As part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we understand ourselves to be one church with three expressions: congregation, synod and churchwide, each associating itself with the other by a common commitment to Jesus and the confessions of the church while each is independently responsible for its own ministry decisions within those faith commitments. My internship congregation experienced a particularly keen exercise in that context.
Trinity Lutheran Church in Frankfurt, Germany, was a global mission congregation jointly sponsored by the ELCA and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). In 1990 as today, the ELCA ordained women while the LCMS did not. As my internship was drawing to a close, the congregation received the names of two prospective seminarians from which they could choose their next intern: one candidate was male and one was female.
During the weeks of discernment as to which intern the congregation should select, my internship supervisor and I hosted on two different occasions the Bishop or President of both the ELCA and the LCMS for lunch on their arrival to Frankfurt for meetings in Europe.
We asked each of them the same question: “How is a congregation jointly sponsored by the ELCA and the LCMS supposed to decide between a male or a female intern?”
And the leader of each churchwide body gave the same answer: “The matter is for the congregation to decide because we cannot decide it for them.”
Earlier this month, more than 900 voting members selected from congregations across 65 synods gathered for the triennial ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA) for the purpose of electing leaders, passing budgets for shared ministry spending, reporting on commissioned theological studies, and making theological statements on pertinent issues in the world today. Holy Trinity is associated with that work by our participation in the election of the voting members from our synod and the 10% portion of our offerings that we contribute for the collaborative ministry of both synodical and Churchwide expressions of the ELCA. And Holy Trinity determines its own faithful response to the impact of that Churchwide activity.
Here are some of the more prominent actions among those activities with online links to additional information provided below.
The CWA re-elected Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton for another six-year term when she was named on more than 75% of the first nominating ballots. (Bishop Suzanne Darcy-Dillahunt was re-elected with the same overwhelming majority at the Southern Ohio Synod assembly in June.)
Ministry Spending Approved
The CWA approved ministry spending of $68.5 million for each of the next three years for Churchwide and global ministries along with $21.5 million for World Hunger.
“Sanctuary Churchbody” Memorialized
The CWA memorialized the ELCA as a “sanctuary churchbody” which means that it will continue to support refugees as they are resettled in the US through our partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, provide legal assistance to immigrants pursuing their legally-protected right to seek asylum, and ensure that undocumented immigrants are aware of their rights under US law. Moreover, it means that the ELCA will continue to advocate for just and humane treatment of detained immigrants, such as calling for adequate housing at detainment centers and accompanying minors through immigration court. In accordance with all applicable laws, congregations that have the resources to do so may (but are not required to) provide food, shelter, and financial assistance to migrants in need. It also means that the ELCA will continue to speak out against and stand with any of those marginalized among us, all of which have been long-standing practices across the ELCA.
Lutheran Higher Education Affirmed
A rising senior at Capital University, Elli Wachtman was one of three students selected to speak during the CWA on behalf of 26 colleges and universities associated with the ELCA. Her speech was entitled “Called and Empowered.”
Please let me know if you would like to speak with me directly about any of these matters and I will be glad to arrange a time. You can learn more about them at the links below. You will also find paper copies at the Info Center at church or by calling the church office (614-486-9433) to ask that a copy be mailed to you.
Summary of Activity at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly
Explanation of “Sanctuary Churchbody” Memorial
Elli’s Speech on Lutheran Higher Education