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CCM, mission and sexuality top assembly topics

Synod assemblies deal with a wide range of resolutions

Synod assemblies this spring continued to vote on resolutions related to Called to Common Mission, the ELCA's full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church. While two synods called for exceptions to CCM's ordination requirements, seven assemblies defeated such resolutions.

The Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod sent two memorials to the Churchwide Assembly, asking it to explore changes that would "allow ordinations and installations of otherwise approved candidates to occur outside the historic episcopate." The synod also asked the assembly to "recognize that receiving the historic episcopate should not be an act that is required of any Lutheran bishops, pastors, seminarians, lay ministers or members, in order to enable full participation of all members in the ELCA."

The Pacifica Synod voted 151-130 to ask the Churchwide Assembly to make constitutional and bylaw changes that would "provide for the ordination by another pastor" of pastoral candidates who have theological objections to the historic episcopate. The resolution also asked that any newly elected bishop's theological objections to being installed into the historic episcopate be "honored by the appointment of an appropriate bishop to preside for the newly elected bishop's installation." The resolution acknowledged significant "diversity of opinion" within the synod itself.

The Oregon Synod and six other synods defeated resolutions to allow exceptions to CCM.

Calling CCM-related exceptions "inconsistent with this church's previously adopted full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church," the Southeastern Synod voiced its opposition to a proposed bylaw to come before the 2001 Churchwide Assembly that would allow exceptions to CCM's ordination requirements.

The New Jersey Synod assembly defeated a resolution asking the Churchwide Assembly to allow exceptions to ordination by bishops within the historic episcopate. The assembly noted that the Conference of Bishops and ELCA Church Council were already moving to consider exceptions for ordinands as a matter of pastoral care, but that exceptions for bishops' installations would be considered out-of-bounds in light of the ELCA's full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church.

The Southeastern Michigan Synod defeated all resolutions seeking to change or alter the way CCM is implemented, but passed a resolution asking its congregations to "carefully and thoroughly study" CCM's provisions.

The Rocky Mountain Synod opposed asking the Office of the Presiding Bishop to "explore ways" in CCM's implementation to realize "full participation in the ELCA of all members."

The Montana Synod defeated resolutions asking for a new vote on CCM and for congregational votes on any action passed by less than 75 percent of the Churchwide Assembly. In the Southeastern Iowa Synod, a resolution failed (194-184, with 33 abstentions) to amend the ELCA constitution to allow "bishops and other pastors in the ELCA to remain outside the historic episcopate."

Focusing on mission

The Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana, Southeastern, Southeastern Iowa, and Southeastern Pennsylvania synods called for a comprehensive strategy to strengthen ELCA discipleship and evangelism efforts. Included in those resolutions were calls for the establishment of a churchwide task force to develop the evangelism strategy by working with congregational leaders representing a variety of sizes, settings and worship styles. In a separate, 12-year evangelism initiative, the Oregon Synod voted to make each of its congregations a mission outpost.

The Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana, Southeastern, Southeastern Iowa, and Southeastern Pennsylvania synods called for a comprehensive strategy to strengthen ELCA discipleship and evangelism efforts. Included in those resolutions were calls for the establishment of a churchwide task force to develop the evangelism strategy by working with congregational leaders representing a variety of sizes, settings and worship styles. In a separate, 12-year evangelism initiative, the Oregon Synod voted to make each of its congregations a mission outpost.

Sexuality

The Rocky Mountain Synod encouraged its congregations to consider becoming "Reconciling in Christ" ministries that are welcoming to lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual people.

The Rocky Mountain Synod encouraged its congregations to consider becoming "Reconciling in Christ" ministries that are welcoming to lesbian, gay, transgendered and bisexual people.

The Southeast Michigan Synod established a task force that would "set forth biblical Christian teaching about marriage, sexuality and human relationships." The assembly also approved a resolution recognizing that although "faithful people differ" in their positions on same-sex unions, those differences shouldn't "negate the unity we have in Jesus Christ." The resolution said the decision of whether or not to bless same-sex unions would be left "to local pastoral discretion in consultation with the congregation's leadership."

