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Topics - Richard Johnson

#1
Forum Blogs / Award winning journalism
May 22, 2024, 10:06:12 AM
Happy to announce that Forum Letter has once again been judged one of the "Best in Class" for newsletters by the Associated Church Press in their "Best of the Church Press" competition. We took "honorable mention" in that category. That's nine years out of the last ten that we got one of the three awards in the "Best in Class" category.

Congratulations also to Charles Austin, whose "Closing Ye Olde Theology Shoppe" got honorable mention in the "Personal Experience" category.

If you do not subscribe to our award-winning publication, why not?
#2
I'm happy to announce that Pr. Matthew Borrasso has accepted the invitation to become the new associate editor of Forum Letter and moderator of Forum Online. Matt is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lexington Park, MD (LCMS). While he hasn't actively posted here, he's been a lurker for a while and so he's got your number, every one of you. He will introduce himself more fully in the March issue of Forum Letter, so you'll want to subscribe, if you don't already. Welcome, Matt! Glad to have you aboard.
#3
Forum Blogs / We're back!
September 01, 2023, 04:32:43 PM
Looks like we're back online, though things look different and we may have lost some content. But at least we're here.
#4
Forum Blogs / And at the NALC ...
August 11, 2023, 08:49:24 AM
Bishop Dan Selbo was easily reelected head of the North American Lutheran Church on the first and only ballot, over David Wendel. They were the only two candidates. There were many who thought it rather unseemly that Wendel had agreed to be nominated. He has served as assistant to the bishop since the very early days of the NALC. He was one of the candidates last time following the retirement of the NALC's first bishop, John Bradosky, and had been generally thought to be the heir apparent. But there were some in the NALC who found him unpalatable for a number of reasons, and at the election last time around there were some allegations about inappropriate behavior by Wendel that some found credible, despite his denials. When Selbo, who was not especially well known across the denomination, was elected, it came as a surprise to many. He has been widely liked and respected as bishop. In what Wendel's detractors describe as an attempted coup, the assistant challenged his boss for the top job and was roundly defeated, 344-101.
#5
Forum Blogs / Yes, we know it was down
August 07, 2023, 05:26:05 PM
The site was down for several days--not just the Forum, the whole ALPB site. I don't understand the technology, but it essentially boiled down to the fact that the people with the necessary information to fix it were both on holiday and didn't know about the problem. Thankfully somebody found a workaround. Sort of an old school issue, I guess, but we're back now.
#6
The following is reprinted from the February 2023 issue of Forum Letter.

Orality, Intertextuality, and the Revised Common Lectionary
Amy C. Schifrin

Canonical, calendrical, ecumenical, and eucharistic: lectionaries at their best have worked hand in hand with the liturgical calendar, the doxological catechism that carries us forward from baptism to Christian burial. Together with the propers of the mass and the hymns of the church, a common lectionary puts the doxological content of the church year into our ears, our mouths, our hearts, and our lives. And it does this with some of its greatest strength as it provides the biblical passages for preachers to open for their congregations. While a daily lectionary is employed to bring the fullness of the scriptures into our spiritual practices with the seasonal orderings of the church year, the Sunday lectionary works both diachronically (in the juxtapositioning of the appointed texts for a given Sunday) and synchronically (as week follows week throughout the year) to fill us up, but not in a static way, for the texts of each week lean towards the next, with each liturgical season having its own arc.

No satisfaction!
Lectionaries do change over time and yet there is always as much grumbling among clergy about the changes in scriptural "diet" given in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) as there was when the children of Israel were given manna in the desert. Some pastors do their best imitation of Mick Jagger as they cry, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction," because no new lectionary has ever been fully to their liking. They may nostalgically seek to return to the historic one- or two-year lectionaries, or to some iteration of "preacher's choice," as it is now often masked with fancy thematic, agendized, or narrative titles, or as in an even more self-aggrandizing way--prepared on one's own without any ecclesial or ecumenical conversation. Part of that has to do with how ritual functions in creating a sense of what is natural and "right," because ritual works through our bodies, not just through our thoughts. It works through years and years of whole-body repetition. It's why, having grown up as a Jew in the synagogue, I have a hard time praying the psalter without voicing the words aloud with some musical inflection along with a repetitive bodily rocking movement (davening) that takes me inside the words.

In more recent years, I remember having a conversation with a long-retired New Testament scholar. Forty-five years after Vatican II's Lectionary for Mass and the subsequent creation of the Common Lectionary, he was still complaining about the inclusion of Old Testament lessons in the Sunday lectionary that came with Vatican II's desire for the people of God to receive "richer fare" through the appointed readings at Sunday Mass. My friend's formation within the Lutheran household had happened before the addition of a first reading coming from the Old Testament, and he blamed all this folderal around social justice on the inclusion of so many prophetic texts. His concern was for all things heard to be Christologically centered, and he did not see the beauty that comes when one or more texts from each testament worked dialogically as a commentary, echo, or rupture into a new world.

When the appointed texts are sounded in the presence of each other and in the midst of the eucharistic assembly, those who are gathered have the opportunity to hear each text a new living conversation, for as the calendrical context highlights scripture's intertextuality, it opens  a deeper entry into the canonical context. The result is that we may be brought into the presence of the one, who while he walked this earth, lived inside the words of the law and the prophets. He did not dismiss them but opened them to be heard in their fulness. And as we know, his preaching created a lot of folderal, too.

Spiritual classics
Lections, selected readings (or pericopes, which means cuttings) are often referred to as "spiritual classics." In general, they are scriptural verses that form a unit intended for public oral presentation. It is through their repetition in fixed cycles that we experience something of their orality. Through their repetition, they come to have a familiarity, and we long to hear them as they come to us in the current three-year cycle.

They also function in some ways as a canon within the canon because they become interpretive guides as they are embedded within our memories and through our associations with an appointed text and the liturgical year, especially on festival days or in festival seasons. (Can you imagine a Palm Sunday without hearing of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem?) In Scripture and Memory: The Ecumenical Hermeneutic of the Three-year Lectionaries, Fritz West reminds us that lectionaries carry the appointed texts within the Christological memory of the liturgical year, and that it is the paschal mystery as it is manifested in the eucharist that is the primary mode of interpretation for all the texts that are proclaimed in that given day.

All liturgical texts (including scripture) have what liturgical scholars refer to as "thick" meaning, or layers of meaning. Some of these texts are very much beloved; and as every preacher knows, some of these texts are "difficult"—often because we just don't want to preach on them, or maybe we don't want to hear them ourselves because through them the law accuses us individually.

But when scriptural classics that have been loved and sounded through the centuries are given to preachers in a repeated cycle, each time a beloved or especially difficult text comes before us, we may discover even greater meaning as we return to the same texts having lived through the ups and downs of our lives and our wider communities. Sometimes we can't get to what's going on in text the first or second time we preach. But maybe, just maybe, that third time through, the Spirit has had enough time to open us up to what we could not see in the past.

Reading aloud
Let us not forget that texts convey meaning not only through the content of what is read but through the fact that they are read, for the authority of a written text, ritually speaking, gains in gravitas through its oral/aural presence in the sacred frame of the eucharistic gathering. For just like on the road to Emmaus, all that was spoken going back to Moses and the prophets gained in meaning when the bread was broken, for it is through ritual that meaning is conveyed in an incarnate, living way. Because we receive both the Bible and any lectionary in print, it is easy to forget their oral/aural character and to imbue that which is written as having greater authority than that of its performance, the event of such words being sounded in the assembly.

But these words were not written down to exist as a book that one could pick up and read. They were written on scrolls to be spoken aloud, so that an assembly of two or three, (Mt 18.20) or two or three thousand could be, "called, gathered, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit."

Unpacking the RCL and its derivatives
For those who want to examine the history and hermeneutics of the Revised Common Lectionary, I recommend three helpful sources:
(1) The website of the Consultation on Common Texts, commontexts.org/rcl/
(2) The Revised Common Lectionary: 20th Anniversary Edition (ISBN 978-1451436037)
(3) Fritz West, Scripture and Memory: The Ecumenical Hermeneutic of the Three-Year Lectionaries (ISBN 978-0814661574). Dr. West has done some superb work on how the ecumenical hermeneutic of the RCL works to balance communal memory (oral event) and written memory (biblical text) and what happens when the same readings are received in different liturgical contexts.

It is also helpful to know that the RCL is a resource that has been adapted in unique ways buy different denominational expressions. Presbyterians have expanded the particular lections more than any other groups. Episcopalians have shortened them the most. Some Lutherans (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada) have stayed the closest to the resource, and some have made wider changes in a more sectarian manner, including "heritage texts" (Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and SOLA publishing). SOLA promotes the LCMS lectionary in both the North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, although not all NALC congregations are using the lectionary adaptation as published by SOLA.

In addition, the Anglican Church in North America has now moved further from the RCL in providing whole chapters of the scriptures, rather than lections, closer to the manner in which one might receive the scriptural text through a Bible study. The Revised Common lectionary was organized for eucharistic worship, not for Bible study. Its hermeneutic seeks to keep the unity of word and sacrament as essential to the witness of the church, and it was arranged so that the baptized would be called into a living and joyous union with the one who died and was raised and rules for all eternity.

So, when thinking about the interrelatedness between the lectionary and the presence of Christ alive among us, remember that he, too, was once called upon to speak for all to hear from an appointed second lesson from the lectionary of his day (haftorah), and that, indeed, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.

