Tuesday, August 07, 2007

ELCA Churchwide Assembly Begins in Chicago

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a 4.8 million member body with whom the Episcopal Church is in full communion, will be meeting this week in Chicago. The daily schedule and news reports can be found here.

From the ELCA Presiding Bishop:

According to the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), biblical literacy, education and human sexuality will be among some of the significant decision items to face the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. At a news conference here Aug. 6, Hanson said worship will be the centerpiece of the assembly.

The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 6-11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000 people are participating, including 1,071 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is "Living in God's Amazing Grace: Thanks be to God!"...

The Assembly will consider 125 Memorials (resolutions). About half of them will be on the topic of human sexuality. It is expected that most of these will be referred to the task force for ELCA Studies on Sexuality, as the ELCA's official statement on human sexuality is not scheduled to be presented until the 2009 Assembly in Minneapolis.

However, there is a surge of interest in responding in some way at this Assembly to the removal of an openly gay pastor from the clergy roster of the ELCA.

Bradley Schmeling has been the pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church, Atlanta, Georgia since 2000. When he announced that he was in a committed relationship, his bishop asked him to resign. When he refused, disciplinary proceedings were initiated. A disciplinary committee upheld the bishop's decision, as did the Committee on Appeals.

The response from the people of St. John's is represented in this statement:

...John Ballew, president of St John's congregation, said, "St John's is going to stay St John's. Church service this and every Sunday is at 10:30 am. We are going to go to Churchwide Assembly in August, to witness to our ELCA the costs of this decision, based on an absurd policy. This is not just about us and our wonderful pastor; this is about all those called to minister to God's people, who lead exemplary lives, who provide a model for faithful, loving companionship with each other and with Christ"...
Bradley Schmeling and St. John's Lutheran will hold a press conference today at 3:00 in Chicago. Also, the rumor is that 80 Lutheran pastors will come out today. Looking at the schedule of events, Schmeling's press conference seems to be the most likely venue for such a dramatic event.

Stay tuned.


UPDATE: Goodsoil is offering two booklets to those gathered for Assembly:

A Place Within My Walls offers devotions for each day of the Assembly. The stories of eleven gay and lesbian clergy and two seminarians are included. The booklet concludes with the names of 83 gay and lesbian pastors who are introducing themselves to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Ministry Rooted in Gospel tells the stories of some of the congregations and ministries in which these pastors serve.

The Chicago Sun-Times report on this can be found here.

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