On Saturday, August 6, I head to New Orleans, Louisiana, where I will be volunteering at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s 2016 churchwide assembly. I will be helping any where they need me and will be writing material for two newspapers, the Reading (Pennsylvania) Eagle Times and the Santa Monica Daily Press. I hope to blog here each day to share with you what is happening at and around this every-three year gathering.
I have been privileged to attend every ELCA churchwide assembly since this church began in 1987. After a constituting convention in 1987 in Columbus (where, with Sonia Solomonson, I wrote and edited the official convention summary which became a fold out poster), I have attended each assembly. I was a volunteer in communication for the 1989 (Chicago/Rosemont) and 1991 (Orlando) assemblies, the director for ELCA Communication for the assemblies in 1993 (Kansas City), 1995 (Minneapolis – I headed the overall planning for this assembly), 1997 (Philadelphia), 2001 (Indianapolis), 2003 (Milwaukee) & 2005 (Orlando), a voting member for the 2007 (Chicago) assembly and then news media for the assemblies in 2009 (Minneapolis), 2011 (Orlando) & 2013 (Pittsburgh). This year, the first on a new three year cycle of meetings (instead of two), I am a volunteer helper as well as a news media person.
Here’s a photo from the 2005 Churchwide Assembly in Orlando:
Some of these assemblies were exciting and dramatic with votes on major social statements (abortion, the death penalty, sexuality, racism) – part of the social statement on sexuality was approved (2/3 vote needed for approval) by a one vote margin in 2009!. The most unexpected assembly was the 2013 election of our current Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, the first woman to hold this office. Our 1999 decision to be in “full communion” (exchange of clergy and much more) with the Episcopal Church was controversial at the time and our 2009 decision to open the ordained clergy roster to gay and lesbian pastors in long term committed relationships was electrifying.
This year’s assembly promises to be a less dramatic, but, hopefully, no less interesting. There is an important election – the ELCA’s Vice President, a volunteer (unpaid), lay (non-ordained) position. The current Vice President, my friend Carlos Pena, has decided not to seek re-election after 13 years in office. Similar to the election of the Presiding Bishop and Secretary, there are no advance nominees – for the Vice President, the first ballot is a nominating ballot and can include the name of any of the 4,000,000 plus laypeople who are part of our church! This process will probably take all week long to complete! There will many resolutions, most of which have come out of synod assemblies. There will be an action on the church’s “roster” of professional lay workers (currently diaconal ministers, deaconesses, and associates in ministry) placing them on a new roster of “deacons.” A number of activities will be “ramping up” to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation coming next year in 2017.
You can watch the assembly business sessions and worship live online here. The first session is Monday evening, August 8.
Here are photos of me with two of our former ELCA Presiding Bishops. Chilstrom brought me onto the ELCA staff as Director for Communication and Anderson continued that appointment and added me to his executive staff.
First with Corinne & Herb Chilstrom –
And, with H. George Anderson –
Watch for my daily posts beginning Sunday!
Many assemblies, and I am still at it….