The 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly began officially this evening (following opening worship this afternoon) with a session that set up the rules and agenda for the remainder of the assembly. After a welcome from the host synod (the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod) there were two major reports, the introduction of the assembly proposal to unite the ELCA’s three lay professional rosters (Associates in Ministry, Diaconal Ministers, and Deaconesses) into one (Deacons) and a progress report on the “Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA” capital funds campaign (now at $92 million, 46%, of its $198 million goal – 272,000 gifts thus far). The evening ended with the first ballot for ELCA Vice President.
The ELCA Vice President is a volunteer (non-paid) lay (non-clergy) position. Any active ELCA member (and the ELCA has more than 3.5 million members) can be nominated on the first ballot. Thus, assembly voting members were asked carefully to list a first and last name with middle initial and any more details they could provide on the first (written) ballot which closed this assembly session. The next ballot (there will be at least five) is scheduled for tomorrow. Every name from the first ballot will appear on the second unless the person removes her/his name before that ballot is cast. It is what we call an “ecclesiastical ballot” which means it is a nominating ballot (there are no advance official nominees).
My tasks here are several but most revolve around helping the assembly manager, Mary Beth Nowak, in any way I can. For all of the assembly that means I will be helping with door monitoring and security. Today it also meant distributing items (before the session) for voting members (there were four items to be distributed on the tables before the session for the 1,000 or so voting members) and collecting ballots, among other duties. I also had a chance to interview ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton – watch for that interview in a later blog post.
I am working with Kathie Bender-Schwich (former ELCA Assistant to the Presiding Bishop) and David Swartling (former ELCA Secretary) in the door monitoring and security tasks. Here is my silly “selfie” of the three of us:
We are three “formers” and we are all still at it…