August 13, 2019 The Churchwide Assembly that concluded this past Saturday was historic in the life of our denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

One decision by the nearly 1,000-member assembly was to declare the ELCA a sanctuary denomination, and it is important to understand what this does and does not mean. First, a quick summary of assembly action and links to more information. 

Fourteen voting members, elected by our synod assembly, plus our bishop-elect, the Rev. Susan Candea, were on hand from the Central States Synod as the assembly met in Milwaukee. You can read their reflections on Churchwide Assembly here: https://www.css-elca.org/churchwide-assembly

The assembly:

Received the results of the ELCA’s first major fund-raising campaign. The 2013 Churchwide Assembly approved the $198 million campaign to help sustain and grow the ministries of the church. This assembly heard that in fact $250 million has been raised in cash, multi-year commitments, and planned gift commitments.

Re-elected Presiding Bishop Eaton on the first ballot with over 81 percent of the vote.

Adopted the social statement “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action.”

Approved “A Declaration of Inter-religious Commitment,” which underscores the ELCA’s long-standing commitment to inter-religious relations.

Approved memorials on a variety of topics including gun violence, engagement in the Holy Land, and income inequality.

Presented a Declaration to People of African Descent to representatives of the African Descent Lutheran Association.  The declaration is an expression of confession of this church’s bondage to the sins of slavery, racism, discrimination, white supremacy and quietism.  “This apology is a recommitment to the process of right and equitable relations within this church, and the flourishing of Christ’s church universal,” Bishop Eaton said after the declaration was read.

Received the proposal for the triennium budget.

Elected Deacon Sue Rothmeyer as secretary of the ELCA.

Voted to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance in the ELCA for the deaths of the Emanuel 9, the nine people who were killed June 17, 2015, during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, S.C.Adopted a resolution condemning white supremacy. 

Expanded information on the above highlights, and much more, can be found here


What does it mean to be a Sanctuary Denomination?

On Aug. 7, voting members overwhelmingly approved the declaration of the ELCA as a sanctuary denomination. That declaration was quickly interpreted in a variety of ways, including on social media and by persons who were simply uninformed about the measure.

It is important to note what this declaration means, and what it does not mean.The ELCA is not ordering (indeed, cannot order) its congregations to take a particular action, regarding sanctuary or any other issue.The ELCA does not advise or condone breaking the law.The ELCA is renewing its commitment to advocate for reform of our nation's immigration system and for the humane treatment of immigrants and refugees.The ELCA is renewing its commitment to action to fulfill Scripture's call to welcome the stranger, including immigrants and refugees. What that looks like will be determined by individual congregations taking the initiative and acting in their own contexts.The ELCA is renewing its commitment to the AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation, and Opportunities) program. Here is a link to some basic information about what it means to be a sanctuary denomination: Resources to assist congregations in accomplishing these outcomes will be forthcoming from our national office and will be provided to you as soon as they become available.

There was much to celebrate in this assembly. There was inspiring worship, faithful preaching, exciting testimony, an incredibly successful financial campaign, and so much more. I encourage you to click the links above and find out more about this gathering, with the theme, “We Are Church.”

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