(Aug. 7) Sunday before the assembly
hear our prayer.
hear our prayer.
You may recall that the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly approved an action designed to call ELCA members into a conversation about The Use of the Means of Grace, particularly on the matter of Holy Communion. The action came as a memorial from the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod. While all people are welcome to worship, the recommended practice in our church has been that people who are baptized are invited to receive Holy Communion. Despite what our statement on the practice of word and sacrament, The Use of the Means of Grace, says, there is wide variety of practice in this church.
The ELCA Church Council approved a process of finding ways to engage the entire church in conversation about this important matter before determining if there is need to open The Use of the Means of Grace for possible revision. The recommendation also suggests that this matter not be studied in isolation from the rest of the statement, but rather that we take this opportunity to encourage a renewed study of and conversation about The Use of the Means of Grace in our congregations.
The churchwide organization’s Worship and Marketing Communications teams have worked together to provide resources to guide this church’s conversation. Diverse perspectives, offered by Lutheran authors, are available at www.ELCA.org/worship.
Sixteen members of the Upstate New York Synod served as voting members at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly with the theme Always Being Made New. Several others attended as visitors or volunteers and Neal Fischer, our Director of Communications, assisted on the staff. Many more watched the proceedings via the web. Reports on the Assembly can be found on the ELCA website and you might enjoy this you tube video clip that was shared at the 25th anniversary banquet. Here are a few short reflections from some of our voting members. They will report more fully within their conferences, so watch for those opportunities.
Bruni Guzman – I was so impressed by the way the theme, Always Being Made New, was carried throughout the whole Assembly and worship. The order and process for electing a Presiding Bishop was impressive and of course being part of history in the making, electing the first women Presiding Bishop was beyond words. I appreciated the parliamentary rules and the orderliness of the whole assembly. The use of technology was excellent. They were prepared to assist anyone having difficulty with an iPad. It appeared the planners thought of everything. The diverse daily worship services were very spiritually moving and the singing was just heavenly. I am privileged to have attended a fantastic, historic assembly.
Chris George – One of my biggest highlights is the connections I have made with other young adults from all over the country. I also had the chance to support a proposal in which we focus on funding to lift up and encourage youth and young adults and lay leaders through the 25th Anniversary Campaign.
Ann Myers – To be part of this grace and spirit-filled diverse group (especially in the elections.) To be part of the working of this group and we worked! Presiding Bishop Hanson officiated in an awesome way. Grateful to be a part of this experience in my life. Important issues we handled: youth and young adults, criminal justice, Palestine-Israel memorial. Worship throughout, especially during decisions.
Pastor Wendy Cook – A highlight for me was the election of our next Presiding Bishop. Not the particular person, but rather recognizing the extraordinary talents, skills, commitment, faith, graciousness, intelligence, faithfulness and more of the leaders of the ELCA. God’s blessings upon his church are truly abundant and the Spirit is moving us forward.
Pastor John Macholz – I was honored to be invited to participate in the Eucharist on Friday morning. Rehearsal was at 7 a.m. Seating and stations were assigned, procedure dictated and questions answered. During the distribution, as the section I was responsible for anointing was finished I was instructed to move to the other side of the worship space and help others who still had long lines. This action in liturgy, that of anointing and laying on of hands, has always been a most emotional one for me. When I arrived at the other side of the hall, I stood where instructed and then turned to anoint the next person in line, it was Bishop Elect Elizabeth Eaton; a wonderful gift to anoint her forehead with oil and speak words of hope and healing. She was followed almost immediately by Bishop Jim Hazelwood. I only mention that as the height difference between the two is astounding! To bend slightly for one and reach up for the other contained a sense of slight humor to me. What a blessing and privilege we are given to bless others as well as be a blessing in our lives of faith.
Chris Nash – I have never felt so strongly the working of the Holy Spirit as at the Churchwide Assembly. The guidance of the Spirit was asked in prayer before each and every vote and the Spirit brought surprises, especially in the election of Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. To hear reports of how God’s work is being done with our hands through World Hunger, Disaster Response, the Malaria Campaign and others made me glad to be a part of the ELCA. I am so thankful to have been a voting member of this Assembly.
