From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
ELCA Council Adopts Interim Social Policy on School Vouchers
News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
10 Apr 2000 09:10:52
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
April 10, 2000
ELCA COUNCIL ADOPTS INTERIM SOCIAL POLICY ON SCHOOL VOUCHERS
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) adopted a social policy resolution on school
vouchers as an interim policy of the church, for possible ratification
or amendment by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The policy is meant to
guide the public policy advocacy ministry of the church as it evaluates
a variety of proposals considered by state legislatures.
The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and serves as
the legislative authority of the church between its churchwide
assemblies. The council met April 8-9 in Chicago. Assemblies are held
every other year; the next is Aug. 8-14, 2001, in Indianapolis.
The request for guidelines on evaluating school voucher proposals
originated in Pennsylvania, said the Rev. John R. Stumme, associate
director for studies, ELCA Division for Church in Society. The church's
11,000 congregations are organized into 65 synods, seven of which are in
"It seems like every time there's a political question, the ELCA
must have a position," said Dale V. Sandstrom, council member, Bismarck,
N.D. He said he felt uncomfortable offering guidelines that ELCA public
policy directors would use to determine the church's position on any
given school voucher proposal.
"We're not asking the ELCA for a position," said the Rev. Roy G.
Almquist, bishop of the ELCA's Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod,
Norristown, Pa., advisory council member. He said he was one of those
asking for the social policy resolution so Lutherans in Pennsylvania
could speak for themselves, using principles which are "consistent with
The Rev. Donald J. McCoid, bishop of the ELCA's Southwestern
Pennsylvania Synod, Pittsburgh, said the bishops of Pennsylvania were
concerned that they would not be able "to discuss justice for children
in poorer areas" of the state because the church had no guiding
principles on the subject. He did not want the ELCA to say nothing, or
to say vouchers are good or bad, but to give "guidance for public
"It's not a good idea to take just one stance, with so many
different voucher proposals being considered in the state legislatures,"
said the Rev. W. Robert Sorensen, executive director of the ELCA
Division for Higher Education and Schools. He said he has been working
for several years with staff of the Division for Church in Society to
develop the social policy resolution.
A motion to amend the resolution was defeated. It would have
replaced the function of evaluating voucher proposals with one of
sharing information about the church's principles. Defining "high
quality education" should not be left to the church's state public
policy directors, said Brian D. Rude, council member, Coon Valley, Wis.
As a former member of the ELCA's public policy advisory committee
in Nebraska, Steven E. Koenig, council member, Elwood, Neb., said he
wished he would have had such guidelines. "With none, we either made up
our own or said nothing," he said.
The Rev. Diane H. "Dee" Pederson, council member, St. Cloud,
Minn., pointed out the resolution states such evaluation is done in
consultation with representatives of public and ELCA schools, with
administrators, teachers, parents and children, and with community
The resolution lists eight goals by which to evaluate proposals
for education reform. The council directed ELCA public policy advocacy
offices are directed to ask "to what degree does the proposal:
+ provide public schools the support and resources necessary to fulfill
+ increase equal access to high quality education for all, especially
for children and youth who live in poverty or are otherwise
+ enhance the ability of families -- especially families living in
poverty and other situations of hardship -- to select the right high
quality education for their children?
+ allow participating schools, including religious ones, to maintain
their distinctive character and mission?
+ protect against all forms of invidious discrimination against
+ provide eligible families sufficient and accurate information on
+ ensure ways for measuring the educational achievements of students in
+ establish means to evaluate the positive and negative results of the
program and, in light of these results, to consider if the program
should be continued, modified or ended?"
Advocacy efforts of the ELCA are coordinated through the Division
for Church in Society, which supports 18 state public policy advocacy
offices with the help of other churchwide, synod and social ministry
organizations. Much of such advocacy deals with hunger-related issues,
such as food and nutrition, shelter, and affordable housing,
environmental stewardship and justice, employment and income, and access
to preventative and primary health care.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG
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