The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


November 15, 2007

ELCA Church Council elects leaders, acts on variety of proposals

The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America elected four churchwide leaders, heard a report from the ELCA presiding bishop , acted on proposals regarding social policy on sponsorship of legal gaming by American Indian tribes, a proposed "Lutheran Malaria Initiative," and received an implementation plan for a churchwide mission funding effort.

The Church Council is the ELCA 's board of directors and serves as the legislative authority of the church between churchwide assemblies. The council met here Nov. 9-11. Assemblies are held every other year; the next is Aug. 17-23, 2009, in Minneapolis.

The council elected two new churchwide executives. Wyvetta Bullock was elected to a six-year term as executive for administration, Office of the Presiding Bishop , succeeding Charles S. Miller, who retired Oct. 31. The council elected Stephen P. Bouman, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod , to a four-year term as executive director, Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission , effective Jan. 1, 2008. He will succeed the Richard A. Magnus, who will retire Dec. 31.

It elected Christina Jackson-Skelton to a second six-year term as ELCA treasurer . As treasurer she serves as one of the four officers of the church and as a member of the council's executive committee. Her new term will begin Feb. 1. The council re-elected Rafael Malpica Padilla as executive director of ELCA Global Mission . The former bishop of the ELCA Caribbean Synod was elected in 2003 to his first four-year appointment to the position. His new term began Aug. 1.

ELCA presiding bishop discusses leadership, church challenges

Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop , who began his second six-year term Nov. 1, asked the 37-member council to join with him in "shared leadership" for the ELCA . One-third of the council members were attending their first meeting after their election at the 2007 Churchwide Assembly .

Hanson also discussed other topics:

• "Interreligious relationships are absolutely critical," Hanson said. A "Lutheran-Muslim Consultative Panel" is being formed, he said.

• Hanson identified four challenges for the ELCA: building trust throughout the church, creating awareness by telling the ELCA's "story," raising expectations for what the Holy Spirit is doing, and lowering anxiety about sexuality as the church prepares a social statement on human sexuality for consideration at the 2009 ELCA assembly .

"We cannot let that social statement define solely the life and work of this church or our leadership," Hanson told the council. "That's going to take shared leadership. If we become so preoccupied with 2009, we are conveying a message that sexuality defines this church, and (because of) sexuality, this church could potentially be divided. Frankly, that's heresy. That's absolute heresy. The gospel of Jesus Christ defines this church."

"I think this (the social statement) is hugely important work for us in these next two years. I'm committed to it, but I will not let it solely define my leadership of this church, because I think that's not responsible," he said.

Council addresses several churchwide matters

• The council expressed gratitude for a plan to implement recommendations of the church's Blue Ribbon Committee on Mission Funding. The council will receive regular progress reports on the plan, which will include one-on-one visits among ELCA leaders to discuss the importance of tithing.

• The council received the report of a consultation, Sept. 30-Oct. 1 in Tampa, Fla., on the church's response to disasters. Council members voted to reaffirm guiding principles for ELCA disaster response as identified by the consultation. The council noted that the consultation reached areas of general consensus and raised topics to be addressed at future consultations. A report and specific recommendations in response to a variety of concerns raised by resolutions from the ELCA Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod and ELCA Southeastern Synod is to be presented at the November 2008 council meeting.

• The council approved an "ELCA Social Policy Resolution on the Sponsorship of Legal Gaming by American Indian Tribes." It reaffirmed concerns the ELCA has with gambling, including opposition to lotteries and other state-sponsored gambling; reaffirmed the ELCA's respect for the inherent sovereignty of American Indian tribes and Alaska Native peoples; strongly encouraged the exercise of social responsibility by all
parties involved; and the ELCA reaffirmed the importance of building positive and supportive relationships with North American Indians and Alaskan Natives, and recommitted itself to promoting dialogue and moral deliberation regarding Indian gaming and other American Indian concerns.

• Following a lengthy discussion the council authorized churchwide staff, coordinated by the ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop , to develop, in partnership with Lutheran World Relief, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the United Nations (U.N.) Foundation , a proposal for a possible "Lutheran Malaria Initiative." It authorized the council's executive committee to monitor and take action "relating to a possible malaria appeal and program, including the possible receipt of funding from the U.N. Foundation." The council asked the presiding bishop to seek input from ELCA churchwide leaders, and asked that information be shared so that council members would have a chance to offer input before any decisions are made. LWR is developing the initiative, intended to be an effort to comprehensively address and work to contain malaria. LWR and its partners hope to raise $75 million for the initiative over five years.

• The council received an update on planning for the ELCA initiative "Book of Faith ," in which church members engage the Bible with Lutheran principles of reading Scripture, centering on the witness to Christ crucified and resurrected. Several council members related personal stories of how Bible reading has influenced them.

• David D. Swartling gave his first report to the council as ELCA secretary . In August the ELCA Churchwide Assembly elected Swartling, who left his law practice in Seattle. He described his vision of the Office of the Secretar y as "the oil in the engine of the ELCA." He said his future reports will include "parliamentary tips."

• The council approved an initial 2008 fiscal year current fund spending authorization for the churchwide organization of $83 million. It approved an initial World Hunger spending authorization of $19.25 million for the same period. It also asked the ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop to give "particular consideration" to grants to ELCA campus ministries if 2007 income is anticipated to exceed expenses.

Council elects new member, others to boards and committees

The council elected a number of people to fill vacancies on ELCA boards, committees and the Church Council. The year in which the term ends is in parentheses:

ELCA Church Council:

• Norene A. Smith, Milwaukee (2009)

Program Committee, ELCA Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission :

• Robert W. Fritch, Jamaica, N.Y. (2009)

• Kristine L. Carlson, Minneapolis (2011)

• Barbara R. Dowdy, Richmond, Va. (2011)

Program Committee, ELCA Vocation and Education :

• Heidi M. Murken, Grafton, Wis. (2011)


Advisory Committee, The Lutheran :

• Pamela Russell, Seattle (2013)

Board of Trustees, ELCA Board of Pensions :

• Ingrid S. Stafford, Evanston, Ill. (2011)

•Bruce D. George, Westborough, Mass. (2011)

ELCA Committee on Discipline:

•Kathryn E. Baerwald, Washington, D.C. (2009)

ELCA Committee of Hearing Officers:

• Charles H. Maahs, Olathe, Kan. (2013)
• Paul J. Blom, Houston (2013)
• Kevin D. Anderson, Gaithersburg, Md. (2013)


The council ratified the appointment of Kathleen M. Rehl, Tampa, Fla., to fill a vacancy on the board of trustees of the Endowment Fund of the ELCA and board of advisors of the ELCA Foundation .

Also: Learn more about the ELCA Church Council at the ELCA Web site .

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