Future of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA)
This past week I was in New Orleans with over 1,000 other ELCA folks from all across the U.S. I was elected to be one of the voting member of our Southeastern Iowa Synod (SEIA). And I must admit, at first, I wasn't excited to be attending a week-long Churchwide Assembly. I complained the whole way there and thought about how I'd rather spend my evenings at my home with my beautiful wife and daughter than in a hotel room; however, God has an incredible way of showing up when we ourselves show up.
Although I did miss Ellie's first steps and first time walking, I was a part of an incredible Assembly that took major strides towards becoming a relevant, present and engaging Church in our world. We are still not perfect; however, I do believe the ELCA has a tremendous role to play in the coming years. Bishop Eaton said it best, "God is not done with us and is absolutely still active and alive within our Church!" Amen.
This year, we celebrate the 500th year of the Reformation. It's a reminder to all of us that we are always a reforming Church. We are not a dead church but instead are a reforming, changing Church. We gather and are called out into the world to proclaim Christ. To be Church. To be Church together. To be Church for the sake of the world.
My take-away from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly is the future is BRIGHT! Yes, we still have a lot of work to do. But, I'm excited to be a part of this Church and to join with other leaders within our Church who are doing incredible, out-of-the-box things. Our Church is dreaming and thinking BIG. We voted on a number of key issues and took steps towards becoming a Church who isn't silent in the midst of systems of injustice. Instead, we are a Church stands with the voiceless and stands for justice (love in action).
Here are some quotes and highlights from the Assembly that I found inspiring. I hope they bring you encouragement and hope as they did me.
Thanks for all you do in the name of our Risen Lord, Jesus!
"Youth aren't the future of the Church. Christ is. Youth are the Church NOW!"
"Pastors aren't called to protect buildings and collect offerings. They are called to the streets. To the people. To the community."
"Congregations, synods and Churchwide are all Church Together. We are all expressions of the ELCA."
"Since 1988, we are 31% smaller and have 3.7 million members. It's easy to be down and fearful about that stat; however, I see it that we have 3.7 million missionaries who gather together, proclaim the gospel and are connecting with their community."
"We are not a poor church. We are a generous and strong Church. We have over $20 billion dollars in total assets."
"Time for new Reformation moment. The Church must stop waiting for people to come to them and start being Church who goes where the congregation is."
"Being chosen and elected doesn't mean we are privileged and above. Familiarity somehow has made us feel privileged. But, we are constantly putting that part of ourselves to death. We put to death the worst of ourselves and are freed by grace."
"We aren't a colonial, European, American Church. Time to change who we are."
"No such thing as a private Christian. We are Church Together."
"Our Church needs to reclaim the word 'evangelical' and see ourselves as a missionary Church again."
"Often we are too busy going to Church that we forget to be the Church."
"If we want people to be better, we need to treat people better."
"Patriotism isn't about putting up flags. It's about voting and participating in our community."
"Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. We don't live in a bubble. We live in community. One person's problem is our problem."
Vote for William Horne to be the Vice President of the ELCA.
Vote to do more as a Church to support military (active and veterans) and research ways we can help the effects/consequences of war.
Vote to accept "Declaration on the Way." This is an ecumenical document between Catholics and Lutherans. In it are 32 statements of agreement and declares unity we have in Christ.
Vote to accept "AMMPARO" strategy. We, as a Church, are committed to accompany and protect migrant people (especially minors) into our country. We are a Church who doesn't just say "love thy neighbor." We put that into action.
Vote to amend language within Church to denounce language of colonialism. In doing so, we can work towards becoming a more inclusive and diverse Church.
Vote to have develop strategy for/toward diversity. There will be anti-racism training given to all rostered leaders. The hope is diversity becomes more than lip service and we do more to be a Church who reflects our diverse communities.
Vote to study gender identity and review ELCA definitions/policies regarding gender identity.
Vote to get more involved as a Church in Caring for Creation and standing against effects of climate change. Approach climate change as an issue of intergenerational justice.