Pastor Marlene Hyden – The entire week was fun, exciting, and overwhelming, but likely the most profound thing for me was truly seeing the Holy Spirit at work in the election of Presiding Bishop. For the first time, I REALLY understand an Ecclesiastical ballot watching the Holy Spirit in action.
Sharon Hamilton – Choosing one highlight is close to impossible… Bishop Hanson introduced many of our ecumenical, interfaith and global partners which included Mennonites, Jews, Sikhs, and representatives from Malaysia/Singapore. There were speakers from the Sudan, Myanmar, Tanzania (there are more Lutherans in Tanzania than in all of the US). We heard from Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) who serves as President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). We met Rabbi Gutow, the President of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs. All of the presenters praised the ELCA for its work in their respective countries. I was overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the Lutheran presence in the world.
Vern Hall – As a member of the LGBT community, I found this assembly to be very affirming and was pleased to see so many of my brothers and sisters out and proud. The worship services were very impressive with the inclusion of various languages and styles. What with electing our first female Presiding Bishop, I am so happy to be a Lutheran and proud of my denomination. I am still walking a foot or two from the ground.
Pastor Jonathan Litzner – The Churchwide Assembly received greeting from several ecumenical partners. At the end of the various speeches, outgoing bishop Mark Hanson asked everyone to join in singing a hymn. At this point, I was standing at the back of the hall, stretching my legs. And as I watched, everyone began singing “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing our Great Redeemer’s Praise.” I could not help noticing that between the roughly 932 voting members and all the other guests and staff, that there were easily over 1000 tongues singing at that very moment. What a powerful thing it was to hear that song echo through the hall, ELCA Christians and other denominational representatives together.
The rest of the assembly seemed to echo that unity as well. Although a few hot button issues were raised, including gun control and racism, never was the conversation or “debate” disrespectful. Young people were listened to, respected, and may have even swayed the voting outcome. The social statement on criminal justice passed overwhelmingly, without one spoken word against it. And when Bishop Eaton was elected, it was clear in both word and action that this was never an “ousting” of Bishop Hanson. In fact, during one media interview I watched, Bishop Eaton actively challenged the interviewer when this was suggested.
On a personal note, I had a chance to both get to know voting members of our synod much better, get to know voting members and bishops from other synods, and also connect with old friends. One friend, Mary Streufert, is currently heading the social statement task force on “Women and Justice.” After speaking with her, I had a much clearer understanding of how and why the ELCA’s social statements work and help others. At present, this social statement is slated for consideration at the 2019 churchwide assembly. She shared with me the excitement of a director of a women’s shelter organization upon hearing the ELCA’s plans. When told it would be prepared by 2019, the response was, “But we need it right now!” What a joy it is to be part of the ELCA, where we can do such work, confident in God’s grace.
Bishop Marie Jerge – The most exciting thing for me is to see members of our congregations who grasp for the first time the wonder, breadth and diversity of our church and to sense our impact in the world. Our folks understood the privilege of serving as voting members, as well as volunteers. Nancy Kessler and Sue Osborne volunteered at the assembly. Our Vice President Tom Madden served as Assisting Minister at the Eucharist. Sharon Hamilton and I served communion. Pastor John Macholz was an anointer. I served on the Prayer Team which prayed before every vote. Being involved in ministry beyond the local congregation is such a privilege. It was also fun to connect with a variety folks who once served or lived in Upstate NY. We have sent many from here to proclaim the gospel in other parts of the church. That is something to be proud of – the group includes: Clark Olson-Smith in Iowa, Jane Floy Nicholson, Jennifer McCurry and John Pearson in Pennsylvania, Craig Satterlee in Michigan, Juli Rasi Hampton in Nebraska, Rick Erickson in New York City and many more. Finally in the “other” election W. Chris Boerger was called to serve as Secretary for this Church. A former bishop, he will bring a deep and abiding pastoral sensitivity and an adventurous missional spirit to the organizational matters of this church.
Thanks from all of us for the privilege of serving in this way!