The 2009 Church Wide Assembly of the ELCA (CWA09) arrived with a great deal of anticipation.  The Social Statement on Human Sexuality was due for consideration as well as proposed changes to ministry policies.  The potential impact on church policy vis a vis the LGBTQ community was huge.

There was also tension as the Convention opened.  Lutheran CORE, the conservative opposition to the Sexuality Statement and the Ministry Policy Revisions, maintained a “hospitality” room in a prominent location.  Not so prominent, stuck on the second floor and down the hallway, Goodsoil Central nevertheless was a hive of activity of LGBTQ advocates.

A curiosity–there was a discernible difference in appearance between the two sets of volunteers.  The folks from Goodsoil Central tended to be rather casual in dress and wore prayer shawls while the cadre from CORE tended toward clergy collars, pressed black suits, and fresh haircuts.  Just my impression.

Freed in Christ to ServeAs the start of CWA11 approaches, the mood is different, expressed in the simple, understated Assembly theme–“Freed in Christ to Serve”.

To be sure, there will likely be floor resolutions seeking to rescind the Sexuality Statement and ministry policies adopted at CWA09, but few expect such proposals to receive significant support.  There are sixty-five Synods in the ELCA, and there was not much traction for change in their regional assemblies leading to the upcoming Church Wide Assembly.  Only three of the sixty-five Synods have submitted “memorials” urging the whole church to reverse course while dozens of Synods (37) have memorialized Church Wide to adopt an anti-bullying resolution advocated by Goodsoil.

Perhaps the biggest business item at CWA11 will be a proposed restructuring requiring constitutional amendments.  The amendments proposed by a study commission (LIFT = Living Into the Future Together) call for a shift in governance from a two-year cycle of national conventions to a three-year cycle.  Because the national conventions are the ultimate legislative authority of the church, spreading out the time between sessions also requires expansion of the roles of Church Council, Council of Bishops, and Synods to govern in the interim.  The proposals have cost savings implications but also a diffusion of authority.

Finally, a social statement on Genetics that has been in the works for a number of years will also be considered by CWA11.

I’ll be there as a voting member, and my Synod (SE MN) will be testing a paperless system by using iPads instead of the reams of paper required to print out the pre-assembly report (which is also available online right now) and other assembly documents.  Follow me by RSS feed or Twitter (@LiberalSpirit) for regular updates.