We Are Church
by Kathye Hamm
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly was last week in Milwaukee. From August 5th through the 11th, over 1,000 ELCA Lutherans and friends gathered for learning, study, worship, fellowship and work. There were voting members, visitors, volunteers and staff who assembled under the theme “We are Church”.
In worship there was song and powerful preaching, high flying doves and ribbons, water flung and bread and wine eaten and drunk. There was laughter, there were tears, there was confession and forgiveness and there was Jesus! In the Plenary Hall there was impassioned debate, and joy and frustration, there were stories told and held reverently and joyfully, and there was coffee and chocolate to sustain the bodies for the parliamentary procedure; and yes, there were amendments to amendments and even an amendment to a footnote. We were Church.
The ELCA took bold steps this past week, and the ELCA faltered. I can almost guarantee that everyone came away with things to celebrate and things to lament. And this is what it means to be Church…in every community some people will be ready to take steps others aren’t and so it will feel like we did too much to some, and not enough to others, and it is messy and hard and joyful and frustrating, and Jesus is there. This is Christian community, friends – this is Church.
You may have seen in the news that the ELCA is now a Sanctuary Church, committing the ELCA to our ongoing work with migrants and refugees through AMMPARO, LIRS and other work that is being done. The Assembly condemned white supremacy and committed the ELCA to become a more authentically diverse church, and made a Declaration to the People of African Descent. The assembly re-elected The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton to another 6 year term as presiding bishop and elected Deacon Sue Rothmeyer to a 6 year term as ELCA secretary. The Assembly also adopted a policy on Inter-Religious Commitment and voted to make ordination the entrance rite for all Rostered Ministers in the ELCA (a change from the previous practice of consecrating deacons). The Assembly approved a new ELCA Social Statement (and implementing resolutions) “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Call to Action”. We celebrated the 50thanniversary of the ordination of women in the Lutheran Church, the 40th anniversary of the ordination of the first woman of color and the 10th anniversary of the policy change fully opening the rosters of the ELCA to our LGBTQIA+ siblings.
Living into these decisions and proclamations and policies will take time and work and may at times be hard and messy and frustrating – but also joyful and life-giving. We trust that Jesus is present in all of these spaces, and that the Holy Spirit continues to call, gather, enlighten and make holy the whole Christian church.
We are Church – and I give thanks for you and your work in and through it!
You can find more information about the Churchwide Assembly and videos of all plenary sessions and worship services at elca.org/cwa.
Daily legislative reports with the actions taken each day in plenary can be found here – click the “Legislative Updates” link on the left. You can also find the texts of the memorials and social statements in the “Pre-Assembly Materials” link. While we are a digital society, it takes time for people to make the edits and upload them, so I presume it will take some time to get the final versions of some of these actions on the ELCA website.
February 18, 2020
February 11, 2020
February 04, 2020