Our denomination, the ELCA, holds a churchwide assembly triennially – to worship, vote on matters of governance and policy, and be church together for the sake of the world. I had the honor of serving as one of the voting members from the St. Paul Area Synod, as well as serving as preacher for the Wednesday worship service. Our Assistant Director of Music, Paul Friesen Carper, was one of the musicians who planned and led every day. Truly, the music and worship broke open my heart. I think I cried every day at some point in the liturgy.
I’ve been to quite a few of these national gatherings. My sense of this assembly was that our church body claimed its place in the world in some clear and important ways. In many cases, a more cautious approach recommended by the national church council was replaced with a more activist position. This past week’s churchwide assembly was full of important votes and actions, including:
- Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was reelected for a second six-year term on the first ballot.
- A declaration of apology to our siblings of African descent, which was received by the African Descent Lutheran Association with thanks and a call for accountability and living into the words shared.
- Approved resolution declaring the ELCA is a “sanctuary church body,” encouraging participation in the ELCA AMMPARO initiative for migrant children, discernment of care for our immigrant neighbors in our context, and the promise of forthcoming resources for this work.
- Approved support for the World Council of Church’s Thursdays in Black, awareness movement for a world without rape and violence.
- Voted to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance, in honor and remembrance of the martyrdom of the Emanuel 9, those murdered by a shooter at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC.
- Approved a declaration for inter-religious commitment, reaffirming ecumenical and interfaith partnerships. Our own Bishop and Gloria Dei member, Patricia Lull, chaired this project.
- Approved the recommendations from a strategic taskforce which has been studying how to work toward authentic diversity in our church.
- Approved memorials: affirming but not “endorsing” the Poor People’s Campaign, care for immigrants and refugees, and other statements. This was a disappointment to many in the assembly hall.
- Adopted a new social statement, “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: a Lutheran Call to Action,” and its implementing resolutions.
- Constitutional change for Deacons (rostered ministers of word and service) to be ordained, from the previous practice of consecration.
- Celebrated the milestones of 50 years of women’s ordination, 40 years since the first woman of color was ordained, and 10 years since full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ clergy.
It was a true gift to represent you and our synod at this assembly. I’m exhausted, blessed, and encouraged by our work in Milwaukee.
Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling