Author Topic: Wednesday morning plenary  (Read 6915 times)

Richard Johnson

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Wednesday morning plenary
« on: August 17, 2011, 10:44:15 AM »
Wednesday morning


After singing “O Holy Spirit, Enter In,” the Assembly heard the report of the Secretary, David Swartling. “We in the ELCA have a vibrant future . . . We have been freed in Christ to serve; we have ability and capacity. We can be the church of the Reformation in the 21st century. We are a catalyst, convener, and bridge builder. . . . My odyssey as Secretary has been geographical, climatological, vocational. . . . We are church energized by dialogue and debate . . . We can share without agreeing on everything. That is the unique gift the ELCA brings to the community of faith. . . . Repeat after me: ‘My congregation’s constitution is a missional document.’ . . .
This biennium has been challenging both institutionally and personally . . . Working with synods and congregations considering disaffiliation with this church has been challenging . . . This aspect of my report reflects interdependence and collegiality of many. Let’s take a look at the congregations that have left:
832 first vote; 51 have taken multipe
621 passed first votes, 211 have failed
517 have passed a second vote.

Most affected synods: Southwestern Texas 16%, Western Iowa 13% (8 synods have lost 10% or more); 7 have lost none or one.

54% of departing are from communities of 10,000 or less—10% higher than demographic of remaining congregations. This presents serious questions about long-term viability of many of these departing congregations.

61% have joined LCMC, 31% have joined NALC, the rest (less than 2% each) other bodies. Note some allow multiple memberships.

[Note: he presented several graphs of these statistics, but we couldn’t see them and we don’t have paper copies; maybe that will change.]

Monitoring these has been upsetting, especially when I hear from bishops and others about their work on the ground. Thanks to those bishops and others who have had the responsibility of shepherding these congregations. (Bishops asked to stand, to loud applause.)

Looking at demographics from positive perspective: more than 90% of congregations, members, giving, assets, remain in the ELCA. In 2010, congregations reported over $2 billion in giving, more than $22 billion in assets. ELCA has financial capacity to make a difference in the world. Total amount of bequests to congregations: $94 million; but only 16% of congregations reported receiving bequests.

Showed some archival clips of our history, including 1962 Luther League Convention which featured MLKJr. as keynote speaker.

“Harvey Cox and Mark Hanson are right . . . we continue to be a people of the resurrection, in new ways . . . we are a church of the reformation, faithful yet changing, freed by Christ to serve our neighbors, to do God’s work with these hands.”

Report followed by standing ovation. Comment: Swartling is articulate, engaging, clearly gifted. I imagine this will be the only time this week when the “disaffiliating congregations” are mentioned, and while he didn’t sweep this matter under the rug, he quickly moved on to a more positive assessment of the past two years’ occurrences.

Bp. Hanson welcomed Pr. Martin Junge (the last name, ironically, the close captioning interpreted as “Eugenic”), Gen Sec of LWF. Thanked ELCA for leadership, noting many ELCA leaders have been LWF leaders (Hanson as past president, Jackson-Skelton as LWF treasurer).
LWF has been shaped by diakonia, the need to serve the neighbor. This transforms not only those in need, but those who serve. Diakonia transforms the church. Diakonal focus gives LWF a distinct focus among other confessional global families. It is an integral aspect of our joyful response to the liberating grace of God.

After the singing of “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” it was reported that there are 1,023 registered members present. Two apparently lost in Disneyworld.

First ballot for Church Council distributed. The length of the ballot requires that considerable time be given; so the deadline for turning it in will be 1 p.m.

Chaplain Brig. Gen. Stendahl, an ELCA chaplain, addressed the assembly. A video on military chaplaincy was shown.

Memorials Committee report. Motion is to approve en bloc the recommendations relative to several categories of memorials. Motion approved.

The Assembly then went on to the LIFT-related recommendations from Reference and Council. The first one was an amendment to include “institutions of the church” in the list of expressions of the church called on to be collaborative. Proposal is to refer this to the Church Council (on the grounds that the committee believes this is already provided for adequately in other parts of their report). Not clear whether the effort here is to highlight the role of institutions, or to force them to collaborate. The motion to refer was defeated.

A motion was then made by the proposer of the amendment  (Serena Sellers, SE PA) to insert the language into the LIFT report. Motion to amend carried.

