ELCA Churchwide Assembly – Day 5 (Afternoon)

My apologies in advance for those expecting complete accounting of the afternoon session. The final form of this will be delayed. I am going with my spouse to a fancy restaurant this evening in Washington, DC (It is DC’s restaurant week). I will be continuing this detailed blog, but will stop before the end of the plenary this afternoon. If all works correctly, I’ll be able to post additional material tomorrow morning.

Schedule is modified …

  • Bible study
  • Greetings from LCMS President, Dr. Kieshnick
  • Secretary Nominee Speeches
  • Fourth ballot for secretary
  • Dwelling in the Word
  • Report on ballot for secretary
  • Consideration of Education Social Statement
  • Consideration of Memorials
  • Budget
  • LYO Greetings
  • Youth Convo
  • WELCA
  • Servus Dei Medal
  • 20th anniversary litany

Bible Study, Dr. Timothy Wengert, Galatians 5. Focused on Christian freedom. “According to a recent poll, almost half the Lutherans in the United States think that we are saved by our works, by our moral rectitude! We are not! We are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone!” He kept coming back to “So, what are you going to do, now that you don’t have to do anything?” The Assembly was invited into a time of conversation.

Greetings from LCMS President, Dr. Kieshnick (There are many each year who hold these greetings in very high esteem. Dr. Kieshnick has on occasion chastised the Assembly, at other times has been polite, and at least once, engaging. There is a wide gulf between the ELCA and LCMS. We will work in specific task-oriented relief efforts together, but beyond that …) Dr. Kieshnick was polite, quoted extensively from the confessions, Small Catechism, and scripture. “We in the LCMS recently reaffirmed our dedication to the Word of God as the inerrant, revealed, written Word of God.” “It is clear from the discussions in your Assembly regarding the possibility of the mending your church’s vision document and the LCMS and LCA continue to hold different positions on the interpretation and authority of Holy Scripture and that such differences exist also
within the ELCA. For the sake of our mutual witness and service together, the implications of such action, should it be taken, would need to be addressed evangelically and fraternally.”

Secretary Nominee Speeches

Paul Schreck

Oops. Let me assure you, those of you who saw my email projected on the screens, that I attended this meeting and debate with respectful attentiveness. We are also, however, used to the other duties as a signed clause in our job descriptions, of which I have several, and sometimes collide. While I’m used to multitasking on the job, I’m also not used to publicly displayed screens. And if that got in the way of your meeting, I apologize. I’m not a machine. I will make mistakes. And then I’ll take responsibility for them and I’ll do my best to correct it. When Secretary Almen announced his intention to retire at the end of this term, I was asked by someone if I would be open to the call. And my response, jokingly was: If nominated, I will flee to Mexico. If elected, I will fight extradition. Because I know only too well what the job entails. But of course I could not withdraw from the election process. Scripture shows us again and again that if God calls you to do something, God will pursue you. Sometimes it is Christ who knocks at our door at midnight after we’re comfortably in bed and persistently knocks until we aroused our plans are upset and finally answer the door. I know, I’ve done it already once. I used to be a school teacher. When I resigned my call at St. Mark in Butler, Pennsylvania, we had a farewell and God speed service to send me on my way. And at the end of the service, I greeted everyone as they went to the reception that I never personally got to, and the spouse, the wife of a former pastor, came up to me, held my face in her hands, she kind of shook her head and tearfully said “but you’ve got a pastor’s heart”! As if questioning why in the world would I go to Chicago and be a part of the bureaucracy? And as I was hugging her, I said Marveline, “isn’t that the point”? I would bring to this office experience with constitutions, with rosterings, policies, with annual reports, minutes and archiving, church-to-church diplomacy, Churchwide polity and governance. But I also bring a pastor’s heart. Ill logically trained, scripturally grounded, liturgically shaped, ecumenically opened, longing for the reign of God among us. If that’s not what you want in a Secretary, please don’t call me. I don’t know how to be anything else. But if this is what you desire in your next Secretary, I will serve Christ and this church with courageous humility. Thank you.

