From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Board Adopts African American/Black Outreach Strategy

Date Mon, 27 Sep 2004 09:05:02 -0500


September 27, 2004

ELCA Board Adopts African American/Black Outreach Strategy

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The board of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) Division for Outreach reviewed, adopted
and forwarded an African American/Black Outreach Strategy that
has been more than a decade in the making.  The board met here
Sept. 17-18 to discuss a number of issues and make decisions.
     The division "achieved a major goal" when it adopted the
African American/Black Outreach Strategy, said the board's chair,
Ronald J. Solimon, Albuquerque, N.M.  "It drives a lot of
decision-making in the church.	It drives a lot of efforts in the
field and gives everyone a common frame of reference to refer to
as the church moves forward," he said.
     The outreach strategy remains "a work in progress."  "It is
designed to be flexible, dynamic and changeable as the context
and need dictate," it said.
     The African American Lutheran Association (AALA) called for
the outreach strategy in 1993, and the ELCA Division for Outreach
undertook the project later that year.	The division appointed a
consultative team to develop the strategy, which was first
received in 1996.
     The team continued to meet twice a year, working
collaboratively with AALA, the ELCA Commission for Multicultural
Ministries (CMM) and other units of the church.  The outreach
strategy complements a Plan of Action for Ministry in African
Descent Communities (African Descent Ministry Strategy) the
commission is developing.
     The outreach strategy outlines methods for collecting
updated information on the ELCA's African American and Black
membership, starting new congregations, helping existing
congregations, identifying and preparing lay and ordained
leaders, and developing similar strategies throughout the church.
     Among the strategy's emphases, it listed "ministry with and
among the growing African immigrant populations" and "greater
collaboration with Black leaders in our partner denominations and
with historically Black denominations."
     The board commended the division's African American/Black
Outreach Strategy to the ELCA Office of the Treasurer and Office
of the Presiding Bishop for implementation.
     The Division for Outreach board reviewed two ministry
strategies that CMM is developing:  the African Descent Ministry
Strategy and the Arab and Middle Eastern Ministry Strategy.
     The board prepared favorable responses to both CMM ministry
strategies and sent them to the ELCA Church Council, which will
consider placing the ministry strategies on the agenda of the
ELCA Churchwide Assembly.  The council meets here Nov. 11-15, and
the next assembly will meet Aug. 8-14, 2005, in Orlando, Fla.
     The board recommended to the Church Council that the
division's African American/Black Outreach Strategy be attached
to CMM's African Descent Ministry Strategy as it is forwarded to
the 2005 Churchwide Assembly for action.
     Solimon said the ministry strategies "are reflective of the
diversity that we have in the United States.  We rely on people
from those specific ethnic groups to provide input and guidance
for developing the strategies."
     Much of the division's board meeting was devoted to
reviewing a "Plan for Mission" -- proposals to reorganize the
ELCA churchwide organization and the church's governance
structure.  The proposals include replacing divisions with
program units and using program committees instead of boards.
     Board members met in small group and plenary discussions.
Responses to the proposals were generally favorable, Solimon
said.  The board sent a few requests for greater detail,
especially on starting new congregations and the church's
intentional involvement of young Lutherans, to the ELCA Office of
the Presiding Bishop.  The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding
bishop, will present the proposals to the ELCA Church Council in
     In another action the ELCA Division for Outreach board
asked the council to "grant delay of any review" of the
division's acknowledged relationship with Lutherans
Concerned/North America as an independent Lutheran organization
until the council's "Legal and Constitutional Review Committee
determines a position on the category of acknowledgement of
independent Lutheran organizations and/or Churchwide Assembly
action on the policy decisions to be made in 2005."
     In 2002 the division granted an acknowledged relationship
with Lutherans Concerned because of its cooperation with the
division in developing hospitality guidelines for ELCA
congregations.	Lutherans Concerned supports "the acceptance and
full participation of people of all sexual orientations and
gender identities" in the church.
     The ELCA is involved in a study to result in recommendations
to the 2005 ELCA Church Assembly on blessing same-gender
relationships and on allowing lay and ordained ministers in such
relationships to serve in the church.
     "It seems to me that any action on our part at this point,
prior to decisions around governance with the Plan for Mission
and how this church will relate to independent Lutheran
organizations or churchwide decisions on the issues to be faced
at the Churchwide Assembly in August 2005 would give the wrong
signals, no matter what the decision," said the Rev. Richard A.
Magnus, executive director, ELCA Division for Outreach.
-- -- --
     The homepage of the Division for Outreach is at on the ELCA Web site.

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

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