From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Presiding Bishop Says Keep Partner Church Decisions in Context

Date Mon, 11 Aug 2003 21:00:39 -0500


August 11, 2003

ELCA Presiding Bishop Says Keep Partner Church Decisions in Context

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- Decisions of the recent General
Convention of the Episcopal Church -- a full communion
partner of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
-- must be kept in their proper context, said the Rev. Mark
S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop.  Legislative actions of
full communion partners "ultimately do not determine" how
the ELCA proceeds on similar issues.
     Hanson made the comments Aug. 10 in a joint meeting
here of the ELCA Conference of Bishops and ELCA Church
Council, preceding the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, Aug. 11-17.
     The churchwide assembly is the ELCA's chief legislative
authority and meets every two years.  The Church Council is
the interim legislative authority between assemblies; the
Conference of Bishops advises the church and consists of the
ELCA's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary.
     Last week the Episcopal Church general convention,
meeting in Minneapolis, confirmed the election of a bishop
who is in a committed homosexual relationship.	That
decision has resulted in numerous questions for many
churches, including the ELCA.
     "My responsibility and challenge is to put the events
of the Episcopal Church general convention into an
appropriate context," Hanson said.  He stated further that
his caution is not an attempt to stifle debate within the
ELCA on similar issues.
     Each of the ELCA's five full communion partners has
addressed homosexuality issues differently, he said.  Among
them is the United Church of Christ (UCC), which already
ordains gay and lesbian people in committed relationships, a
practice in place when the ELCA entered into full communion
with the UCC in 1997.  Some people had forgotten about that
or were not aware, Hanson suggested.
     The Episcopal Church "orders its life" differently from
the ELCA, said the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary.  It
tends to make significant decisions and then "assimilate
those decisions into its internal life," he said.  Lutherans
make decisions that give the church authority to move in
certain directions, following extensive and thorough study,
Almen said.
     "This is the way they [the Episcopal Church] do
business together," Almen said, adding that the Episcopal
Church approach should not be seen as wrong.
     "We do need to respect the deliberative processes of
the Episcopal Church as we do for our other full communion
partners," Almen said.
     During the assembly, the ELCA voting members will
engage in significant discussions, decisions and elections,
Hanson said.
     "My hope literally for this week ... is that our shared
leadership be a calming presence, a clarifying presence and
an encouraging presence, and that we engage in respectful
listening and prayerful pondering," Hanson said.  "We must
trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in all of our
     Hanson asked all council members, bishops and
churchwide staff leaders to share in the task of reassuring
voting members.
     Assemblies find "meaning and direction" when people
gather together around Word and Sacrament, Hanson added.

Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found
at on the Web.

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

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