ELCA Churchwide Assembly – Day 1

The first day of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly is over and I’m once again reminded how difficult it is to catch the flavor of the Assembly from 600 miles away. We can’t hear the hallway conversations, we can’t see the protests or displays. I rely on the reports of friends at the Assembly, the webcasts, and the press releases.

The possible conflict about the rules of the Assembly did not materialize. Bishop Hanson was very clear that those actions affecting the primary documents of the church required a 2/3 majority vote, and this ground has been covered before. The only part of the rules amended last night was the length of time available to each person for debate. Three minutes was amended down to two without debate. Kevin Bardonner, voting member of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod recalled that part way through the last Churchwide Assembly this same amendment was offered as a way to speed debate and allow greater participation. Starting this Assembly with the same rule makes some sense. The discussion of the rules of procedure was rather mind-numbing, and unless you are conversant with the language of parliamentary procedure, was about the same as listening to any other unknown foreign language.

The first ballot for Presiding Bishop was cast last night, after a delay in certifying the number of voting members. That certification is critical, because in order for there to be an election on the first ballot, the person must receive 75% of the votes. Here is the bare bones description of the ecclesiastical ballot process for Presiding Bishop. (Emphasis mine.)

The presiding bishop shall be elected by the
Churchwide Assembly by ecclesiastical ballot.
Three-fourths of the votes cast shall be necessary
for election on the first ballot.
If no one is elected,
the first ballot shall be considered the nominating
ballot. Three-fourths of the votes cast on the
second ballot shall be necessary for election.
The
third ballot shall be limited to the seven persons
(plus ties) who received the greatest number of
votes on the second ballot, and two-thirds of the
votes cast shall be necessary for election. The
fourth ballot shall be limited to the three persons
(plus ties) who receive the greatest number of votes
on the third ballot, and 60 percent of the votes cast
shall be necessary for election. On subsequent
ballots, a majority of the votes cast shall be
necessary for election. These ballots shall be
limited to the two persons (plus ties) who receive
the greatest number of votes on the previous ballot.

We expect to hear the results of the first ballot for Presiding Bishop this morning between 9:30 and 10:30 (EDT)

When the voting members were being oriented to the voting devices, some interesting information was revealed. As per the rules, nearly 30% of the Voting Members were lay female, about 30% were lay male, and about 25% were clergy. Something like 61% of the Voting Members were attending their first Churchwide Assembly.

Pondering Pastor

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