The next proposed amendment asked LIFT recommendations to mention “ministry for mentally and physically handicapable children and adults.” Motion from R&C is to refer to Congregational and Synodical Mission unit. This is an odd debate; the proposed “amendment” is vague and without any specific language. A mother of three deaf children is making an impassioned appeal, as if referring this to C&S is a slap in the face at the “handi-capable.” Further debate demonstrates almost complete misunderstanding about what the motion is, and what it would mean. Mercifully, debate was finally closed, and the motion to refer was approved.

A proposal to “review the extent of political advocacy in which churchwide engages”; R&C moved to refer to church council. Don Lamprecht, proposer of the amendment, tried to withdraw his own amendment, but was ruled out of order. Motion to refer to church council adopted.

A proposal to insert language saying that congregations “be invited to take up to two years to examine the changing religious environment of their communities in order that” (they can begin to develop unique mission plans). R&C recommends that the amendment be declined. The proposer, Paul Lutz, moved the proposal. There was a motion to amend the amendment, which struck some of the language (the part about changing religious environment). You know what they say about legislation and sausage. Another amendment was offered, to strike words “be invited”; motion approved 469-464. Motion on the amendment as amended was defeated by about 3 to 1, thereby rendering moot the last 20 minutes or so of debate and discussion. 

Comment: This whole process just seems odd to me. Insisting that R&C analyze and make recommendations on every proposed amendment is unwieldy and gives that small committee way too much authority; and it confuses the debate in a completely unnecessary way. Bring the dang report to the floor and let people offer amendments if they wish.

LIFT recommendations (except #10, the one about social statements) now before the whole house; motion approved. (This also does not include the various things that require constitutional amendments.)

Constitutional amendments proposed (those coming from LIFT recommendations). Discussion began, but order of the day was called. The assembly went into recess for coffee and worship.

« Last Edit: September 07, 2011, 06:58:36 PM by Richard Johnson »
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

Charles_Austin

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2011, 11:20:24 AM »
I am told by reliable sources that the charts and graphs that Secretary Swartling used in his presention this morning will be online.
They have quite detailed information about ELCA assets, the congregations and demographics of congregations that have left and other matters.
The ELCA pastor's group on Facebook also wants to have them online there.
I'm trying to follow the nitty-gritty rubber-hits-the-road aspect of the LIFT report and am still a bit foggy. The nice, but unspecific, resolutions have been adopted, save for the one on social statements; the constitution amendments actually putting things into place still loom.
It's gonna take a while.
I think this is about the 35th convention/assembly of Lutherans that I have attended, dating back to 1969. Add to that national conventions, general assemblies, etc., of Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Southern Baptist, Presbyterians and United Church of Christ groups, I sometimes thing I have been to too many of these things.
But these ELCA Lutherans are "my people," and I enjoy being among them.
I think a lot of you would, too; but not all of you.

Pilgrim

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2011, 11:32:38 AM »
Charles Austin wrote: But these ELCA Lutherans are "my people," and I enjoy being among them.
I think a lot of you would, too; but not all of you.

Tim notes: Gee, Pastor Austin, which Biblical "spirit" would say that?  :-\
Pr. Tim Christ, STS

Team Hesse

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2011, 11:33:32 AM »

But these ELCA Lutherans are "my people," and I enjoy being among them.
I think a lot of you would, too; but not all of you.

So much for "full inclusion". At least you admit that there are some who would not "feel" comfortable in your group.

Lou

Charles_Austin

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2011, 01:20:13 PM »
I am just speaking as a realist. Anyone on this discussion board is welcome among "my people." It is clear from what some people have said here over the years, that some would not feel comfortable hobnobbing with the likes of us.  ;D

dkeener

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2011, 01:25:25 PM »
I know that some will say I shouldn't care, since I left the ELCA, but I do. I left the ELCA more out of the frustration over lack of mission than because of the sexuality statement. I continue to be astounded at how those in leadership ignore the tailspin the ELCA has been in for years. According to the ELCA's own figures they have lost over 600,000 members since the year 2000.
 
http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Communication-Services/News/Resources/Stats.aspx

(Note that the figures are only through 2009 so exclude the lions share of congregations that left because of CWA09)

So when I read statements from secretary, David Swarting that claim “We in the ELCA have a vibrant future . . .   We are a catalyst, convener, and bridge builder. . . .  We are church energized by dialogue and debate . . ." I have to wonder what planet he is living on. A Church Wide Assembly should be more than a pep rally. It should be a place of encouragement, yes, but it should also be a place of honest confession. I do not wish the ELCA ill. I hope and pray that they will come to their senses and at least acknowledge that the road they have been traveling on all these years has not proven to be "vibrant" at all, but rather a path full of pot holes and detours, that has ultimately kept them from reaching the noble goals they set back in 1987. The decisions of the CWA09 will have a large impact on the membership figures of the ELCA but the fact is that the denomination has been on a downward spiral since it's inception. I fear that CWA09 will simply provide an easy excuse for the leadership as to why the ELCA is in such decline.

