CHICAGO, IL (SZS) — Gathering under the theme “We are church,” voting members of the 2019 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) made a number of key decisions to further the mission and ministry of this church. The assembly, the chief legislative authority of the church, met Aug. 5-10 at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee.
More than 900 voting members convened for the triennial legislative gathering and completed many orders of business. The assembly reelected on the first ballot the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton to a six-year term as ELCA presiding bishop and elected Deacon Sue Rothmeyer to a six-year term as ELCA secretary. Rothmeyer, currently serving as executive for administration with the Office of the Secretary, was installed during the assembly’s closing worship on Aug. 10 and will begin her term Nov. 1.
In the realm of social advocacy, the assembly approved the social statement “Faith, Sexism and Justice: A Call to Action” and its implementing resolutions. The social statement, in part, names patriarchy and sexism as sins and calls the church to action on a range of issues, including gender-based violence, workplace discrimination, and economic inequality. Also adopted was “A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment,” which will serve as church policy for inter-religious relations. The policy statement was adopted with the witness of 39 ecumenical and inter-religious guests in attendance. The assembly also adopted the “Strategy Toward Authentic Diversity in the ELCA,” which consists of a report and recommendations on how the ELCA exhibits authentic diversity and formulates goals for racial diversity and inclusion. The assembly witnessed the presentation of the “Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent,” an apology to the African community for centuries of oppression, prejudice and the exercising of racial privileges which was accepted by the Rev. Lamont A. Wells, president of the African Descent Lutheran Association (ADLA), and members of ADLA.
The usual legislative business consisted of the adoption of 26 memorials en bloc, ranging in topics from gun violence to engagement in the Holy Land and gender identity to seminary tuition. Also adopted was a memorial that affirms the ELCA’s long-standing commitment to migrants and refugees and declares the ELCA a sanctuary church body, as well as a memorial that calls for the development of a social statement and social message on the relationship of church and state.
The assembly rejoiced and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ELCA’s ordination of women in 2020, and the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women of color in the Lutheran tradition and 10th anniversary of the ELCA’s decision to remove barriers to ordination for people in same-gender relationships, and adopted a memorial to encourage all synods and congregations to commemorate these milestone anniversaries.
This assembly adopted a series of amendments to the “Constitutions, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” including one that makes ordination the entrance rite for ministers of Word and Service, and an amendment to no longer count deacons as laypeople for representational principles.
Also adopted was a resolution to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance in the ELCA for the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9—the nine people who were shot and killed June 17, 2015, during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., which was furthered by the assembly’s action to adopt a resolution condemning white supremacy, calling all ELCA congregations to engage in a “study of the structures and rhetoric that empower and fuel racism and white supremacy and to take to heart the teaching of Scriptures, so we may all be better equipped to speak boldly about the equal dignity of all persons in the eyes of God.”
The assembly celebrated the end of Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA, which concluded June 30 with nearly $250 million raised in cash, multiyear commitments and planned gift commitments. At the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, voting members approved the $198 million campaign to help sustain and grow ministries of the church. In addition, the assembly approved the triennium budget for 2020-2022.
The voting members in attendance from our Slovak Zion Synod were: Bishop Wilma S. Kucharek, the Rev. Marjorie Keiter, the Rev. Thomas S. Drobena, Ms. Sheila Welch, Mr. Michael Welch, and Ms. Victoria Dieska. Also in attendance at the Churchwide Assembly was Ms. Lisa Burk, who serves on behalf of the Slovak Zion Synod on the ELCA Church Council, continuing the term vacated by Ms. Andrea Micovsky.
Our voting members represented our synod with pride and were a witness to the rest of the assembly of our identity as a synod serious about the mission of Christ and founded on the fundamental importance of relationships, and which, in just a few short weeks, would kick off the 100th Anniversary celebration of our Slovak Zion Synod at the synod assembly. The 2019 synod assembly will take place from August 25-31, 2019 on the Carnival Magic, departing from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
Our Synod also rejoiced at being recognized at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly as one of only three synods of the ELCA’s 65 synods to have a staggering 100% submission rate in filing the 2018 annual reports from our congregations. Many thanks to all who made that possible!