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August 20, 2009

Assembly action draws sharp criticism, praise from advocacy groups


Two groups with widely diverging opinions on the social statement adopted Aug. 19 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America praised the church for its action and denounced what some consider a departure from biblical morality.

"The church has supported families of all kinds and has acknowledged without judgment the variety of views within the ELCA regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion," said Emily Eastwood, executive director of Lutherans Concerned/North America, an advocacy group for gays and lesbians in the church.

But Paull Spring, chair of Lutheran CORE, a coalition of conservative ELCA Lutherans, said, "We mourn the decision by the Churchwide Assembly to reject the clear teaching of the Bible that God's intention for marriage is the relationship of one man and one woman." Spring, a former bishop in the ELCA, added "It is tragic that such a large number of ELCA members were willing to overturn the clear teaching of the Bible as it has been believed and confessed by Christians for nearly 2,000 years."

The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA is meeting Aug. 17-23 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,044 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is "God's work. Our hands."

CORE
leaders said they would continue to work against future policies that would enable gay and lesbian pastors who are in committed relationships to serve in the church's public ministry. CORE also opposes the blessing of same-sex unions, which, while not specifically mentioned in the social statement, has become the practice in some ELCA parishes.

Eastwood said the document makes it easier for congregations to bless gay and lesbian couples. "The document recognizes the ministries of congregations which conduct blessings of same-gender relationships and same gender marriages where such marriages are legal," she said. "We celebrate in particular the emphasis of the social statement on the centrality of family in the life of church and society — all families without differentiation."

While the most controversial part of the statement was its greater acceptance of gays and lesbians, Eastwood also said the document would be a basis for "advocacy on issues related to families and sexuality" in church and society.

Erma Wolf, vice-chair of CORE lamented what she called the divisiveness of the issue. "The ELCA is a very divided church," she said, "This decision divides us even more. It is going to be very hard for faithful Lutherans to support the ELCA when the ELCA is willing to reject the clear teaching of Scripture."

Wolf called it a "sad day for Lutherans in the United States."

Austin is reporting for the ELCA News Service.

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August 11, 2007

2007 Churchwide Assembly
Swartling elected secretary of the ELCA


David Swartling, a trial lawyer from Seattle, was elected Aug. 11 to a six-year term as secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at the church body's 2007 Assembly at Chicago's Navy Pier.

Swartling was elected to the position after a series of five ballots. On the final ballot, he received 611 votes, with Paul A. Schreck, currently an assistant to the ELCA secretary receiving 366 votes.

The secretary is responsible for ELCA rosters, interpretation of governing documents such as the church's constitution and handles other concerns for the 4.8 million-member church body. The post is a staff position at the ELCA headquarters in Chicago.

Swartling will succeed Lowell G. Almen, who has held the post of secretary since the ELCA was formed in 1987 by a merger of three Lutheran denominations. Almen will leave office Oct. 31.

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August 10, 2007

2007 Churchwide Assembly
Field for secretary narrows to three


A seminary president, an attorney and an ELCA staff member remain on the ballot for the post of secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America after three rounds of voting.

In the third round of balloting, Michael L. Cooper-White, president of the Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.), received 267 votes; David Swartling, a Seattle attorney, acting as parliamentarian for ELCA assemblies, received 241 votes; and Paul A. Schreck, currently an assistant to the ELCA secretary, received 157 votes.

A total of 1,043 voting members of the ELCA cast ballots for eight candidates. A two-thirds majority is required for election, so a fourth ballot, limited to the top three vote-getters is necessary. If no one receives a 60 percent majority, a fifth ballot is limited to the top two vote-getters.

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August 10, 2007

2007 Churchwide Assembly
Paul Schreck, David Swartling on final ballot for secretary


The names of Paul A. Schreck and David D. Swartling will be on the final ballot for secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

On the fourth ballot 1,043 votes were cast, with Swartling receiving 528 and Schreck receiving 304.

The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, is meeting in Chicago Aug. 6 to 11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,069 ELCA voting members.

Michael L. Cooper-White, president of Lutheran Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.), received 211 votes. Cooper-White had led on the first three ballots. To be elected on the fourth ballot requires 60 percent of the votes cast, so a fifth ballot containing the two names will be taken on Saturday, Aug. 11.

Schreck is an executive in the ELCA secretary's office. Swartling is a Seattle attorney who has served as parliamentarian for the churchwide assembly.

All three nominees spoke to the assembly prior to the fourth ballot.

