CHICAGO — Gathering here Nov. 11-13, the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) began its meeting with a shared time in remembrance of William B. “Bill” Horne II, ELCA vice president, who died Aug. 14 in Clearwater, Fla.
In action, the council gave thanks for Horne’s life and faithful service and “expressed appreciation for his wise, fair, and strong leadership as vice president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and his collaborative spirit, steadfast commitment, and genuine compassion for the congregations and communities throughout the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”
In her report to the council, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton recalled Horne’s dedication. “For him, serving as vice president, was a deeply felt call from God to serve the church.”
The council welcomed Carlos Peña, who will serve as interim vice president until the election of a new vice president at the 2022 Churchwide Assembly. Peña previously served as vice president for two terms, having first been elected by the 2003 Churchwide Assembly.
Eaton also addressed the Future Church priorities and the shared ministry goal of engaging one million new, young and diverse people by the end of this decade.
“This [work] takes each of us and all of us,” said Eaton, emphasizing that the goal will be achieved only through the engagement and resources of the entire church body, including synods, congregations, colleges and universities, seminaries, social ministry organizations and all ELCA networks. “We have received this gift. We are called to share it out loud with the world.”
To further the conversation of reaching one million new, young and diverse people, the council received a working document from the youth and young adults serving on council titled “A Fresh Perspective: ELCA Church Council Young Adults.” In response, the council created a working group of youth and young adult members of the Church Council plus other members to be appointed by the executive committee. The working group will prepare a report with ideas, concerns, recommendations and aspirations to be presented at the spring 2022 Church Council meeting.
In other key action, the council:
- Approved revisions to “A Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the Jewish Community” as an expression of this church’s continual opposition to rising anti-Semitism and its ongoing work to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery.
- Adopted editorial revisions to this church’s social message “Suicide Prevention” to provide accuracy and relevance to the contemporary social context. The council also encouraged conversation within ELCA congregations and invited discussions with ecumenical and interreligious partners to study this social message.
- Received a report of activities called for by its implementing resolution for the social statement Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Call to Action.
- Authorized development of a social message on climate change.
- Approved revised spending authorizations for FY2022 for the churchwide organization of $65,816,150 and a 2022 ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $22,665,000.
- Received an update on research work related to discriminatory treatment within the call process and the inequitable compensation of rostered ministers of color, and requested a final report at the fall 2022 Church Council meeting.
- Approved a revision to “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline” to incorporate a definition of the word “promiscuity” as proposed by the Committee on Appeals.
- Suspended consideration of an aspirational document to replace “Vision and Expectations” until the need arises to develop such a document.
- Adopted amendments to continuing resolutions in the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions (CBCR) of the ELCA.
- Recommended amendments to the CBCR to be considered by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly and recommended ratification of amendments adopted by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly.
- Approved a COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirement for all participants at the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.
- In response to a resolution from the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, adopted continuing resolution 5.01.H21 to clarify that, for purposes of the representational principles, the percentage of laypeople not allocated to women or men may be allocated to persons who identify as gender-nonbinary, gender-fluid, women, men or other genders.
- Received a final report of the Mission Support experiment and recommended that changes to congregational vitality grants and the funding/employment model for the position of director for evangelical mission include a review of possible implications for future models of Mission Support sharing between synods and the churchwide expression; encouraged the Mission Support experiment synods to continue their models of sharing with the churchwide expression until such decisions are made; and reminded all synods that changes to their models of Mission Support sharing are to be the subject of conversation with the churchwide expression.
- Approved amendments to various Corporate Social Responsibility documents.
- Elected board members for seminaries, separately incorporated ministries and social ministry organizations and approved bylaw changes to the Mission Investment Fund.
The council also:
- Heard reports from the church’s presiding bishop, interim vice president, secretary, treasurer and council committees.
- Learned from council member Loni Taylor, a member of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, of the history of abusive treatment and cultural genocide that Native American children experienced in Indian Boarding Schools and the role of Christian churches in those schools.
- Acted as the corporation for St. Olaf College, approving amendments to the college’s bylaws.
- Spent time in worship, prayer and fellowship.
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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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