Author Topic: ELCA Considering New Procedures for Congregations Considering Leaving the ELCA  (Read 31827 times)

ptmccain

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I wonder why these changes are being proposed now instead of five years ago?

Glenn Ryder

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I wonder why these changes are being proposed now instead of five years ago?


Pastor Paul-
I rather suspect that 5 years ago the number of congregations leaving was a small number, with probably little or no financial consequences. Now the numbers start to get a bit larger and the financial impact starts to hurt....huh?



Glenn

Brian Stoffregen

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I wonder why these changes are being proposed now instead of five years ago?


Pastor Paul-
I rather suspect that 5 years ago the number of congregations leaving was a small number, with probably little or no financial consequences. Now the numbers start to get a bit larger and the financial impact starts to hurt....huh?

Once a process moves out of theory (as it was when created for the model constitution) and into actual practice, short-comings of the theory can be seen and corrected.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

ptmccain

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So there were no congregations leaving until recently?

Brian Stoffregen

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So there were no congregations leaving until recently?

Not too many -- and few who misused the rules.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

ptmccain

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I suspect a good many people are going to regard this as changing the rules in the middle of the game and a fairly transparent move to clamp down on those whose consciences are bound to dissent and leave. It will be interesting to see if this changing if the rules accelerates departures from the ELCA.


Coach-Rev

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So there were no congregations leaving until recently?

Not too many -- and few who misused the rules.

Come on, Brian, that is disingenuous at best.  Yes, there have been the occasional rebel congregation that left doing things somewhat shady, but by and large, the VAST majority have followed their constitution and the procedures outlined there to the letter, to the best of their ability.

Charles_Austin

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I believe I was told that about 12-25 congregations left the ELCA almost every year of its existence.
Nothing is proposed that will prevent people from following their consciences and leaving the ELCA.
What ptmccain "suspects," that this is "changing the rules in the middle of the game and a fairly transparent move to clamp down on those whose consciences are bound to dissent and leave" reveals yet another misuse of the language.
Our on-going discussion is how to accommodate those whose "bound consciences" object to the August decisions and yet want to stay in the ELCA. The phrase only applies to those who dissent from the August decisions on the social statement.
How in the name of Aunt Sadie's goat would a church body "clamp down" on someone whose conscience said they should leave?

J. Thomas Shelley

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I suspect a good many people are going to regard this as changing the rules in the middle of the game and a fairly transparent move to clamp down on those whose consciences are bound to dissent and leave. It will be interesting to see if this changing if the rules accelerates departures from the ELCA.


It was in anticipation of precisely this type of maneuvering that back in July my Congregation Council asked to intiate the process of leaving the ELCA.

I have been closely following the realignement of North American Anglicanism for many years and the horrendous legal battles between TEC Dioceses and their departing congregations.  The polity and nomenclature differ but the strategy of oppression is the same.
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Revbert

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As an outsider, but one who was in the ELCA, it seems to me that a congregation could--at least in theory--have a single vote to affiliate with ANY Lutheran body outside the ELCA and wait for the bishop to oust them from the ELCA roster.

Of course, the bishop could be really mean and simply take away the congregation's right to vote in synod assemblies and serve on synod committees, then not "approve" the congregation's dual rostering, and/or tell the pastor "resign or be kicked off the roster."

Much ado about nothing, but at the same time, I have to agree with Pastor McCain in this does seem to be a little bit more than just "tweaking" the rules which have been in place for some 20 years and used by (as Pastor Austin claims) by 12-25 congregations each year along the way.

Obviously, there are no more important issues out there to address in the ELCA. I pray for you all.

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The new sub-section (g) is at first glance perplexing.  It states that "congregations seeking to terminate their relationship with this church which fail or refuse to comply with each of the foregoing provisions in 9.62., shall be required to receive Synod Council approval before terminating their membership in this church."  What does that mean?  Is this an acknowledgement that not all congregations are obligated under their congregational governing documents to follow the general rules?  After all, if the ELCA could impose a new rule on all congregations, there would be no need for this sub-section.  All congregations would be required to comply.  Period.  On the other hand, if the ELCA can't impose a process on congregations, this new sub-section could only apply to those congregations adding it to their congregational constitutions.  In other words, the sub-section would apply only to congregations that have added all the new rules to their congregational governing documents.  As to them, the sub-section would be redundant.  So what purpose does this serve?  

