NEW ORLEANS (ELCA.org) – Lifting up the central Lutheran theme of God’s grace in action through God’s church, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are gathering under the theme, “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action.”
The assembly – the highest legislative authority of the ELCA – is meeting Aug. 8-13 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. The assembly will also include preparations for observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
In her remarks at the opening plenary, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, said, “We have come here after a difficult summer overwhelmed by violence and heartache. Now more than ever, we are in need of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our midst. I pray that we will surround one another in prayer and love while we are together to do God’s work at this assembly.”
By a vote of 931 to 9, the assembly on Wednesday overwhelmingly accepted the “Declaration on the Way,” a unique ecumenical document that marks a path toward greater unity between Catholics and Lutherans. Following the vote, an emotional assembly stood to applaud the momentous decision.
At the heart of the document are 32 “Statements of Agreement” that state where Lutherans and Catholics do not have church-dividing differences on topics about church, ministry and the Eucharist. More tentatively, the document also explores differences that remain.
In another major consideration, the assembly voted 921 to 11 in favor of AMMPARO – the ELCA’s strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities.
The ELCA developed this strategy based on commitments to uphold and guarantee the basic human rights and safety of migrant children and their families; to address the root causes of migration in countries from Central America’s Northern Triangle and Mexico and the treatment of migrants in transit; to work toward just and humane policies affecting migrants in and outside the U.S.; to engage as a church with all of its companions, affiliates and partners to respond to the migration situation and its causes; and to advocate for migrant children and their families.
The assembly also voted 895 to 23 to accept the 2017-2019 budget proposal approved and recommended by the ELCA Church Council. The budget proposal includes:
- a 2017 current fund spending authorization of $65,296,005 and a 2017 ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $24.8 million;
- a 2018 current fund income proposal of $64,057,220 and a 2018 ELCA World Hunger income proposal of $25 million; and
- a 2019 current fund income proposal of $64,151,175 and a 2019 ELCA World Hunger income proposal of $25 million.