The New Jersey Synod launched a one-year study of the relationship between gays and lesbians and the church. In 2002 it will consider a resolution to become a Reconciling in Christ synod. Meanwhile, the Alaska Synod postponed a decision on becoming a Reconciling in Christ synod for one year to provide more time for study, conversation and discussion in congregations.

Global, domestic actions:

The Indiana-Kentucky Synod stated its opposition to partial-birth abortions and called upon its congregations and members to communicate their views to the U.S. Congress and president. It also asked the Churchwide Assembly to amend the ELCA's social statement on abortion "to specifically oppose partial-birth abortion."

The Indiana-Kentucky Synod stated its opposition to partial-birth abortions and called upon its congregations and members to communicate their views to the U.S. Congress and president. It also asked the Churchwide Assembly to amend the ELCA's social statement on abortion "to specifically oppose partial-birth abortion."

  • The Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod assembly called for both a dialogue and a moratorium on the death penalty in Texas.

  • The Rocky Mountain Synod committed to providing its congregations with resources for developing peacemaking, nonviolence and conflict-resolution skills. It also adopted a resolution on gun-safety that encouraged voting members and their congregations to voluntarily remove guns from homes, enroll in gun safety courses and prayerfully study gun issues. A third resolution committed the synod to providing congregations with discussion opportunities and study materials related to national strategic missile defense programs.

  • The Southeastern Iowa and New Jersey synods encouraged their congregations to participate in Stand with Africa, a joint ELCA, Lutheran Church­Missouri Synod and Lutheran World Relief campaign to overcome Africa's HIV/AIDS, hunger and conflict crises.

    The Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod assembly asked LWR to extend that campaign's work to include amputees in Sierra Leone.

    During the New Jersey Synod's 2000 campaign to stem the tide of AIDS deaths in Africa, it collected $111,000, which it sent to specific ministries that have a relationship with the synod.

  • The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod asked the Churchwide Assembly to provide greater support for deaf ministry by separating the position of churchwide director for disability ministry and deaf ministry into two distinct full-time positions.

    "We are very dissatisfied with being under the office for disability ministry," said Beth Lockard, pastor of Christ the King Lutheran, West Chester, Pa., one of the ELCA's 12 deaf congregations. "They don't understand that we don't consider ourselves disabled but another culture with our own language, our own culture ... our own liturgy."

    Lockard said 98 percent of deaf people in North America are unchurched, calling it "a wide field to draw on."

  • The North/West Lower Michigan Synod urged its congregations to study the impact of legalized gambling, learn about the effects of gambling addictions and provide advocacy when appropriate.

  • The Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey synods passed resolutions advocating for families affected by welfare reform.

  • Southeastern Pennsylvania asked its synod council to advocate for services that keep families together and support children, as well as better training for welfare caseworkers

  • New Jersey adopted a resolution encouraging Congress to reauthorize funds for temporary assistance to needy families.

  • The Northeastern Ohio Synod asked the Churchwide Assembly to direct the Division for Outreach to create a funding category for growing, multicultural congregations and "assure truly shared leadership and direction" within the congregations.

  • The Northeastern Ohio Synod encouraged its congregations to pray for people affected by foot-and-mouth disease and support disaster response and social service agencies with human and financial resources as they prepare for "the effect of the disease within our nation."

  • The Alaska Synod passed resolutions expressing concern about racism and the Middle East crisis. Other highlights included sharing of faith stories, a thematic focus on the problem of world hunger and a freewill offering of more than $5,000 for the World Hunger Appeal.

  • The Indiana-Kentucky Synod held a live telecast conversation and companion synod covenant signing with Gloria Rojas, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile.

  • The Southwestern Texas Synod didn't have a business meeting this year but held a festival gathering at Texas Lutheran University, Seguin.

  • At the Southeastern Synod assembly, worship experiences included a prayer walk through a labyrinth and Sunday worship led by the Oromo [Ethiopian] Church of Atlanta.

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