Author Topic: ELCA Considering New Procedures for Congregations Considering Leaving the ELCA  (Read 30594 times)

ptmccain

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This came up in the topic on congregations that are voting to leave, but it seem this is a separate topic.

This is what they report to be the new requirements that will be voted on at the ELCA's August 2011 Churchwide Assembly.

The proposed changes — all of which make the process more difficult for congregations — include the following:

A congregation must hold a 30-day consultation period with its bishop before taking a first vote to leave the ELCA, in addition to the current 90-day consultation after a congregation’s first vote.

The synod bishop is given authority to determine how the consultation will be conducted “in consultation with” the congregation’s council.

The bishop will be able to appoint “designees” with whom the congregation will be required to consult.

The bishop or his/her designee must be granted the opportunity to speak at special congregational meetings regarding ending ELCA affiliation.

A congregation will be required to vote by a two-thirds majority to join a new Lutheran church body, or else it will be “conclusively presumed” to have become an independent Lutheran congregation, potentially forfeiting its property.

Congregations will be required to meet any financial obligations to the ELCA before leaving.

Congregations must wait at least six months before taking another first vote if the original first vote does not achieve the required two-thirds majority.

Congregations must wait at least six months and restart the process if their second vote does not achieve the required two-thirds majority.

Congregations which fail to follow the specified process must obtain synod council approval in order to leave the ELCA.

My observation: They strike me as quite Draconian. And, I'm speculating, but perhaps this proposal will serve to accelerate the number of congregations leaving the ELCA. Another thought: in spite of what appears to me a somewhat "it's nothing" attitude when the numbers of ELCA congregations leaving or associating with other groups as these things are reported from the ELCA PR office, it seems that in fact there is great angst at the national level over the growing exodus out of the ELCA. Proposing such stringent measures indicates the level of concern. I can see these proposals actually having the opposite effect of what might be intended. I suspect that between now and next August the ranks of the NALC are going to grow beyond what anyone in the NALC, or the ELCA, may have anticipated.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2010, 10:04:10 AM by ptmccain »

Cathy Ammlung

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What's really "nothing" is the fate of individual members, Pastor McCain. They can simply leave, leave leave - as long as the "franchise" remains in the hands of the ELCA, with all its assets and monies. That way the ELCA can boast how few congregations have succeeded in leaving. The fact that this will encourage individual members to bolt, rather than put their congregation through a draconian process, is of little interest to some, evidently.

Had the Church Council simply tightened up the rules for leaving, by stating, "if the 2nd vote fails, the congregation must wait 6 months before beginning the process all over; and all steps (including 90 days between new first and new second vote) must be observed," very few people would quarrel with that.

Now, the cynic in me thinks that they are over-stating their case now so that when it's modified slightly to remove whatever 2011 CWA voters might find most egregious, they'll STILL have 90% of what they're proposing....

Also, as I have been reminded, no matter how this is presented to CWA - even as a recommendation/memorial from the Church Council - it is a modification of the ELCA constitution, and even if it's approved at this upcoming assembly, it would have to be be RATIFIED - what - at the 2013 assembly - coincidentally the one at which the election for PB occurs... Still, it's a mess - talk about legalism.... We might as well admit, this is gonna look like roadkill before it's all over.

Cathy Ammlung

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I also tend to think that LCMC will be a primary beneficiary, even more than NACL - and God knows, I can understand why.

Er, make that NALC - although being "the salt of the earth", at least in print, isn't a bad thing....! ;D

Scott6

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Also, as I have been reminded, no matter how this is presented to CWA - even as a recommendation/memorial from the Church Council - it is a modification of the ELCA constitution, and even if it's approved at this upcoming assembly, it would have to be be RATIFIED - what - at the 2013 assembly - coincidentally the one at which the election for PB occurs... Still, it's a mess - talk about legalism.... We might as well admit, this is gonna look like roadkill before it's all over.

Does the CWA ratify constitutional changes alone or do the congregations play a part as well?  In the LCMS, a change to the synodical constitution requires ratification by the congregations and not just the convention.

Evangel

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Also, as I have been reminded, no matter how this is presented to CWA - even as a recommendation/memorial from the Church Council - it is a modification of the ELCA constitution, and even if it's approved at this upcoming assembly, it would have to be be RATIFIED - what - at the 2013 assembly - coincidentally the one at which the election for PB occurs... Still, it's a mess - talk about legalism.... We might as well admit, this is gonna look like roadkill before it's all over.

