The ELCA Churchwide Assembly is the primary decision-making body of this church body. This assembly gathers every three years. Voting members are chosen locally from across the United States, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. There will be around 900 voting members.

In 2022 we are meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Over the course of the assembly, voting members will:

  • Worship, pray and sing together
  • Hear reports and review the work of churchwide officers, leaders and units
  • Receive and consider proposals from synod assemblies
  • Elect officers, board members and other leaders as specified by the constitution or bylaws
  • Establish ELCA churchwide policy
  • Adopt a budget
  • Approve some constitutional amendments.
  • Conduct other business related to the ELCA churchwide organization.
  • Vote on two important statements: The Women and Justice social groups statement and the Declaration of Our Inter-Religious Commitment policy statement

Gulf Coast Synod Voting Members to the 2022 Assembly:

  1. Ashley Dellagiacoma
  2. Aimee Elles (alternate for Kristen Kruger, who was unable to be present)
  3. Deidre Hayes
  4. Hannah Norem, young adult voting member
  5. Chris Markert (alternate for Gabriel Marcano, who was unable to be present)
  6. Diane White
  7. Tom Wildrick
  8. Michael Rinehart, Bishop
  9. Robert Rivera, Vice President

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Bishops and VPs arrive a day early for meetings. Jim Hazelwood, Blair Lundborg, and I rode our bikes down from Cleveland. It was good to see friends, old and new, like Pedro and Aura Suárez.

I enjoyed a morning bike ride and a leisurely lunch before opening worship.

Then meetings…

Our friend Carlos Peña (First Lutheran in Galveston) will be relieved of his duties as Interim ELCA Vice President as we elect a new VP to replace Bill Horne who sadly passed away suddenly last year. Is Carlos happy that he has only five days left? You tell me. Check out his smile below:

Photos with smiling faces…

And we had the wurst dinner…

Our Plenary Hall before…

And after…

And I will add, ComicCon or PowerCon or something was going on. Churchwide Assembly would be so much more fun if we all dressed up as superheroes (or supervillains).

Monday, August 8, 2022

4:00 – Assembly Orientation

5:00 – Guide Orientation

5:30 – Dinner

7:00 – Opening Worship

We had a little rehearsal for opening worship:

If you want access to all the docs for the assembly, download the ELCA Events app. If you have questions, let me know.

The Memorials Committee recommends the passage of a couple dozen memorials, en bloc:

The Memorials Committee recommends three be given separate consideration:

The one I have been asked about most is the memorial to restructure the ELCA. Around 10 synods sent it to this assembly. Here it is:

Some reflections.

First of all, the 70-member CNLC (Commission to form a New Lutheran Church) met 10 times in five years in the early 80’s concluding its work in 1986, when I was in seminary here in Columbus. I was excited to be in the first graduating class of the new Lutheran Church.

The governance model the CNLC created was a negotiated, compromise patchwork of ALC, LCA, and AELC polities. Additionally, it was designed to govern a large 5-million member denomination headed for 8 million.

It is worth noting that opening worship today is being held in the same room (Battelle Grand Ballroom) where the ELCA Constituting Convention was held in 1987. Here is a photo of the three bishop/presidents pouring water into the font:

Fast forward 35 years and now we are a denomination of 3 million perhaps on our way to 2 million. Many believe, and I concur, that our organizational model is too cumbersome for the size of our denomination. It is worth some reconsideration. Also, organizational models today are flatter than those of the 80’s. Think Google versus GM.

I am in favor of this memorial, but would offer a word of caution. A reorganization, even a deep one, will not turn the tide back on the 50-year drop of worship attendance in the U.S., nor the decline of mainline denominations. Don’t expect revival or reformation. What we could get is a more nimble and less costly organization model that could make us more adept and flexible for change. Good things could happen, but no panacea.

Christianity in modernity (the 500 years since Luther and Columbus) is divided into denominations. These denominations are vestiges of European polarities: national churches. Lutherans from the Churches of Germany and Scandinavia. Episcopalians/Anglicans from the Church of England. Presbyterians from the Churches of Switzerland (Calvin) and Scotland (Knox), and so on. Colonialism were exported these churches (along with their self-presumed superior cultural values) to the world. This raises an even more complex question of whether global Christianity should or will be divided up this way in the next 500 years.

For now the modest proposal is simply to take a look at how we are organized in our little corner of the world (the US) in our faith (Christianity) in our tradition (Lutheranism) in our denomination (ELCA), then report back in 2025. This will not be on the cover of Newsweek or TIME. Luther pointed out there is no divinely-inspired or biblically-mandated church organizational model. We are free to organize as best serves the gospel. Let it be.

Opening worship – 7-9 pm

Pregame warmup. Vice President Robert Rivera and I:

Region 4 Bishops:

Region 4 bishops with VPs:

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Our synod (4F) is on the left side (as one looks at the dais) about halfway back. Glad to be at round tables for the first time.

We are nestled among the Minneapolis Area Synod, Northwest Washington, and South Carolina.

Sitting with Deidre Hayes and Diane White (otherwise known as Rozella’s mom):

Part of our group at the other table (round tables this year, yay)! L-R: VP Robert Rivera, Pastor Anthony Chatman (subbing for Chris Markert), Aimee Elles, Tom Wildrick, Hannah Norem, and Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma:

It seems we spent 30 minutes debating a motion to add 30 minutes to discussion of memorials. :-O

A first ballot was held for VP. A nominating ballot. Many are now discerning.

Several memorials were pulled out of en bloc. The rest passed by a 94+% margin.

Reconstituting the ELCA passed (91%!) with minor amendment.

Members of Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria Peregrina came and were issued a public apology for the way they were treated. Bishop Eaton confessed the systemic racism that needs to be addressed. Members responded, saying the decision to be present was difficult. The apology wavelets and they forgave the Presiding Bishop for not following the advice of her own listening team and for her slowness to respond. Everything was said in English and in Spanish.

Latiné Bishops

We ended the evening with the Association of Latino Ministries reception.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Land Back Memorial (A8) was postponed until Thursday pending the gathering of more information.

The Salary Equity Memorial (A6) passed by an overwhelming margin (93%).

We heard from full communion ecumenical partners, interfaith friends, and NcC representative Bishop Vashti Mackenzie:

At the ELCA colleges and seminaries reception, a wall of salad and a mountain of mac and cheese…

And opportunity to visit with Texas Lutheran University President Debbie Cottrell and her husband Alan. L-R: Alan Cottrell, yours truly, President Cottrell, Bishop Sue Briner (Southwestern Texas Synod), Erik Gronberg (North Texas-North Louisiana Synod).

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Separation Agreement Memorial (B8) passed.

Below some groupies with Gulf Coast VMs Deidre Hayes, Anthony Chatman

Gulf Coast VMs Hannah Norem and Pastor Ashley Dellagiacoma spoke to the Roe v. Wade (A14) memorial.

The motion passed by a 96.7% vote:

We heard the three remaining candidates for ELCA Vice President respond to questions.

Imran Siddiqui was elected Vice President of the #ELCA. He will serve a six-year term.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Here’s out group minus Deidre Hayes and Chris Markert: