Assembly News and Updates
Always Being Made New
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is committed to supporting a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine and took measures to ensure that commitment Aug. 17 during the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly here.
The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, met here Aug. 12-17 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The theme for the assembly was “Always being made new.” This year marks the 25th anniversary of this church.
Voting members considered a series of proposals — known as memorials from the ELCA’s 65 synods — throughout the week. With an 812 to 45 vote, voting members approved a memorial designed to continue this church’s awareness-building, accompaniment and advocacy on behalf of peaceful resolutions in the Middle East.
The action commits this church to learning more about the experiences of both Palestinians and Israelis and their mutual fears, aspirations and hopes; work to convey the concerns and perspectives of Israelis and Palestinians that dispel stereotypes and caricatures and promote better understanding; lift up the voices within both communities, especially those of victims of violence, that seek peace with justice through nonviolent responses to the conflict; continue to help alleviate the humanitarian needs; support U.S. funding that promotes peace and cooperation for all parties; and to continue to pray for brothers and sisters in the Middle East and for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
The action also calls for evaluating possibilities for investing in specific Palestinian economic endeavors and other projects that would promote peace and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians; and to provide a report with recommendations to the April 2014 meeting of the ELCA Church Council.
During the week, voting members received greetings from the Rev. Munib A. Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; Rabbi Steve Gutow, president and CEO, Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and Dr. Tarunjit Singh Butalia, former secretary General, World Sikh Council – American Region.
Prior to the churchwide assembly, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S.
Hanson joined 29 other Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry welcoming his “announcement on July 19 that agreement has been reached ‘that establishes the basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis.’” The leaders said they “are committed to mobilizing broad public support for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership for peace,” offered their prayers for his efforts and said they are prepared “to activate members of synagogues, churches and mosques across the country to support bold American leadership.
Other memorial topics considered at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly include:
+ Addressing community violence. With a 834 to 41 vote, the assembly moved to encourage ELCA members, consistent with their bound consciences, to contact their elected officials and advocate for passage of legislation that promotes universal background checks, prevents gun trafficking and requires the reporting of lost or stolen guns to law enforcement so that violence in our communities might decrease. In its action, voting members also moved to lift up the ELCA social messages on suicide prevention, community violence, and mental health and to call upon congregations and synods to engage their members on ways to prevent suicide.
+ Comprehensive immigration reform. The assembly approved with an 828 to 40 vote to advocate for the adoption of comprehensive immigration reform legislation that supports an earned pathway to lawful permanent residency and eventual citizenship; ensure humane and just enforcement of U.S. immigration laws; protect families from separation; provide resources and protections to integrate of refugees and others; and to ensure the protection of U.S. citizen and migrant workers. The action included a call to ELCA rostered leaders to promote an understanding of welcome; encourage congregations to engage in prayerful, reasoned discussion and education about immigration; call on the ELCA presiding bishop to continue communication with members of U.S. Congress on reform. In a separate but related action, the assembly moved to declare Sunday, June 22, 2104 as “Refugee Sunday.”
+ Communion practices. With a 688 to 193 vote, the assembly requested a process to review the ELCA’s guiding documents on communion practices and to bring a report and possible recommendations to the April 2014 meeting of the ELCA Church Council. Through its action, the assembly also invited congregations, synods and the churchwide organization into conversation and study on the Use of the Means of Grace.
+ Same-gender couples and their families. The assembly approved with an 825 to 68 vote to affirm this church’s commitment to ensuring pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families — a commitment outlined in the ELCA social statement “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.” The commitment recognizes “familial relationship as central to nurturing and sustaining trust and security in human relationships and to advocate for public policies that support and protect families.” The action invites and encourages conversation in this church on changing family configurations and their impact on society and the ministry of this church, and it requests the authorization of a group to explore this and bring a report and possible recommendations to the 2014 fall meeting of the ELCA Conference of Bishops and Church Council regarding next steps in carrying out the commitment to pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families.
With a 787 to 41 vote, the assembly approved six memorials en bloc on topics addressing fossil fuels, hydraulic fracturing, immigration detention, gender identity discrimination, the uniting American families act and the social statement on criminal justice. In a separate action, the assembly approved Aug. 16 the ELCA’s 12 social statement: “The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries.”