Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold invites Episcopalians to join him in prayer supporting the upcoming August 8-14 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), with which the Episcopal Church shares a relationship of full communion.
The assembly, which meets every two years, will convene in Orlando, Florida, under the theme "Marked with the Cross of Christ Forever." The assembly is formed of 1,018 voting members from 65 synods and 10,657 congregations serving the ELCA's more than 4.9 million members. ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson, who has served in this capacity since his election in 2001, continues in his six-year term of office.
In remembering the ELCA Assembly, Episcopalians may wish to use a prayer written for the occasion by Bishop Griswold:
"Merciful God, as our sisters and brothers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America meet at their Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, help them listen to what you are saying as you speak peace to your faithful people, who turn their hearts to you. In their deliberations, may mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other so that truth may spring up from the earth and righteousness look down from heaven; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. [Amen]."
ELCA spokesman John Brooks said proposals on the Assembly's agenda include reorganizing church governance by replacing various elected boards with advisory committees. Other measures would expand multicultural ministries among people of African descent and with others from the Middle East, and seek to establish "Interim Eucharistic Sharing" between the ELCA and the United Methodist Church in a step toward full communion. Three proposals will deal with human sexuality.
While one measure "calls the church to remain unified during discussion of difficult issues," a second takes up same-gender blessings, Brooks said, a topic on which the church currently has no official policy, although a 1993 advisory statement from ELCA bishops cited no scriptural basis for such rites. A third proposal would maintain ELCA policy barring single clergypersons from sexual relationships outside of heterosexual marriage but would also make it possible, with approvals of church and synodical councils, for a clergyperson to "apply for an exception" to this norm.
Brooks said that while another proposal seeks to authorize a new worship book for churchwide use, the draft text does not at this time include rites for the blessing of committed same-gender relationships.
Additional information is posted online at www.elca.org/assembly/05.
Formally constituted in 1987, the ELCA began operations in 1988 as the result of a union of three North American Lutheran church bodies: The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America. The three churches agreed to unite in 1982 and formed a 70-member Commission for a New Lutheran Church, which planned the merger approved in 1986.
The ELCA and the Episcopal Church entered a relationship of full communion with rites in January 6, 2001, at Washington National Cathedral.