In the short term, I think that the answer is "none."  But this sub-section has the potential to be a very dangerous trojan horse.  Once a congregation has added it, that congregation would never be permitted to delete it.  And going forward, the ELCA could amend Section 9.62, thereby unilaterally imposing new limitations on the ability to leave the ELCA.  These new limitations could even put a congregation's property at risk.  Congregations therefore should understand that if they add this sub-section to their constitutions, the ELCA will gain enormous new power over them -- power that congregations will be legally unable to resist.  The ultimate power regarding whether a congregation leaves will pass from congregations to the ELCA and its synods.  

In short, while some parts of the proposal might be helpful, it is on balance, a turkey.  And not one for which to give thanks.  Indeed, sub-section (g) is downright toxic.  

Just so I understand you, are you saying that if a congregation agrees to include subsection (g) into their constitution, they are essentially nullifying whatever process for leaving the ELCA might currently be enshrined in their constitutions if it does not conform to the latest revision of the ELCA's constitution in section 9.62?

That is, for example, if these proposals pass the next CWA and if a congregation's constitution does not include those new proposals but DOES include subsection (g), they can follow their own procedures, but at the end, they still have not officially left unless and until the synod council approves, essentially placing all ELCA congregations in the current situation of former LCA congregations if their constitution does not reflect the most recent revision of the ELCA constitution?

Let me give a bit more detail.

If a congregation adds sub-section (g) to its own governing documents, it will by definition be required to add the other parts of the revised process.  Thus, in the short term, sub-section (g) will have no meaningful effect on congregations that have included it in their governing documents.  Their congregational governing documents will include in every detail the process set out in the ELCA constitution.  The potential mischief would come in the future.  If the ELCA enacts future changes to Section 9.62, sub-section (g) would effectively incorporate those future changes into the congregation's constitution even if the congregation never expressly adopts them.

Steven Tibbetts

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This subject is being discussed in "The thread for info on churches voting to leave the ELCA & all follow-up.  Here's a couple of relevant items I posted over there before seeing this thread:

At the beginning of the ELCA, congregations were mandated to bring their constitutions in line with the model constitution, not in every single paragraph, but in certain things which assemblies had determined were required for ELCA congregations.

Charles, never was the word "mandate" or "require" used.  "Encouraged" or "recommended" were frequently used, and I've even seen "urged" -- which is the strongest word possible for any congregation that existed Dec. 31, 1987 -- a few times in the last half-dozen years.  But there was no "mandate," nor was one asserted, from the ELCA.

Someone will want to check the year, but my recollection was that only in 2005 did the CWA approve the provision that, henceforth, any time a congregation amended any portion of its constitution, that it must conform to the model to be approved, and from then on any amendments to the required sections of the Model would be automatically amend the congregation's constitution.  But the wording can only apply to those congregational constitutions that have been amended since that particular CWA.  

There are a lot of us with pre-2005 Constitutions.  One congregation in my Conference is still operating on a Constitution that hasn't been amended since the early years of the first (1930) American Lutheran Church.  Clearly Mr. Swartling and Synods are going to assert "mandate" language, or that remaining in the ELCA means we have "consented" to the ELCA's amendments to the Model.  However, until a judge with jurisdiction says so, 'taint so.



and...


The contents of this link are supposed to be what was given to the ELCA Church Council.  I describe it this way because 1) the format is not typical for ELCA documents and 2) the language was clearly not vetted by a parliamentarian -- it is really sloppy in certain places.  (I was going to write "clearly not vetted by an attorney," but I'm caught between accepting that something like this was presented to the Church Council without the Secretary's review on one hand and his reputation as an attorney on the other.)

Most of the amendments appear to me to be the result of a new awareness of imprecision in the existing language.  That is, synods have in the last year-and-a-half have gained a lot of experience in applying long-standing rules and realized some things that were not spelled out as clearly as they need to be. 

