ITASCA, Ill. —The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met March 31–April 2. The council, which serves as the ELCA’s board of directors, took action on a variety of matters before this church. Among them were preparations for the 2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, to be held Aug. 8-12 in Columbus, Ohio.
In her report to the council, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton spoke of the ELCA’s “Future Church” goals, emphasizing that the whole ecology of the ELCA is committed to the added goal to engage one million new, young and diverse people by 2030.
Noting the changing culture and demographics of this country and citing research that shows many people are searching for meaning, Eaton asked the council to consider how this church will share the liberating word of the gospel with others and “also receive from them the way this gospel message has impacted and changed their lives in ways that we may not have recognized because it’s not the way we’ve always done it.”
In her written report, Eaton added: “I pray that the Church Council at this meeting let the Spirit breathe for us and into us. We have a lot before us. The church, through the Holy Spirit, has called us to this work. Let us listen carefully and critically to each other, and even more attentively to the Holy Spirit.”
The council took the following key actions:
- Authorized the creation of a task force to review the current process for discipline and its impact on people of color and other historically marginalized groups. The executive committee will appoint members to the task force. A report will be provided at the spring 2023 Church Council meeting.
- Authorized the creation of a task force charged with studying educational debt among rostered ministers and developing a comprehensive strategy to provide educational debt relief to as many rostered ministers as possible. The action also authorized the executive committee to appoint to the task force members from across the ELCA ecology. The council requested progress reports at its fall 2023 meeting, and a final report with possible recommendations at its spring 2025 meeting.
- Adopted “A Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the Muslim Community” as a statement on Lutheran-Muslim relations.
- Authorized the formation of an ad hoc committee as identified in the implementing resolutions for the social statement Faith, Sexism and Justice: A Call to Action, adopted by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, and assigned the committee with guiding a process for public repentance, including a churchwide day of confession and repentance for the sins of patriarchy and sexism.
- Affirmed the design concept for the Deacon’s Unified Cross, as proposed by the Entrance Rite Discernment task force and defined by the Church Council in 2019.
- Approved the establishment of a Church Council designated fund — the Campaign Readiness Fund — in the amount of $3 million, to be used to assess the feasibility of a fundraising campaign at a future date.
- Approved the addition of $1.5 million to the Youth Gathering designated fund, to be used to offset losses incurred by canceling the 2022 ELCA Youth Gathering and to provide support for future Gathering events.
- Increased fiscal year 2022 spending authorization in the current fund by $650,271, from $65,816,150 to $66,466,421, and increased spending authorization for ELCA World Hunger by $3,321,700, from $22,665,000 to $25,986,700.
- Recommended the following triennium budget proposals for adoption by the 2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly: (1) a current fund spending authorization of $68,814,000 for 2023; (2) a current fund income proposal of $70,191,000 for 2024 and $71,594,000 for 2025; and (3) a ELCA World Hunger income proposal of $22,869,000 for 2023, $22,930,000 for 2024 and $22,960,000 for 2025.
- Approved necessary related continuing resolutions for the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the ELCA in response to the approval of a new structure of Church Council standing committees at the fall 2021 council meeting. The council approved new or revised committee charters and appointed members to each committee: Budget and Finance; Legal and Constitutional Review; Faith, Society, and Innovation; Christian Community and Leadership; and Service and Justice. The executive committee will include the chairs of each of these committees after the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.
- Adopted revisions to “Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings Against Rostered Ministers and Congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”
- Recommended proposed rules of organization and procedure for the 2022 Churchwide Assembly and adopted a rule concerning hearings to be held online the week before the assembly.
- Received a report and primer on youth and young adults and the church from the Church Council Young Adult Working Group.
- Received a primer on the role of the Church Council at the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.
The council also received reports from the church’s officers, its council committees and the Conference of Bishops as well as ecumenical greetings from The Episcopal Church. In addition, the council participated in a conversation on cultural humility and held time for reflections from the Church Council class of 2022.
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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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