Recognizing the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as a Book of Faith church, ELCA Vice President Carlos Peña reflected on the 10th chapter of Luke as he opened his Aug. 9 final report to the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few,” Peña said. “I think sometimes that’s because there is so much to harvest that we don’t know where to begin.
“Look at where God has planted you. God put you there for a reason. … You don’t need to travel across country to participate in the latest demonstration. Your harvest can be in your own workplace, your own home, your organizations, your community. There is plenty to be done close to home.”
In his report, Peña laid out the recommendations of the ELCA Church Council for actions to be considered by the assembly, including election of a new vice president. Peña, who has served in this role since 2003, has decided not to seek a third term.
The first ballot for the election of vice president was held Aug. 8, with 716 votes cast by assembly voting members. A total of 541 votes were needed for election. The top three results were: 102 ballots cast for William B. Horne, Clearwater, Fla.; 62 for Gwen Arneson, Cottonwood, Minn.; and 45 for Thomas Madden, Rochester, N.Y. There was no election at this time.
Following Peña’s report, the assembly stood to recognize his 13 years of service. Peña was presented with the Servus Dei Award, which honors ELCA officers at the completion of their terms.
“We give thanks to God for the contributions Carlos has made to the life of this church,” ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton said. “May God grant him persistent hope in the gospel we proclaim and delight in remembering the privilege of serving as the fourth vice president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”
On this day the assembly also received an introduction to “Declaration on the Way,” presented by ELCA Presiding Bishop Emeritus Mark S. Hanson and Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore – co-chairs of the Declaration on the Way task force. The document draws on 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in preparation for the Reformation anniversary.
“The text invites ELCA members to claim and to celebrate how far Catholics and Lutherans have come in ecumenical dialogue, and seeks to inspire ELCA members to continue the theological work which Lutherans and Catholics have done together so fruitfully; to continue to grow in common prayer and study; and to continue collaboration and care for the hurting world which God so loves,” Hanson said.
“The hope is that this declaration can contribute to this ongoing reformation of the church and to grow in communion between Catholics and Lutherans,” Madden said.
Concluding the presentation Hanson said, “What is before this assembly is the opportunity for this church, guided by its vision of Christian unity and claiming God’s grace, to take this further step ‘on the way’ as we journey to 2017 and beyond.”
In another presentation before the assembly, the Rev. M. Wyvetta Bullock, ELCA executive for administration, introduced the 2017-2019 budget proposal, developed in consultation with the budget and finance committee of the Church Council and approved by the council. The assembly will consider and vote on the adoption of the budget proposal for the next triennium on Aug.10.
“The budget proposal for the next triennium that is before you is about the mission to which we believe God is calling this church,” Bullock said. “Each dollar represents our hope to touch a life and be part of God’s transforming work in the world. Whether it is a grant to start a new congregation, support for new and emerging leaders, accompaniment of global or ecumenical partners, or stewarding the necessary infrastructure to enable ministry to happen in this country or around the world, this budget represents how we are church together for the sake of the world.”
Bullock told the assembly that the combined 2017 budget proposal for the current operating funds and ELCA World Hunger is $90,096,005. The largest portion of the income proposal is mission support income, estimated at $43.8 million. Mission support is the portion of regular financial offerings from ELCA congregations that is shared with synods and the churchwide organization to support ELCA ministries beyond the congregation.
Bullock said the largest expense category in the combined budget proposal is providing relief and development in this country and around the world. Other major expense categories include growing the ELCA, growing the Lutheran church around the world, and supporting and developing current and future leaders in the ELCA.
The assembly also received an introduction to AMMPARO – the ELCA’s strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities – to be considered during the Aug. 10 afternoon plenary.
In the presentation the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission, described the conditions that lead people to leave their homes, seeking refuge in the United States.
“In numbers never seen before, over 65 million persons worldwide have been displaced from their homes by violence, poverty and economic marginalization, the impact of climate change in their communities, war and civil strife,” he said. “As the ELCA we cannot keep silent nor be inactive. We are taking action. We are working with companions all over the world and in the United States to welcome the stranger and provide refuge.”
Emphasizing AMMPARO as a holistic, whole church response, the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, executive director for ELCA Domestic Mission, said the strategy “incorporates the three expressions of the ELCA: congregations, synods and the churchwide office, plus strategic allies such as ecumenical partners, Lutheran social ministry organizations, and trusted partners such as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.”
“We started this process by listening to migrants on the journey,” Bouman said. “After listening to the many stories and seeing firsthand the conditions faced by migrants at all points in the journey, we came together to build an initiative that would comprehensively respond at all points of a migrant’s journey. This initiative is growing organically as this movement is bringing together the many things already happening in our church.”
The assembly also received:
- An overview and introduction to the constitutional amendments that will be considered in implementing the proposed roster of word and service. The action will be considered Aug. 12.
- A report from the Nominating Committee.
- Greetings from Bishop Medardo Gόmez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church in El Salvador; Beth Lewis, president and CEO of 1517 Media, also known as Augsburg Fortress; and Patti Austin, president of Women of the ELCA.