ELCA Churchwide Assembly Day 2

Day Two and folks definitely have their assembly legs.  Serious business was conducted today.  Will tell you of the Presiding Bishop’s Report, things seen and overheard, and other actions of the assembly.


Yesterday, I mentioned that you can watch the assembly proceedings live.  You can also watch the proceedings afterward.  The url for both is the page found at http://tinyurl.com/WatchTheAssemblyThat address is a substitute for the much longer address to get there.  Below the screen for the current/next event you will find previous videos.  I highly recommend you watch the sermon of the Presiding Bishop from the file “Holy Communion Monday.”  Once it is playing, you can run your mouse along the progress trough under picture to about 23 minutes into the service, where you’ll find the Gospel reading that precedes and is essential to understanding the sermon after it.


Tuesday, the second day started with an observation.  While we were sitting in the visitors section waiting for the 08:00 am start of the assembly’s day, a person came in riding one of those three-wheel electric chairs for use by those who find it taxing to walk longer distances, which there are several inside this massive facility.  As the conveyance passed, shiny candy-apple red, and turned to head up the aisle, I noticed that the model name on the back was Daytona2000.  With a name like that, I wondered what lurked under the candy-red paint.  Was it as stately and sedate as it appeared, or could we expect something flashier later in the day?  Wheelies?  Time trials?


I will report on the Bishop’s Report last, though it was the first business of the morning.


Following the Bishop’s Report in the morning, consideration was had of the LIFT Implementing Resolutions, found in Section IV, pages 29-30 of the pre-assembly report, for those who have that available online or printed out.  I’ll wait…


Ok, there are 11 resolutions put forth by the Task Force and the Church Council regarding the implementation of Living Into The Future.  Reference and Counsel received a series of amendments to these resolutions.  In the morning session, Plenary Three, several of these were brought to the floor and discussed.


Resolution #10 calls for a cessation of Social Statements pending a review of how those are developed, this cessation to take place after the current Social Statement on Genetics, Faith and Responsibility.  The assembly voted 823-141 to delay the consideration of this resolution until Thursday, August 18, the same day that the assembly considers the genetics social statement.  The rationale of the Voting Member who proposed the delay was that people wanted more time to consider the matter.  Obviously the house agreed with him.


Resolution #2 calls for the expansion of support offered to pastors and was referred to the Congregational and Synodical mission unit by a vote of 620-350.


All the resolutions that dealt with the constitutional provisions that established the program committees within mission units were eliminated by the assembly by a vote of 890-69.  Change is definitely afoot.


On the way into Worship, at 11:00, I was being followed into the celebration hall by a young woman carrying a baby about 9-13 months old.  Having accepted the worship booklet from the red-clad volunteer passing them out, I heard him ask the woman following me, “Is that your baby or is it a rental?”  Hmm, I am just saying…  I love humor…


The Presiding Bishop’s Report began with “I come to this assembly more hopeful, more grateful for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, than I ever have been.  The reason is simple: we are a church with clarity about who we are.”  He said he was grateful for the way leadership in the church was shared, and for the commitment we as Lutherans make to the work of the church.  He expressed gratitude for the work of the church to eliminate poverty and to work for justice and peace.


He is grateful for the mission support sent in by congregations for the aggregated work at the synodical and churchwide mission areas.  And he is grateful for all of us, living out Lutheranism in truth and faith.  Living out Lutheranism means having clarity about who we are and where God is leading us.


“We are Lutherans; that means that at the heart of who we are is the good news that in Christ we are free.”  He continued, “Free from bondage to sin and guilt, free from the power of death and evil.”  He said we are free of fear, “fear of the stranger, fear of failure, and fear of discord, disease and disaster… and, for some, fear of deportation.”  He said that we are free to be bound, bound to the world as peacemakers and justice seekers.  “We are freed to live as everyday evangelists.”


He said we were living out being Lutherans in a world where lines were being drawn, increasingly cast in concrete: lines that divide, exclude, and demean.  To live Lutheran in that context means to embody reconciliation in Christ.  For Lutherans living in this context means, as Luther said, living “in service to the neighbor.”


Christ was nailed to a cross “for having the audacity to cross the lines that are drawn by the protectors of religious purity and political power.”  He said that this church should be known not just for serving the poor, but for tirelessly striving to end poverty.


“The good news is that this is Christ’s church; there is a place for you here.”  We welcome the stranger including the new immigrants in our communities.  He said this assembly could continue the work of the previous assembly for fair and just immigration by calling on Congress to pass the Dream Act.


Then he said, “This is Christ’s church; there is a place for you here.  What a powerful witness this assembly can make, by joining our collective voice to that of 39 synods by saying to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and all who are verbally battered by the bitter winds of bullying, ‘Not in this church… for there is a place for you here, Child of God.’  There’s a place for you here, Child of God, a place of respect and dignity and welcome, where the winds of the Holy Spirit blow, bringing healing and hope.  There’s a place for you here…”


You should watch Bishop Hanson’s report, not read it.  It starts about 11minutes into the Plenary 3 video.


I was going to end this with a bit of humor, but won’t.  More appropriate to end on the hopeful words above and the enthusiastic applause that followed them.


Wednesday,a we are scheduled to take up the anti-bullying memorials sent in by more than half the synods of the ELCA.  First thing.  Plenary 4 starting at 08:00 am.