From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Declines to Seek Congregational Approval of

Date Sat, 16 Aug 2003 12:17:34 -0500


August 16, 2003

ELCA Assembly Declines to Seek Congregational Approval of Agreements

     MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The 2003 Churchwide Assembly of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Aug. 15 turned down
proposed constitutional amendments that would have required
congregational approval for the adoption of any churchwide
ecumenical agreements or standards for pastors.
     The assembly also declined to remove a constitutional
reference to the ELCA's Slovak Zion Synod, its only non-
geographical synod.  The ELCA has 65 synods, of which 64 have
geographical boundaries.
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines
Center. There are about 2,100 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 two proposed constitutional amendments would have
required a majority of the ELCA's 10,766 congregations to approve
within a year any churchwide assembly action to establish
official church-to-church relationships and agreements, or any
standards for acceptance and continuance in the ordained
     The Rev. David N. Glesne, voting member, ELCA Minneapolis
Area Synod, offered the proposed amendments, which failed 254-
733.  The Committee of Reference and Counsel, which reviewed the
proposal, declined to recommend it.
     "Our people feel alienated and they feel hurt" by not being
part of the decision-making process, said the Rev. Todd D.
Hylden, ELCA Western North Dakota Synod, arguing in favor of the
proposed amendments.  He said the church asks them for their
money and for their hearts and so can ask them for their
ratification votes, too.
     Voting member Carol K. Mahnke, Southeastern Iowa Synod, said
requiring a congregational vote is "an opportunity for apathy to
prevail," that actions could die simply for lack of action by
congregations.	She said church leaders must lead, and sometimes
"that means dragging some congregations along."
     The Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the St. Paul Area Synod,
said he is in sympathy with the concerns behind the proposed
amendment, adding that the ELCA has an organizational structure
"that disconnects us." But, he said, "this is the wrong remedy."
Rather than have congregations react to actions already taken, he
said they should be involved and affect proposals for action
early in their development.
      In other business Aug. 15, the churchwide assembly listened
to pleas from leaders of the non-geographical Slovak Zion Synod
and did not accept an ELCA Church Council recommendation to
delete a constitutional reference to the synod.
     ELCA constitutional provision 10.02 says, "Each
congregation, except those which are in partnership with the
Slovak Zion Synod, shall establish a relationship with the synod
in whose territory it is located."  The Church Council
recommended dropping the specific reference in the exception to
the Slovak Zion Synod as unnecessary because the matter is
addressed in an ELCA bylaw.
     The Rev. Wilma J. Kucharek, bishop of the Slovak Zion Synod,
said the current wording is important because it provides a
constitutional guarantee of the synod's relationship to its
congregations rather than a bylaw provision, which is more easily
     "No one asked us what we think of this," Kucharek added,
saying that the lack of consultation makes the proposed change
"especially distressful to our people."
     The Church Council's recommended change failed 154-827.
-- -- --
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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