By Candice Hill Buchbinder, ELCA News
The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) took action that will help determine the future directions and priorities of this church when it met here Nov. 10-13.
The council, which serves as the ELCA’s board of directors, adopted Called Forward Together in Christ – ELCA Strategic Directions 2025. The document provides a framework for shared leadership across the ELCA to realize common goals and better meet challenges the church may face in the future. It is the result of a process that invited the 3.7 million members of the church into conversations to provide ideas and feedback about the future of the church.
In her report to the council, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton addressed the Called Forward Together in Christ process and said, “We’ve seen that leadership and faith formation seem to be two major priorities that have been identified everywhere across the church.”
Eaton emphasized the work of the advisory committee to the Church Council created by the Theological Education Advisory Council. She said the committee is working to implement ideas that will lead to “more effective development of leadership, recruitment – support and development of leadership, as well as faith formation.”
Related to the issues of leadership and faith formation, Eaton announced a $3 million gift to the ELCA Fund for Leaders, which will provide full tuition seminary scholarships for 60 additional students over the next three years. The scholarships will be awarded through the ELCA Fund for Leaders, an initiative to build an endowed scholarship resource to provide tuition assistance for qualified candidates studying at ELCA seminaries.
Eaton also announced a new leadership initiative to inspire ELCA leaders to seek out and encourage gifted people in their congregations, communities and networks to consider a call to the ministry of the gospel, supported by growing levels of scholarships for seminary tuition.
“We will now have a focused, coordinated, ongoing effort to raise up leaders in the church,” said Eaton.
In other business, the council:
- authorized the Theological Education Advisory Committee to require those proposing theological education initiatives to complete a designated assessment tool; encouraged synods and directed the churchwide organization to maintain financial support for seminaries in 2017 without a percentage reduction.
- adopted the revised Candidacy Manual.
- requested the development of a social message on human rights and postponed the development of a general human rights social criteria investment screen until the approval of the human rights social message.
- approved a revised 2017 fiscal year current-fund spending authorization of $67,210,025.
- Approved a resolution to stand with and support Bishop Eaton as she stands with and supports the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in this church’s ministry of reconciliation.
- established a task force to consider whether the ELCA Foundation should be separately incorporated.
- approved the application of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Educational Conference of North America to be independent Lutheran organizations.
- approved bylaws of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, to be subsequently known as United Lutheran Seminary, with a request for further review of certain sections.
- approved changes to governing documents for the ELCA, Lutheran Services in America, the publishing house of the ELCA and the Mission Investment Fund.
- elected members to the governing bodies of National Lutheran Campus Ministry Inc., Endowment Fund of the ELCA, Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary and to the ELCA Audit Committee.
The council also received reports from the church’s treasurer, secretary and executive for administration, and the ELCA Conference of Bishops. It received updates on Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA and from the Global Mission, Domestic Mission and Mission Advancement units. The council also received greetings from ecumenical partners and engaged in a conversation with ethnic-specific association representatives.