Does the CWA ratify constitutional changes alone or do the congregations play a part as well?  In the LCMS, a change to the synodical constitution requires ratification by the congregations and not just the convention.

Congregations have no vote in the ratification process in the ELCA (they very much do in LCMC, and I believe in NALC).  They can pass memorials that they would send on to synod - but this carries no meaningful weight.
Mark Schimmel, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church, LCMC
Priddy, TX
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ACXXIII, "Your majesty will graciously take into account the fact that, in these last times of which the Scriptures prophesy, the world is growing worse and men are becoming weaker and more infirm."

Cathy Ammlung

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Does the CWA ratify constitutional changes alone or do the congregations play a part as well?  In the LCMS, a change to the synodical constitution requires ratification by the congregations and not just the convention.

Well, as I understand it - and frankly, folks like James Gale and (for a different perspective) Charles Austin probably understand the technicalities far better than do I - no, all votes taken at CWA are "official ELCA polity." Now, synodical constitutions must also be brought into line - I'm not sure if that is a 2-vote ratification process or if it's just a "we have to be in conformity with the ELCA model constitution and here are the changes." Individual congregations technically don't have to immediately incorporate the changes, but as soon as they modify their own constitutions, they are obligated to do so. However, the current ELCA secretary does seem to imply that when congregational constitutions conflict with the ELCA's, the latter takes precedent....

At least that's how I have been given to understand all this. AS I said, their are others who can speak more cogently to the ins and outs of the overall process, its limitations, and the implications therein.

Cathy Ammlung

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OOOOH, I see I've posted enough to finally get a second gold star!!! :D

James_Gale

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Also, as I have been reminded, no matter how this is presented to CWA - even as a recommendation/memorial from the Church Council - it is a modification of the ELCA constitution, and even if it's approved at this upcoming assembly, it would have to be be RATIFIED - what - at the 2013 assembly - coincidentally the one at which the election for PB occurs... Still, it's a mess - talk about legalism.... We might as well admit, this is gonna look like roadkill before it's all over.

Does the CWA ratify constitutional changes alone or do the congregations play a part as well?  In the LCMS, a change to the synodical constitution requires ratification by the congregations and not just the convention.

Pr. Cathy got it a bit wrong.  The ELCA church council may propose constitutional amendments.  So long as the church council publishes its proposals at least six months in advance of a CWA, that CWA may adopt the amendments by a two-thirds vote.  (Look at Chapter 22 of the ELCA constitution if you want to read the governing provision.)  No further action is needed.  Congregations play no role.

Now, that does not mean that the new termination process will be binding on all congregations.  Each congregation will be bound by whatever termination process is set out in its own constitution.  As a separate corporation, a congregation holds all authority not expressly assigned upstream to a synod or the ELCA.  And the model constitution for congregations does not assign upstream the power to impose a new termination process. 

For what it's worth, I'd bet a steak dinner at the best restaurant in Charlottesville that Secretary Swartling issues an opinion arguing that the new rules will apply immediately to all congregations.  But in a court, any such argument would be very difficult to sustain.

Scott6

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For what it's worth, I'd bet a steak dinner at the best restaurant in Charlottesville that Secretary Swartling issues an opinion arguing that the new rules will apply immediately to all congregations.  But in a court, any such argument would be very difficult to sustain.

Has he made such moves before?  Cathy alluded to it as well -- is there a link to a place where he does this?

James_Gale

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For what it's worth, I'd bet a steak dinner at the best restaurant in Charlottesville that Secretary Swartling issues an opinion arguing that the new rules will apply immediately to all congregations.  But in a court, any such argument would be very difficult to sustain.

Has he made such moves before?  Cathy alluded to it as well -- is there a link to a place where he does this?

I don't know of a link or a document.  I am aware of instances in which the argument has been made by synod bishops to congregations.  Synod bishops seem to consider themselves obligated to look to the secretary to dictate procedure.  All of this is admittedly circumstantial.   And I may be proved wrong.  However, one way or another, the secretary will have to take a position.  As the proposed amendments are debated, some certainly will ask the secretary to explain when and how the new process would apply.  At some point soon, we'll know the outcome of my hypothetical bet.

One more point.  Synods have circulated documents that describe the process for leaving as set out in the ELCA constitution and the model constitution for congregations.  Here is an example.  None such document that I've seen makes clear that a congregation's documents govern and that the standard process therefore does not apply to congregations that have not adopted it.  On the contrary, the documents simply assume that the usual practice applies to all.

