Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA have gathered in assembly at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. The assembly goes through August 13. Meeting under the theme “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action,” the assembly’s business will include preparations for observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
The assembly – the highest legislative body of the ELCA – is comprised of 980 voting members serving on behalf of the 3.7 million members of the ELCA. The ELCA’s 65 synods elect voting members to serve at churchwide assemblies.
“Churchwide assemblies are a combination of legislative sessions, worship, Bible study, theological reflection and fellowship,” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. “We deliberate and discuss and vote. Some would say that it is a messy way to do the work of the church, but [it] is a wonderfully open process.”
As part of planning for the Reformation observance, non-voting members are invited to attend the Grace Gathering, Aug. 10-13. Participants will experience the assembly proceedings and also prepare for the 500th anniversary observances within their congregations and synods. “God’s Grace in Action Afternoon” will offer experiential learning on several topics to inspire participants to take action back home, including: Music, Justice and Peace; From the Doctrine of Discovery to #BlackLivesMatter; Human Trafficking; Care of Creation; and Food Security.
“Often members of congregations are not aware of the scope of the wider church,” said Eaton. The Grace Gathering will give even more of our people the opportunity to see the whole church at work. We can do a lot more together than we can do separately. And, close to 2,000 Lutherans singing is a heavenly sound.”
Key action items at the assembly include:
· Electing an ELCA vice president. Carlos Peña, the current vice president, has decided not to seek a third term. Peña has served for 13 years.
· Considering the Word and Service task force recommendations that the three rosters of church lay leadership be unified into a single body known as deacons.
· Voting on the recommendations for the ELCA Strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO).
· Considering the “Declaration on the Way,” a document that draws on 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in preparation for the Reformation anniversary.
Voting members will also receive:
· An update on the ELCA’s first major fundraising campaign, Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. Approved by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the campaign seeks to raise $198 million to help extend the ministries of this church.
· A report from the presiding bishop and officers of the ELCA.
· Reports on ELCA churchwide ministries, including ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response.
· Proposals (known as memorials) from the ELCA’s 65 synods, which include: repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery; deepening of relationships with historic black churches; a responsible energy future; supporting military personnel, veterans and their families; and peace with justice in the Holy Land.
· Budget proposals for 2017 to 2019.
· Greetings from ecumenical guests, global partners and others.
Along with voting members, hundreds more will participate in the assembly as ELCA congregational observers, special ecumenical guests and global leaders, presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries and 26 college and universities, advisory and resource members, staff and others.
ELCA members and others not attending the assembly can access live video of plenary sessions at ELCA.org/ChurchwideAssembly