Amy Schifrin is Associate Professor (ret.) of Liturgy & Homiletics at North American Lutheran Seminary and Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA, and Semi- nary President Emeritus at the North American Lutheran Seminary. She now resides in Colorado.
#7
Your Turn / Lodges: Masonic and Animal
January 09, 2023, 06:55:07 PM
OK, if you want to talk about "The Lodge" or lodges, move it here. I'll start with a completely irrelevant but humorous personal anecdote.

On my wall hangs a photograph of my mother, taken when she was perhaps 3 years old, bedecked in certain accoutrements of the Loyal Order of Moose. It seems that when she was born, my grandfather was a member of a newly established Moose Lodge. She was the first baby born to a member (or maybe an officer, the story is a little vague on that point). The Lodge wanted to celebrate this by naming her--with the proviso that they'd also give her a savings bond to help for her future education. My grandfather was all for it. My grandmother had her doubts, but acquiesced. The Lodge members each wrote a name on a slip of paper and they drew two. My mother's name was to be "Elsie Lorine." At that my grandmother nearly backed out, but finally said, "Well, as long as we can call her 'Lorraine,' I'll go along with it." So she was baptized "Elsie Lorine," and her family always called her "Lorraine." When my mother got to college, she started going by "Lorine" (with a long E sound), but she hated the "Elsie" and effectively dropped it. After her marriage, she would always sign her name "Lorine A. Johnson" (the A being for her maiden name, Anderson). She also wasn't so happy, during her childhood, about being referred to as "the Moose baby."

My grandfather, in addition to being a Moose, was a Mason (as was my other grandfather), but I think it was mostly a social thing. My other grandfather was also an Elk. I think in their small town there was kind of a social division there; the Elks were more "uptown" and the Moose Lodge guys were more proletarian.  I never could see much good in any of it, and, of course, after I became a pastor, I recognized the anti-Christian teachings involved in freemasonry.
#8
Forum Blogs / Welcome back
December 07, 2022, 09:09:38 AM
As you likely know, the forum was down for several days. Nothing nefarious here; the ALPB did a transformation of its main website, and somehow we got lost in the process. We're glad to be back. Thanks for continuing to check.
#9
Forum Blogs / Constance (Buszin) Seddon, RIP
November 03, 2022, 05:27:44 PM
You may be interested in this sad news. Connie was an ALPB board member for many years and was particularly involved in producing the Lutheran Identity and Christian Sexual Morality tract series.

Constance Ruth Buszin Seddon
October 16, 1938-October 28, 2022
Constance "Connie" Seddon, asleep in Jesus after a long illness at the age of 84. Beloved daughter of Walter E. and Margaret A. Buszin, siblings Anne E. Gruenhagen, Barbara K. Meissner, and John M. Buszin, dear mother of Katherine S. Frattarola of Lake Peekskill, New York, Andrew J. Seddon (Christine) of Roswell, Georgia, and Peter L. Seddon (Elizabeth) of Weldon Spring, Missouri. She has seven grandchildren.
Connie was born on October 16, 1938, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She was raised on the campus of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, where her father was a professor of Liturgics, Hymnology, and Church Music. She attended Lutheran High School in St. Louis, graduating in 1956. She continued her education at Washington University, St. Louis, graduating in 1961 with a degree in English Literature. A highlight of this period was visiting 10 different European countries via rail in 1959-1960, in addition to being a guest student at the University of Hamburg, Germany for the remainder of the year. She then pursued one year of graduate study at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
Connie married John W. Seddon, Jr. in 1963 and moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in that year while her husband was a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, studying Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning. The family moved to Westchester County, New York in 1967 where she would stay for 36 years. She raised her three children in the family home at 14 Oak Road in Briarcliff Manor as a single parent after divorce. The family attended the Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Chappaqua, New York. During this time in New York, Connie worked at IBM Corporation for 23 years where she was Production Editor of Corporate Technical Publications and eventually rose to Senior Staff Editor for the IBM Systems Journal.
She retired and returned to St. Louis in 2003, where she lived on Rosebury Avenue and devoted time to extensive volunteer work with the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, Society of the Holy Trinity, Good Shepherd Institute (Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne), Bach at the Sem (Concordia Seminary, St. Louis), and the Concordia Historical Institute (CHI, St. Louis). She received an Award of Commendation in 2020 from CHI for her research in the early history of the Concordia Publishing House Music Department. She also wrote three articles for the CHI Quarterlies: Three Generations of the Family Buszin, describing the lives of Theodor, Paul, and Walter Buszin.
In retirement, she also enjoyed extensive travel with her close friends Carole Lexa Schaefer and Marcia Koenig to Germany, France, Italy, England, and all over the United States. Connie also enjoyed spending time with her seven grandchildren and participating in their activities. Most importantly, she loved sharing her father's message of the connection between theology and church music. She emphasized the importance of Christian Baptism to her family, often reminding them that what God ordains is always good. She will be greatly missed.
#10
The plenary this morning is scheduled for 2 hours. I'll stick around while the business is being done--memorials committee, reference and counsel, unfinished business. But then we get to all boring closing matters (honoring outgoing bishops, recognizing church council, etc.) and I doubt I'll stick around for that. Just saying.

VP Pena is in the chair because Bp. Eaton has tested positive for COVID. Memorials committee is up first, with the chair now wearing a mask (which may be a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has left). They are taking up again the on leave from call resolution, the amendment to add a number of specifics about what the proposed task force should discuss (including an appeal process and time limits for on leave from call). The amendment has apparently been judged to be a substitute, so that changes the procedure a bit. This confuses the house, because the chair has now asked for amendments to the original motion. But now the person who proposed the substitute says she didn't intend it as a substitute but as an amendment (but when she read it, she read the whole dang thing, including the boilerplate about thanking the synods for submitting the memorials).  The chair, in consultation with the parliamentarian, rules that because of the volume of the change, it needs to be treated as a substitute.

Motion is made to amend by adding the words "healing from abuse" to the list of examples of reasons why people have been placed on leave from call. Sort of a frivolous amendment since this is simply a list of examples, and they really don't have time for this. But the amendment is quickly approved.

Now amendments to the proposed substitute, which first the committee chair reads. A motion is made to add the same words about healing from abuse. The chair asks unanimous consent to do so, and the words are added. A clergy member asks for a moment or two to reflect on the two options "since we've just been given the new language." There is great confusion. One speaker notes that since most pastors in the church will at some point be on leave from call, we need to review the process. The chair tries to pull them back to the "we're only working on amendments right now." Somebody makes what is apparently another amendment, but it seems just to add some other category of people "mission developers) in there somewhere as people who should be consulted in this process. It's approved, so now that language is in the substitute, though not the original. A bishop wants to replace language of appealing to another synod with another "judicatory"' because he doesn't like the idea of a bishop being asked to second guess the actions of a colleague bishop. Not clear what he means by "judicatory" but he seems to understand it as some entity like the churchwide Committee on Discipline. This is a pretty significant change which deserves debate, which it isn't getting; but then it's again just a suggestion of what might be discussed. The vote is 601 to 93. The previous question is moved, though in this situation it isn't clear to the assembly (or to me) just what that means. The chair seems to think it just means no more amendments on the substitute. At any rate, it is approved. "So now we move on to general discussion." But after one speech, someone moves the previous question, and it is approved. 

Credentials report. Still 829 voting members. Vote will be on whether substitute motion will take the place of the original motion. Vote is to substitute (didn't catch the numbers, but it was about two to one, I believe). There being no more debate on the motion as substituted, the chair calls for prayer (and this pray-er actually prays spontaneously and appropriately). The motion is approved, 642-76.

Now a memorial on greenhouse gas reduction. The Memorials proposal:
To reaffirm the commitment of this church to engage in creation care and advocacy based on the principles of sufficiency, sustainability, participation, and solidarity;
To reaffirm the commitment of this church to advocacy and action in support of 50% reduction from 2005 levels in United States economy-wide net greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050;
To urge the churchwide organization to continue its network ministry through the Creation Care Network to inform and guide this church in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
To encourage congregants, rostered ministers, and bishops to commit themselves to education about the urgency of the climate emergency, the global opportunities of a just transition and to lift up loving our neighbor in response to the climate emergency through their preaching;
To affirm the Mission Investments Fund's "Green Building" initiative and resources, and to encourage continued commitment to supporting ministries in caring for creation and addressing climate change;
To refer to the Service and Justice home area, Office of the Treasurer, Office of the Secretary, and Office of the Presiding Bishop, for implementation consistent with the memorials; and
To request the churchwide organization provide a report to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly assessing the progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all three expressions and sharing lessons learned to help meet reduction goals.


There is an amendment which would ask that the ELCA commit itself to the same goals in achieving net zero emissions as we are proposing for advocacy.  Three speakers in favor, and the amendment is approved.  Again I missed the total, but about two-thirds. (Frustrating that they only project total for two or three seconds, and the chair does not read the totals, so if I'm typing at the moment, I miss it.) On the motion as amended, the vote is 672 to 45.

Final memorial. The original memorial:
RESOLVED, that the Northwest Washington Synod Assembly direct the 2022 Churchwide Assembly to empower the ELCA Church Council to conduct a comprehensive audit of the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the ELCA, and related governance documents, examining how this church's three expressions work collaboratively; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the comprehensive audit examine unintentional gaps in checks and balances, particularly with regard to the autonomy of synod bishops; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the ELCA Church Council engage a third-party auditor specializing in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility to interrogate the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions, and related governance documents; and be it further
RESOLVED, that the ELCA Church Council model transparent leadership practices by sharing the results of the audit in a public statement to the ELCA.


The memorial committee recommendation:
To authorize the Church Council to determine the parameters and the expense budget of this process and identify the revenue source(s) to provide for this audit;
To direct the Church Council to engage an external auditor to conduct a comprehensive audit for diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility of the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the ELCA and related governance documents and present a report of the findings by the Fall 2023 Church Council meeting;
To direct the Church Council to release the findings of the audit to this church; and
To direct the Legal and Constitutional Review Committee to use the findings of this audit to recommend changes to the governing documents to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly.


A lay member makes an incomprehensible statement which throws the assembly into a parliamentary confusion. It appears that whatever is happening, this is being treated as a motion to refer to the Church Council. The speaker then argues that this duplicates the work asked by the memorial on reconstitution, and it is more appropriate to send this to the Church Council to sort out how to best address the concerns of the memorial in light of the other decision. Apparently the entire original Memorials recommendation has been abandoned and this is now a simple motion to refer, but the motion is lost 313-395.  So now the "original motion" is the Memorial Committee's recommendation. This is approved, 538-175.

Chair of Ref & Counsel now comes with a resolution for the Church Council to appoint a task force to explore and analyze processes of nomination and election for synods and churchwide organization. Approved 600-39.

Now we're up to the courtesies, thanks to everybody etc. Acknowledgement of synod bishops. Acknowledgement and thanks to bishops who have retired or resigned since the last CWA. He includes Megan Rohrer. Then acknowledges and thanks bishops whose terms will end soon. Then he introduces and thanks recently elected bishops. Then outgoing Church Council members. Announcement that 2025 CWA will be held in Phoenix. (Have they ever been there in August?) Now the order for closing of the assembly, and it is finished.






#11
Your Turn / Euthanasia
August 12, 2022, 10:32:33 AM
Interesting article:

By MARIA CHENG
The Associated Press
TORONTO (AP) — Alan Nichols had a history of depression and other medical issues, but none were life-threatening. When the 61-year-old Canadian was hospitalized in June 2019 over fears he might be suicidal, he asked his brother to "bust him out" as soon as possible.

Within a month, Nichols submitted a request to be euthanized and he was killed, despite concerns raised by his family and a nurse practitioner.

His application for euthanasia listed only one health condition as the reason for his request to die: hearing loss.

Nichols' family reported the case to police and health authorities, arguing that he lacked the capacity to understand the process and was not suffering unbearably — among the requirements for euthanasia. They say he was not taking needed medication, wasn't using the cochlear implant that helped him hear, and that hospital staffers improperly helped him request euthanasia.

"Alan was basically put to death," his brother Gary Nichols said.

Disability experts say the story is not unique in Canada, which arguably has the world's most permissive euthanasia rules — allowing people with serious disabilities to choose to be killed in the absence of any other medical issue.

Many Canadians support euthanasia and the advocacy group Dying With Dignity says the procedure is "driven by compassion, an end to suffering and discrimination and desire for personal autonomy." But human rights advocates say the country's regulations lack necessary safeguards, devalue the lives of disabled people and are prompting doctors and health workers to suggest the procedure to those who might not otherwise consider it.

Equally troubling, advocates say, are instances in which people have sought to be killed because they weren't getting adequate government support to live.

Canada is set to expand euthanasia access next year, but these advocates say the system warrants further scrutiny now.

Euthanasia "cannot be a default for Canada's failure to fulfill its human rights obligations," said Marie-Claude Landry, the head of its Human Rights Commission.

Landry said she shares the "grave concern" voiced last year by three U.N. human rights experts, who wrote that Canada's euthanasia law appeared to violate the agency's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They said the law had a "discriminatory impact" on disabled people and was inconsistent with Canada's obligations to uphold international human rights standards.

Tim Stainton, director of the Canadian Institute for Inclusion and Citizenship at the University of British Columbia, described Canada's law as "probably the biggest existential threat to disabled people since the Nazis' program in Germany in the 1930s."

#12
With VP Pena in the chair, the plenary begins. ["Bishop Eaton is well, I'm just taking a turn."] The elections chair announces that on all 95 elections there was a majority received, and the 95 winners are declared elected (without bothering to read them, since they were available in the assembly guidebook).

Budget consideration was next. The recommendation to approve the budget is read. This is actually, of course, a separate proposals for each of the next three years. There is no debate, and the budget is approved 751-19.

Next was the report of the Conference of Bishops, presented by the chair, Tracie Bartholomew of NJ synod. She tells the story of Clare of Assisi. "My hope is that the Conference of Bishops is as single-mindedly devoted to Christ as was Clare . . . but I'm not naive, I know my hope is not yet fully realized. We are, after all, a Conference of Sinners within a church of sinners. . . . especially when living within a global pandemic, a badly divided society etc ... We have work to do and we are committed to doing it. She describes how ELCA bishops operate, how different they are from other bishops (or equivalent) in other churches. In our own church some want us to have more authority, while others think we have entirely too much, Living in this tension makes our relationships with each other even more important.

Now we return to Memorials. We're back on the "land back" memorial, in the midst of a debate on an amendment which would add "center on Native voices" (i.e., in the discussion about how best to explore expressing land acknowledgements in meetings etc,). Amendment is approved, so back to the original motion. There's another amendment which apparently clarifies and firms up process for funding what is being proposed. Speaking is mostly in favor. The amendment is approved. Then the recommendation of the Memorial Committee is approved 737-65.

The next memorial has to do with separation agreements. Three synods had asked that any non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements be unconnected to financial settlements with departing staff members. The committee recommends:
To affirm the commitment of the churchwide organization of the ELCA to limit the use of non-disclosure provisions to the small minority of cases in which they are truly necessary to protect confidential and sensitive materials related to donors, personnel, legal, information technology, and similar categories;
To urge synods, congregations, agencies, institutions, and other parts of the ELCA to limit the use of nondisclosure agreements to the small minority of cases in which they are truly necessary and not to use such agreements as a matter of course or in the termination of calls of rostered ministers; and
To direct the Church Council to update the "Churchwide Organization Personnel Policies" to appropriately limit the use to non-disclosure agreements consistent with these memorials.

Motion to add an amendment which directs churchwide organization to remove 95% of any severance pay requirement to be contingent on non-disclosure agreement. (This is apparently to satisfy a legal requirement.) Request for ELCA resource person to explain this. The ELCA General Council replies: First, I support the Memorial Committee language. We have limited NDAs to a very small percentage of situations, and we've asked synods to do so as well. But there are limited times where NDAs are required, in part by cybersecurity insurers. I have concerns about the proposed amendment. It is inconsistent, and would be very difficult to comply with the amendment. (He gives, as an example, the possibility that someone working in data processing might sell social security numbers.) Someone asks, if we adopted this, would this have obviated the problems with Iglesia Santa Maria Peregrina. ELCA General Counsel says no, this would not have affected that situation; this applies only to ELCA churchwide employees. More speaking, which makes it clear that most members of the assembly really have no idea what the implications are of this proposed amendment (or the original memorial). In the end, the amendment is defeated, and the original motion to adopt the Memorial Committee recommendation is approved 721-79.

Now they take up a memorial regarding Roe v. Wade. The text of the recommendation: To encourage support and prayer for all people affected by the overturning of Roe v. Wade, especially the most vulnerable;
To encourage bishops to amplify support for rostered ministers and lay staff of our congregations and affiliated social ministry organizations;
To encourage synod and congregational conversation around this church's teachings on abortion, gender justice, and related topics; and
To encourage synods of the ELCA to review the impact that the overturning Roe v. Wade and any legislation and/or judicial rulings of their state(s), commonwealth(s), or territory (or territories) of the United States may have upon pastoral counseling, the pastor-client relationship, and the rostered ministers and social ministry agencies and organizations of the ELCA.
  [Do we now talk about "pastor-client relationships"?] The speaking on the memorial makes it clear that the specific concern here is that pastors (and lay staff) be advised about and supported in any counsel that might subject them to legal action (i.e., in states that make assisting an abortion illegal). It's also an opportunity for people rail against the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Memorial is approved 776-27.

There is a motion to return early from lunch to allow 30 minutes more, but the motion is defeated. The person who wanted to do this complains that things were confused (thereby wasting more of the time he's concerned about saving). After consulting with the parliamentarian, the chair rules that the vote was in order. Then there's a motion to suspend the Rules to add time for Memorial Committee in Plenary 6. The motion fails to receive 2/3 is is not adopted.

Now to the memorials that were asking for changes in the way decisions about on leave from call requests are made. The Committee recommendation:
To direct the Church Council to establish a process for examining constitutional provisions and policies and procedures as they relate to interim, transition, bridge, specialized, non-parish-based, and innovative calls, as well as on-leave from call status, protocols for removal from the rosters, and communication protocols;
To ask that those involved in the review consult with rostered ministers who are or have recently been involved in specialized ministries (e.g., interim, transition, campus, outdoor, college or seminary faculty, chaplains, etc.), and those currently on leave from call for a variety of reasons (e.g., regular leave from call, family, disability, study, etc.).


An amendment is offered which restores some of the specifics asked for by several of the synods, such as the time limit on on leave from call, a provision for appeal of decisions about on leave from call, etc. It also directs review both of constitutional and call manual provisions.

The chair then calls the orders of the day, hearing again from VP candidates. Three questions have been prepared for the candidates.
Question 1: How would you as vp prioritize and plan to implement actions taken at this assembly?
Beasley: Work closely with exec com and staff to set deadlines and assign staff.
Siddiqui: Two memorials that I would prioritize: reconstitution of the church and advanced salary equity.
Aranda: Three values that would guide me: not live in light of scarcity but abundance; representation of all voices; not be conflict averse.

Question 2: Collaboration and group process. Share a time you facilitated and organization's work
Siddiqui: Yesterday I spoke about Southeastern Synod using consensus-based decision making. Explains that process and gives an example.
Aranda: I believe the apology we witnessed Tuesday is an example. Explains how that apology came to be.
Beasley: I've had many opportunities. I'm now working with a congregation under synodical administration. I've often the listening ear for both synod and congregation, working to identify the best course.

Question 3: VP chairs council. How would you handle time and emotional commitments?
Siddiqui: Great question I've wrestled with the entire week. They never actually tell you the time commitment until you take the job. I called my wife: "I think the time commitment might be slightly more than we considered." She reminded me that we are a family that values lay leadership. "If this comes to pass, we will make it work." I intend to keep my family first.
Aranda: My family is an important support structure for me. I like to call the home the fourth expression of the church. My congregational family confirms my faith; my synod and churchwide colleagues all provide support and counsel. We are church together and family together.
Beasley: As an ELCA member since my youth, I've always worked at creating a balanced life so that I can find joy. I practice sabbath as a ritual as a priority. Important above all things to practice self-care.

Pretty clear to me that Siddiqui is the one best qualified for the office. (I say that even though I already know the outcome.  ;D )

Announcements and such, and the plenary is adjourned.









#13
I had to miss the morning session, but I will catch up on it later. This afternoon, we hear a credential report. 829 voting members present. The Q&A with the candidates was this morning, so I'll have to get back to you on that. Now the fourth ballot is taken. A video is shown while we wait for results. On this ballot: 802 votes, needed 482. Siddiqui 443, Aranda 228, Beasley 131. So it will go to a fifth ballot between Siddiqui and Aranda, later in this session.

Now consideration of constitutional amendments. These are recommended by the Church Council. First is a motion to ratify en bloc a series of amendments to the constitution that were approved at the 2019 assembly. Motion approved 757-27.

Now to the amendments proposed. Most of these are technical in nature and will be approved en bloc. About five of these have been removed from en bloc motion for separate consideration. The en bloc motion is approved 784-18.

Now to those removed from en bloc. First is a proposed amendment to 5.01 which adds a little wiggle room to the representational requirements so, for instance, it says that "as nearly as possible" at least 45% of lay members of assemblies and councils should be men and 45% women. A person makes a motion to amend by adding language that would require representation of LGBTQ+ community. This is ruled out of order because it was not properly submitted by the deadline. So it moves to a vote, and the motion to amend is adopted 767-32.  (I think must still be ratified at next CWA?)

Next is bylaw 7.31.03g. The amendment would remove the ability of a bishop to recommend a call for a first call pastor to an entity other than a local congregation. An amendment is proposed which would keep that possibility there (so, for instance, a first call pastor might be recommended to a campus ministry or other non-parochial service). (Actually the possibility is still there, but only with approval for a specific case by the Conference of Bishops.) The previous question is moved and seconded, and the vote to close debate is approved. The vote is now on the amendment as proposed, and it is not approved (316-490).

8.22.01. This one would remove some language which defines relationship of ELCA to its church colleges. The rationale for the amendment is that it is superfluous due to other language in the previous paragraph that has defined that relationship and mission. The result would appear to be a weakening of the specific "Lutheran identity" of the colleges, replacing it with a more generic "educate students for vocation in the Church and the world." Several speakers, mostly against the change. Previous question called and approved. The amendment itself (which requires 2/3) is defeated, 412-391.

15.01.03 moves the ELCA's commitment that its staff should "include a balance of genders, persons of color and persons whose primary language is other than English, laypersons, and rostered ministers." The person who had raised the issue about LGBTQ+ people earlier opposes this because again, she says, it doesn't provide for LGBTQ+ representation. Motion fails, 484-314.

S6.04 This is the same issue approved earlier with adding "as nearly as possible" to representational principles, but with respect to synod constitutions. The same person again urges a no vote because of the lack of representation of LGBTQ+. This time a pastor from ND who is Black urges approval. "This is not an all or nothing situation. If we want to move our church forward, we need to take a step forward. By asking for inclusion and diversity in one way, that's a step forward...If we vote no, we are going backwards instead of going forward." Secretary clarifies that this amendment only adds these words "as nearly as possible" to give flexibility. Bp. Eaton reiterates this. A lay member supports the change, identifying as non-binary but "I'm here as a lay female because there's no category for me." But in favor of change because it gives more flexibility as a first step. Previous question moved and carried. The proposed amendment approved 760-48.

Now for some amendments proposed by members by the deadline and referred to Reference and Counsel. Interrupted by a motion to suspend the rules to allow each of the Veep candidates to speak for five minutes prior to the fifth ballot. Motion is not approved, 398-386 (required 2/3).

Reference and Counsel received three proposed amendments, all to Synod constitutions. All three proposals simply struck the "required" nature of three provisions. The Ref & Couns recommendation is to vote against all three. The first S21.01 one has to do with election of members of synod assemblies: Voting members shall begin serving with the opening of a regular Synod Assembly and shall continue serving until voting members are seated at the next regular Synod Assembly." The proposer of the amendment, Bp. Riegel, argues that synods should be able to adapt and innovate on this matter, rather than it being a required provision. Vote is 616 to 178, it is approved.

Next one was S11.04 "The Mutual Ministry Committee shall be appointed by the Executive Committee of the Synod Council to provide support and counsel to the bishop." Again proposed amendment is to eliminate required nature; R&C moves to refer to Conference of Bishops, Church Council, and Office of Secretary. Bp. Riegel says he could support that, since it starts the discussion. But he notes that he had done a survey of colleague bishops and learned that many synods don't even have a mutual committee, even though it is "required." Motion to refer is approved, 747-30.

Finally, S15.31 "This synod shall arrange to have an annual audit of its financial records conducted by a certified public accountant firm recommended by the synod Audit Committee and approved by the Synod Council. The audited annual financial report shall be submitted by this synod to the churchwide Office of the Treasurer and to the congregations of this synod. The financial reports shall be in the format approved from time to time by the churchwide Office of the Treasurer." Proposed amendment is to remove the "required" nature. R&C moves to refer to Office of the Treasurer. There is no discussion; motion to refer is approved 742-29.

After a stretch break, comes Motion K, a motion proposed by an assembly member, which would "authorize a possible revision of the social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust which reconsiders the church's current concept of the four positions of bound conscience." In other words, it wants to consider removing the "four positions" on homosexuality. R&C recommends approval. The speaking is all in favor. We have to do this to truly welcome LGBTQ+ people. This is only way we can truly be open to young people. Etc. etc. Pr. Beth Schlegel: I'm concerned about the message that "bound conscience" refers only to one of the "four positions." It refers to all. I hope we can find a way to welcoming to all people while also recognizing different Scriptural viewpoints. Somebody else suggest that this may actually make the church less welcoming, if people are told they MUST believe a particular way. Bishop Strickland: This does not say we're getting rid of bound conscience, but that we're reconsidering our current understanding. I'm tired of having my personhood questioned. Have your diverse beliefs, but at least mean all are welcome not to be condemned. Previous question is moved and adopted. As the vote is about to be taken, someone suggests to Bp. Eaton that prayer would be appropriate. She calls on one of the "prayer team" who reads a prayer from an iphone which doesn't address in any way the issue before the assembly, obviously written ahead of time, with a bunch of stuff about Mother Earth and Father Sky and dancing. Ugh. Can no one pray spontaneously? On Motion K, the vote is 708 to 93. And so the ELCA moves toward making it clear that people with an orthodox position on sexuality are no longer welcome in this church.

Orders of the day now called, fifth ballot for Veep. Credentials report: 829 voting members. After song and prayer, the ballot is cast. Results: 814 ballots, majority needed to elect:  Siddiqui 550, Aranda 264. Mr. Siddiqui is the new vice president. He addresses the assembly: "Holy crap, y'all." (laughter) "I just got re-elected vice president of the Southeastern Synod" Bp Eaton (to bishop of that synod): "Sorry, Kevin." "I thank you for your faith in me. I will try not to let you down."

Finally, we move to Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations Recognition." Bp Eaton introduces several ecumenical and interrelgious guests. Standing ovation. Oddly, she doesn't name any of them; they stand behind her, and now they walk off the stage. She notes we now have a new full communion partner, the Anglican Church Canada, as a result of Churches Beyond Borders, an agreement between ELCA, The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. We hear video greetings from heads of those other churches. Bp. Eaton reports on developing relationships with the Roman Catholic Church. She introduces Bp. Dennis Manning to bring greetings. Bp. Eaton notes the 25 years of full communion with Reformed churches, and introduces the heads of the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church in the USA, and the UCC, each of whom bring greetings. Then she introduces the interim head of NCC, Bp. Vashti McKenzie (AME church). Greeting from Rabbi Esther Lederman, Union for Reformed Judaism. Then greetings from Imam Saffet Catovi from the Islamic Society of North America's Office for Interfaith Relations.

Announcements and adjournment; next plenary begins at 10:30 tomorrow.
#14
Bp. Eaton calls the 4th session to order at 2 p.m. She welcomes Rev. Dr. Anthony Bateza, associate prof of religion at St. Olaf, to make a theological presentation on the assembly theme "Embody the Word." His own theme: "Embodying Trust." Talks about the lack of trust in our culture right now. What does it mean for us to be people who embody trust? We trust people when they demonstrate competence and commitment. I need more than good intentions to trust you. Luther demonstrated his competence and commitment by working with others; in his translations, he often said, "if you have a better word here, please say so." Our task today isn't easy. One reason is that we assume, as people of God, that people should trust us. We're Lutherans! We set a goal of a million new members, but some might hear that as a threat. "A million more like you?" Demanding that people trust us won't work. Pastors often told "trust the process"--but some bishops have proven untrustworthy. On the other hand, some of us fall into the trap of not trusting anyone. An assembly passes a resolution I favor, but I think, "That was too fast. They don't really mean it. They won't really do anything." How do we live in this place between too much trust and too little? We keep our eyes focused on Christ. We confess that we are, and are not, connected to the Word. We confess that we are sinners, but that God remains committed to us. As best we can, we trust the God who has embodied us.

Now we hear speeches by the Veep nominees. They've drawn lots for order of speaking.

John Auger: I believe God is calling us to do a new thing. Are you ready to buckle up and get going? I know I am. Calling of Veep is to provide faithful, courageous, bold, collaborate leadership.

Clarance Smith: ELCA is in a bit of a turmoil: systemic racism, need for inclusion, priorities. We often cause these problems ourselves. Our "churchspeak" is a problem. My professional experience is in risk management, which is really all about human relations and dealing with systems. Previous member of church council, and my synod council. Currently chair of audit committee for LIRS. As an Amerasian, I'm committed to dealing with anti-racism issues. (He goes on too long and mic is turned off.)

Carla Borchardt: Experiences make us who we are. I'm a lifelong Lutheran, my father a pastor in Montana and South Dakota. I bring a rural perspective.

Paul Archer: Recites experiences, has been encouraged as a candidate by multiple people, ready to serve.

Tracey Beasley: African American woman. Speaks of how she came to be involved in Lutheran Church--invited by another child (who is now a pastor). We can't just wait for people to find us, but we must go to them  (goes over time, mic cut off)

Roberto Lara Aranda: self-identifies as queer Latino immigrant. I thank God for this church's public witness to embrace people like me. President of Latino Lutheran Association. This has been a difficult year for the Latine community in the ELCA. I need to speak a hard but truthful word: during these past months, many have been lost.

Imran Siddiqui: As you may have guessed by name, I am not a cradle Lutheran. I was raised Muslim, though my family was more like Christmas and Easter Muslims. Goes on to recount conversion in college. "I ended up following Jesus." In second term as VP of Southeastern Synod. Talks about how the SE Synod Council has learned to work by consensus, with a process that makes sure everyone is on board. What a model this would be for the world! [This guy, IMO, is the most impressive speaker. He'd have my vote if I were a voting member.]

Now to the Report of the Secretary. Secretary's office deals with so many words--1000 pages of pre-assembly materials! But all is in service to the Word. U.S. Constitution often said to be a living document; that's how we should understand the ELCA constitution. She explains steps necessary to amend constitution. Presents some statistics: number of congregations has declined by about 1% each of the past couple of years. Notes problem with worship statistics in time of COVID, encourages congregations just to do what makes sense in their context. She speaks appreciatively of the late VP Horne, Interim VP Pena, her predecessors Almen, Swartling, Boerger, and the team in the office of the secretary.

Next comes the college corporation meetings. This is a technicality with several of the ELCA colleges for whom the CWA is the corporate body that has to approve certain matters (changes in bylaws, appointment of trustees, etc.). Always a boring but necessary few minutes in the assembly. After which a stretch and sing break.

Prior to 3rd ballot, credentials report: 831 voting members present. On third ballot, 2/3 required for election. Once again, voting by machine so lengthy instructions. Report: 822 votes cast

Siddiqui 297
Aranda: 199
Beasley 164
Archer 53
Borchardt 51
Auger 32
Smith 26

Next ballot will be top three, and will be taken tomorrow.

Now to memorials. First is a memorial calling for "land back" which has to do with a kind of reparations to Native Americans:
To receive with gratitude the memorials from Northwest Washington Synod, Oregon Synod, and Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod concerning the Land Back movement;
To encourage all ELCA members, congregations, synods, ministries, colleges, campus ministries, seminaries, camps, associated organizations, and partners to explore including land acknowledgements as part of their public gatherings;
To encourage all ELCA members, congregations, synods, ministries, colleges, campus ministries, seminaries, camps, associated organizations, and partners to become educated about the Indigenous peoples who thrived, prior to European contact, on the land they currently inhabit; To learn about, learn from, and be in deepening relationship with Indigenous people and tribal nations;
To encourage all ELCA members, congregations, synods, ministries, colleges, campus ministries, seminaries, camps, associated organizations, and partners, to support creative programs of restorative justice in partnership with Indigenous people, including, but not limited to, whenever considering a transfer or sale of real property, including returning land (and any structures built on it) after satisfying any financial obligations, to the appropriate Native nations, and when direct return is not feasible or not desired by the Indigenous people, to return the proceeds from the sale of the land to the ELCA Native American Ministry Fund or other local Indigenous led ministries or organizations;
To call upon the appropriate home areas and offices of the churchwide organization to work collaboratively with the relevant local synods and their local Indigenous partners to determine what amount of funding would represent full funding of the more than 30 ELCA Indigenous congregations and service ministries and to immediately provide the remaining funding needed after synod and other local sources of funding have been applied, and to use this same approach to funding new sacramental and/or service ministries by, with or among Indigenous people; and
To call upon the appropriate home areas and offices of the churchwide organization to first engage with the relevant local synods and their local Indigenous partners whenever planning or considering work related to Indigenous people or ministries.

Questions are asked regarding funding. The treasurer reports that she hasn't seen this until now and has no idea where funding would come from. Someone moves to postpone consideration until the next memorial session so that there is an opportunity to figure out funding. Someone else moves the previous question, which is approved. Motion to postpone is approved.

Next is memorial entitled "Advance Salary Equity":
To receive with gratitude the memorial on "Salary Equity in the ELCA" from the Delaware-Maryland Synod;
To refer the memorial to the Church Council to consider commissioning a study of pay gaps for rostered ministers in the ELCA, particularly as they relate to women, people of color, minority ethnic groups, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQIA+ community, and to consider using such a study not only for the purposes described in this memorial but also for the study of inequitable compensation of clergy of color previously called for by the Church Council (CC19.06.23.), for the Quality of Call Initiative for Women in Ministry, for the study of educational debt, and for such other purposes as might serve the needs of this church;
To encourage Portico Benefit Services to work with the Churchwide organization in making appropriate changes to its bylaws and data privacy policies in order to facilitate a deeper understanding of compensation patterns for rostered ministers;
To replace the "Current gross compensation" question from the Rostered Minister Profile with "Minimum Compensation for Next Call;"
To amend the "Current Health Benefits" question to read "Needed Health Benefits;" and
To remove the "Current Retirement Contribution" question from the Rostered Minister Profile.

An amendment is proposed and adopted which changes the wording as follows: To encourage Portico Benefit Services to work with the and theChurchwide organization in making appropriate changes to its theirbylaws and data privacy policies ...

Previous question is moved and adopted. Motion as amended is adopted.

Memorials will be continued in the morning, but for now we introduce some guests from Lutheran World Federation. There is a video greeting from the General Secretary of LWF, now from the President (who was unable to get a visa to attend).

After announcements and song, the plenary adjourns. The assembly will reconvene at 10 on Thursday morning. I will be late, but will try to catch up with the report as soon as I can. The next plenary is at 2 tomorrow, and I'll be there in real time.

#15
The session begins with what is called "Morning Prayer" (though it bears no resemblance to traditional Matins). A song, a brief reflection, a litany, and we're good to go.

Many of the assembly members are dressed in red today, a request made, as a sign of solidarity with (I think) missing indigenous women. Up this morning should be introduction of proposed constitutional and bylaws amendments, the second ballot for vP, the report of the Presiding bishop, elections report on Veep, first common ballot (for all the other positions), then Declaration to American Indian and Alaska Native People and address by National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp.

The Secretary rattles off the numbers of the amendments that have been removed from en bloc. They will be considered tomorrow.

There were 56 persons named on the first ballot for VP. 25 withdrew, leaving 31 names on the second ballot. Bp. Eaton gives instructions for the use of the voting machines in this ballot. Credentials reports 822 registered members. The ballot is preceded by song and prayer, and then the ballot is taken.

Carlos Pena, interim vice president, brought the recommendations of the church council. These are mostly pro forma or non-controversial.

Bp. Eaton then turns the chair over to Pena, who in turn calls on her to give her report as Presiding Bishop. She begins by asking pastors and deacons to stand in recognition of their faithful work during the pandemic. She also commended congregations for their creative flexibility during this time. She describes the ELCA's response to the pandemic, giving support to synods and congregations in their efforts.

She then speaks about "The Collaborative," an effort by the ELCA leadership to figure out how better to reach younger and more diverse people. She calls on Kimberly Jackson, Director of Leadership Development, to explain this program. A good bit of jargon here, and I'm not quite sure what the heck this program really is.

She then calls on Rebecca Payne to talk about the Congregations Lead Initiative. Then the staff person for African Descent Ministries. The theme here seems to be that  many things were being planned and executed during the pandemic. "The church has never closed."

Report of the 2nd veep ballot:
801 valid votes

Beasley 211
Siddiqui 163
Aranda 106
Borchardt 60
Auger 56
Archer 32
Smith 31

These seven are the "finalists" who will address the assembly this afternoon.

The elections committee chair now gives instructions for casting the first common ballot--this is the massive ballot for church council and various board and committee members.  But there's a technological problem, and so some thumb twiddling until Bp. Eaton calls for a video to be shown.