 
« Last Edit: November 24, 2010, 11:42:52 AM by James_Gale »

Pilgrim

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Tim posits: Just idle speculation, but Swartling's predeccessor did his job for years and years and rarely, if ever caused a ripple across the church. Swartling seems to have assumed (or been put into) an almost "attack dog" role in the current leadership cadre, and it's all constitutional legalisms. That certainly sends, at the very least, a very convoluted "mixed message" in light of the "gospel (sans law)" message that comes forth from other precincts of the leadership. Is this merely coincidence, is it being carefully orchestrated, is this a strategy formulated recently or have these conversations occurred since CWA 09, is it merely short-term thinking without reflecting on long-term ramifications, is it the old "good cop-bad cop" ploy, etc. etc. would seem to be honest questions. It is certainly interesting in terms of the timing.
For what it's worth, I'd bet a steak dinner at the best restaurant in Charlottesville that Secretary Swartling issues an opinion arguing that the new rules will apply immediately to all congregations.  But in a court, any such argument would be very difficult to sustain.

Has he made such moves before?  Cathy alluded to it as well -- is there a link to a place where he does this?

I don't know of a link or a document.  I am aware of instances in which the argument has been made by synod bishops to congregations.  Synod bishops seem to consider themselves obligated to look to the secretary to dictate procedure.  All of this is admittedly circumstantial.   And I may be proved wrong.  However, one way or another, the secretary will have to take a position.  As the proposed amendments are debated, some certainly will ask the secretary to explain when and how the new process would apply.  At some point soon, we'll know the outcome of my hypothetical bet.
Pr. Tim Christ, STS

A Catholic Lutheran

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If this discussion is at all accurate, I find myself put in a bit of a quandry...  I have always said that I would not instigate my congregation's discussion to withdraw from the ELCA, were that to happen.  But if these proposed measures are accurately reported, I would have to suggest to my congregation that we begin such a withdrawal before such measures become implimented.

The reason?  A binding of conscience which would be in conflict with my conscience which is already bound (and freed) to and by the Gospel.  Such a tightening of concept of "membership," vis-a-vis the prohibition around severing such membership, impinges upon the ability to have a conscience bound to the Word of God as opposed to the denomination.

Charles and others will doubtless disagree with my assesment (I can almost hear the "Codswallop" right now...) and judge me as "reactionary" or at least "over-reacting."  But my oppinion is that these measures come close to trumping the First Commandment: To fear, love, and trust God above all other things.

Yes, we must have common rules and discipline.  But the purpose of such rules is to enable us to abide by the First Commandment, not to take away or inhibit our common life.

Pax Christi;
Pr. Jerry Kliner, STS

Cathy Ammlung

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Richard Mathieson was an observer at the meeting at which these changes were proposed. He has written an interesting and cogent analysis and attached side-by-side comparison of old and new rules, plus some "behind the scenes" discussion that was illuminating. I'll ask for permission to post his entire piece; but one thing he did say was that a major concern was for accurate and timely information being shared between congregational leadership and members, (hence the requirement to inform the synod prior to a first vote: so that "both sides of the argument" can be accurately presented to members before they vote) and between congregations and synodical leadership, especially after a second vote (evidently, although there's a 10-day notification period after the 1st vote, there's currently no such deadline after a second vote).

Dadoo

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Tim,
Almen was an ordained pastor, a significant player in the formation process of the ELCA, and a bit of an official historian of our church. Startling is and was a lawyer. One would expect a bit of a difference in approach.

The changes also might have been proposed because there have been a lot of votes in the past year and the original process has now had a chance to reveal it's oddities. One should probably not assume that the council would propose a process that would skew the matter more towards the congregations. From their perspective, the national church does not get enough input into the congregational leaving process. Is it any wonder then that they strengthen the involvement of the bishop. They seem to truly believe, and they might be right, that the storm is survivable and that making it more difficult for congregations to leave will lessen the likelihood that they will. I do not think they believe, as Cathy does, that there will be a mass exodus of people because of it or maybe they believe, maybe rightly, who knows, that the losses can be made up in the future when in an atmosphere of peace congregation will grow again. Time will prove them fools . . . Or wise. No telling.


