During the week of August 8-13, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America met at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA. Gathering under the theme “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action”, the Assembly met to discuss and vote on significant items of ministry and administration. Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton opened the Assembly by stating “Now more than ever, we are in need of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our midst. I pray that we will surround one another in prayer and love while we are together to do God’s work at this Assembly.”
There were a number of key actions that were considered and approved. One of the more significant recommendations before the Assembly was that the three rosters of lay leadership be unified into a single body known as deacons. This recommendation was approved, which means that effective January 1, 2017, Associates in Ministry (AiM), Deaconesses of the ELCA, and diaconal ministers will be a single, unified roster of Ministry of Word and Service, and those on this roster will be known as deacons.
The Assembly overwhelmingly accepted the document “Declaration on the Way” which is a unique ecumenical document that marks a path toward greater unity between Catholics and Lutherans. At the heart of the document are 32 “Statements of Agreement” that state where Lutherans and Catholics do not have church-dividing differences on topics about church, ministry and the Eucharist. The document also explores those areas where differences do still remain.
The current Vice President of the ELCA, Carlos Pena, had already stated that he would not allow his name to be placed into nomination for re-election. Mr. Pena had served for 13 years in this position. When the election of a new Vice President was called for, William B. Horne II of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Clearwater, FL was elected on the fourth ballot. The position of Vice President is the highest a layperson can hold in the ELCA.
The Assembly voted to accept the 2017 current fund spending authorization of $65,296,005 and a 2017 ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $24.8 million.
Bishop Eaton again emphasized that her focus for the past three years has been on the how and why we do this work, “reminding the assembly of her four emphases for this church: We are church. We are Lutheran. We are church together. We are church for the sake of the world”. She called upon the church to read the small catechism together from now until October 2017. (All of the above is taken from or excerpted from official ELCA reports re: the Assembly.)
Well, as you can see, the ELCA as a church was busy during the time they gathered in New Orleans. But I would remind you that the ELCA and each of us ought always be busy as we are about the ministry and work God is calling us to engage in. As a part of the larger Church represented by the ELCA and by all Christians throughout the world, let us keep our hearts, our minds, and our eyes open, as we minister to all people with need. May God bless us with the gifts necessary to make a difference in people’s lives, both today and tomorrow.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Butler +