Every three years, people from across the entire ELCA meet for the Churchwide Assembly. It is in Milwaukee this year, starting on Monday, August 5th. Twelve members of the Montana Synod will be there as voting members—from Sidney to Ronan, from Cody to Havre—and places in-between. These Voting Members are listed in the weekly prayers. Please pray for them, and for our church, the ELCA, as we gather to make important decisions about how we will be church together.
There will be elections. We will elect or re-elect a Presiding Bishop. We will elect a new Secretary. We will also elect a number of new people to the ELCA Church Council, the governing body that determines policy and procedures between Churchwide Assemblies. Two Montana women will be on the ballot—Mary Hutchinson from Billings and Loni Whitford from Rocky Boy. The Assembly will elect one of them to serve on the Church Council on behalf of the Montana Synod and the Eastern Washington Idaho Synod.
There will be a kickoff for the 50th Anniversary of Women’s Ordination in 2020. In Friday morning, the Rev. April Larson, the first woman to be elected a Bishop in the ELCA, will be a featured speaker. On Friday evening, the Rev. Beth Platz, the first woman ordained in the Lutheran Church in the US, will speak at the celebratory banquet, at which Congregational resources (Bible Study, Study Guide, Worship Resources) will be launched.
There will be a Social Statement on Faith, Sexism and Justice. The Assembly will have an opportunity to debate and vote on adopting this Social Statement, which has taken longer from proposal to completion than any previous statement.
There will be a policy statement on Interreligious Dialogue. This proposed statement is a followup to the statement on Ecumenism adopted early in the ELCA’s life. We live in an increasingly diverse world, and knowing how to discuss issues of ultimate importance with people who have different faith traditions is critical.
There will be a proposal to ordain Deacons. The ELCA has been evolving in our understanding of the role of ministers of word and service. At the beginning of the ELCA, lay professionals (who had different nomenclature in the different predecessor chores.) were called Associates in Ministry. Eventually, we added another lay ministry category, Diaconal Ministers. And there were Deaconesses. In 2016, they were all merged into Deacons. Now, in 2019, the Assembly will vote on the recommendation that ordination (as opposed to consecration, commissioning, or anything else) be the entrance rite for Deacons.
There will be followup conversations and resolutions on racism. The 2016 Churchwide Assembly adopted several resolutions on racism, and asked for report back in 2019. Anti-racism training in every Synod and anti-racism goals for every Synod were requested, as was a proposal on “authentic diversity.” The 2016 Churchwide Assembly also passed a resolution on the Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, with action steps, but little has been done on a Churchwide level to fulfill those commitments.
There will be daily worship and Bible Study. Churchwide Assembly worship is a highlight for many people. Excellent preaching, inspiring music, thoughtful liturgies keep participants grounded in why we are really here. Bible Study leaders challenge and teach.
There will be resolutions from Synods. Synods have the opportunity to send memorials to the Churchwide Assembly for consideration. The topics range from environmental issues to Seminary debt to church governance.
Watch for photos and interviews on the Synod page, as well as live streaming from www.elca.org.
And keep us in prayer.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA