Opening plenary

Started by Richard Johnson, August 05, 2019, 07:59:43 PM

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Richard Johnson

The plenary started pretty much on time, with Bp. Eaton welcoming everyone. She hits the obligatory acknowledgement of the first nation tribes from this area, but it was just a BRIEF moment of silence, not a pagan ceremony. She also mentioned the various anniversaries that Boerger had mentioned in his sermon--oddly enough, referring to the tenth anniversary of the ELCA's opening of the ministry to "persons in same gender marriages"--which isn't exactly true.

We sing "O Holy Spirit Enter In"--nice! And an opening liturgy (brief, Biblical, Trinitarian).

There are 927 voting members. 888 have registered as of 6:30 p.m. Bp. Erickson, local synod bishop, welcomes us. He names all the various native tribes that have lived here through the years . . . maybe just to prove that he can pronounce them with facility.

Bp. Eaton gets a big laugh by saying she's especially fond of Milwaukee because her family were beer distributors, and several of the brands they distributed were brewed in Milwaukee. "It's like our mother ship," she says.

"Now the part we've all been waiting for . . . " Testing the electronic voting devices. The first test question reveals that 67% of the members are here for their first assembly. 16.2% are under 30 years of age.

Rather lengthy introduction to first real business item, which is adoption of rules of organization and procedure. WAY too lengthy. One wonders how many members are actually tracking what she's talking about. Motion to adopt the proposed rules of organization and procedure presented by Sec. Boerger. Motion approved, 859 to 6.

Boerger moves to adopt the agenda. No discussion. Some voting machine problems, so Bp. has members get out their red and green cards and votes using the cards. Agenda approved overwhelmingly.

Bp. introduces former Bp. Mark Hanson and former Secs. Lowell Almen and David Swartling.

A couple of constitutional amendments are brought to the floor. These need to be voted on tonight because they may have an impact on other agenda items; most of the amendments will come up much later in the week. The first of these gives church council members both voice and vote at CWA (a bad idea, in my opinion). The other sets up The Endowment Fund of the ELCA (a separately incorporated ministry) and provides that the CWA will elect the board members. The provisions are generally similar to those for other separately incorporated ministries. Boerger moves to adopt these en bloc. Bp. Eaton gives every opportunity for people to ask to separate these two, or to discuss. Finally somebody rises to speak. There's a bit of a problem here; new procedure requires prospective speakers to check in with a "voting card" before speaking. The speaker is a pastor from Montana who seems not quite to get what's being asked here, so he asks it to be explained. Boerger explains that several synods allow their synod council members to have vote at the synod assembly, and so they thought they ought to have the same privilege. So they're recommending this. Very odd. But nobody challenges the idea. The voting machines are still not working right, so we get the green cards--nearly unanimous, I saw maybe five red cards. Nobody even mentioned how many people this adds to the voting membership. Looks to me like it is about 34, about a 3% increase. Still, it seems an odd thing to me. The council members already had voice; why should they also have vote, if they weren't elected by their local synods?

"Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA" reports. Slick video showing very brief clips of various ministries etc. (apparently--all images, no words) supported by the Campaign. The Malaria program was the first component of the Campaign to be fully funded ($15 million).

Next a report on new starts, thirty-something of them directly supported by the Campaign. The campaign has led to more new starts that ever before in the history of the ELCA. Some $5 million raised for this component (though this also includes disability ministries and some other stuff, not just literal new starts). A laywoman from NC who serves on the committee shares some of her experiences in working on it--some moving stories.

At the close of campaign, the impact total has been some $250 million.
$16 million Malaria campaign
$5 million congregations
$33 million global church
$24 million leadership
$117 million ELCA world hunger
$55 million planned gifts

Introduces Carlos Pena, immediate past vice president of ELCA.

William Horne, current vice president, takes the chair. He will be presiding over the first ballot for presiding bishop.
Long explanation of the process . . . necessary, I suppose, especially with 2/3 here for the first time. But I don't anticipate the process will take more than one or two ballots, having heard no movement to pick anyone other than Elizabeth Eaton.

Currently 932 voting members present (in part because all of a sudden all the church council members can vote!).
Following prayer, the ballots were cast. This is the ecclesiastical ballot, so any pastor in the ELCA is eligible. People have to write in names, one letter in each little box (like a DMV form), so it takes a while. Eventually the ballot is closed. Announcements: Offering at this afternoon's Eucharist totaled more than $7,000--designated for world hunger.

And the plenary concludes, after prayer and song, some 20 minutes early--a nice thing on the first night.

The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

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