By Candice Hill Buchbinder, ELCA News

The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met at The Lutheran Center in Chicago, Nov. 9-12. The council, which serves as the ELCA’s board of directors, focused on the goals of ELCA Future Directions 2025 and the church’s priorities around congregational vitality and leadership.

The council, addressing the needs of the church now and into the future, adopted a number of actions on the reorganization of the ELCA Foundation, including approving additional responsibilities for the Endowment Fund of the ELCA. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the Endowment Fund will assume responsibility for all programs and related assets currently associated with the ELCA Foundation. In order to do this, the council approved the process of transferring the activities of the ELCA Foundation to the Endowment Fund. The approval followed a presentation by the chair of the Task Force on the Structure and Governance of the ELCA Foundation. The task force was established by the council at its November 2016 meeting.

The Endowment Fund of the ELCA is a separately incorporated ministry of the ELCA that serves as trustee of the Endowment Fund Pooled Trust (Fund A) with oversight provided by a board of trustees elected by the Church Council. The ELCA Foundation is a program of the churchwide organization that provides fund-raising and gift-planning services to donors through vehicles that include Charitable Remainder Trusts, Charitable Gift Annuities, donor advised funds and other gift-planning resources. Beginning in January, the oversight of the program will be provided by the Endowment Fund of the ELCA (now to be known as the ELCA Foundation) board of trustees.

In its report, the task force laid out the benefits of the transfer: improved governance, expanded investment and financial oversight, increased transparency to current and prospective donors, financial sustainability and legal-risk mitigation.

The council also adopted a revised social message on human rights. The social message was written, in part, as a response to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly adoption of a social policy resolution calling for an investment screen related to human rights. The social message would support and inform such a social criteria investment screen. It would also articulate in one place the themes and commitments from the disparate sources in which the ELCA has affirmed or mentioned human rights.

In other business, the council:

  • Elected an ELCA treasurer to a six-year term, beginning Feb. 1, 2018. The name will be released pending notification of the person’s current employer.
  • Presented the Servus Dei Award to Treasurer Linda Norman in thanksgiving for her service.
  • Elected Man-Hei Yip to the Church Council, Ingrid Stafford to the Executive Committee and the Rev. Tiffany Chaney to the Nominating Committee.
  • Directed the Theological Education Advisory Committee to define a single seminary governance structure.
  • Appointed a task force to provide benchmarks, accountability and support for attaining diversity goals in all expressions of this church.
  • Declined the request for the ELCA to declare itself a sanctuary denomination, yet supported the spirit of the sanctuary movement by encouraging congregations to serve and support the protection of migrants in their communities.
  • Affirmed the recommendations adopted by the African Descent Lutheran Association biennial gathering related to a process for relationship building and systematic analysis.
  • Approved a 2018 fiscal year fund spending authorization of $67,140,670 and an ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $23,750,000.
  • Requested that the churchwide organization prepare a plan for the process by which “where needed most” dollars in Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA will be allocated.
  • Deferred the question of developing social messages on aging and the U.S. National Drug Policy until 2018.
  • Adopted “Vision, Process and Practice of ELCA Campus Ministry: Guidelines and Recommendations.”
  • Approved revisions to the Environment Social Criteria Investment Screen.
  • Approved the report of the Audit Committee.
  • Elected members of the boards of separately incorporated ministries, seminaries and other organizations and approved appointments to the Audit Committee and the Justice for Women Consulting Committee.
  • Allocated additional members to the ELCA 2019 Churchwide Assembly.
  • Approved amended bylaws of the Deaconess Community of the ELCA.
  • Ratified amendments to synod constitutions.
  • Approved the Asset Transfer Agreement for the reunion of Capital University and Trinity Lutheran Seminary and revised bylaws of Capital University.
  • Commended The Lutheran World Federation Gender Justice Policy to the ELCA for study and consideration.
The council also received and engaged in:
  • Reports from the officers, its committees, the churchwide organization administrative team and the Conference of Bishops.
  • Updates on the hearing process for the women and justice social statement.
  • Discussion on sustainability and church structures.
  • Discussion on Joint Leadership Table commitments – the Joint Leadership Table is the executive committees of the Church Council and Conference of Bishops and the churchwide organization’s administrative team.
  • Shared congregational vitality learnings.
  • A primer on AMMPARO – the ELCA’s strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities. AMMPARO is a commitment by the ELCA to accompany vulnerable migrating children today and in the future. The strategy will respond to the situation in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala that has led to the migration of children and their families through Mexico into the United States.
  • Conversation with representatives of ethnic associations.
  • Updates on Lutheran Disaster Response.
  • Updates on Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA.
  • Greetings from ecumenical partners.

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