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September 2, 2016, 12:16 PM

A Summary of Churchwide Assembly Actions

During the week of August 8-13, nearly 1000 elected “voting members” of the ELCA met in our triennial “Churchwide Assembly”. 
The Churchwide Assembly is the “highest legislative body” of the ELCA, which means that it makes changes to the model constitutions, receives memorials (suggested actions) from Synods, adopts Social Statements, budgets and other governing documents, elects churchwide leadership and helps set the ministry priorities of the overall church for the coming three years.  So since it is important, I thought I would share some highlights from the weeklong meeting:  


At the Churchwide Assembly, the voting members:

  • Accepted the "Declaration on the Way". This jointly written document between US Lutheran and Roman Catholic theologians outlines 32 "Statements of Agreement" where Lutherans and Catholics do not have church-dividing differences on topics about church, ministry and the Eucharist. The document also presents some of the major differences that remain.  You can download Declaration on the Way at: 
  • Approved the ELCA's strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO). The ELCA developed this strategy based on our Church’s commitments to uphold and guarantee the basic human rights and safety of migrant children and their families. The strategy: addresses the root causes of migration in countries from Central America and Mexico and the treatment of migrants in transit; works toward just and humane policies affecting migrants in and outside the U.S.; calls us to work with affiliates and partners to respond to the migration situation and advocate for migrant children and their families.
  • Approved the Ministry of Word and Service roster. When the ELCA was formed, there were various names and roles for individuals who carried out recognized word and service ministries (historically known as deacons in the church), but who were not called to preside at communion.  The ELCA received all of these individuals from predecessor denominations,(variously called associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers) and maintained separate “rosters” for each.  Now, we are uniting the rosters into a single, roster of Ministry of Word and Service and calling everyone on those rosters “deacons” beginning in 2017.  See this page for more:
  • Approved the 2017-2019 budget proposals. While the budget is annually overseen by the Churchwide Council, the Churchwide Assembly approves plans for forthcoming triennium. What is important to note here is that the ELCA Churchwide organization has a budget of approximately $65 million annually—of the 1.8 BILLION collected through all ELCA congregations combined. This funds Churchwide staff, all our Missionaries, Global church work, redevelopments and new congregation starts, Churchwide meetings, dialogues and much more.  We do A LOT with the resources we have; and that does not include approximately $25 million a year for ELCA World Hunger programs in the US and around the world.  For more about how the church uses its financial resources, click here: 
  • Approved various memorials – or proposals – from the ELCA's 65 synods. In addition to memorials considered "en bloc," the assembly separately approved the following: deepening relationships with historic Black churches; toward a responsible energy future; repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery; peace with justice in the Holy Land; justice for the Holy Land through responsible investment; African Descent Lutherans; call to discernment on U.S. foreign and military policy; welcoming refugees; and supporting military personnel, veterans and their families.  See this page for more: 

In addition to all this, there were opportunities for amazing worship, education about a variety of topics going on throughout the church at the first ever “Grace Gathering” in conjunction with the last half of the Assembly, and a bunch of other business matters including election to various boards and committees and adoption of amendments to the ELCA Constitution.  All told, it was a very productive and positive Churchwide Assembly, and a reminder, to use Presiding Bishop Eaton’s words, that “we are church together!”

-Pr. Nathan


Photo credits go to the ELCA Media department.  Photos from each day are available here: *Top Photo: Bishop Mike Rinehart Welcomes Voting Members to New Orleans.  *Middle Photo: Roman Catholic Bishop Dennis Madden receives a chalice as a gift in response to the acceptance of Declaration on the Way.  Bottom Photo: SEMI Synod Bishop Don Kreiss leads the Assembly in evening prayer.

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