From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
ELCA Council Endorses Timeline For Studies On Sexuality
Thu, 22 Apr 2004 17:26:33 -0500
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
April 22, 2004
ELCA Council Endorses Timeline For Studies On Sexuality
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) endorsed a timeline for communicating the report
and recommendations of the church's Task Force for the Studies on
Sexuality. The 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is to receive the report and
consider the recommendations on whether or not the church should bless
same-gender relationships and whether or not people in such relationships
should be allowed to serve as ELCA ministers.
The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and serves as the
legislative authority of the church between churchwide assemblies. The
council met here April 17-18. Assemblies are held every other year; the
next is Aug. 8-14, 2005, in Orlando, Fla.
Members of the ELCA are involved in a study process that is informing
the task force as it prepares its reports and recommendations, which the
task force plans to draft by the end of the year. The task force compiled
the study guide "Journey Together Faithfully, Part Two: The Church and
Homosexuality" with a response form to be completed and returned by Nov.
The council approved a detailed timeline that involves e-mailed
updates to the ELCA's 65 synods for distribution among congregations and
ordained and lay ministers. Those updates will follow this meeting of the
council and the council's November meeting in preparation for release of
the report and recommendations in January.
A "target date" of Jan. 12 was set for "a confidential preview" of
the report and recommendations, which are to be "available electronically"
to ministers and other key leaders of the church. The preview is to be
"embargoed" and not made public until 24 hours later.
The target date for the public release of the report and
recommendations is Jan. 13, when the timeline says they will be posted on
the ELCA Web site at http://www.elca.org/faithfuljourney/ and mailed to
all ELCA congregations and ministers.
The Rev. James M. Childs Jr., director for the ELCA Studies on
Sexuality, and the Rev. Margaret G. Payne, chair of the 14-member task
force and bishop of the ELCA New England Synod, Worcester, Mass., are to
be involved in a news conference here at the Lutheran Center when the
report and recommendations become public.
Once the report and recommendations are public, the ELCA timeline
calls for "broad distribution" throughout the church with an invitation
for responses from synod councils to the church council and from synod
assemblies to the churchwide assembly. Each of the ELCA's 65 synods plans
to hold an assembly in April, May or June 2005.
The council is to meet here April 8-11, 2005. The timeline said at
that meeting the council is to transmit the report and recommendations to
the 2005 Churchwide Assembly as information. The council may prepare one
or more assembly resolutions about the report and recommendations.
Judy Biffle, church council member, Houston, Texas, serves as the
council's advisory member to the task force. She told the council that
the report will be the report of the task force and cannot be amended.
The Churchwide Assembly can amend the recommendations of the church
council before voting on them, so discussion and resolutions leading up to
the assembly could be about the recommendations.
The council action that endorsed the timeline also thanked the task
force for its work and noted "opportunities for broad participation in
this study" through the development of study materials "as well as readily
available information on the studies' Web site."
The Rev. Jonathan L. Eilert, council member, Brecksville, Ohio, made
the motion as part of his report for the council's program and services
committee. He noted that any change in ELCA policy may require either
two-thirds approval by the assembly or a "simple majority" of more than
half of the voting members, depending on what change the assembly is
considering and the specific rules established by the assembly.
The committee proposed that the council make decisions regarding the
margin of vote at its April 2005 meeting. Several council members said
that would be too late in the timeline and that the required margin should
be information that is available with the recommendations.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, asked that
such a discussion be held in the context of the whole assembly. "I don't
want this [the recommendations] to seem to be the singular focus of the
assembly," he said. There will be many equally important items on the
assembly's agenda, he said.
The council asked that a draft of the 2005 Churchwide Assembly's
rules and procedures be presented for consideration at the council's
November 2004 meeting. The same action asked that the meeting's agenda
include a "committee of the whole" discussion using materials of the
studies on sexuality.
The 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly mandated a study in preparation for
the decisions by the 2005 assembly. In addition, the study is to develop
a proposed social statement on human sexuality for the assembly to
consider in 2007.
Current ELCA policy expects ministers to refrain from all sexual
relations outside marriage. The church has no official policy on blessing
same-gender relationships. The ELCA Conference of Bishops, an advisory
body of the church, stated it does not approve of such ceremonies.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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