Freed in Christ to Serve

Churchwide Assembly Blog

2011 Theme: Freed in Christ to Serve

Victorious Videographers

Posted on August 22, 2009 by admin

On Saturday afternoon, the winners of the 2009 ELCA Video Contest were announced:

Individual Winner: Eric Mennel

Congregational Winner: Prince of Peace, La Crescent, MN

The contest began on June 15, inviting ELCA individuals and congregations to explore and illustrate the ELCA tagline, “God’s Work. Our Hands.” through their own experiences. 224 videos were submitted for the contest, and you can view them all online at The contest took place in two stages: in the first, all viewers were invited to rate the submissions, split into individual and congregational entries; in the second, a select panel of four judges chose one winner in each category from the top choices of the online community.



Saturday Morning Roundup

Posted on August 22, 2009 by

Instead of cartoons, Saturday morning at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly abounded with greetings from several organizations.  Take a look at the Cliff’s Notes version below, or watch/download the videos.

John Nunes, President and CEO of Lutheran World Relief, began the morning with a Bible study focused around the power of water, both in the work of the LWR and in the Bible.

Nancy Arnison, Director for the Hunger Program, and Pastor Daniel Rift, Director for the World Hunger Appeal, reported a record-setting $22 million given to their organizations and showed the impact of the ELCA’s involvement in Zimbabwe.  Cindy Johnson, who coordinated the volunteer effort that offered assistance after the 2008 floods in southeastern Minnesota, was also recognized.

DeffenbaughRalston Deffenbaugh, President of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, discussed the importance of caring for immigrants and refugees by welcoming those who are strangers.  He expressed gratitude for the assembly’s overwhelming passage of the comprehensive immigration reform on Wednesday.

The President of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Rev. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, spoke to the assembly on the topics of division within the church and God’s mercy; his address can be found on the LCMS website.

After, Bishop Hanson responded:

Reverend Kieschnick, in the same spirit of humility and clarity in which you addressed us,  I want you to hear, in my humble voice, my deep commitment that the shared confessions that hold us together as Lutherans I hope and pray will be strong enough for us to continue to be in conversation, and that the cries of the world that we have heeded together, in spite of these difficult times of acknowledging our differences, the cries of the world that have called us to join together as Lutheran Services in America, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran World Response, Lutheran Disaster Response, and military chaplains, that even as we take and hear your honest voices about our actions, you hear our honest commitment to be in conversation and together responding as your board of directors did this week in response to LMI [Lutheran Malaria Initiative], so that with Lutheran voice and humility and capacity, we might proclaim Christ through our deeds of service. Bring my commitment to your church.

NokoDr. Ishmael Noko, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, who spoke on the unity of faith shared by Lutherans around the world–and on the need for unity in the ELCA: “The church is a body of Christ, a creature of the gospel, and, therefore, not ours to dismember.”  Noko continued:  “If I were to go to heaven tonight, and God gives me an audience for six minutes, I may have a chance to gossip about those people called Lutherans in the ELCA…I would say, ‘God, those people love their church…God, those people are very generous…God, those people are fantastic in volunteerism…God, send the Holy Spirit to keep them together.’ You stay together.”

Bishop Hanson Speaks after Ministry Policies Vote

Posted on August 21, 2009 by

After the ministry policies vote on Friday evening, Bishop Hanson spoke to the gathered attendees of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly:

HansonI want more time to think about words from one you have called to serve as pastor of this church. I have been standing here thinking about my 23 years as a parish pastor and how differently I would go into a context if I was gathering with a family or a group of people that had just experienced loss, or perhaps were wondering if they still belonged, or in fact felt deeply that ones to whom they belong had been severed from them. That would be a very different pastoral conversation. And I would probably turn to words such as Romans 8:

Click “Continue Reading” for the full text of Bishop Hanson’s message.

Vote on Ministry Policies

Posted on August 21, 2009 by

On Friday morning and afternoon, the 2009 Churchwide Assembly deliberated prayerfully for several hours over the proposed ministry policies resolutions relating to the previously passed social statement on human sexuality.  The full records of the plenary session are listed on the ELCA’s 2009 Churchwide Assembly Web site, and a brief, generalized summary is listed below:

  • Resolution 1 [passed, 771-230, with amendment] is a statement of intention for members of the church to “bear one another’s burdens” in the implementation of the ministry policies resolutions.
  • Resolution 2 [passed, 619-402] states that the ELCA will commit to allowing congregations that choose to do so to recognize same-gender unions.
  • Resolution 3 [passed, 559-451] accepts those in same-gender unions to serve as rostered leaders in the ELCA.
  • Resolution 4 [passed, 667-307, with amendment] defines specific issues of church policy regarding rostered leaders in same-gender unions.

Humility in Action

Posted on August 21, 2009 by

Debate may abound on the floor of the plenary hall, but attendees of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly still come together in worship each morning as one body.  In reflection of that unity in Christ, the attendees are offered the opportunity to act out Christian humility by washing one another’s feet.

This demonstration is made possible by the ELCA Deaconess Community, one of the four areas of rostered leadership in the ELCA.  “This is a symbol of the ministry we offer,” said Sister Anne Keffer of the ELCA Deaconess Community.  “It’s powerful.  Kneeling before someone and washing their feet is body.  It is diakonia.  That is our ministry.”

Learn more about the ELCA Deaconess Community, which recently celebrated its 125th anniversary.

