From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Committee Recommends ELCA Assembly Discuss Eight Topics

Date Tue, 5 Aug 2003 15:31:52 -0500


August 5, 2003

Committee Recommends ELCA Assembly Discuss Eight Topics

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will act on 76 memorials --
resolutions sent from the church's 65 synods.  The assembly's
memorials committee met here in June, organizing the resolutions
into 40 categories and drafting recommendations to the assembly
on how to deal with them.  The assembly will be held August 11-17
in Milwaukee.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, meets every other year.  Synods of the church hold
assemblies each year.  Synod assemblies may "memorialize" a
churchwide assembly through resolutions.
     The memorials committee recommended the churchwide assembly
deal with 24 resolutions in eight categories separately and
another 32 categories "en bloc" -- in one action.  It notes in
its report to the assembly that 52 memorials fall into the "en
bloc" categories because many "will come to the floor of the
assembly for discussion elsewhere on the agenda."

+ Immigrants, Refugees and Asylum Seekers
     Four ELCA synods -- Metropolitan New York Synod, Slovak Zion
Synod, Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod and South-Central Synod of
Wisconsin -- offered memorials on immigrants, refugees and asylum
seekers.  They wanted the assembly to call upon the church's
membership to ask Congress and the Bush Administration to
increase the number of immigrants allowed into the United States,
to protect the rights of all people regardless of citizenship and
to provide better conditions for unaccompanied children and
others seeking asylum.
     The memorials committee recommended the assembly follow the
synods' advice.  Its recommendation calls on the ELCA to ask
President Bush to increase funding for the Migration and Refugee
Assistance Fund, and to ask Congress to pass the Unaccompanied
Child Protection Act of 2003.  The recommendation also asked the
ELCA to give greater support to the resettlement and advocacy
work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.

+ Peace in the Holy Land
     The ELCA Delaware-Maryland Synod passed a memorial in 2002
asking the assembly to endorse the First Alexandria Declaration
of Religious Leaders of the Holy Land, to assist financially the
rebuilding of Palestinian civic structures and to work with
Christians, Jews and Muslims to create an atmosphere of peaceful
coexistence in the Middle East.
     The memorials committee included a copy of the First
Alexandria Declaration in its report to the assembly.  It
recommended the assembly affirm the declaration and interfaith
activities while encouraging political negotiations under the
current "road map" offered by the European Union, Russia, the
United Nations and United States.

+ Support for Lutheran Ministries in Palestine
     The ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod resolved to expand
programs that educate its members on Middle East issues, to
implement programs that foster communication with the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine) (ELCJ) and to promote
efforts to raise money to support ELCJ congregations and schools.
It asked the churchwide assembly to do likewise.
     The memorials committee described the ELCA's relationship
with the ELCJ and recommended the 2003 Churchwide Assembly
reaffirm it.  It also proposed the assembly commend the church's
fund-raising and education programs, as well as its advocacy
efforts related to the State of Israel's tax case against Augusta
Victoria Hospital, which the Lutheran World Federation operates
in Jerusalem.

+ Ecumenical Greetings
     The ELCA Upstate New York Synod noted that the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe (ELCZ) celebration of 100 years of
Lutheran mission work in that African country will coincide with
the ELCA assembly.  The synod sent greetings to the African
church, with which it has a "companion synod" relationship, and
asked the churchwide assembly to do likewise.
     In its report to the assembly, the memorials committee
included a June 23 letter from the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding
bishop of the ELCA, to the Rev. L.M. Dube, bishop of the ELCZ,
congratulating the church on its centennial.  The committee
recommended that the assembly "rejoice" with the ELCZ and
remember that church in its prayers.
     According to the letter, the Rev. Marie C. Jerge, bishop of
the Upstate New York Synod, will represent the ELCA during the
ELCZ celebration Aug. 14-17.

+ Representation of Congregations in Voting
     The ELCA Montana Synod asked that its congregations keep
their members informed of "all sides of constitutional issues
being considered" in the church.  The synod challenged the ELCA
polity that assembly voting members represent the whole church,
and they are not delegates, representing specific portions of the
     The memorials committee gave a history of the polity in its
report to the assembly and gave examples of how it has applied to
constitutional and other major votes in the ELCA.  Its
recommendation was for the assembly to encourage keeping all ELCA
members informed of issues concerning the church and to affirm
the church's existing "principles of organization."

