Lutherans Express Concern Over Social, Church Issues

State synods touch upon gambling, homosexuality, ecumenical agreements and more
Jul 14, 2003 12:04 AM EDT

CHICAGO -- Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) serving as voting members to 2003 synod assemblies addressed several topics, according to reports from early assemblies on file here with the ELCA Department for Synodical Relations. Topics included gambling, ecumenical agreements, mission plans, evangelism and homosexuality within the church.

The ELCA is organized into 65 synods, each headed by an elected bishop. Synods generally hold annual assemblies in which they elect leaders, determine budgets and address topics of concern through resolutions.

Reports filed with the Department for Synodical Relations by July 4 included:

+ Gambling: The Alaska Synod assembly expressed its opposition to efforts to expand legalized gambling in the State of Alaska. Its resolution stated that "legalized gambling seems to violate our strong commitment to progressive taxation" and that gambling has a detrimental impact on the poor.

The Southeastern Minnesota Synod assembly adopted a resolution opposing passage of the gambling legislation known as "Racino" because of its destructiveness to the families and society of the State of Minnesota, the resolution said.

The North Carolina Synod assembly adopted a resolution opposing a state lottery in North Carolina.

+ Sexuality: The Northwest Washington Synod tabled a resolution affirming marriage as the life-long union of one man and one woman and regards any change in the doctrine of marriage as "a grave error."

The Indiana-Kentucky Synod assembly delayed action on three proposed resolutions pending further discussion. The first asks the ELCA Division for Outreach to rescind its relationship with Lutherans Concerned/North America because it "promotes approval of homosexual behavior, ordination of practicing homosexuals and blessing of same-sex unions ..."

The second resolution welcomes gay and lesbian people within the life and ministry of the synod and encourages them to share in all aspects of the life of the synod.

The third resolution is an appeal to the Conference of Bishops and the committee conducting the current study on homosexuality "to reaffirm orthodox Christian teaching on sexuality, marriage and ministerial discipline."

+ Anti-racism: The Northwest Washington Synod assembly approved a resolution endorsing anti-racism training for all congregations and leaders within the Northwest Washington Synod. The Texas-Louisiana-Gulf Coast Synod passed a resolution encouraging anti-racism education within the synod in order to build "mutual respect and love with other racial, ethnic and cultural groups."

It also adopted a resolution to create, endorse and support a Tri-Synodical Hispanic/Latino Strategic Plan to integrate multiple cultural expressions.

The North Carolina Synod assembly resolved that the Office of the Bishop of the North Carolina Synod partner with the Division for Outreach, the Multi-cultural Committee of the Synod and the North Carolina Chapter of the African American Lutheran Association actively to engage in developing and implementing a strategy for ministry with people of African descent.

+ "All Our Children": The Northwest Washington Synod assembly resolved that congregations and individuals of the synod commit to the Lutheran World Relief "All Our Children" campaign to help children in Iraq survive disease and deprivation by providing funds for medicines, surgical sets, nutritional supplements and improved sanitation.

+ Ecumenical agreements: The Montana Synod assembly proposed an ELCA constitutional change that would require any ecumenical agreement or changes to ELCA ministry standards to be ratified by three-fourths of the ELCA synods or by a majority of ELCA congregations.

+ Armed forces: The Montana Synod assembly affirmed that members of the ELCA serving in the Armed Forces, particularly those returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, "have legitimately exercised their Christian vocation and responsibility to the world." The resolution stated that faithful military service to one's country is consistent with Christian principles.

+ Office addition: The South Dakota Synod assembly authorized the construction of an addition and adequate remodeling of the synod office space. In a separate resolution it requested $7 per confirmed member, with proceeds used to pay off the loan necessary for construction.

+ Colombia: The South Dakota Synod assembly resolved to pray for the churches and people of Colombia and to write congressional representatives requesting U.S. foreign aid to Colombia. Colombia's escalating violence claims 100 lives daily and has resulted in the violent deaths of over 60 Protestant pastors in the last two years, according to the resolution.

+ Lay Compensation: The New England Synod passed a resolution encouraging congregations to provide employee benefits programs to lay staff who work more than 20 hours per week.

+ Sales tax on food: The South Dakota Synod assembly encouraged congregations to increase awareness and advocacy efforts to encourage the state legislature to end sales tax on food. Taxing food contributes to hunger in South Dakota, is detrimental to the health and well-being of children, the elderly, people with diabetes and other nutrition-related conditions, the resolution said.

+ Campus ministry support: The Southeastern Minnesota Synod assembly passed a resolution to collect a special offering within the synod to support the Lutheran Campus Ministry of Minnesota.

+ Older adult week: The Indiana-Kentucky Synod assembly considered a resolution to adopt one week of the year to be designated as "older adult week" because an increasing number of the national population are older adults.

+ Tanzania salary assistance: The Northwestern Ohio Synod assembly passed a resolution supporting salary assistance for church workers in the Dodoma Diocese, Tanzania.

+ "Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ": The New England Synod assembly adopted a resolution to commend the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA) statement on salvation in Jesus Christ. "... this statement deals with the very heart of the Christian Gospel and the doctrinal basis on which the [ELCA] and the [PCUSA]..." the resolution said.

+ Human sexuality: The North Carolina Synod assembly adopted a resolution that the synod provide opportunities for conversation and study on homosexuality and human sexuality at the 2004 synod assembly.

+ Same-sex unions: The North Carolina Synod assembly affirmed the expression of biblical and confessional teaching regarding same-sex unions as in conformity with statements from the October 1993 meeting of the ELCA Conference of Bishops and the 1990 ELCA Church Council document "Vision and Expectations."

+ Mission support: The North Carolina Synod assembly adopted a resolution that voting members of the synod assembly return to their congregations and "prayerfully and prophetically remind their members and leaders" of a promise of financial support for mission.

+ Augusta Victoria Hospital: The North Carolina Synod assembly encouraged members of synod congregations to contact their U.S. representatives and senators about issues regarding the plight of Palestinian refugees and encouraged the ELCA Division for Church in Society, through the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs in Washington, D.C., to develop new strategies to address this issue.

+ Historic episcopate: The North Carolina Synod assembly defeated a resolution calling for the ELCA Church Council to consider changes in ELCA governing documents that would freely permit those seeking ordination as pastors or installation as bishops to do so with or without the participation of bishops in historic succession, and that such options have equal standing in the ELCA.

+ Water stewardship: The North Carolina Synod assembly adopted a resolution urging synod members to protect and restore water supplies through both personal and political activity.

+ Living wage: The North Carolina Synod assembly adopted a resolution urging member congregations to support Living Wage Ordinance campaigns within their communities.

+ Executions: The North Carolina Synod assembly adopted a resolution supporting a suspension of executions in North Carolina.

+ Nuclear weapons: The North Carolina Synod assembly adopted a resolution calling for discussion about the development and use of nuclear weapons within congregations and communities in the synod.

+ Christian-Muslim relations: The Texas-Louisiana-Gulf Coast Synod assembly passed a resolution to encourage and facilitate dialogue between the two faiths within the state of Texas.

* Jessica A. Crane is completing her bachelor of arts degree at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn. This summer she is an intern with ELCA News and Media Production.