The New Orleans nickname, “The Big Easy,” may have influenced the voting members of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which met here Aug. 8-13. Most major decisions, including a breakthrough ecumenical agreement with Roman Catholics and the creation of a ministry of lay professionals called deacons, easily won overwhelming endorsement from the more than 900 voting members

The assembly, with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton providing leadership that combined seriousness with a light heart, was remarkably devoid of the long lines of speakers at microphones seeking major changes in assembly actions, parliamentary challenges and sometimes heated disputes that occasionally mark church decision-making.

The election of William Horne of Clearwater, Fla., as the new ELCA vice president was preceded by enthusiastic tributes to Carlos Peña, who served two terms as the denomination’s highest lay officer.

The assembly endorsed a program for assisting refugee children, and heard accounts of Lutheran work around the United States, as well as such places as the Central African Republic, El Salvador and Papua New Guinea.

Eaton’s four themes were present throughout. We are church: each morning she greeted the assembly with“Good morning, church!” We are Lutheran:  worship and devotions reflected the essentials of Lutheran worship. We are church together: fellowship and unity were reflected in assembly actions. We are church for the sake of the world: assembly actions touched on such things as ecology, fossil fuels, the Middle East, racism, sexual identity, support for military veterans and poverty in the U.S.

The next assembly will be in 2019 at a place yet to be decided.

Reports on the assembly can be found on this site under the “Religious news & social issues.”

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