+ Ratification of Policy and Governing Documents
     Six synods adopted memorials asking the 2003 Churchwide
Assembly to institute a process of having the church's synods or
congregations ratify certain decisions of the churchwide
assembly.  The ELCA Eastern Washington-Idaho, Northwestern
Minnesota and Northeastern Minnesota Synods said changes to the
ELCA Constitution should be ratified by the synods.  The East-
Central Synod of Wisconsin and South Dakota Synod said a majority
of the ELCA's congregations should ratify changes in policy
regarding the ordination of homosexuals. The Minneapolis Area
Synod said formal relationships with other church bodies should
be ratified by the congregations.
     The memorials committee report referred to four other synods
that passed similar resolutions that were sent to the ELCA Church
Council, the church's chief legislative authority between
churchwide assemblies.	The committee included a detailed
analysis of each proposal, as well as precedence for and against
ratification in earlier Lutheran churches, and recommended the
assembly encourage congregations and synods to make full use of
the study and response mechanisms the church provides prior to an
assembly decision.

+ ELCA Studies on Sexuality Time Line
     The ELCA's 2001 Churchwide Assembly called for a study that
would lead to recommendations to the 2005 Churchwide Assembly on
whether or not to bless same-gender relationships and whether or
not people in such relationships should be pastors or lay
ministers of the church.  The 2001 assembly also asked the ELCA
Division for Church in Society to draft and propose a social
statement on human sexuality.
     The ELCA Division for Ministry, which develops standards for
the church's pastors and lay ministers, and the Division for
Church in Society came up with a time line to conduct a joint
churchwide study of issues related to homosexuality that would
present recommendations to the 2005 assembly.  That study would
expand to include other issues related to human sexuality and
inform the drafting of a social statement that the 2007
Churchwide Assembly would consider.
     Seven synods passed memorials about that time line.  The
ELCA Central-Southern Illinois Synod affirmed the time line; the
other six synods said topics of human sexuality should be
addressed before the church makes policy decisions regarding
homosexuality.	The Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod said the
decisions should be made once a final report on sexuality is
presented; the Allegheny Synod action on the social statement
should come before other decisions; the Lower Susquehanna,
Nebraska and Northwestern Pennsylvania Synods said a social
statement on human sexuality should be adopted first; and the
West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod said policy decisions should
be made two churchwide assemblies after the sexuality study is
     The memorials committee recommended that the 2003 Churchwide
Assembly commend the current ELCA Studies on Sexuality and
"decline to alter the time line."

+ Commemorations
     The ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod and New England Synod
each adopted resolutions to commemorate the 300th anniversary of
the Rev. Justus Falckner, the first Lutheran ordained in North
America.  The Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod designated June 3
as an official day of commemoration for the life and work of the
Rev. William A. Passavant (1821-1894) in western Pennsylvania and
Ohio.  The synods passed memorials asking the churchwide assembly
to direct that future calendars of commemorations include the
names of Falckner and Passavant.
     The memorials committee reported that the calendar of
commemorations is printed in the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW)
and that the ELCA is currently in the process of replacing the
LBW.  It recommended that the assembly remember the ministries of
Falckner and Passavant, while referring the memorials to the
editorial team responsible for developing the church's worship

+ En Bloc
     The memorials committee placed 52 memorials in 32 categories
and recommended they be dealt with in one action.  Voting members
will have the opportunity to remove items from "en bloc" to be
discussed and acted on separately.
     Most memorials that the committee chose for "en bloc"
consideration were received from individual synods, but the
committee placed multiple memorials into several categories that
it also chose for "en bloc" consideration.
     The Churchwide Assembly is to act on a proposed evangelism
strategy.  Nine synods sent resolutions asking the assembly to
approve "Sharing Faith in a New Century: A Vision for Evangelism
in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America."  The memorials
committee asked the assembly to affirm the intent of the
resolutions and to refer to its own action on the strategy.
     Six synods sent resolutions on working against racism; the
memorials committee asked the assembly to commend the ELCA's anti-
racism work and to encourage continued efforts.  Three synods
sent resolutions on pastoral care for gay and lesbian people; the
committee asked the assembly to express the concerns of the
synods to the ELCA Conference of Bishops and to the Studies on
Sexuality.  It recommended that the assembly refer three
memorials on requests for consideration by the ELCA Studies on
Sexuality task force directly to the task force.
     The committee received three memorials on prison reform and
recommended the churchwide assembly encourage study and advocacy
for prison reform but not request a social statement on the
topic.	It also recommended the assembly not make any changes to
policies on the installation of bishops and that the assembly
refer as information two memorials suggesting constitutional
-- -- --
Information on the 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is
available at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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