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A gaggle of Lutherans

ELCA national assembly to be held in Twin Cities next summer

About 3,000 persons, including 1,071 voting members, are expected to
gather in Minneapolis for the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which will be held August 17 to 23,
2009. Planning for the event is already underway, and the pace of work on
arrangements will quicken in the fall months ahead.
So far, much of the work has been carried out by Mary Beth Nowak, executive
for assemblies, logistics, meeting management, and travel at the ELCA
headquarters in Chicago. She has made two trips to the Twin Cities to arrange
for space at the Minneapolis Convention Center, where all plenary sessions
and major worship services will be held, and at the downtown Hyatt and
Hilton Hotels, which will serve as the official lodging for visitors.
With the coming of fall, Nowak will be forming a local arrangements
committee to work with her. Since the Minneapolis and St. Paul Area synods
are each hosts for the assembly, members could come from both
jurisdictions.
Updated information on the assembly will also be available by selecting the
ELCA Web site at www.elca.org and typing in a search for “churchwide
assembly.”
Nowak, who’s handled the logistics for all ten of the biennial churchwide
assemblies to date, says she has a special goal for the 2009 gathering in
Minneapolis. “My goal is to make this the ‘greenest’ assembly we’ve ever
had,” she said. With that caring-for-creation emphasis in mind, Nowak will
be working to reduce the amount of paper used and will try to conduct all
registration for the assembly online for the first time.
Another aspect of the greening of the assembly will be the elimination of
plastic water bottles, she said.
At least one item on the agenda for the meeting appears likely to be
controversial. A proposed social statement on human sexuality, which has
been in the works since 2001, is expected to be presented for adoption at
the Minneapolis assembly.
A first draft of that statement was released in March and quickly drew
criticism from several quarters. Since that time the draft has been discussed
at local assemblies of the ELCA’s 65 synods, and it will also be on the agenda
at the November 14-17 meeting of the ELCA’s Church Council.
With responses to the draft in mind, members of the task force that drafted it
are expected to meet shortly after the first of the year in 2009 to put a
proposed statement on human sexuality in final form. At the direction of the
2007 churchwide assembly, the task force will also come up with
implementing resolutions and other recommendations to the 2009 assembly
for any changes in current policies that bar practicing homosexual persons
from the clergy and leadership rosters of the church.
During February and March 2009, the final task force proposals will be made
available to church members and the public at a designated Internet Web site.
The Church Council will review the proposals at its meeting March 27-30. It
will then make its recommendations for action by the churchwide assembly.
Those recommendations will then be made available to congregations for
discussion and response through their local assemblies during the months
prior to the August churchwide gathering.
Besides authorizing the preparation of a new statement on human sexuality,
the 2001 churchwide assembly called for a separate study on matters related
to homosexuality and ministry. A report and recommendations were to be
made at the 2005 churchwide assembly.
At that meeting in Orlando, Florida, voting members refused to allow gay
clergy to be in same-gender relationships or to let clergy bless same-gender
marriage.
Other items on the agenda for the 2009 assembly include:
* A proposed full-communion agreement with the United Methodist Church;
* An update on the ELCA’s Book of Faith Bible-study initiative;
* Election of a vice-president, a position currently held by Carlos Pena, a
layman who is a Galveston, Texas, business executive;
* An update on the ELCA’s HIV/AIDS strategy;
* The report of a blue-ribbon committee on mission funding.
The 2009 churchwide assembly will be the second held in Minneapolis since
formation of the ELCA in 1988. The first was in 1995, when H. George
Anderson was elected as the second presiding bishop of the synod.