Michael Cooper-White

Sisters and brothers in Christ, thank you for this opportunity to share what is on my heart. I will confess to you that in recent days there have been many moments when I have been on the verge of closing the door and walking away from the possibility of this call. For more than two decades of our marriage, my wife, Pamela, my wonderful wife has spent more nights alone than any husband should ask. Likewise, our teenage daughter has been deprived of too many times with her dad. The possibility of my move to Chicago would further complicate our life together as a family, but we’re prepared to make that sacrifice to make it work, to even make it fun. Once in a while, my wife says she likes having me gone so much of the time. I serve in a wonderful call with a wonderful community. Our seminary at Gettysburg, its short history is written in a book called “on the glorious hill”, and it is a glorious place with a dynamic faculty, wonderful students, a great board of directors, dedicated staff and such a broad constituency throughout the world. For the past — for seven years, I served in an office on the 11th floor of the Lutheran center in Chicago. It was about 50 feet away from the office of the Secretary. And from that vantage point, I gained a close perspective on the work on the burdens of office, on the dimensions of the workload that are carried out. No matter how early I would get to my office in the morning, and often it was very early indeed, the light would be on, Secretary Almen, at his desk to fulfill the responsibilities of that office. But each time that I have tried to close the door and to walk away from this call, there have been images in my heart and in my mind I think that come close to what the Bible talks about when it talks about people having a vision. I have a vision of the Secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as an evangelist and a theologian of the cross. The first Secretaries of the church, Matthew, mark, Luke and John were called to keep a faithful record and to pass along an account of the mighty acts of God within a people of God at a particular place and time. The Secretary today is called likewise to be an evangelist, always looking at our documents and our policies through the cross of Jesus Christ. A second image comes from the childhood of my father. Benny Cooper arrived as a penniless orphan to study at the west central school of agriculture in Morris, Minnesota. He had to work his way through school. In the winter, he shoveled coal into the great furnaces of the heating plant there at Morris while his classmates slept cozily in their beds at night, Benny was down in the furnace room tending the fires. The Secretary of this church tends the fires on which so many others depend for their work. Our Presiding Bishop and his staff, the Church Council, the Conference of Bishops, this Assembly, and leaders in Synods and congregations throughout this great church. The third vision is of the Secretary as a midwife who stands watch and coaches through a long, dark night of labor; and then when the miracle happens, slips quietly out in the morning hours before the family arrives and the celebration of birth begins. I believe our church is involved now and is going to be involved in the years ahead in a great birthing process, for God is at work among us! Birthing anew. God is at work in this incredibly rich and diverse world, calling us to become a church of the whole global community. God is at work among us birthing new ways in which we relate to one another and embrace the gifts of all of God’s people. If you call me to be your Secretary, I pledge to be a faithful evangelist and theologian of the cross, a dedicated tender of the fires and a faithful midwife. Thank you.

David Swartling

In those quiet times, in those precious moments before worship begins, I find myself opening the ELW and reading these words to myself, “i believe that I cannot by my own understanding or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it in Jesus Christ in the one common true faith.” Those words are a core part of my belief system. They give me strength when I am consumed by my weakness and I question who I am. They provide me solace at times like this, and they inspire me to be able to stand before you in this discernment process we are both about. I’m honored and awed and also awkward standing before you. I’m honored because so many of you have said so many kind things and expressed your confidence in me. I’m also honored because of the quality of the seven other leaders who spoke to you yesterday, and I’m proud to be one of them. I’m awed because we’re all standing in the shadow of Lowell Almen and I’m awed because of the implications of this election for you and for me. I also have to express I’m a little bit awkward because a year ago, a month ago, even a week ago, I told many of you I didn’t aspire to this position and I didn’t, and don’t. But I had a prophetic conversation about which you need to be aware. It was with Jan necessarily the assistant to the bishop Chris Boerger, and I was advocating ego through this process because it’s a process of discernment for the church. And he said isn’t it hypocritical for you to go forward and you to withdraw. So here I am, never argue with a theologian. I want to talk to you about ministry. I want to talk to you about the world hunger efforts of the ELCA. I would love to talk to you about disaster relief, campus ministry at the places in our Synod. But those are conversations for another day. We’re here to talk about discernment and to facilitate your wise decision-making. So what attributes would you bring to you, to the ELCA as your Secretary? I have many weaknesses, undeniably. But let me focus a few minutes on strengths and talk to you about knowledge, about skills and about style. As I indicated yesterday to you, I’ve been involved in the marvelous ministry of this church at each expression. I understand the concept of vocation. I understand and appreciate in my brain and my heart the polity of the ELCA. I understand and appreciate in my brain and in my heart, the concept, the elegant concept of interdependence. Skills. I’ve been a litigation lawyer for years. If you scratch the surface, you’ll find to be a successful litigation lawyer, you need to analyze, when to advise and when to advocate. Successful litigation lawyers have a sense of fairness and an understanding of the importance of process, process for all. A word about style. I started my professional life as a naval officer on a submarine. I learned to get along with people at close quarters. As a litigator, I value my reputation as being ethical and civil and hard working, and I want you to know that I work very, very hard at relationships and team building. I practice law with some people for more than 20 years, I work with a staff, some of whom have been with me for more than a decade. I work with them. They do not work for me. I believe in collaborative leadership, and I tell new clients when they come to me that I wear two hats. I wear a counseling hat and I wear an advocacy hat. And when I’m wearing their counseling hat, I will try to tell the truth even if they don’t like to hear it. If you elect me Secretary, Bishop Hanson will hear from me sometimes things he does not want to hear; but that’s only one hat. The second hat is the hat of advocacy when a decision is made, you need to move forward. Now, I am not a theologian. I am not a church historian. I don’t use the word ecclesiology often. But I can tell you that at some point, this church deserves to have a layperson as Secretary. Is this the time? Is this the place? I don’t know. But I’m willing to serve if you call me.

Fourth Ballot for the Secretary (60% required for election)

  • Michael Cooper-White (211)
  • David Swartling (528)
  • Paul Schreck (304)

David Swartling & Paul Schreck will be on the next ballot.

Consideration of Education Social Statement (resumed)

  • Motion to Adopt the Social Statement on Education as amended. (Requires 2/3 vote) Passed 949-35.
  • Implementing Resolutions and amendments (en bloc).

Getting ready for a nice quiet evening.

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