asking the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to rescind 2009 actions on ministry policies that permit people in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships" to serve as rostered leaders.

Northwestern Pennsylvania
June 10-12, Greenville, Pa.

• Affirmed its mission support formula, asking congregations to give 20 percent of regular congregational giving to support synod and churchwide ministries, with a "challenge" goal of 25 percent.

• Defeated a resolution asking the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to reconsider the 2009 decisions on human sexuality.

South Dakota

June 11-12, Rapid City, S.D.

• Asked the ELCA Church Council to work with the Board of Pensions to explore reasons for and possible solutions to losses in the Participating Annuity and Bridge Fund.

• Requested that the Church Council conduct a review of Augsburg Fortress Publishers in relation to the termination of its pension plan.

• Resolved to ask the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to reconsider and remove the social statement on sexuality because the "decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in adopting the social statement ... violate the Confession of Faith, of the ELCA."

Northeastern Iowa
June 11-13, Waverly, Iowa

• Asked the ELCA Church Council to consult with the Board of Pensions and find a way to bring the Participating Annuity and Bridge Fund back to a "fully funded" position.

• Urged its members to respect differences in opinion and affirm "unity in the midst of diversity as the gift of God in Christ Jesus"; asked that members, congregations, ministers and councils "express bound conscience regarding same-gender relationships in ways other than by decreasing financial support" for the synod or churchwide.

• Adopted a plan to be a public witness of energy stewardship; asked the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to challenge all ELCA expressions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Grand Canyon
June 17-19, Tucson, Ariz.

• Affirmed its Latino ministry and encouraged its churches to uphold these congregations "through prayer, talents and financial mission support."

• Defeated a resolution memorializing the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to reconsider the 1991 social statement on abortion.

• Passed a resolution commending its congregations to “welcome, love and provide ministry to all people without regard to immigration status” and memorialized the 2011 assembly to commend all ELCA congregations to do the same.

Southwestern Pennsylvania

June 17-19, Greenville, Pa.

• Called on the Church Council to reinstate the director of Christian education position with adequate staff at the churchwide level.

• Asked the Church Council to explore the causes of the Participating Annuity and Bridge Fund deficiency and look into possible resolutions.

• Asked the Church Council to recognize that the church has a "responsibility to seek justice and fairness and to investigate ways the ELCA can act justly" in regards to retirees who lost their Augsburg Fortress pensions.

• Resolved that the "synod teach and confess that marriage is between one man and one woman, and sexual activity belongs exclusively within the traditional biblical boundaries of a faithful marriage."

Northeastern Pennsylvania
June 18-19, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

• Urged the Church Council to take necessary action to fulfill commitments in the social statement on economic life in regard to the Augsburg Fortress employees and retirees who "are suffering significantly reduced income."

• Defeated a resolution to memorialize the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to rescind 2009 decisions relating to the social statement on sexuality.

Northern Illinois
June 18-19, Rock Island, Ill.

• Challenged the synod to better energy stewardship; called on the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to challenge all expressions of the ELCA to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

• Asked the Church Council to explore possible ways to restore losses in the Participating Annuity and Bridge Fund and report findings at its November 2010 meeting and to members directly affected by the losses.

Upper Susquehanna
June 18-19, Selinsgrove, Pa.

• Asked ELCA Vocation and Education to change its current rostered leader profile to take away the requirement that a pastor seeking a new call get a recommendation from a current congregation member.

• Defeated a resolution to affirm the teaching of Darwin's Theory of Evolution as a "valid understanding for educational instruction and scientific inquiry" in schools.


Comments

Gordon Brenner

Gordon Brenner

Posted at 1:27 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/29/2010

  Well, here we go again.  There must be some people in the ELCA who just can't let old battles die a graceful death.  For all those well-meaning but confused people who want to rescind the Sexuality Statement affirming that we are all God's children one simple statement: That Ship has sailed!  So just deal with it, move on and go away!

Robert

Robert

Posted at 4:45 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/31/2010

Significantly, although "rescind" motions were submitted at the majority of the Synod Assmblies reported here, only four passed the motions.  Hardly indicative of "the majority of members and congregations in favor of rescinding" expressed in letters in previous months. 

I agree with Gordon Brenner to the extent that the ELCA Assembly decisions will not be rescinded.  However, I would hope that the dissidents do not "go away" (i.e., leave the ELCA) but work with the majority of us in favor to move forward as one church.  We are individuals after all and the numbers of "flavors of faith" are probably equal to our total membership.  After all, if you don't agree with the policy, don't call a pastor in that category, and don't be concerned about ELCA congregations and members who are open and welcoming to GL members and pastors.

Stephen Miller

Stephen Miller

Posted at 6:23 pm (U.S. Eastern) 8/2/2010

Way to be TOLERANT, Gordon.



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