CHICAGO -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America devised plans to expand their mission and ministry fields across the United States during a steering committee assembly in Chicago, Illinois, Feb 27-28. The group, led by ELCA’s presiding Bishop, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, considered a complete “restructuring” and “redesigning” of the churchwide Commission for Multicultural Ministries through a three stage process of development.
Rev. Hanson opened the meeting with information on “Faithful Yet Changing: The Plan for Mission in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” – the newly developed instrument to implement the expansionary changes. According to Hanson, the “Faithful Yet Changing” proposal is based on the mission statement and strategic directions affirmed by the 2003 ELCA general assembly. The proposal will allow ministries to be more “participatory,” and would open doors for all ethnic communities to “get involved.”
The three “steps” or “phases” to the Faithful Yet Changing proposal begins with gathering information. Information on how to grow and how to build alternative designs for the churchwide work will be gathered through conversations across the ELCA. The second stage will be marked with the actual building of alternative designs. In addition, Hanson said a “proposal writer” will be hired in the second phase, which is set to begin in May and end in July. The final stage will be marked with further critique from the council and a presentation to the Church Council.
In his report to the committee, the Rev. Frederick E.N. Rajan, CMM executive director, shared his idea on how the Churchwide Office could be reorganized, during the two day meeting.
"As we look into the new structure, I would like to see the establishment of seven churchwide ministry teams. They are African American and Black, Asian and Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native, Arab and Middle Eastern, Latino, racial justice ministries and multicultural education," Rajan said. Other churchwide units "with ethnic-specific or multicultural ministry portfolios" should join these team as a members, "under the leadership of the director for the commission," Rajan told the steering committee.
Currently, the CMM provides advice, counsel and services to ELCA churchwide units and congregations across the country that wish to become more culturally diverse. The goal of the CMM is to achieve full partnership and participation from five ethicic “desks””
It works to achieve full partnership and participation of African American and Black, Arab and Middle Eastern, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino, American Indian and Alaska Native people in the life of the church and society.
It develops resources, training and workshops to help the ELCA dismantle racism.
In other areas, the CMM announced the beginning of seven Asia Asian and Pacific Island ministries in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Texas. The Rev. Pongsak Limthongviratn, CMM director for Asian and Pacific Islanders ministries, said these ministries are working to get organized by the ELCA's Asian Church Planning Team and ELCA Division for Outreach.