CHICAGO — The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met electronically April 14-17. The council, which serves as the ELCA’s board of directors, took action on a variety of matters intended to advance this church’s mission and ministry.
In response to action taken by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly that declared the ELCA a sanctuary church body, the council approved a motion to recognize that the ELCA’s ministry as a sanctuary church body is a public witness that calls ELCA members to value the dignity of each human being made in God’s image. The council also encouraged an understanding of the word “sanctuary” that is rooted in the principles of walking alongside, or accompanying, immigrants and refugees but acknowledged that “sanctuary” has no legal or universally accepted definition. This action also affirmed the guidance provided in the “ELCA Sanctuary Church Guidelines” for ways congregations, synods and the churchwide organization can accompany and support the ministry of sanctuary.
The council approved a revision of “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline,” effective immediately and applicable only to conduct occurring — or alleged to have occurred — after the date this resolution was adopted. The document describes the grounds by which officers, rostered ministers, candidates for rostered ministry, congregations and members of congregations may be subject to discipline according to the practice of this church.
The council received the final report from the Mission Support experiment synods. In response, the council urged the churchwide organization and the synods to incorporate the learnings from the mission support experiments into future collaboration and encouraged the formation of a project team that would include bishops, churchwide organization staff and others to discuss future strategies for mission support sharing between synods and the churchwide organization. The synods that participated in the Mission Support experiment were: the Lower Susquehanna Synod, the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod, the Nebraska Synod, the New England Synod and the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod. “Mission support” refers to the financial offerings that congregations share with synods and the churchwide organization.
In other action, the council:
- Affirmed the presiding bishop’s decision to name the Tuesday following the celebration of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as an annual ELCA Day of Repentance From Racism and encouraged members, congregations and synods to use the “Lamenting Racism” resource in All Creation Sings and other liturgical resources of lamentation and repentance offered by the churchwide organization’s Worship team to accompany this annual day of repentance.
- Revised the spending authorization for ELCA World Hunger from $21.5 million to $23.5 million in fiscal year 2021.
- Approved a $1.3 million addition to the Church Council designated fund for fiscal year 2020 to cover budget shortfalls in future years.
- Deferred questions of developing social messages on the U.S. National Drug Control Policy or on aging, gender identity or gun control policy until the fall 2021 Church Council meeting.
- Adopted a revision to the Manual of Policies for the Management of the Rosters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to include a set of protocols for ministers of Word and Sacrament from the Lutheran World Federation companion churches who wish to serve as missionaries in congregations and synods of the ELCA.
- Received a gap analysis of rostered women, with particular focus on rostered women of color, from the Office of the Presiding Bishop in response to a Churchwide Assembly action on the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women.
- Received a response and recommendations regarding seminary tuition from the Christian Community and Leadership home team and supported various actions to continue addressing these recommendations.
- Received the report of the Temporary Select Committee on Committees and approved an extension for consideration of a revised committee structure to the fall 2021 Church Council meeting.
- Ratified amendments to the constitutions of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod and the Southwestern Texas Synod.
- Approved amendments to the bylaws of the ELCA Foundation, United Lutheran Seminary and Luther Seminary.
- Elected members to the governing bodies of the Endowment Fund of the ELCA, Mosaic, Inc., and six seminaries.
The council also engaged in:
- A reflection on migration and the work of AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities).
- A primer on “Indigenous Perspective in Our Country” from council member Loni Taylor, a member of the Chippewa Cree Nation.
- A presentation on Future Church and the Open Doors Grants initiative to encourage congregations to innovate in reaching new people in the congregations’ contexts as churches transition from the pandemic. The grant application process begins April 21. Learn more about the Open Doors initiative at Open Doors — Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The council also received reports from the church’s presiding bishop, treasurer, secretary and vice president, and from the ELCA Conference of Bishops.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.3 million members in more than 8,900 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God’s work. Our hands.,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA’s roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.
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