The 2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly continued Aug. 10 at the Greater Columbus (Ohio) Convention Center. Day two included the third and fourth plenary sessions and a service of Holy Communion.
The assembly was invited by the American Indian and Alaska Native Lutheran Association to wear red to bring awareness to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The assembly also received a presentation on the “Declaration of the ELCA to American Indian and Alaska Native People” adopted by the ELCA Church Council last September.
Prior to the presentation, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton recognized the life and witness of Marlene Whiterabbit Helgemo, who died July 22. Helgemo was the first Native American woman ordained in the Lutheran church and had served on the ELCA’s Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery task force.
The declaration was presented as part of the implementation of the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly’s resolution to repudiate explicitly and clearly the European-derived doctrine of discovery. Task force members gave examples to the assembly of what the ELCA has been doing to live out the declaration, closed with remarks by Vance Blackfox, who began last year in his newly created position as ELCA director for Indigenous ministries and tribal relations.
Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, addressed the assembly “on behalf of 574 sovereign Tribal nations.”
A service of Holy Communion centered Native voices as the assembly marked the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery.
In a continuation of the ELCA vice president election, voting members cast a second ballot in the third plenary: 801 votes were cast; 601 were needed for election. There was no election. In the fourth plenary, voting members heard four-minute speeches from the seven nominees with the most votes after the second ballot. There were 822 votes cast for the third ballot for vice president; 548 were needed for an election. There was no election. The fourth ballot for vice president is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.
The ELCA’s presiding bishop, interim vice president and secretary also presented their reports to the assembly.
Carlos Peña, interim vice president, shared the actions brought forward to the assembly by the Church Council, including a proposed bylaw amendment to allow for the inclusion of advisory members to the council.
Members of the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery task force gave examples to the assembly of what the ELCA has been doing to live out the declaration.
In her report, Eaton addressed the ways in which the church has changed and adapted during the years of the COVID-19 pandemic and shared that the ELCA has distributed more than $1.5 million to its synods through COVID-19 response grants. She also emphasized the ways in which the ELCA has sought to become a more innovative and authentically diverse church.
As part of Eaton’s report, several churchwide organization staff members shared stories about their work, including Kimberly Jackson, ELCA director of leadership development and one of the co-conveners of the Collaborative; Rebecca Payne, ELCA program manager for the Congregations Lead Initiative; and Nicolette Marie Peñaranda, ELCA program director for African Descent Ministries.
Sue Rothmeyer, ELCA secretary, talked about how the ELCA’s governing documents are shaped by words but most importantly, the Word. She also gave a brief overview of the steps necessary to amend the ELCA constitution and shared data related to trends in participation, baptisms, confirmations and other activities related to congregational life.
The assembly heard a theological reflection on the assembly theme “Embody the Word” from Anthony Bateza, associate professor of religion and the chair of the Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality Studies department at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.
The assembly welcomed the presidents of the ELCA colleges and universities who are in Columbus meeting as the board of directors of the Network of ELCA Colleges and Universities. They assembly also participated in the college corporation meetings of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, and Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, which have governance relationships with the ELCA where the Churchwide Assembly serves as voting members of the corporations.
In other business, the assembly continued discussion and action on memorials that were removed from en bloc for separate consideration. Wednesday’s action included:
- Memorial A6 – Advance Salary Equity: Calls on (774-46) the Church Council to consider commissioning a study of pay gaps among ELCA rostered ministers and to share the findings throughout the church. The adopted memorial also encourages Portico Benefit Services and the churchwide organization to revise bylaws and privacy policies to facilitate deeper understanding of compensation patterns among rostered ministers and calls for an update to compensation-related questions in the Rostered Minister Profile.
The assembly also received greetings from Sonia Skupch, the regional secretary for Latin America, Caribbean and North America of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Anne Burghart, LWF general secretary, and Panti Filibus Musa, LWF president and archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, extended greetings to the assembly via videos. The ELCA is one of the 149 member churches of LWF.