I enjoy Churchwide Assemblies. And I especially enjoyed this most recent gathering. Much was discussed and decided – over 44 pages of actions reported from the Office of the Secretary. Worship was central and included many people in leadership from our Synod – choir member, presider, reader, dancer, assisting ministers, and all of our faithful voting members. People from our Metropolitan New York Synod were involved, engaged, and active in doing the work of the church and I was delighted at the large number of people from our synod who were with us for the first-ever Grace Gathering. I enjoy these events because I run into unexpected people with whom I have studied, worked, planned and served for decades.
But more than that kind of looking back with nostalgia, this Churchwide Assembly gave me great hope for our future as the ELCA. As Presiding Bishop Eaton said forcefully, we are not a dying church but we are a changing church. I agree and that gives me hope.
We can give thanks to God for what is yet to be!
Rev. Dr. Robert Alan Rimbo
|Our Churchwide Assembly voting members gathered in the plenary hall. View more photos of Metropolitan New York Synod members at Churchwide Assembly and the Grace Gathering here.
We give thanks for those who were elected by our assembly and attended as voting members:
Maria Del Toro
Pr. Mark Erson
Pr. Khader Khalilia
Pr. Amy Kienzle
Dcn. John Malone
Dcn. Anita Martin-Williams
Pr. David Parsons
Bp. Robert Rimbo
Pr. Peter Rustico
We also give thanks for those who participated in the Grace Gathering:
Pr. Edward Barnett
Pr. Elise Brown
Dcn. Gale Capone
Pr. Sarah Geddada
Dcn. Dorothy Hecker
Dcn. Iris Hippner
Pr. Wolfgang Laudert
Pr. Jonathan Linman
Pr. James O’Hanlon
Dcn. Gayle Ruege
Pr. James Sudbrock
Recapping the Churchwide Assembly
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly is the primary decision-making body of the church. Over the course of 6 days, over 900 voting members from 65 synods heard reports, elected leaders, adopted a budget and policies, and worshiped together as the body of Christ.
Coinciding with the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, the Grace Gathering gave opportunity for non-voting members to experience pieces of the assembly in worship and study. Particular to their time, Grace Gathering participants were given resources to prepare for further observances of the 500th anniversary and reflect on how the Reformation can continue to guide us today.
Attendees of both events were out showing "God’s Grace in Action" by participating in one of a variety of experiential learning activities on Thursday afternoon, August 11, themed under past and present conditions in New Orleans.
This particular assembly was marked by unique opportunities, including that our wider church is looking towards the next year and commemorating 500 years since the start of the reformation. We are not celebrating the schism between ourselves and Catholic brothers and sisters, but rather, we are seeking opportunities to strengthen bonds of unity among multiple faith traditions. The opportunity to affirm our ongoing conversations between Lutherans and Catholics was not missed. Notably, the assembly overwhelmingly accepted "Declaration on the Way," which give 32 common affirmations that are recognized to no longer be church dividing issues. Read more here.
Previously in the ELCA, there have been 3 lay rosters: Associates in Ministry, Diaconal Ministers, and Deaconesses. Our synod has 25 Associates in Ministry, 2 Diaconal Ministers, and 1 Deaconess on the official ELCA roster (which is a different roster than the synodical diaconate). The assembly took action to unify this into one roster of Ministry of Word and Service, which begins January 1, 2017. Read more here and learn about their work here.
During the assembly, many other actions were taken: William B. Horne II was elected to a 6 year term as vice president of the ELCA. The AMMPARO strategy (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) was approved, providing a holistic, whole church response. A budget was adopted and board members were elected. View key actions from this assembly here.
Over the course of our last three synod assemblies, we have discussed and voted on multiple memorials, or proposals for ministry, to be sent on to the Churchwide Assembly. A recent memorial that reaffirms our commitment as a church to encouraging advocacy and support of refugee resettlement in all expressions of our church was approved.
A memorial that acknowledging where the Lutheran church has fallen short with policies, structures, and actions in relation to African descent people while committing us to further strategies that promote anti-racism, and create resources and opportunities for ethnic-specific communities was approved. This memorial also recommitted us to growing its ethnic and racial diversity.
Two other memorials were approved in regards to justice in the Holy Land. They affirmed our commitment towards accompaniment, advocacy, and seeing peaceful resolution. It also called us to responsible investing practices, particularly to investing in under-resourced areas.
Finally, as our synod divested from fossil fuels, we sent on a memorial to encourage the expressions of our church to take similar action in preserving God’s creation.
Find a full legislative update here.
Reports from around the church were shared and heard. View all of the pre-assembly reports here. In her report, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, focused on the past three years of work and where we are headed as a church together. She covered topics from racial justice, to ecumenical partners, to the need to understand the defining and unifying characteristics of being Lutheran. Read more about her report here or watch the report in its entirety.
Daily Eucharist provided a ground experience for both the Churchwide Assembly and the Grace Gathering. Music, dance, and preaching provided bridges between our faith, and the business of the church. Strong leadership in preaching and worship captured the sense of God’s multi-national reign and allowed for a rich visualization of the body of Christ in worship.
The next Churchwide Assembly will be held in 2019. The dates and location are to be determined. Our synod will elect voting members our 2018 Synod Assembly.
Watch the Assembly:
Monday, August 8:
o Plenary Session 1 (includes introductions, greetings, and first considerations)
o Full Worship and Sermon by Bishop Eaton
Tuesday, August 9:
o Plenary Session 2 (includes the report of the vice president, an introduction to the budget and other items to be voted on)
o Full Worship and Sermon by Pr. Leila Ortiz
o Plenary Session 3 (includes greetings and votes on memorials)
Wednesday, August 10:
o Plenary Session 4 (includes the report of the secretary and greetings)
o Full Worship and Sermon by Pr. James Philips
o Plenary Session 5 (includes greetings from the Lutheran World Federation, and the consideration of Declaration on the Way and AMMPARO)
Thursday, August 11:
o Plenary Session 6 (includes the report of the presiding bishop and from the churchwide organization)
o Full Worship
Friday, August 12:
o Plenary Session 7 (includes Word and Service Proposal Consideration, greetings from an international bishop and addresses from the nominees for vice president)
o Full Worship and Sermon by Louise Williams
o Plenary Session 8 (includes the election of a Vice President, greeting from an international bishop)
Saturday, August 13:
o Full Worship and Sermon by Pr. Gordon Lathrop
o Plenary Session 9 (includes Committee of the Whole to discuss "Called Forward Together in Christ", final deliberations on memorials, plus greetings, and reports)