The ELCA Conference of Bishops will wrap up its October meeting today. Each of the 65 Synod bishops serves on the conference, which functions in an advisory capacity. The biennial churchwide assembly serves as the ultimate legislative authority of the church; the recent assembly actions approving support and recognition of persons in “lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships” and allowing ordination of such persons has been the focal point of the meeting of the bishops and of the address delivered by Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson. “It’s a rocky time” in the ELCA, he said.
The most pressing issue is financial due to a combination of a down economy and the call from the opposition group, Lutheran Core, for a financial boycott of the ELCA. One must ask what theological or moral justification exists for such a boycott, which smacks of childish spite. Hanson implicitly questioned the Core boycott when he pointed out that those who supported the recent assembly actions had long been the minority in the church, but they nevertheless continued as loyal benefactors of the church.
Hanson noted that members who wanted the policy change wondered for years where they stood in the ELCA. They remained faithful, stayed engaged in the church and generously supported its mission. Some increased their giving, he said.
Hanson said the Core financial boycott:
would adversely affect many ministries, such as planting and renewing congregations, grants and mission personnel assignments to global partner churches, and grants to Lutheran partners, agencies and institutions. Reductions would also affect the ELCA’s capacity to be engaged in mission, he said.
Because of current economic conditions and uncertainty about mission-support funds, the churchwide organization is involved in contingency financial planning, as are many synods, Hanson said. For 2009 the churchwide organization will continue a partial hiring freeze and underspend its current budget allocation by 5 percent “if necessary,” he said. Hanson also said churchwide leaders are developing “models for reducing expenses in the 2010 budget.” A revised spending plan for 2010 will be presented at next month’s meeting of the ELCA Church Council, the church’s board of directors, Hanson said.