From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutherans Express Variety of Concerns in Early Assemblies

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Mon, 24 Jun 2002 16:26:06 -0500


June 24, 2002


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) serving as voting members to 2002 synod assemblies
addressed a variety of topics, according to reports from early
assemblies on file here with the ELCA Department for Synodical
Relations.  The topics included evangelism, debt relief for seminarians,
a full communion agreement of the ELCA and Episcopal Church, and
homosexuality, including the ELCA sexuality studies.
     The ELCA is organized into 65 synods, each headed by a bishop.
Most synods hold annual assemblies in which they elect leaders,
determine budgets and address topics of concern through resolutions or
through memorials, specific requests directed to the ELCA churchwide
     Synod assemblies for 2002 were held between April 6 and June 23.
     Reports filed with the Department for Synodical Relations by June
15 included:
     + Middle East: The Sierra Pacific Synod assembly condemned all
acts of "violence, destruction and oppression" taken by both the
government of Israel and Palestinian groups.  Its resolution called on
the synod bishop and the ELCA churchwide organization to appeal to
President George W. Bush and the U.S. government "to take a clear
position in regard to ending the occupation (of Palestinian-controlled
lands), advocate for international observers and work for
implementation" of United Nations resolutions regarding the region.
     The Southeastern Synod assembly asked the synod bishop and the
synod council to send letters to President Bush and U.S. Senators,
asking them to work "to ensure a swift, lasting peace in the region,"
and "that the synod stand firmly with our Lutheran brothers and sisters
in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine) (ELCJ) and
support their ministry" through gifts given at the assembly.  The
resolution also noted damage to facilities of Lutheran congregations in
the West Bank, following recent Israeli incursions into Palestinian-
controlled territories in response to suicide bombings in Israel.
     The Rocky Mountain Synod assembly adopted a resolution supporting
Palestinian Lutherans, and condemned actions of violence and oppression
taken by the government of Israel and Palestinian groups.
     The New England Synod adopted a resolution expressing its
"repudiation of the recent upsurge of anti-Semitism around the world and
in our own land as a contradiction and affront to our calling."  It
pledged to "oppose the deadly working of such bigotry."  The resolution
reasserted the synod's recognition of Israel's right to exist and
concerns of Israel's people for their country's security and survival.
The synod assembly said it "explicitly deplore(s) all killing of
innocent civilians and every use of tactics of terror and atrocity."
     The synod, which is a companion synod with the ELCJ, said in its
resolution "that we affirm to our Jewish partners in civic life that our
empathy toward the Palestinian community does not imply enmity toward
Israel but presents a challenge to help shape a better and coexistent
future."  It planned to communicate its action to the Jewish community
in New England and asked the ELCA to take similar actions.
     In a separate action on the Middle East, the New England Synod
assembly asked its congregations to apprise members of the situation
involving Augusta Victoria Hospital, a Lutheran World Federation
facility on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.   The State of Israel is
seeking back employer's taxes from the hospital, from which it has been
exempt.  The case is presently in an Israeli court.  The resolution
urged members to contact leaders in the U.S. government to express
concerns about the case.
     + "Called to Common Mission (CCM)": Two synods defeated
resolutions that would change CCM, the full communion agreement of the
ELCA and Episcopal Church.  The Southeast Michigan Synod assembly
defeated a proposal that called on the ELCA churchwide organization to
rescind CCM "and admonish the (ELCA) presiding bishop to appoint a new
balanced commission to draft a new agreement with the Episcopal Church
U.S.A. that does not include adopting the historic episcopacy for or in
the ELCA."  Episcopalians brought to the relationship the historic
episcopate, a succession of bishops as a sign of unity back to the
earliest days of the Christian Church.  The same synod assembly defeated
a resolution that asked for a change in the ELCA's rite of ordination.
The proposed change said the rite "in no way bestows upon the individual
being ordained or installed any superior moral or spiritual qualities."
     The Southeastern Minnesota Synod assembly defeated a resolution
from one of its conferences that called on the synod to affirm a policy
that qualified seminary graduates "shall not be denied ordination
because of a preference for ordination apart from the historic
     The Minneapolis Area Synod assembly asked for clarification of
Episcopal Church understandings of CCM and supported facilitating
exceptions to the rule that bishops be installed into the historic
episcopate, a requirement of CCM.
