Author Topic: Plenary 8, Friday morning  (Read 2406 times)

Richard Johnson

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Plenary 8, Friday morning
« on: August 16, 2013, 09:12:31 AM »
Session began with report from Bp. Crist for the Conference of Bishops. Then we move to Q&A with seven candidates for secretary. I'll try to get in some more biographical info for each one.

Responsibilities of Secretary are substantial; what in your past experience and faith life has prepared you for the role of secretary?

Gerking: Interim Sr. Pastor, St. Stephen Urbandale, IA. Graduate of Dana and Wartburg. I am wired to care about process as well as outcomes. Value transperancy as well as simplicity. Has served on ELCA Nom Com, several agencies in Iowa.

Stuart: VP Flordia-Bahamas. Attorney. Grad Michigan State, U of Wisc. "The Holy Spirit knows what she needs for what lies ahead. I was not supposed to win election to VP, but I did by one vote. It didn't make sense to me to be elected over my friend Bill Horne; but Bill was elected to ELCA Church Council two months later." Has served on ELCA Discipline Committee.

Boerger: Bishop NW Wash synod since 2001. Graduate PLU, Seminex (LSTC). Begins by noting his baptism date. Has worked with constitutions, congregations in conflict, have seen this church in its breadth, its struggles. It is the secretary who brings the history to the contemporary situation. That's been my life; if that's how the Holy Spirit has been preparing me for this moment, I'm willing to serve.

Adrich: Intern in a congressional office. Currently manager, Grinnell Singers, Grinnell, IA. Youth membership team, Minneapolis Area synod; Synod Council. Most formative faith experience was 2009 CWA.

Cooper-White: Pres. Gettysburg Sem, former Director ELCA Synodical Relations Department, Assist to Bishop in Sierra Pacific. Concordia, Moorhead; Gettysburg. He speaks with Hansonian cadences and tells story about being threatened with death in Guatemala. "Our church needs courage and spirit of boldness." My experiences over the past years have prepared me for this call.

Grorud: Pastor, St. Michael, Omaha. Former ELCA Director for Relationshipos with Large Membership Congregations. Dana College, Luther Sem (including an MTh. from Luther-Northwestern). "I am an administrator, a planner, a developer, I pay attention to details. . . . I'm good at getting the work done.

Riegel: Campus pastor. Gettysburg College and Seminary. "I can tell you what doesn't prepare you for this job: rooming with your best friend and seminary roommate at CWA!" My job has included fundraising, PR, maintaining congregational relations, while tracking down the wily and elusive first year college student. You have to do research, learn about law, federal and state, all for the sake of helping people. That's what it's about."

LIFT report addressed importance of churchwide collaboration with synods, partners, etc. How would you do this?

Stuart: CWA punted this issue in 2011 to the Conference of Bishops, so it is still a work in progress. As the Secretary serves on the COB, I would encourage them to continue that important work. I'd ask the question: "Who is not at the table?" Sometimes leadership involves just asking the right question at the right time.

Boerger: We have many hopes for this church, but by ourselves, and we don't share them. Part of the idea of collaboration is showing up. We need to find ways of forming networks so people can talk to each other, and then we need to listen. Collaboration, listen (repeats several times in several ways).

Aldrich: I believe one of biggest challenges we face is communication. We need conversation not just between churchwide and synods, but also congregations. I'd be sure every voice is heard at the table.

Cooper-White: "synod' means 'together road.' We must be on this road together. Refers to experience on synod staff and in churchwide office. I've worked with all the synods of our church. Talks about "digital resource bank." Need to enhance communication. Time to look again at alignment of some congregations and synods. We must walk the "together road" with synods.

Grorud: A snail went into a car dealership. "I want a real fast car, and I want you to paint an S on the doors." So from then on, whenever he went out in his car, people said "Look at that S car go!" Story about identity. We need to make our identity known. What's missing from the question is congregations, they are the centers for mission.

Riegel: Even before I was ordained, I learned a lot about agencies of the church. I've served on seminary board, synod treasurer, finance chair; all that has taught me about these complex and difficult relationships. It takes energy to cooperate, effort to build relationships. One of my greatest frustrations is when we wait to do something we have the capacity to do ourselves.

Gerking: LIFT report sets a direction, and now we have to keep stitching together the details. Office of Secretary is part of that.

Governance is an important aspect; how would you accomplish?

Boerger: As bishop, I've served in a position of governance: encouraging, administering, etc. Governance is not top down; it is a matter of listening, and making sure our "rules" serve mission and help us work together in mission. Rules can't be put together in the midst of fight; they need to be in place to serve the mission and then we play by the rules, agreeing together and holding ourselves to the agreement.

Aldrich: I've had honor of serving on several boards and committees at every level of this church; that's taught me much about what it means to effectively govern. I served on the constitutional revision committee for student government at Grinnell college. It's more than everyone having a voice at the table; every voice must be heard.

Cooper-White: Robert Bacher and I coauthored a book about church governance, and it's for sale out there; if you buy a copy, I'll autograph it. I give the royalties to World Hunger because I believe good governance should feed people. Every governing agency these days needs training in conflict management.

Grorud: Governance has to do with decision making. I've had excellent opportunities to do that. I've led large congregations; currently serve as president of Nebraska Outdoor Ministries, chair Emmanuel Vision. I've heard this week about ministering to people; I disagree--we minister with people together, inclusively and collaboratively.

Riegel: The church is "pneumanthropic"--enlightened by the Spirit, but also human. Both the spirit and the human are involved in governance.

Gerking: Often we seem impatient because we have agendas and want to move forward, but sometimes we need to redirect that impatience toward problem-solving. We have a structure that can do this, and the Secretary can help this church do that.

Stuart: Secretary Swartling had some matters of governance on his list of unfinished business. Governance is going to look different in the future, if only because CWA will be triennial. More things will fall to Council, bishops, elected leaders. We cannot be passive recipients of communication; we cannot say "I didn't know" when we didn't look and didn't ask, and when asked, didn't speak. We must lean in and be committed to collaboration; it isn't a passive process.

Reactions: I think Aldrich and Riegel are both out of it because of their age and relative inexperience. Of the others, my personal view is that Grorud and Gerking were the most impressive presenters. Stuart, the vote leader, was not that impressive, though I understand the synod veeps are strongly behind her. The bishops are generally behind Boerger, but I didn't think he came across very strongly. Cooper-White is attractive to many, and is clearly the most "experienced" but the downside of that, of course, is he might be viewed as a professional bureaucrat. Still, if people are thinking "inexperienced presiding bishop needs to be balanced," that could work in his favor.

Brief report on Malaria Campaign, and now we take up social statement on criminal justice. Motion to adopt the statement. Ad hoc committee has suggested several proposed amendments (that came from various members of the assembly)

First one A1 changes the wording about confession as a "mark of the church." Suggestion is that original paragraph is inaccurate as to Luther's teaching about compassionate suffering, so this is a rewording to clarify and correct. Motion adopted, 861-11.

A2 changes "Black people" to "African Americans" in line 977, and "White people" to "Caucasians." Point is to use same language that is present in the article being cited in this line, and to be consistent with ELCA protocol. [Actually, she misspeaks here, because the article cited uses "black" and "white"; so her real justification is that it is consistent with ELCA protocols.] A lay woman from Minnesota opposes: "I have a grandson who comes from Haiti; he is Black, but not African-American." A black woman from Maryland also opposes: "I'm black, not African-American." Motion to change to "people of color." A black man says, "No. That's a step backward." Black woman agrees with last speaker. "I strongly suggest that if we are going to identify people by their ethnicity, 'people of African descent' and 'people of European descent' would be much more accurate." More speaking, for and against the amendment. Fascinating. Finally question is moved on amendment to amendment, and assembly agrees (rather narrowly) to close debate on that issue. Motion to amend (by inserting "people of color"). We get into a complicated parliamentary situation about whether the vote is even appropriate. Back to vote on substituting "people of color." Motion defeated, so we're back to the motion to substitute "African Americans/Caucasians" for "Black/White."  But then comes a motion to substitute "persons of African descent" for "African Americans."

Your benevolence dollars at work.

More debate. [My personal opinion is that we should just change the wording to "some people" and "other people."] Our own John Mundinger speaks in favor of the amendment, or at least he speaks from a "pro" mic; what he observes is that this issue is so "broken" in our society that we can't even agree on words to use to talk about it.

More debate. Finally someone moves the previous question. Motion approved 91%. On substitute "persons of African descent," the motion is defeated. On original motion to substitute "African Americans"--oh, wait, we're going back to debate. Motion to close debate, approved. On the original motion, the change is defeated, 155-737. We stick with Black and White.

Amendment A3, line 989, recommends deletion of some words [judged to be more editorializing rather than objective] so that the new language is "Those costs include the resources required to implement the policy as well as the costs to those who are harmed by the policy."  Motion approved.

Hanson asks if there are other amendments that people intend to make to the social statement itself. He sees none, and announces that we'll return to it this afternoon. Now prayerfully prepare for next ballot for secretary. The ballot is taken; this one requires 2/3 for election, and the machines are being use.

Results: Total ballots cast: 889    Necessary to elect: 593

Stuart 214
Boerger 201
Cooper-White 160
Grorud 132
Aldrich 86
Riegel 57
Gerking 39

Top three go on to the next ballot. Comment: Both Stuart and Boerger lost votes (she somewhat more than he); Cooper-White obviously the big gainer here. My gut feeling would be that the Aldrich and Riegel votes are likely to go to Stuart (as most non-establishment). The Grorud votes are more likely to go to Boerger or Cooper-White, but I have no sense as to what percentage might go where.

Social statement now taken up again, the PB thinking we might be able to get through it before worship (he's announced the time will be extended ten minutes). Some speaking, all in favor. Motion to close debate, adopted.
Motion to adopt the statement is approved, 882-25.

Announcements, and then adjourned for worship.


« Last Edit: August 16, 2013, 10:35:51 AM by Richard Johnson »
The Rev. Richard O. Johnson, STS


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Re: Plenary 8, Friday morning
« Reply #1 on: August 16, 2013, 09:30:39 AM »
Grorud seems like a really decent and personable guy from my impressions of meeting him at weddings and funerals...


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Re: Plenary 8, Friday morning
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2013, 10:10:50 AM »
And now we have a passionate debate regarding what word to use to refer to blacks/African-Americans/people of color/people of African descent.  One voting member believes that "people of color" is a step toward Jim Crow from "African-American."  Voting members are talking about concern for people who are, well, black, but don't view themselves as black and but aren't American.  And then there are African-Americans who are white.

Ugh.  Identity politics at its most absurd.  I think that this was supposed to be a routine clean-up amendment.  But it's shaping up to be the most passionate debate at this CWA.  Nothing like watching a bunch of mostly white folks deciding what to call blacks, tying themselves in knots to find the least racist, most politically correct term.

As another participant of this forum put it:

Why do sisters and brothers in Christ feel the need to define one another?  When we do, why can't we do so by focusing on what we have in common?
« Last Edit: August 16, 2013, 10:42:14 AM by James_Gale »


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Re: Plenary 8, Friday morning
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2013, 10:22:48 AM »
But it is "the people" who are speaking and raising these issues. They are questioning what comes down to them from the Task Force and the ELCA Church Council. They do not rubber stamp it, but raise questions.
I thought that was a good thing.