Speaking of technological problems, I just had one here. Bp. Eaton jumped ahead on the agenda to hear the report of the task force on Repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery. I've been writing notes about this, but they suddenly vanished. In sum, several members of the task force are reporting on the Declaration of the ELCA to American Indians and Alaska Native People and what it means. Vance Blackfox, director of Indigenous Ministries and Tribal Relations (a new position) is introduced and speaks. Then an address from Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, followed by a lengthy ovation.

Now back to the first common ballot, and another lengthy explanation. There are lots of people to vote for, and so the voting actually takes place over the lunch break. Announcements, and then closing song and prayer. The next session begins at 2 p.m., but there is Eucharist immediately following this session. The intro on the service booklet says:
This service of Holy Communion follows the four-fold pattern of Lutheran worship, but the words and music are derived from a variety of Native American sources. It was designed with the help of Indigenous persons who are leaders in the ELCA, and it is offered in a spirit of hope for deeper understanding of the Native experience in this land and in this church. It represents elements from various Native peoples: there is no single "Native" spirituality or religious pattern, but many. No single worship service could represent all Natives, but this one attempts to include aspects of many traditions, and the worship leaders come from a variety of Native (and some non-Native) ELCA communities.
#16
Garage door all done, and we're ready for plenary 2. First item of business will be report of the first Veep ballot. Well, it was supposed to be. But Bp. Eaton says "we're still finalizing the results" so we go on to the next item. This is a pro forma resolution to archive social policy resolutions which have been superseded or are no longer relevant. The secretary doesn't list the specific statements, but, for instance, one of these relating to abortion was a policy to "expresses thanks and concurs with report of Work Group on Abortion and the Medical Plan, requests educational materials from Portico."

Results of ballot: 686 ballots, 4 invalid, 682 valid. No election (required 75%)
Tracey Beasley 175. Oddly, the reporter doesn't read any more names and nothing is posted. Supposedly this info is being uploaded to the delegates' guidebook, but I haven't figured out if this is available to the rest of us. Very strange. Usually they would at least post the full results.

Now the report from the Memorials Committee. There is a list of memorials that are to be dealt with en bloc, so the first order of business is to indicate which ones delegates have asked to be withdrawn from the en bloc consideration. The motion is approved 726 to 44. None of these really do anything. The action is all "receive with appreciation" and then pass responsibility, if there is any to pass, on to someone else to work on.

But the first one to be discussed separately is the one on reconstitution that I mentioned yesterday. Similar resolutions came from various synods, here's a typical one: "RESOLVED, that Northeastern Ohio Synod in assembly memorializes the 2022 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Church in America to direct the Church Council to establish a Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church that, working in consultation with the Conference of Bishops and the Church Council, shall reconsider the statements of purpose for each of the expressions of this church, the principles of organization, and all matters pertaining thereunto, presenting its findings to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a reconstituting convention to be called under the rules for a special meeting of the churchwide assembly."

First speaker emphasizes the need to talk about how we can best address the needs of today's world. Second speaker immediately speaks about the Sierra Pacific Synod issue, and blames current constitution for ELCA's racism. "Time for us to start over again and create something that works for everyone." Third speaker in a row in favor.  We need a church that can hear the voices of those who have been excluded.  Fourth speaker, who is from Sierra Pacific Synod. She opposes. This is confusing. Apparently the Memorials Committee recommended a substitute action, but this doesn't seem to be available online. It seems that the question now is whether the recommendation actually commits the ELCA to a reconstituting convention; now an amendment has been offered to make it clear that they are NOT committing to that, but only to a commission [Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church--get it? Just like the original Commission for a New Lutheran Church that proposed the ELCA] to study and make recommendation. There's some wrangling back and forth about the specific language, but it's clear that the language now before the body does not bind the 2025 assembly to actually call a reconstituting convention. It's frustrating that they are not showing on the livestream what is projected on the screen. They've now approved the amendment, but it wasn't up there long enough for me to copy the language. I think the gist of what is now before the body is an instruction to the Church Council to appoint this Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church which will report to the 2025 CWA, with a possible recommendation of a reconstituting convention.

All the speaking now seems to be in favor. Four in a row in favor. No one wants to speak against, so we'll move to a vote. The vote is overwhelmingly in favor: 738 t0 72. And so a really major action is taken without much actual consideration of the meaning and purpose of it.

Next a memorial related to sexuality (of course). The key parts:
"To authorize a social statement reconsideration to revise Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (2009) so that its wording reflects current church understanding, church policy, civil law, and public acceptance of marriage of same-gender and gender non-conforming couples in accordance with "Policies and Procedures of the ELCA for Addressing Social Concerns" (2018). While references would be reviewed throughout the whole statement, the following sections are designated for reconsideration as described here:
• "Marriage: shelter and context for trust" p.15. This would not reconsider the idea of marriage as shelter and context for trust but would consider the import that marriage legally is now a covenant between two individuals;
• "Lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships" p.18f. Revision here would not change this church's current understanding that recognizes four identified positions of bound conscience within its life. p.19, but would review wording about "publicly accountable, lifelong monogamous same-sex relationships" in light of public acceptance of marriage of same-gender and gender-non-conforming couples;
• "Loving families: ground and source for social trust" p.21f. Review here would consider references to diversity of family configurations"  There is no debate, no clarification of what this actually means. Approved 741-59.

Next a memorial on "Fortifying Ministries in Underserved Urban Areas." This was removed from en bloc but nobody wants to speak to it! The recommendation is to refer this memorial to Congregational Vitality Training and Development Team in the Christian Community and Leadership Hope Area (got that?). Now a delegate complains that nobody really knows what is being voted on since nothing is being read and there seem to be technological problems with the tablet guidebook. So the memorials committee guy reads it. Again, one has to wonder why on earth someone wanted it removed from en bloc if there was to be no discussion. But see, this is what happens when a large majority of the people attending are here for the first time. Motion approved, 762-31. This is beginning to feel like the Missouri Synod  ;D.

The next one is on Black Migrant Strategy:
Recommended for assembly action
To receive with gratitude the memorial on "ELCA Strategy Regarding Black Migrants" from the Delaware-Maryland Synod;
To direct the Service and Justice home area, in consultation with the program directors for African Descent Ministries, African Nationals, and Latino Ministries; African Descent Strategy Team; African Descent Lutheran Association; Association of Latino Ministries of the ELCA; and Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation, and Opportunities (AMMPARO), to prepare a proposal for the strengthening of advocacy, protection, and accompaniment of Black migrants, that includes cost estimates, for Church Council consideration by its Spring 2024 meeting;
To strengthen the current protection and accompaniment of Black migrants through AMMPARO in partnership with ecumenical and interfaith partners both domestically and internationally;
To recommit this church to advocating for Temporary Protected Status and just and humane immigration policy through the Witness in Society team within the Service and Justice home area; and
To encourage congregations to affirm the aims of the African Descent Strategy Implementation Plan for 2020–2025 and the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent.

The only speaking is one person urging people to vote yes. Again, one wonders why exactly this was removed for separate consideration. It sort of defeats the purpose of the en bloc process. One also wonders, if these memorials are going to cruise through like this, why on earth they needed to can the videos to allow more time for discussion. Motion carried 783 to 16.

The next one:
Recommended for assembly action
To receive with gratitude the memorial on "Equity and Clarity in the Mission Development Process" from the Delaware-Maryland Synod;
To refer this memorial to the Congregational Vitality Training and Development team in the Christian Community and Leadership home area to establish a working group in partnership with the appropriate leaders in the Delaware-Maryland Synod to study and refine current ELCA guidelines and systems for appointments, calls, funds, and support mechanisms for mission developers and new ministries; and
To request that the working group consult with and provide regular reports to the Church Council beginning by Fall 2023 to ensure that the purposes and objectives of this memorial are being fulfilled.

Again, no discussion, and the motion is approved 758-38.

Well, now we're going to get the full results of the first ballot.
Tracey Beasley 135  [Did I mishear him now, or before when I reported 175?]
Imran Siddiqui 103
Roberto Lara Aranda 86
Carla Borchardt  60
John Auger  48
Paul Archer 38
David Lenz 34
Clarance Smith 34

OK, it goes down rapidly from there, so I'm not going to list the rest. The assembly takes a stretch and sing break.

Now to the report of the treasurer, with the budget proposal. The projections are for nominal income increases over the next three years:
2023 current: $68,814,000
2024 current: $70,191,000
2025 current: $71,594,000

2023 World Hunger $22,869,000
2024 World Hunger $22,930,000
2024 World Hunger $22,960,000

On the expense side, its presented in more of a narrative form, so it's alittle hard to figure out easily. But at least for 2023, here's a comparison with 2022:

Christian Community & Leadership $22,690,464 increases to $23,144,000
Service & Justice  $38,531,076 decreases to $35,664,000
Innovation $3,031,000 stays the same (who knew we have a budget for innovation?)
Office of Presiding Bishop $11,780,430 increases to $12,016,000
Office of Secretary $5,218,927 increases to $5,323,000
Office of Treasurer  $9,310,206 increases to $9,496,000
General Treasury $150,000 increases to $153,000
Depreciation $2,800,000 increases to $2,856,000

Then the narration goes on to spell out all the detail, which isn't always what you expect. For instance, nearly 20% of the budget for the "Office of the Presiding Bishop" is, well, literally for the office--for the expenses of the ELCA's office and archive buildings. Another chunk of it is for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Relations, and another chunk for "people solutions" (i.e., HR).

That presentation having been finished, the assembly hears a recorded message from  Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. (He had hoped to be present, but his flight was cancelled, so he recorded his message.)

