CHICAGO — The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met at the Lutheran Center in Chicago, Nov. 10–Nov. 13. The council welcomed ELCA Vice President Imran Siddiqui and 18 new members, elected by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly. The council serves as the ELCA churchwide organization’s board of directors and interim legislative authority between meetings of the Churchwide Assembly.
In her report to the council, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton drew attention to the substantial work charged to the council by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly. Eaton said the work will “have a significant effect on this church as we listen to God’s call and try as best as we can and as faithfully as we can to remain true to the gospel, but somehow find a way to speak and act in the cultural vernacular.” Eaton said one of Martin Luther’s gifts was his translation of the Bible into German so that people could receive it in their own language. She emphasized to the council how the work set before them could impact those who are presently not in church but may come in five or ten years.
In key action, the council approved a nomination process for the Commission on a Renewed Lutheran Church. The commission will consist of up to 35 voting members, to include at least 25% people of color or whose primary language is other than English and a goal of at least 20% youth or young adults. Nominations will be received from synod councils or synod executive committees as well as through an open nomination process. The Church Council’s executive committee will present a slate of nominees at the council’s April 2023 meeting. This action is in response to the 2022 Churchwide Assembly call for the council to establish the Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church to consider statements of purpose for the church and its organizational structure and to present its findings and recommendations to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a possible reconstituting convention. The council also referred to the commission the question of changing the denomination’s name.
In other action, the council:
- Authorized the engagement of a firm to conduct a comprehensive audit for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility of the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the ELCA (CBCR), the Roster Manual, the Church Council Governance Policy Manual and “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline.” A report will be presented at the fall 2023 Church Council meeting.
- Scheduled for 2024 the initiation of a task force for reconsideration of the social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.
- Amended the Churchwide Organization Personnel Policies to include a provision concerning nondisclosure agreements as requested by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly memorial on separation agreements.
- Revised the 2023 fiscal year current spending authorization from $68,814,000 to $68,429,562 and revised the 2023 World Hunger spending authorization from $22,869,000 to $25,250,000.
- Deferred questions on the development of social messages on U.S. national gun policy and child abuse and protection and the revision of the social message “Homelessness” until the spring 2023 Church Council meeting.
- Adopted a continuing resolution establishing council advisory members to include the presidents — or designee — of the ELCA ethnic associations and a representative of Reconciling Works. The council also approved revisions to the ELCA Church Council Governance Policy Manual to include reference to advisory members.
- Repealed the 2003 Policy on Criteria for Synodically Authorized Worshiping Communities and directed consideration of a new policy.
- Encouraged the task force addressing disciplinary concerns of leaders of color to continue conversation regarding the position of a racial justice ombudsperson.
- Received a report on research work related to discriminatory treatment within the call process and inequitable compensation of rostered ministers of color, and called for interaction with and among the Christian Community and Leadership home area, the Leadership Committee of the Conference of Bishops, and the Candidacy and Leadership Development Working Group.
- Closed the special appeal for the COVID-19 Response Fund, which raised $2,112,429.
- Approved amendments to three corporate social responsibility issue papers and a new Privatized Immigration Detention Social Criteria Investment Screen.
- Received a progress report regarding the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and urged actions to increase awareness of the confession in advance of the 500th anniversary in 2030.
- Elected members of the advisory board of Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University and boards of directors of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Wartburg Theological Seminary, the Mission Investment Fund, and National Lutheran Campus Ministry, and elected a member of the Committee of Hearing Officers.
- Approved amendments to the bylaws of Portico, Lenoir-Rhyne University and United Lutheran Seminary.
The Church Council received/engaged in the following:
- Reports from the church’s secretary, treasurer and vice president, from the ELCA Conference of Bishops, from the Church Council Youth and Young Adult working group and from the churchwide office home areas.
- Progress reports on synod diversity goals and from the Candidacy and Leadership Development working group.
- Debrief of the 2022 Churchwide Assembly.
- Education on gender and racial justice.
- Greetings from ecumenical partners.
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For information contact:
Candice Hill Buchbinder