First day at Churchwide Assembly

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I’ll try to be keeping up a daily log of happenings at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA), and this is my first entry. I’m also Twittering at:

twitter.com/paulhardt

I’m able to Twitter pretty regularly, even though there is no internet access on the assembly floor. There is an internet cafe they’ve set up for us (thanks Luther Seminary!).

After a very effortless registration process, we started the assembly with an orientation for new voting members. We’re called “voting members”  because, strictly speaking, we don’t represent our congregations or synods. We vote our consciences.

The whole CWA is being broadcasted on the web, and we opened with a very impressive worship service. Here’s a link:

Monday Video Clip page

Bishop Mark Hanson had a strong message of “unity,” a very timely message considering all the expectations for this assembly to be divisive. Bp.Hanson’s message was most timely, “The message of this Assembly has not been written, yet, despite all the expectations…” (I’m paraphrasing).

I think that was a great message–we don’t have to follow the expectations that have been set up for this Assembly.

The main administrative news was the debate about the rules. In democracies, and the ELCA is very democratic, it all starts with the rules.

The biggest issue was “what will be the required vote for passing social statements and related policies?” The ELCA constitution is quite clear about social statements–they require a 2/3 majority to be adopted. Policies, on the other hand, have only required a simple majority (50% plus 1) to pass.

A motion to admend the rules to require an extraordinary majority for policy adoption (2/3 majority) was proposed and debated vigorously. However, the assembly voted to maintain the present practice of requiring 0nly a simple majority for policy decisions.

This rules vote was an early test of the strength of the pro- and anti- Human Sexuality Statement forces. The anti-Human Sexuality statement folks wanted the extra0rdinary majority to adopt policies, to make it tougher to adopt any of the implementing policies of the statement, including the ministerial policies. The prposed change in the rules failed on a 59% to 41% vote (approximate).

So, preliminarily, it looks like the pro-Human Sexuality statement folks have about 59% of the votes of the assembly and the anti-statment folks have about 41% of the vote.

While minds certainly can change, and there has been some good debate on the statement today (Tuesday), this early test of the strength of the two camps seems to indicate that the statement will not be adopted. As Bp. Hanson said, “We decide our own witness this week,” so nothing is in stone, yet. We’ll see what happens between Monday evening and later in the week.

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