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August 9, 2007

2007 Churchwide Assembly:
Candidates for secretary address assembly


Eight candidates for the post of secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America addressed the churchwide assembly Aug. 9, prior to the third ballot that is likely to narrow the field to three candidates.

The eight candidates were the top vote-getters on the second ballot taken at the 2007 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA.

The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, is meeting in Chicago Aug. 6 to 11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,068 ELCA voting members.

A total of 1,046 votes were cast on that second ballot. Michael L. Cooper-White, president of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.), received 277 votes, followed by Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl, bishop of the South Dakota Synod, who received 227 votes.

David Swartling, an attorney from Seattle who has served as parliamentarian of the past two assemblies, received 114 votes; and Kenneth M. Ruppar, pastor of Lutheran Church of the Savior, Richmond, Va., received 108 votes. Paul Schreck, executive assistant to the current ELCA secretary, received 70 votes on the second ballot. Glenndy Ose, an assistant to the bishop in the Minneapolis Area Synod, received 57 votes; William C. "Wm. Chris" Boerger, bishop of the Northwest Washington Synod, and Mark Grorud, ELCA director of relationships with larger congregations, each received 32 votes.

After the third ballot, the field is limited to the top three candidates, who will be given the opportunity to address the assembly. A 60 percent majority is required for election on the fourth ballot.

If there is no election on the fourth ballot, the names of the top two candidates will appear on the fifth ballot, where a simple majority is required for election.

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August 9, 2007

2007 Churchwide Assembly
Assembly casts first ballot for secretary


Michael L. Cooper-White, president of Gettysburg (Pa.) Lutheran Seminary, was the highest vote-getter on the first ballot cast for secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A total of 161 people received votes in what was a nominating ballot for the ELCA post.

Cooper-White received 162 votes of the 1,004 votes cast in the first ballot. Andrea DeGroot Nesdahl, bishop of the South Dakota Synod, received 110 votes. To be elected, a candidate must receive 75 percent of the votes cast on the first ballot.

The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, is meeting in Chicago Aug. 6 to 11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,071 ELCA voting members.

On the first ballot, Kenneth M. Ruppar, pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Savior, Richmond, Va., received 95 votes, and David Swartling, acting as parliamentarian for the assembly, received 88 votes.

Paul A. Schreck, an executive assistant to the current ELCA secretary, received 69 votes, and Glendy L. Ose, assistant to the bishop in the Minneapolis Area Synod, received 42 votes.

The other two highest vote-getters were William C. "Wm. Chris" Boerger, bishop of the Northwest Washington Synod, with 39 votes, and Mark A. Grorud, Fremont, Neb., ELCA director of relationships with large member congregations, with 36 votes.

The second ballot will include the names of all those nominated on the first ballot. If there is no election, the top seven vote-getters on that ballot will answer questions from voting members of the assembly for 30 minutes before the third ballot is cast. On the third ballot, a two-thirds majority is required for election.

After the third ballot, the field is limited to the top three candidates, who will be given the opportunity to address the assembly. A 60 percent majority is required for election on the fourth ballot.

If there is no election on the fourth ballot, the names of the top two candidates will appear on the fifth ballot, where a simple majority is required for election.

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August 8, 2007

2007 Churchwide Assembly
Assembly opposes escalation of Iraq war


The highest legislative assembly of the 4.8 million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America declared its opposition to "any escalation of the war" in Iraq and called upon the U.S. government to "take immediate and comprehensive steps to end the violence and establish a peaceful, stable, and just society in that country."

The resolution, passed with no discussion and by a vote of 874 to 78, also urged Lutherans to engage in "moral deliberation about the situation in Iraq and the policies and actions of the government of the United States of America in relation to them" and urged expanded concern for military personnel and their families. Lutherans should also make their views known to members of Congress, the resolution said.

The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, is meeting in Chicago Aug. 6 to 11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,071 ELCA voting members.

The resolution, adopted here Aug. 8, did not contain any specific criticisms of U.S. policies on the Iraq war. But the action grew out of memorials passed in six synods, regional units of the denomination, and some of those declarations accused the United States of being in a "first strike, pre-emptive war," with "little or no national debate," and lamented the effect the war is having on the U.S. economy and the stature of the United States in the world.

In one of the memorials passed on to this churchwide assembly, the Southwest California Synod declared that "the war in Iraq is morally wrong and cannot be justified with the teachings of Jesus Christ." A similar memorial from the Northern Illinois Synod said that the Iraq war "does not meet the criteria of a 'just' war."

Other memorials passed on to the assembly came from the Northwest Washington Synod, the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, the La Crosse Area Synod, and the Metropolitan Washington Synod.

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