Redefining Relationships

Posted on August 20, 2009 by

ELCA and UMC Bishops

This afternoon, the 2009 Churchwide Assembly passed a resolution approving full communion sharing between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The United Methodist Church(See the voting results.) Many are wondering about full communion and any theological differences between the ELCA and UMC.

A full communion agreement suggests the following characteristics:

  • a common confessing of the Christian faith;
  • a mutual recognition of Baptism and a sharing of the Lord’s Supper, allowing for joint worship and an exchangeability of members;
  • a mutual recognition and availability of ordained ministers to the service of all members of churches in full communion, subject only but always to the disciplinary regulations of other churches;
  • a common commitment to evangelism, witness, and service;
  • a means of common decision making on critical common issues of faith and life;
  • a mutual lifting of any condemnations that exist between churches

A recent news release by the United Methodist News Service describes it this way:

In essence, full communion means that each church acknowledges the other as a partner in the Christian faith, recognizes the authenticity of each other’s baptism and Eucharist, observes the validity of their respective ministries and is committed to working together toward greater unity.

The definition of full communion found in Paragraph 2401.2 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline says such a relationship “does not mean there are no differences or distinctions between the churches, but does mean that these differences are not church dividing.”

Theological discussions have been taking place for decades between Lutherans and United Methodists.  “This moment was built on many other moments and hours, prayers and effort over 30 years,” said UMC Rev. Betty Gamble.  A more complete explanation of the ELCA/UMC agreement, including perspectives on Baptism, Communion, ordained ministry, doctrines of justification, sanctification, and perfection, can be found on the ELCA’s Bilateral Conversations page, particularly this .PDF file: ELCA-UMC Frequently Asked Questions.

Assembly Online

Posted on August 20, 2009 by

There are a lot of ways to keep track of the events of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly online.  If you’ve been to the ELCA’s Assembly Multimedia page, you may find more options than you bargained for!  Here’s a quick walkthrough:

Assembly Video offers video highlights of the assembly, live video of the plenary sessions as they happen, and archives of past plenary sessions.

Photo Gallery shows the official ELCA online photo album. Additionally, any viewer can upload their own churchwide assembly images  to the “Your Photos” section.

Assembly Audio allows you to listen to both past and current plenary sessions, much like Assembly Video.

Assembly Blog takes you here! (Did you learn about the blog from the Multimedia page or from elsewhere? Leave a reply in the Comments section below!)

Tweet with us! displays the ELCA’s Twitter entries.  (Want to learn more about Twitter?) If you use Twitter, include “#CWA09” with your words to add your tweets to the pool being watched by others using Twitter.

ELCA Facebook lets you join the brief discussions taking place on the ELCA’s Facebook page.  (Don’t have a Facebook account? Creating one is fast and free!)

ELCA News Feed is a quick path to the ELCA News Service‘s press releases on the events of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  You can also subscribe to receive the news releases by email.

LutherLink is an online forum dedicated to ELCA members and leaders.  You can join discussion groups, participate in sermon text study, discuss ministry concerns, and much more.

Have you used any of these resources and want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment below, and participate in the CWA09 poll to the right!

Social Statement Plenary

Posted on August 19, 2009 by

The 2009 Churchwide Assembly voted early this evening on the social statement on human sexuality, and the statement passed 676-338.  The document required a 2/3 supermajority for passage; the astute mathematicians among you may note that the above numbers represent a precise 2/3 vote, with 31 votes not cast.  All voting results are available on the assembly’s page of voting actions.

The proposed ministry policies recommendation, a thematically related document, will be discussed on Thursday and Friday mornings, and a vote will be taken on Friday afternoon.  The 2009 Churchwide Assembly schedule is updated frequently and available online.  You can also watch the assembly live.

Feel free to offer your thoughts below (respectfully) by commenting!

The time is near…

Posted on August 19, 2009 by

…for the vote on the proposed social statement on human sexuality.  To see the discussion taking place at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, please visit the ELCA’s live video page.

If you’re not at the assembly and would like to contribute your thoughts, please visit Luther Link, an online forum for ELCA leaders and members to discuss a broad spectrum of issues.  Luther Link’s human sexuality-specific discussion can be found at

Churchwide Assembly Weathers a Storm

Posted on August 19, 2009 by

As of 2:30 this afternoon, the Churchwide Assembly was notified of severe weather threatening the Minneapolis area.  As a safety precaution, all staff outside the hall of the afternoon’s plenary session have moved into the worship hall.  Those interested can watch this Star Tribune article for more information.

In the Minneapolis Convention Center, the large halls in which worship and plenary sessions are held are interior, windowless rooms; the weather is unlikely to impede the progress of the assembly’s afternoon work.

According to

Minneapolis and St. Paul, like much of the USA, are at risk from tornadoes. Southern Minnesota, including the Twin Citieas metro area, is regarded to be in Tornado Alley, and the Twin Cities are among the top 15 US cities most likely to be struck by a tornado.

A tornado rated F-1 also struck western Minneapolis last Saturday, August 8.

Update: As of 3:15, the tornado warning has been lifted.  The voting members and observers in the plenary session continued their discussion without incident.

Update: Presiding Bishop Hanson announced that a tornado actually touched down on the Convention Center, resulting in (relatively) minor damage to the Center.  Nearby Central Lutheran Church sustained substantial damage to its steeple.  No related injuries have been reported as of 4:30 pm.Central Lutheran Church's steeple