After announcements and prayer, the plenary is adjourned but immediately moves into the non-legislative apology to Iglesia Santa María Peregrina . This begins with the singing of a hymn. Bp. Eaton's words are being translated into Spanish. She welcomes four representatives from Iglesia Santa María Peregrina. She thanks them for their presence. (My Spanish isn't great, but I noticed that where Bp. Eaton said "Latine," the translator said "Latino y Latina."). "We offer a public commitment to become an anti-racist church. I wish to speak a word of apology and accountability on behalf of this church." She summarizes the events last December that led to this fiasco. She notes that the case of Pr. Rabell-Gonzales is being reconsidered (first time I've heard that publicly said). The situation and what followed revealed the depth of systematic racism that we wrestle with. I apologize.

There is a response from, I assume, one of the congregation members, but it is not being translated into English. Now we hear what I assume is the translation of what was just said, or maybe it's just a second statement being made in English. "The decision to be here was not easy . . . Our church will continue to pray for former Bp Rohrer and the Sierra Pacific Synod Council. . . . We forgive you for being slow to act and not being sure we had pastoral care in this difficult time."

Bishop Eaton embraces the representatives, assembly applauds.

Bishop Eaton then talks more, with translation. "Giving voice to our lament is our way to recognize the harm."  She invites people to write on ribbons their laments for Iglesia Santa María Peregrina and for the world, and the ribbons will be tied to the cross (a cross with mesh around it), which will be placed outside and brought periodically back into the plenary hall. "This church has confessed the sin of racism, but we are sinners who often don't carry out what we intend to do. As we admit and repent of our past actions, it is also important to state the commitments we have made." On the screen is a series of anti-racist statements the ELCA has made through the years. She recalls the apology made to African Americans by the 2019 assembly. She talks about some specific things the ELCA intends to do. Assembly sings "Nothing Can Trouble." Seemed like a very emotional time.

I'm skipping out on the service of word and prayer this evening, but if anyone else is watching and wants to report, go for it. We meet again at 8:30 a.m.










#17
The disadvantage of covering the assembly from home is that just when the session is opening, the guys come to install the new garage door. Nonetheless, the assembly business has begun. The tech people apparently read my critique last night, because the music for the opening hymn is being shown on the screen. At least until they switch to the organist's hands. The assembly is declared to be in session in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Bp. Eaton offers opening remarks based on the assembly's theme, "Embody the Word." She reflects briefly on the 35th anniversary of the ELCA. She notes that this afternoon there will be a non-legislative public apology to Iglesia Santa María Peregrina (the Sierra Pacific Synod congregation that was poorly treated by the previous bishop) and a commitment to anti-racism. She outlines the COVID precautions being taken in the assembly (round tables, to keep distance between people a bit greater; everyone must wear a mask in all sessions unless speaking at the mic; each participant must take a self-administered COVID test each morning). She waves at those of us watching at home.

The opening session, of course, always contains lots of instructions, especially in this technological age. Everyone needs iPad instructions, directions to the prayer room, etc.

Bp. Eaton recognizes early leaders of the church. First, Bp. Herb Chilstrom (who died a couple of years ago). "We remember him with thanksgiving in a moment of silence." Several former officers able to be here this week: Lowell Almen, David Swartling, Chris Boeger, Addie Butler, Carlos Pena. Mark Hanson and Christina Jackson-Skelton will be arriving later.

Greetings from bishop of Southern Ohio Synod Suzanne Darcy Dillahunt. "Welcome back to where our story as the ELCA began."

Who knew installing a new garage door would be so noisy?

Bp. Dillahunt is going on longer than necessary, talking about the wonders of Ohio and the Southern Ohio Synod. The most interesting bits of information: (1) Ohio is the home of the voice of Bart Simpson. (2) Ohio has lots of craft breweries, one of which is located right across from the convention center and is offering a special brew called "Saints and Sinners," made just for the churchwide assembly.

Credentials report: up to 902 voting members. As of 8:07, there are 800 voting members registered. Introduction of parliamentarian, whose many parliamentary credentials are recited.

Now the usual fun and games, instructing people how to use the voting machines. Is this your first CWA? Yes 474, no 267. (Big surprise)  At the constituting convention, were members seated in alphabetical order? Yes 396, no 329 (which is in fact correct). How many ballots required to elect first PB--5, 7, or 9? Didn't get the results, but the right answer was 9. Several other test questions not about constituting convention. After that strenuous work, a stretch break and hymn. (No words this time; probably just as well, as I think she said the hymn was something called "Commonwealth is God's Commandment." Wouldn't be able to sing that one in the car.

After a lengthy explanation of the Rules of Order, the secretary (Sue Rothmeyer) moves adoption. A question is asked, and then the Rules are adopted with only 8 negative votes.

The secretary moves the adoption of the order of business. There is a motion to eliminate several planned videos and extend time of several plenaries, with additional time added to discussion of memorials and/or reference and counsel. She notes that this would add about an hour and a half to each of these categories. "We have limited time, and while we are grateful for the work of our mission and ministry partners, it is important that we have time for the work we are here to do." A deacon speaks against because of the importance of these various ministries to the ELCA. "These reports are extremely important for us to hear." Several speakers, more in favor. Bp. Riegel moves to amend by reinstating all the breaks and eliminating the extended times. "Dr. Maslow taught us that if we can't address lower level needs, we can never self-actualize."

(So far the "preferred pronouns" of speakers has been projected, along with their name. This at least seems to obviate the need for them to tell us. I'm wondering what happens if a member neglected to identify his/her/their/its preferred pronoun.)

There's some issue with Riegel's wording, so he is consulting with the secretary and assembly gets to sing an unknown song. So far the main motion has consumed about a sixth of the time the proposer demanded that the assembly reallocate to memorials.

Now more talking. One person insists that videos can be watched any time. A disabled member insists that plenty of time needs to allowed for breaks. Finally someone moves the previous question, which is approved. The parliamentarian hands the bishop a paper, she looks puzzled, they confer. The bishop asks whether the motion to call the question was just on the amendment, or on all matters (which she really shouldn't have done, IMO; he clearly called the question only on the Riegel amendment, and she shouldn't give him a chance to change his mind). But he doesn't change his mind, and the vote on the Riegel amendment passes, very narrowly (399 to 386). So now the discussion is just on eliminating all the videos, which would add about 90 minutes to discuss memorials (more than 30 minutes of which has already been consumed in this silly discussion). Previous question is moved and passed. There's some confusion about just what's being voted on, because what's on the screen is still the original wording (with Riegel's deletions in red). Bp. Eaton clarifies. The original motion, to eliminate the videos, is approved, 583-206. The agenda as amended (by eliminating the videos) is adopted, 656-110. Bp. declares a 10 minute recess.

I wonder how much money was spent on all those videos which will now not be shown to the CWA?

After recess, the children come back and hear a representative of ELCA military chaplains. Then a video memorializing the late William Horne, ELCA VP, who died last year. (Wisely, the earlier motion didn't exclude this video.) This leads into the first ballot for Vice President. There was a pre-assembly process that allowed voting members to suggest names for this lay position, and the result was a list of 13 persons who were both suggested and who agreed to be considered. It begins with an ecclesiastical ballot, though, so these names are really on "suggestions" (though almost certainly the ultimately elected person will come from that list). I only know one of the people on the list, but here's the rundown:

Kevin Anderson, an attorney who is on the ELCA Church Council
Paul Archer, a medical dosimetrist who was formerly on the ELCA Church Council
John Auger, an engineer who is VP of Delaware-Maryland Synod
Tracey A. Beasley, a tax manager who is on the ELCA Church Council
Carla Borchardt, a nurse who is VP of the South Dakota Synod
Roberto Lara Aranda, director of communication for Metro NY Synod
David M. Lenz, an attorney currently on ELCA Church Council
Thomas E. Madden, an engineer currently VP of Upstate NY Synod
Roger Ruggles, engineering professor with no apparent synodical or churchwide experience but on local congregation council
Imran Siddiqui, investigator for Dept of Labor and VP of Southeastern Synod
Clarance Smith, bank manager and former member of ELCA Church Council
James St. Vincent, insurance exec., SE Wisconsin Synod synod council member
Christopher Vergara, dance costume designer, board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries

Lots of time consumed explaining the process, concluding with credential report that there are currently 804 voting members registered. 60 lay, 40 clergy; 20 percent POC, 15% youth/young adults. There is a hymn and prayer, and the vote is taken. They are actually using the voting devices for this, which seems to be a dicey thing. At any rate, if all goes well, results will be announced at the opening of the 1:30 plenary.

I think it is fascinating that, on the forms each of these folks filled out, most of them gave their answers in a page and a half or less. But the professor and the communication director both took two and a half pages.

The plenary is extended fifteen minutes to allow for presentation from chair of the nominating committee, who explains the very convoluted process by which its committee has presented nominations. After announcements, the assembly adjourns until 1:30.
#18
2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly / Opening worship
August 08, 2022, 09:03:21 PM
The assembly opens with the Eucharist on Monday night. I came in to the livestream late because apparently I misread the time--the schedule had said 7:30 p.m. and I assumed that was Central Time, but apparently Ohio is in the Eastern Time Zone. Oops. Sorry, Buckeyes.

