From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Presiding Bishop Offers Overview of ELCA Assembly

Date Mon, 11 Aug 2003 21:21:45 -0500


August 11, 2003

Presiding Bishop Offers Overview of ELCA Assembly

   MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- At an Aug. 11 news conference, the Rev.
Mark S. Hanson, ELCA Presiding Bishop, and ELCA Vice President
Addie J. Butler highlighted the ELCA strategic plan, the studies
on sexuality and the importance of lay leadership.
   The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center. There are about 2,500 people participating, including
1,031 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is
"Making Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."
   "The primary work of this assembly is to turn us to the
future," said Hanson. The assembly will discuss the proposed
strategic plan that has involved input from 30,000 members of the
church over a two-year period, and it will also consider a
proposed evangelism strategy and a social statement on health and
health care, "Caring For Health: Our Shared Endeavor."
   Hanson noted that this assembly is "mindful" of the steps
taken by the Episcopal Church last week, which confirmed the
first openly gay Episcopal bishop. Hanson affirmed that the ELCA
will rely upon Lutheran resources to set policy and social
statements. He stressed that even as a full communion partner
with the Episcopal Church, the ELCA retains its autonomy on
standards for what is required to serve as an ordained minister
of the church.
   The agenda set for this assembly will include a progress
report from a task force overseeing the church's study on
homosexuality. The study was commissioned by the 2001 Churchwide
Assembly. That assembly set a timetable for addressing human
sexuality, commissioning a study on the ordination of gay and
lesbian people who are in committed relationships and on a
liturgical rite recognizing gay and lesbian unions. That study is
to be completed and presented to the 2005 assembly. By 2007, the
church is charged with considering a social statement on human
   "Rather than only dwelling on the possibility that the issues
before us will divide us, we need to say, 'Wait a minute. People
of faith all over this land are taking sexuality back from the
culture that took it from us and trivialized it,'" Hanson said.
According to Hanson, the challenge before church members is to be
faithful stewards of this "mysterious, wonderful, fragile gift of
human sexuality" by prayerfully discussing it with one another
"in the context of Scripture, in our life together, mindful of
our ecumenical and global partners."
  Hanson stressed that human sexuality be discussed in terms of
how it affects individuals rather than as "issues" that objectify
and alienate people. He also placed the debate over human
sexuality in context of the recent assembly of the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF) that gathered in Winnipeg, Canada, at the end of
July, saying that it is only one of several concerns -- including
HIV/AIDS, poverty and globalization -- that church leaders are
dealing with globally. "We don't have these conversations in
isolation from ecumenical and global partners," he said.
   To work for the healing of the world, said Hanson, "one of the
major responsibilities of leaders today is to listen and to
respond to what we hear, and then to lead."
   Hanson commended the assembly's host, the ELCA Greater
Milwaukee Synod, for "immersing itself" in issues of poverty,
equality and racism. "Even in times of financial difficulty, we
need to step forth more boldly in our support" for these
   Hanson also affirmed that Lutherans are the largest providers
of nonprofit social services in the United States. "We will
continue to step forward in healing and social services
ministry," he said.
  Outgoing Vice President Butler addressed the importance of lay
leadership, giving thanks to those who formed the ELCA for
placing such an emphasis on lay leaders. She pointed out that by
design, half of the ELCA Church Council members are lay leaders
who are primarily charged with "lifting up the name of Jesus.
Certainly we don't forget our calling to be part of those working
with clergy people and other [leaders] for the healing of the
world." The church council is the ELCA's board of directors
between churchwide assemblies.
   Butler's term as vice president concludes on Aug. 17. One of
the major actions of this assembly will be to elect a new vice
president to serve a six-year term for the ELCA.
-- -- --
Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found at
http://www.elca/org/assembly/03 on the Web.

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

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