WordAlone - Assembly considering enlarging churchwide council
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Assembly considering enlarging

—churchwide council

by Betsy Carlson (Editor, WordAlone Network)

August 12, 2005 am

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Betsy Carlson

The ELCA 2005 churchwide assembly began consideration on Thursday of the ELCA Church Council recommendation to have synod assemblies nominate candidates for the council. At present the churchwide assembly nominating committee nominates them.

The assembly approved an amendment to the recommendation proposed by Bishop Peter Rogness, St. Paul Area Synod, to increase the size of the council from 37 to 69 so that all 65 synods would have a council member. The assembly has yet to vote on the amended recommendation.

In other action, the assembly overwhelmingly approved an Interim Eucharist Sharing Agreement with the United Methodist Church on Thursday. The Methodist church had already approved the agreement.

In the discussion one delegate said, "I thought we already had it."

Dr. James Crumley, former bishop of the Lutheran Church in America (one of the predecessor denominations of the ELCA) asked why a full communion agreement was not being proposed at this time. He said there is nothing new about the proposal since Lutherans have had eucharistic hospitality with Methodists for decades. In response to Crumley's question, Bishop Allan Bjornberg, Rocky Mountain Synod and Lutheran chair of the Lutheran-Methodist dialogue, said that in view of the difficulty the ELCA had experienced with another full communion agreement, the dialogue team had decided to propose only an interim agreement. He said the dialogue team wanted everyone else to "discover the riches" that the dialogue team had discovered. The bishop apparently missed the main point of Crumley's question—many have known "the riches" for years.

“This is another indication of how ELCA ecumenism tends to be top-down, bureaucratic and out of touch with the grassroots,” commented WordAlone director Mark Chavez later in the day.

The assembly also discussed the Church Council sexuality recommendations in a “quasi” one-hour committee of the whole. The meeting was called “quasi” meeting of the whole because it was first-come, first-speak at the microphones, not alternating speakers, pro and con as in a regular assembly session or committee of the whole meeting. As the one-hour session ended, there were many speakers in line at the microphones. An attempt to extend the committee of the whole for up to another hour was defeated.

The two-minute speeches delivered by delegates in the session were well delivered. One of pleas from some speakers was that the meaning of the second recommendation concerning the blessing of same-sex relationships be clarified. The council’s second recommendation is ambiguous and subject to interpretations that lead in opposite directions.

The assembly is scheduled to begin the formal consideration of the recommendations today.