August 18, 2009
Nearly unanimous: Malaria must go
Voting members to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly may not agree on sexuality issues and related rostering rules, but they do on malaria: they don't like it and want it stamped out.
On Tuesday they voted 989-11 to support the development of a Lutheran Malaria Initiative that calls for a possible $25 million appeal to help eradicate the disease in Africa. Plans for fundraising would have to be approved by the Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA's highest decision-making body, at its next gathering in 2011.
The voting members, meeting in the Minneapolis Convention Center for the church's 11th assembly, also heard Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson deliver a challenging state of the church speech in which he addressed fears that actions taken at the gathering on controversial matters of sexuality would cause the ELCA to become another Protestant denomination to suffer loss of membership and influence. "We already are and have been for years," Hanson said. He urged members to make the ELCA "a Pentecost church," with "each and every one of you" serving as an evangelist. He also said the ELCA must become a more diverse church to reach out to the ethnic and racial groups that have changed the face of the U.S. in recent years.
Tuesday also saw the start of debate over a proposed social statement on human sexuality. Voting members lined up at microphones, some quoting Scripture in opposition to any acceptance of homosexual relations, others offering testimonials of their personal experiences as gays and lesbians of faith.
Later in the week, likely Friday, the assembly will vote on the proposed social statement and possible changes to ministerial rules that would accept gays and lesbians in committed relationships to be pastors, associates in ministry and deaconesses.