One final note: Maybe I shouldn't have been, but I was bothered by Secretary Swarting's declaration that the "ELCA has financial capacity to make a difference in the world". Mainline churches are not dying for lack of money. Last week the Secretary General of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus informed us that his denomination grew by 300,000 members last year. He attributed none of this growth to financial capacity. Money can do great good and I applaud the relief efforts of the ELCA, but ultimately we are the Church, and the greatest gift we have to give is the proclimation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can never say "Well numbers are down but the good news is income is up." That is never "Good News" because in the end it simply celebrates the work of man and not of God.

PTMcCain

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2011, 01:31:53 PM »
"climatological"

?

Richard Johnson

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2011, 01:33:10 PM »
Well, it was kind of a joke. There were slides showing Swartling in a variety of climatological situations--you know, like Minnesota in the winter.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

DCharlton

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2011, 02:52:13 PM »
We can share without agreeing on everything. That is the unique gift the ELCA brings to the community of faith. . . .
  I know I've griped about this already, but if we can "share without agreeing," why the need for a seperate service in order for LC/NA celebrate.  One of the accusations thrown at individuals and congregations leaving the ELCA was that they were too full of hate or fear to worship with LGBT people.  And yet its now LC/NA which finds worshipping with people of all points of view to be insufficient. 

« Last Edit: August 17, 2011, 03:05:23 PM by DCharlton »
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Steven Tibbetts

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2011, 04:01:05 PM »
A Church Wide Assembly should be more than a pep rally.

I'm struck by the afternoon discussion regarding the proposal to move the CWA to every 3 years, in that folks are repeatedly calling it "a legislative" gathering.  And just a moment ago Eric Peterson reported that in talking to many of the younger Voting Members saying the "only important thing" they'd accomplished is approving the ELCA Malaria Initiative. 

It wasn't all that long ago that conventions of the church, both in local regions (synods, districts) and the entire body, spent most of their time in worship, hearing the church's best preachers and teachers, listening to the (few) church officials report on what the church had accomplished in the prior year (the new congregations and pastors, the new Christians received at home and abroad, etc.), and interacting in large and small groups to encourage and learn from each other. 

Legislation, other than approving a budget and electing folks to the various boards, was not a focus at all.

Pax, Steven+
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iowakatie1981

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2011, 04:05:31 PM »
Anyone on this discussion board is welcome among "my people."

Unless you voted for Rick Perry, in which case it was made clear on the first day that you are decidedly not welcome.  But good try, we appreciate it.

And Richard, did they actually say the word "handicapable"??  Good earth, what are we coming to?

Richard Johnson

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2011, 04:11:07 PM »
Not only did they say it, but someone from the floor chastised the presenter from the committee for pronouncing the word "handicappable."
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

iowakatie1981

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2011, 04:18:50 PM »
Could you do me a favor and grab a mic and announce that you are "speaking by proxy" for a handicapped, female seminarian who is offended by the use of the word "handicapable" ??

Thanks!

Richard Johnson

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2011, 04:24:31 PM »
I probably could, since this year the dobermans and armed guards keeping unauthorized people off the floor have been laid off.
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS

J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Wednesday morning plenary
« Reply #14 on: August 17, 2011, 04:31:38 PM »
54% of departing are from communities of 10,000 or less—10% higher than demographic of remaining congregations. This presents serious questions about long-term viability of many of these departing congregations.

So,we are marginal and expendable, no great loss since we are going to die with our communities anyway? 

In other words, a good riddance.

Absolutely nothing pastoral in the Secretary's observation; of course, one should not expect that from a former trial lawyer.

Any miniscule doubt over the necessity and timeliness of departure have been erased.
« Last Edit: August 17, 2011, 04:40:04 PM by Rev. J. Thomas Shelley, STS »
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