The big deals in this proposal seem to be the requirement of notice and consultation before the first vote, making clear that any failed votes start the process over (with a minimum 6-month "cooling-off" period), and the application to everyone of standards of property ownership that are more stringent on a departing congregation than were the LCA's standards.

Meanwhile, the proposed paragraph g.

Quote
Congregations seeking to terminate their relationship with this church which fail or refuse to comply with each of the foregoing provisions in 9.62., shall be required to receive Synod Council approval before terminating their membership in this church.

strikes me as a perfect illustration of the old Perry Mason objection, "incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial."

As I've been saying for nearly two years, this is all terribly and sadly ironic given what our church says on the topic of trust.

kyrie eleison, spt+


On further thought, the proposed paragraph g. seems to grant a Synod Council authority to permit the departure of a congregation from the ELCA on the say-so of anyone who purports to speak on behalf of the congregation!

spt+
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James_Gale

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If a congregation adds this language to its constitution, all future changes by the ELCA to section 9.62 of its constitution will effectively be incorporated by reference into the the congregation's constitutions without express congregational approval of those changes.  Thus, in my view, sub-section (g) is potentially very dangerous.

Except that it is already the case that amendments approved by the CWA to the required provisions in Model, of which 9.62 is one of many, are automatically incorporated in the constitutions of congregations that have been approved since a required provision saying so (your "Trojan Horse") has already been added to the Model, in (my recollection is) 2005.

How about this: this provision seems to grant a Synod Council authority to permit a congregation to leave the ELCA (intact and with its property) even though the congregation is unable or unwilling to get the required votes in a proper manner!

But perhaps we move further discussion on this to the thread "ELCA Considering New Procedures for Congregations Considering Leaving the ELCA."

Pax, Steven+

I hadn't thought about your alternative possibility.  Interesting.  And it makes the sub-section all the more odd.

Do you have a cite to the "trojan horse" added in (or about) 2005?  I have the 2009 version of the model constitution and I don't see any such provision.  I certainly may be missing it.  But the provisions regarding "amendments" (chapter 17) don't include it.

I'm aware that synods today won't approve changes to optional provisions in a congregation's constitution unless the congregation brings the constitution into full compliance with the current model.  But that's different than a provision that makes changes to the model automatically applicable to congregations.  That, in effect, is what sub-section (g) would do.  Why?  Because a congregation that added sub-section (g) to its constitution would be agreeing that it is bound by all future additions to section 9.62, whether the congregation approves those or not.  The synod council could let the congregation out of these new requirements (or as you point out, any requirements).  But this would be a matter of discretion for the synod.  And the ELCA could conceivably amend section 9.62 to make it impossible or very costly for congregations to leave.  I'm not saying that the ELCA will do that.  But it could.  And congregations would be powerless to do anything about it.

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James,

A couple of years ago our congregation council ran a disciplinary procedure on a member.  The details as to why are not important (but the behavior justified it, private admonition from pastor, ignored, admonition with three council leaders and pastor, ignored, admonition by entire council, ignored) and then the individual appealed to the synod council.  The synod council, in a two page letter, castigated our leadership for not following the discipline procedure as described in the current model constitution.  They/we had followed the version in ours, a version of the constitutiion approved by the congregation in the early 90's.  We were told all constitution changes at a CWA assembly become the operating documents for every ELCA congregation.

So this has been around for at least the last few years.  These are the sorts of things that make it difficult to make the case for remaining ...

James_Gale

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James,

A couple of years ago our congregation council ran a disciplinary procedure on a member.  The details as to why are not important (but the behavior justified it, private admonition from pastor, ignored, admonition with three council leaders and pastor, ignored, admonition by entire council, ignored) and then the individual appealed to the synod council.  The synod council, in a two page letter, castigated our leadership for not following the discipline procedure as described in the current model constitution.  They/we had followed the version in ours, a version of the constitutiion approved by the congregation in the early 90's.  We were told all constitution changes at a CWA assembly become the operating documents for every ELCA congregation.

So this has been around for at least the last few years.  These are the sorts of things that make it difficult to make the case for remaining ...

I don't doubt that you were told this. Did they give a basis for their position that the changes made at the CWA applied to a congregation that had not incorporated the changes into the congregational constitution?