     + Homosexuality: In 2001 the ELCA Churchwide Assembly called for a
study of homosexuality and related topics, with a final report and
possible recommendations to be made at the 2005 Churchwide Assembly.
The 2001 assembly also asked the church for a process leading to a
social statement on human sexuality.
     The Pacifica Synod assembly resolved that synod congregations
should make use of resources from the ELCA Division for Church in
Society and said congregations should seek assistance from a synod
homosexuality study ministry team.
     The Southeastern Minnesota Synod asked the ELCA Church Council to
consider a possible amendment to the ELCA Constitution to allow
congregations to vote on recommendations from the ELCA sexuality
     The Southeastern Michigan Synod assembly encouraged its
congregations and pastors to begin educational activities to prepare for
the 2005 report and advocated use of resources and personnel provided by
a synod task force for gay and lesbian concerns.  The synod also
expressed its hope that congregations and pastors be "open to the
guidance of the Holy Spirit in this process."
     The Minneapolis Area Synod assembly adopted a resolution
strengthening the synod's commitment to the "Reconciling in Christ"
movement among congregations, providing support to and welcoming gay and
lesbian people.  Reconciling in Christ is a program of Lutherans
Concerned/North America that encourages churches to welcome people who
are gay and lesbian into the life of the congregation.
     The Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod assembly adopted a resolution
affirming the process for the sexuality studies and encouraged all
congregations to participate in the process.
     + Reparation for Slave Descendants:  The Southeast Michigan Synod
assembly adopted a resolution that the synod "confesses" that the
transatlantic slave trade was a crime against all humanity.  The
assembly committed to prayerfully consider support for reparations to
African American descendants of the slave trade, pray for healing
descendent "victims" and "perpetrators" and for the healing of the
nation as a whole.  The assembly asked that congregations study the
topic so they can respond faithfully.
     + Prison Reform:  The Greater Milwaukee Synod assembly adopted a
resolution to find more creative ways to be involved in prison
ministries and to continue to educate congregations on prison issues.
The assembly asked the ELCA Church Council to commission the ELCA
Division for Church in Society to "make a social statement on prison
reform in the United States and to define the role of the church in
prevention programs for at-risk families and youth, restitution for
victims and inmate restoration [restoring parolees to society] and
aftercare, so that the church actively engages in advancing a vision of
just and safe communities for all people," the resolution said.
     + Pension equity: The New England Synod asked that the ELCA Church
Council consider authorizing a study of compensation for professional
leaders in active service.  The resolution said the purpose is to aid
ELCA congregations and units "in providing adequate salaries for
professional leaders to prevent situations of inequity in retirement as
much as possible."
     + Hate crimes:  The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod assembly
adopted a resolution to support Pennsylvania House Bill No. 1493, which
amends the Ethnic Intimidation Act providing legal protection against
hate crimes based on actual or perceived race, color, religion and
national origin.  The amendment includes crimes committed against people
because of physical or mental disability, gender, sexual orientation,
gender identity and ancestry.
     + Nonviolence: The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod assembly voted
to support the implementation of the Nobel Peace Prize laureates'
"Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence."  The assembly will
recommend that its congregations put a special emphasis on teaching
youth to lead a non-violent lifestyle.
  + Poverty:  The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod assembly
expressed its concern for the growing numbers of people living in
poverty.  The assembly adopted a resolution to ask the synod to endorse
Call to Renewal's "Covenant to Overcome Poverty."  The Texas Council of
Churches' program has three components: ensuring that all Texans make a
living wage, have affordable housing and that all have health care.  The
assembly asked the Texas Council of Churches to provide educational
material on poverty and to make suggestions about how congregations can
  The North Carolina Synod assembly adopted a resolution to support
living wage ordinance campaigns by the Association of Community
Organizations for Reform Now.  The assembly also voted to ask the ELCA
churchwide organization to encourage its pastors and congregations to
support the campaigns as well.
  + Support for Colombia, Liberia:  The Southeastern Minnesota Synod
assembly voted to continue support of the church and people of Colombia,
especially its companion synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of
Colombia.  The resolution supports the ELCA Division for Global Mission
and its efforts to promote advocacy for Colombia.  Congregations in the
synod will be urged to write their congressional representatives
expressing concern for how U.S. military and humanitarian aid is being
used there.  The Minneapolis Area Synod assembly adopted a resolution
supporting efforts through the Liberian Evangelical Lutheran Church on
behalf of the Liberian people suffering through civil war.