Well, I got there in time to hear PBp Eaton's sermon. She began with a reflection on "wilderness" (gospel had been the story of John the Baptist, "voice crying in the wilderness"). Spoke about the pandemic as a wilderness time. Wilderness as a liminal space. We are a liminal people--people who exist on the border between the earthly/material and the divine. Hard to be there; hard for us to be silent, be present with God. I have trouble with silence. My spiritual director asked me to spend 20 minutes a day in silence; I'm up to about 5. Elijah's experience of silence--in disappointment, despair, yet God met him there on the mountain in silence. We'll be doing a lot of talking this week, but I hope we can find some times of silence, of being in God's presence. We "hear" this silence, and hopefully we're able to help the world see that God is not far off. We often turn God's promises into threats or work to be done; but that's not it.

God to Elijah: "Get up and eat, or the journey will be too much for you." Journey is too much for us unless we are fed by Word and Sacrament.

Not a bad sermon, all told. Hard to gauge reactions in the assembly when everyone is masked. Also impossible to hear singing. A lifestream problem: The hymn of the day was played beautifully by the ensemble, but no words could be heard, and no words were projected. I recognize the melody but can't come up with the words (it's a contemporary hymn). Ah, I found the downloadable worship resource. The hymn is  Jeannette M. Lindholm's "Unexpected and Mysterious"--well chosen for the bp's sermon. The worship resource is printed both in English and Spanish, and the presiding minister (not sure who it is) is a Spanish speaker.

The offertory hymn is a jazzy version of "All Who Hunger Gather Gladly" (tune is "Holy Manna"). The procession practically runs down the aisle to keep time with the music. My wife, watching with me, says "Very dignified."

The Eucharistic prayer is prayed in Spanish (at least by the presider). One can't help but wonder if this is an attempt to say "See, we're sensitive to the Hispanic community, no matter what people may say about what happened in the Sierra Pacific Synod." Now, after the Sanctus, he has switched to English (and the printed liturgy is only in English). Then back to Spanish for the words of institution, though the Spanish isn't printed in the service booklet. At least the presider can pray these words from memory!

For the Our Father, people are encouraged to pray in the language or translation of their heart. Oddly, though, they cut the mics so on the lifestream we can't hear any language whatever. Or maybe it's the sound of silence?

It appears that the distribution is using individual cups, which I think is a first for a CWA. The first of the distribution hymns is "Loaves were broken, words were spoken," a pleasant text set to one of the melodies from Marty Haugen's Holden Evening Prayer. Very nice. Again, though, you can't hear the words at all. It would be nice, for the sake of the lifestream, to have someone singing into a mic.

As is common in the ELCA, there's a good bit of Trinitarian confusion in the prayers. The benediction: "The holy Three, the holy One increase your hope, strengthen your faith, deepen your love, and + grant you peace." We mustn't actually use the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you know.

Plenary 1 starts at 8:30 EDT. You can find the livestream by going to YouTube and searching for ELCA.

One issue that is coming sometime, sort of under the radar, is memorial from several synods asking for a "reconstitution" of the ELCA--i.e., a complete revision of the constitution. The object of this is to address what the proposers view as the implicit  structural racism in the ELCA, though it is unclear just how a new constitution is going to fix this. Some have jumped on this bandwagon with the view that the ELCA constitution was designed for a church that began with more than 5 million members and assumed it would grow to 8 million, when in fact it has shrunk to 3 million and dropping. So the idea is that the whole structure needs to be revised to address the new reality. Of course structural change seldom accomplishes this kind of goal; rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic comes to mind. But never fear, the most likely outcome will be a referral to the church council. The Committee on Reference and Counsel has already noted that the study being called for would cost half a million bucks, and a special CWA to enact constitutional changes another 3 million. So there's that.

Closing hymn is one of my very favorites: "The Day You Gave Us, Lord, Has Ended." I have instructed that it be sung at my funeral. In spite of a reasonably tempo-ed hymn, the recessing worship leaders still have little dignity. But maybe they're in a hurry to get to the dessert reception.


#19
2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly / Hello, Columbus
August 08, 2022, 06:27:19 PM
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly meets August 8-12 in Columbus, OH—returning, as the ELCA celebrates its 35th anniversary, to the city where it was officially constituted in 1987. The assembly gathers, Living Lutheran breathlessly tells us in the first sentence of its article on the event, on the "original and ancestral homelands of the Shawnee, Miami and Kaskaskia peoples." (Lest you wonder, the assembly takes place in the Greater Columbus Convention Center, not in a bark or reed house.) The theme is "Embody the Word," a theme which somehow is based on Luke 24.45, "Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures."

This will be the first assembly in three years, not because of the COVID pandemic but because in 2019 the ELCA moved to a three-year cycle rather than the biennial assemblies that had been its practice up to that time. The pandemic, however, will impact how the assembly proceeds. All participants will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, and visitors are "encouraged" to watch the livestream (which, one supposes, is a nice way of saying that visitors are "discouraged" from actually visiting). Furthermore, legislative hearings and Bible studies will take place virtually in the weeks prior to the assembly. This makes one wonder exactly how the time normally taken up by these things will be used, but no doubt they'll think of something.

The most significant election being held this year will be for vice president. William "Bill" Horne, elected to that position in 2016, died last year; the previous veep, Carlos Peña, has been serving as interim. This was the scheduled year for an election anyway, so whoever is chosen will serve a full six-year term. There will also be all the requisite elections for members of the church council and all the various boards; this is always one of the least edifying aspects of an assembly, since members are voting for people they've never heard of based on minimal information.

What, no social statements?
Hard to believe, but there won't be any social statements debated this year. There is one in process on church, state, and civic participation, but it's not due until 2025. No doubt there will be a progress report of some kind. The assembly will receive a presentation on an already issued "Declaration of the ELCA to American Indian and Alaska Native People," and hear an address from Fawn Sharp from the National Congress of American Indians.

There will be a raft of constitution and bylaws amendments presented for approval. As is typical, most of these are simply editorial changes. For example, the ELCA will be bending over backward to use "inclusive language." Remember when that meant always saying "he or she shall do such and such"? Now "he and she" are out the window and we get "the bishop [or whomever] shall do such and such." Instead of a "balance of men and women" among churchwide staff, there will be a "balance of genders." Former representational protocols calling for 50% men and 50% women now lower the percentages to "at least 45%" of each. This, the explanatory paper tells us, will "provide contextual flexibility and make calculations simpler." No doubt that is true, but does anyone doubt that the primary reason is to allow for people who decline to "identify" as either male or female? We're going to be non-binary now. The only question is whether someone will raise the objection that this limits the representation of non-binary people to no more than 10% (which it does, obviously). I'mm sure someone will raise this.

On leave from call
As Forum Letter has reported previously, there has been a lot of discussion across the church regarding the process by which clergy are (or are not) granted the status of "on leave from call." Some of this was a result of some pastors being administratively defrocked when bishops and synod councils refused to grant them that status after they had left a call (as in the case of Pr. Nelson Rabell- González). Some was an increasing unhappiness over the inflexibility of the three year limitation for on leave from call status.

There have been memorials percolating in various synods to address this issue, and a handful have been approved by synod assemblies this spring. As far as I can tell, there is some variety in the precise wording and the scope of these different proposals, but you can expect that the issue will be taken up in Columbus. It should make for an interesting discussion. Most likely there will be a motion to refer this to some agency, either the Church Council or the Conference of Bishops (or the "appropriate churchwide unit," which is what we call things now). There will be pressure, though, to act more immediately on at least certain aspects of this policy; some, for instance, want an immediate end to the three-year limitation on the on leave from call status.

The elephant
As far as I can see, no other major issues are on the horizon—except, of course, the elephant in the Convention Center, which is the still unfolding disaster in the Sierra Pacific Synod. On social media there are calls for a vote of no-confidence in Bp. Eaton for her handling of the situation with Bp. Megan Rohrer. Such a vote is not going to be on the agenda, and it seems unlikely that any effort to put it there will succeed. But that's not to say there won't be a ruckus of some kind, officially or unofficially. Whatever has happened in the disciplinary case, there is a lot of anger about the whole situation, and it is hard to believe it won't erupt in some form in Columbus. ELCA leaders will be under pressure to allow for some kind of discussion. Maybe that's how they'll fill the time they've gained by moving the Bible studies and hearings to a pre- assembly virtual format. In any event, the show will go on. For the first time in many years, Forum Letter will not be offering live, in-person coverage. I will, however, be glued to the livestream, and we'll have a place in Forum Online for real time commentary. If you don't have the time (or the patience) to watch everything, come on over to get updates and join the conversation.--Richard O. Johnson




#20
Very interesting analysis by David Brooks here. If it's behind paywall, here are a couple of paragraphs:

The phrase "moral freedom" captures a prominent progressive moral tradition. It recognizes the individual conscience as the ultimate authority and holds that in a diverse society, each person should have the right to lead her own authentic life and make up her own mind about moral matters. ...

The conservative moral tradition has a very different conception of human nature, the world and how the good society is formed. I'll call it "you are not your own," after the recent book by the English professor and Christian author Alan Noble. People who subscribe to this worldview believe that individuals are embedded in a larger and pre-existing moral order in which there is objective moral truth, independent of the knower. ...

But the big problem today with the "you are not your own" ethos is that fewer and fewer people believe in it. Fewer and fewer people in the United States believe in God. And more Americans of all stripes have abandoned the submissive, surrendering, dependent concept of the self.

This is the ultimate crisis on the right. Many conservatives say there is an objective moral order that demands obedience, but they've been formed by America's prevailing autonomy culture, just like everybody else. In practice, they don't actually want to surrender obediently to a force outside themselves; they want to make up their own minds. The autonomous self has triumphed across the political spectrum, on the left where it makes sense, and also on the right, where it doesn't. ...
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