Gathering under the theme “Embody the Word,” voting members of the 2022 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. 8-12 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio.
More than 800 voting members convened for the triennial legislative gathering and completed many orders of business. Imran Siddiqui was elected to a six-year term as Vice President, the highest position a lay person can hold in the ELCA. Siddiqui is a senior investigator for the U.S. Department of Labor and current vice president of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA, which spans Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. He grew up Muslim and became a Lutheran in 2011. He will take office in November. He follows Carlos Peña, a former and retired ELCA Vice President who stepped into the role after the sudden passing of Vice President Bill Horne.
Voting members looked at a memorial urging support for the Landback movement. Ultimately, the assembly approved a memorial encouraging ELCA members and entities to support “creative programs of restorative justice in partnership with Indigenous peoples.” That can include returning land to the appropriate Native nations when selling or transferring property. The memorial also encourages ELCA members and entities to explore including land acknowledgements as a part of their public gatherings, to educate themselves about the Indigenous peoples whose land they inhabit and to deepen relationships with Indigenous peoples and tribal nations.
The assembly received a presentation on the “Declaration of the ELCA to American Indian and Alaska Native People” adopted by the ELCA Church Council last September and also gathered in worship using a culturally integrative worship service, planned and led by Indigenous Lutherans.
Presiding Bishop Eaton extended a public apology to four representatives of Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina, Stockton, California and acknowledged the pain caused by the removal by the Sierra Pacific Synod’s bishop and synod council of the congregation’s pastor on a Feast Day for the Latinx community. Bishop Eaton plans to visit Iglesia Luterana Santa María Peregrina and will work with the congregation, the synod and churchwide leadership to respond to requests the congregation has made.
The assembly adopted a series of amendments to the “Constitutions, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,” as well as a memorial directing the ELCA Church Council to establish a Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church to reconsider the principles of the denomination’s organizational structure and the statements of purpose for its churches, synods and the churchwide organization. The memorial instructs the commission to be “particularly attentive to our shared commitment to dismantle racism.” The commission will present its findings and recommendations to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a possible reconstituting convention.
The plenary included recognition of past officers, including Herbert Chilstrom (1931-2020), the first presiding bishop of the ELCA. A video memorializing William “Bill” Horne II, who was serving as ELCA vice president when he died last year, was also shown, as well as a video recognizing the 35th anniversary of the ELCA. In addition, the assembly approved the triennium budget for 2022-2024, and voting members considered resolutions and approved (708-93) a motion that authorizes a possible revision of the social statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” that will reconsider the church’s current concept of the four positions of bound conscience.
The voting members in attendance from our Slovak Zion Synod were: Bishop Wilma S. Kucharek, Vice President Jerry Owen, the Rev. Eric Markovich, Mrs. Nancy Owen, Mr. Joshua Drobena, and Ms. Jennifer Welch. Not in attendance at the Churchwide Assembly, but there in spirit was Ms. Lisa Burk, who had been serving on behalf of the Slovak Zion Synod on the ELCA Church Council.
It is noteworthy that the last ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2019 recognized the Slovak Zion Synod as being one of the three synods (of the ELCA’s 65 synods) whose congregations attained 100% participation in completing the 2018 annual ELCA congregation (parochial) report. In keeping with our Synod’s 2018 milestone, we are happy to report that the Slovak Zion Synod also completed a 100% submission rate in filing the 2019, 2020, and 2021 annual reports from our congregations; this is especially significant, as these latest milestones were reached during the challenging years of the coronavirus pandemic. Many thanks to all who made that possible!