4/8/2014 12:00:00 PM
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) received a final report from a committee charged with overseeing resolutions that addressed the organizational "ecology" of the ELCA. The council, which met here April 4-6, received with gratitude the report that outlines ways in which these resolutions have changed the ELCA.
Under the banner of "Living into the Future Together: Renewing the Ecology of the ELCA," members of this church acknowledged social and economic changes that have taken place since the formation of the ELCA 25 years ago. They also evaluated how the church is organized and its relationships in response to those changes. The task force that initiated this research was appointed in 2009 and offered recommendations with implementing resolutions approved by the 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. In 2012, the council appointed a committee -- known as "LIFT II" -- to help move the resolutions forward. The council is the ELCA's board of directors; churchwide assemblies meet triennially and serve as the ELCA's highest legislative authority.
The final report affirmed that congregations are a high priority in this church with support for the renewal of congregations and the requesting that they develop mission plans. Other initiatives include recognizing the 65 synods of the ELCA as catalysts for mission planning; nurturing a culture of faithful discernment that contributes to mutual respect and healthy decision-making across the church; utilizing networking as an organizational principle and practice that embodies interdependence and values the human resources found in congregations, synods, churchwide organization and institutions of this church; improving structure and governance; and engaging in social media and technology.
In his presentation of the LIFT II final report, council member William B. Horne II, Clearwater, Fla., told the council, "We should find a way to continue taking a 35,000-foot-high view" of the ELCA's ecology, and "ask ourselves, how can we institutionally give ourselves that perspective when we need it?" Horne, who chairs the council's planning and evaluation committee, said that there should be continued freedom to ask questions and evaluate the strength of this church's interdependence and relationships.
In her report to the council, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton contributed four emphases that have begun "to gain traction" in this church. They are: We are church. We are Lutheran. We are church together. We are church for the sake of the world.
Organizing her report around these emphases, Eaton said that at the center "of our life together is worship, and at the center of our worship together is the crucified and risen Christ."
The four emphases are also featured in the ELCA churchwide organization's 2014-2016 operational plan presented to members of the council. The council approved a planning and reporting framework for the plan, which consists of two parts: Strategic Intent and 2014 Annual Plan. There are six goals in the plan, each accompanied by a series of "headline result indicators."
In other business, the council:
+ Extended the time for the development of a social message on gender-based violence until April 2015 and requested a progress report to be delivered to the ELCA Conference of Bishops and the Church Council in fall 2014.
+ Received an update on Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. Officially launched Feb. 1 (and approved by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August 2013), total current gifts and pledges now exceed $16 million toward the campaign's goal of $198 million. With the addition of $5 million in planned gifts, a total of $21.2 million has been raised toward campaign priorities. The ELCA Malaria Campaign, which has garnered $11 million to date, is now part of the comprehensive campaign. The campaign also includes the implementation and integration of churchwide assembly actions related to youth and young adults and disability ministries.
+ Elected Fernando Mercado, Warrenville, Ill.; the Rev. Karsten Decker, Bermuda; and Man Hei Yip, North Quincy, Mass., to serve on the council for terms ending in 2015. The council also elected ELCA members to serve on boards for ELCA seminaries and Augsburg Fortress Publishers.
+ Placed 25 percent of proceeds retained by the ELCA from the sale of the Tonner Collection (consisting of artwork, Bibles and religious-oriented books) into a Church Council designated fund for support of regional archives.
+ Received responses from ELCA churchwide units to synod resolutions on confirmation, parental leave for rostered people, isolation of individuals living in our communities (which was referred back to the Congregational and Synodical Mission Unit), seminarian debts incurred through inadequate health insurance, commissioning of an adult catechism, peacemaking with justice in Israel and Palestine, Uniting American Families Act, community violence and communion practices.
+ Received an update on work related to the observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
+ Received an update on a "Mission Support Think Tank." In an effort to address ELCA Mission Support (income from congregations shared with the ELCA's 65 synods and churchwide organization), Eaton appointed a group of synod bishops to seek information, expertise and ideas from across this church.
+ Received reports from the ELCA treasurer, secretary and vice president.
The council also engaged in racial and gender awareness training and held a conversation about serving as an effective board of directors.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.