  + Relocation for Pastors:  The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod
assembly called on its synod council to implement a program that would
help pastors and their families make a better transition into new
congregations.  The synod adopted a resolution to investigate the
possibility of starting a program that would help pastors find
residences near their new congregations and help them to sell or move
from old residences.
  + Sabbaticals:  The Southeastern Synod assembly adopted a
resolution calling for the synod congregations to include sabbatical
leave in their letters of call.  The assembly asked the churchwide
organization to include sabbatical leave in the letter of call documents
sent to synods for use in the call process.
  + Lottery Opposition:  Despite pressure from state government, the
North Carolina Synod voted to continue its opposition against having a
state lottery.  North Carolina Governor Michael F. Easley wants a state
lottery so that additional income would help balance the state budget.
The assembly urged its congregations' members to write letters to their
state legislators opposing the lottery.
  + Evangelism:  The Southeastern Synod assembly adopted a
resolution to support the ELCA task force on evangelism.  The assembly
encouraged all congregations to be involved with partner congregations
and work toward a 5 percent financial commitment above current
churchwide mission support.
  The Florida-Bahamas Synod adopted a resolution to continue
developing evangelism strategies for its congregations.  The resolution
also asked congregations to pray for the outreach ministry of the
  + Advocacy for Children:  The Oregon Synod assembly adopted the
program "Treasured and Safe: Children of the Future."  The resolution
asked that congregations and church-related institutions elect people to
be advocates for children.  The assembly encouraged the ELCA Office of
the Presiding Bishop to create a "Commission on Children and Families
that could assist congregations, institutions and agencies of the church
minister effectively to the needs of children."
  The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod assembly adopted a resolution
to help bolster faith development in children.  Every congregation will
be encouraged to initiate a "four-key team" to study how caring
conversations, rituals, family devotions and intergenerational services
will promote faith development in children.
  + Stand With Africa:  The Southwest California Synod assembly,
Northwestern Ohio Synod assembly and Southeastern Minnesota Synod
assembly all adopted resolutions in support of the "Stand with Africa"
program, coordinated by the ELCA World Hunger Program, Lutheran Church-
Missouri Synod (LCMS) World Relief and Lutheran World Relief, the
overseas relief and development agency of the ELCA and LCMS.  The
campaign focuses on issues significant to Africa, including AIDS/HIV,
food security, peace and reconciliation.  The Southwest California Synod
assembly resolution called for a commitment to increase donations to the
ELCA World Hunger Appeal to $155,000 over the next three years, and the
Southeastern Minnesota Synod assembly will strive to give $5.15 per
baptized member.  The Northwestern Ohio Synod assembly resolved to
educate its members about needs of people living in poverty and join the
Stand with Africa program.
  + Jubilee USA: Jubilee USA Network is a coalition that works in
education and advocacy for debt-cancellation for heavily indebted
nations.  The Pacifica Synod assembly adopted a resolution to engage in
fund-raising efforts to provide $100,000 to the network.  The assembly
made this effort a synod priority for three years.  Members of its
congregations were urged to write elected officials to advocate for debt
  + Debt Relief for Pastors:  The Southwestern Washington Synod
assembly asked the ELCA to support educational debt relief for first-
call pastors.  The assembly noted that the ELCA has had budget surpluses
for the past two years and asked the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly to
"recommend the ELCA churchwide organization devote 50 percent of any
surplus to educational debt relief for seminarians and first-call
pastors."  The Southeastern Minnesota Synod assembly adopted a
resolution that will establish a scholarship fund for seminarians.  The
Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod assembly called for each congregation
to support seminary education by budgeting $500 per year for the synod's
Mission Endowment Fund.  The West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod
assembly adopted a resolution that each of its congregations designate
one Sunday between June 9, 2002, and June 6, 2003, for a special
offering for debt reduction for rostered leaders.
  + Synod nominees:  The Northwestern Ohio Synod assembly defeated a
resolution that the synod assembly be told about a nominee's
biographical information, including his or her opinion on issues
confronting the church.
  + Fair trade: The Rocky Mountain Synod assembly affirmed a
resolution supporting free trade and a project -- "Equal Exchange" --
through which coffee is marketed fairly throughout the world.
-- -- --
Web sites of many ELCA synods can be found through the ELCA Department
of Synodical Relations at on the Web.

*Amy Wineinger is a junior at Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa. This
summer she is an intern with ELCA News and Media Production.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home