Tim posits: Just idle speculation, but Swartling's predeccessor did his job for years and years and rarely, if ever caused a ripple across the church. Swartling seems to have assumed (or been put into) an almost "attack dog" role in the current leadership cadre, and it's all constitutional legalisms. That certainly sends, at the very least, a very convoluted "mixed message" in light of the "gospel (sans law)" message that comes forth from other precincts of the leadership. Is this merely coincidence, is it being carefully orchestrated, is this a strategy formulated recently or have these conversations occurred since CWA 09, is it merely short-term thinking without reflecting on long-term ramifications, is it the old "good cop-bad cop" ploy, etc. etc. would seem to be honest questions. It is certainly interesting in terms of the timing.
For what it's worth, I'd bet a steak dinner at the best restaurant in Charlottesville that Secretary Swartling issues an opinion arguing that the new rules will apply immediately to all congregations.  But in a court, any such argument would be very difficult to sustain.

Has he made such moves before?  Cathy alluded to it as well -- is there a link to a place where he does this?

I don't know of a link or a document.  I am aware of instances in which the argument has been made by synod bishops to congregations.  Synod bishops seem to consider themselves obligated to look to the secretary to dictate procedure.  All of this is admittedly circumstantial.   And I may be proved wrong.  However, one way or another, the secretary will have to take a position.  As the proposed amendments are debated, some certainly will ask the secretary to explain when and how the new process would apply.  At some point soon, we'll know the outcome of my hypothetical bet.
Peter Kruse

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Mike Bennett

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Tim posits: Just idle speculation, but Swartling's predeccessor did his job for years and years and rarely, if ever caused a ripple across the church. Swartling seems to have assumed (or been put into) an almost "attack dog" role in the current leadership cadre, and it's all constitutional legalisms. That certainly sends, at the very least, a very convoluted "mixed message" in light of the "gospel (sans law)" message that comes forth from other precincts of the leadership. Is this merely coincidence, is it being carefully orchestrated, is this a strategy formulated recently or have these conversations occurred since CWA 09, is it merely short-term thinking without reflecting on long-term ramifications, is it the old "good cop-bad cop" ploy, etc. etc. would seem to be honest questions. It is certainly interesting in terms of the timing.


For what it's worth, a set of facts and a set of first hand observations:

1. Two plain facts, of which each reader can make what (s)he finds reasonable:  (a) Secretary Ahlmen's education and prior experience were as a pastor; (b) Secretary Swartling's education and prior experience were as an attorney, with a specialty in litigation.  (This was well known by Voting Members at the 2007 CWA where Sec. Swartling was elected to replace the retiring Sec. Ahlman).

2.  An observation which I promise is trustworthy, but each reader can also make of it what (s)he finds reasonable:  At the 2007 CWA where Sec. Swartling was elected, I was a volunteer for the entire week, as a microphone page, so I was on the assembly floor 100% of the time.  (I live in suburban Chicago and have very odd taste in vacations).  I was interested in the Secretary election and paid close attention to it, as it seems like an important position.  In the ELCA the Secreatry (and many other positions) are filled by "modified ecclesiastical ballot," which means among other things that

a. The first ballot is a nominating ballot - i.e. any voting member can write any name (s)he wishes on the ballot, subject only to the person being qualified according to the rules for filling the position.
b. Subsequent ballots proceed according to a specific set of rules governing how many candidates are removed on each round (this is a sisnificant part of the "modified" terminology).
c. When a certain number of candidates remain (5 if memory serves) each candidate addresses the assembly for the first time.
d. After those speeches I believe 2/3 of the votes are required to elect a candidate, else the number of candidates is again reduced according to a fixed rule.
e. etc.

As the balloting proceded, Mr. Swartling was among the leaders but was not the leading vote getter.  Then came step c. above.  Mr. Swartling's speech was very well received by the voting members, and some other speeches not se well received, as evidenced by the results of the subsequent ballot, on which Mr. Swartling's vote increased sharply, and the previous front-runner's votes decreased sharply.

How Mr. Swartling came to be a candidate I can't say.  What backing he might have had from the "churchwide office establishment" I can't say.  How the Secretary's role in the years since 2007 might have been foreseen by folks more insightful than I, I can't say.  But what I can say from first hand observation is that he presented himself well as a candidate, and won the votes of ~1,000 voting members in open assembly.  I can also report based on both his speech and a brief one-on-one chat in the corridor, that Secretary Swartling has a likeable personal presence, which is always helpful in politics (church as well as civil).

Mike Bennett
« Last Edit: November 24, 2010, 11:56:49 AM by Mike Bennett »
“What peace can there be, so long as the many whoredoms and sorceries of your mother Jezebel continue?”  2 Kings 9:22