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Winning video TBA at CWA – local entry in top 10

09cwavideocameraThe video from Chi Rho 2009,  Metro D.C.’s annual servant event for high school youth, is one of the top ten finalists in the individual category for the ELCA’s “God’s work, our hands” video contest. Presiding Bishop Hanson will announce the winner from the Churchwide Assembly beginning at 2 p.m. CDT on Saturday, August 22. Watch the announcement live at http://www.elca.org/livevideo and check out Chi Rho’s entry.

From contest judge Kirsten Nelson: “Meeting and talking with my fellow judges as we reached our decisions gave me a sense of encouragement. We are healthy. We are strong. The participants showed us that there is a passion to share what God can do through us with others. It is not grandstanding or false modesty. It is humbly giving, and for that I thank all the participants for sharing their gifts.”

Social statement adopted, business proceeds despite weather scare

The Rev. Richard H. Graham, Bishop
The Rev. Richard H. Graham, Bishop

Friends, I imagine by now that you have heard something about excitement here at the Churchwide Assembly today. I am writing you late on Wednesday night, and the city of Minneapolis is quiet, but earlier there were rain storms that got harder and harder. Then, early in the afternoon, a tornado hit the Convention Center where we were meeting. No one was hurt, I believe, although there was damage to Central Lutheran Church, right next door. Believe me, a tornado close by gets your attention. When the warning sirens began to wail, and when they asked us to stay in our big enclosed meeting hall and not to go near the windows, our mood became even more intense than it had been before.

The mood had been intense because we were spending the afternoon debating the proposed social statement on human sexuality. Social statements are teaching documents of our church, and this social statement had been in preparation for a long time. We had certainly talked about it often in our synod, and in the end the Churchwide Assembly adopted the statement. JUST adopted the statement. Because of our rules, social statements require the votes of two-thirds of the assembly members present and voting. The human sexuality study got EXACTLY two thirds of the votes cast.

I’m glad we adopted the statement. It contains much material that will be helpful for years to come. It encourages us to see that our sexuality is a gift from God, who calls us to be faithful and trustworthy as sexual beings. The statement also calls us to see how sexuality has been turned into a commodity by our culture. There are powerful sections on marriage and on raising children. And there are a few controversial sections about same-gender sexual attraction (I’m sorry to say that these sections seem to be all that anybody in the public media will care about when our assembly actions are reported). We needed to adopt this statement. Yet its very narrow adoption is a blessing, I think, because it will mean that we all have to acknowledge how much we still differ and how much we still need to discuss with each other.

I think you would be proud to be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America if you could see us going about our business. Generally speaking we are faithful and serious, but we aren’t overwhelmed by our seriousness. Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson is a master at running a large and complex meeting. We have prayed together almost continuously and the worship experiences are very moving. I will try to write some more later.

Keep us in your prayers,

Bishop Graham

Young ministers recognized, Malaria Initiative adopted in day’s biz

They waste no time getting started here in Minneapolis. After concluding last night’s session well after the planned hour, we were scheduled to begin Tuesday’s plenary at 8:00am. I expected people to wander slowly and sleepily to the assembly hall between 8:00 and 8:30AM, but I was wrong.  The assembly was punctual and ready to roll…with gusto!

The day was filled with various reports, floor discussions about the human sexuality statement and hearings about

The Lutheran Malaria Initiative was adopted.
The Lutheran Malaria Initiative was adopted.

the various resolutions that will come before the assembly.  Rostered leaders under 32, including our own Pastor Kate Murray, are attending the assembly as visitors, and they were recognized for their participation and their ministry in our Church.  One of them preached at the day’s worship. Lutheran World Relief gave a report about their work, and the Assembly handily passed the Lutheran Malaria Initiative.  Check out the link for this exciting initiative:  www.elca.org/malaria

I have only highlighted a few of the many things that are happening, but I hope that you are following along on the web at http://www.elca.org/assembly, on Twitter (follow especially #dcsynod and #cwa09), and on this blog. In the meantime, though, check out all the ways the Church is working to bring the Churchwide Assembly to you, even in the Metro D.C. area!

Looking good

“Hey, I think we know these guys,” said Amy Acland, Administrative Assistant to Leadership of the synod when she perused photos taken Tuesday, August 18 at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Bishop Graham (purple shirt) is pictured among Voting Members from the Metro D.C. Synod during an assembly business session.
Bishop Graham (purple shirt) is pictured among Voting Members from the Metro D.C. Synod during an assembly business session.

 

Voting Members from the synod share peace and fellowship during proceedings at the CWA.
Voting Members from the synod share peace and fellowship during proceedings at the CWA.

 

As Phil Moeller, one of our Voting Members, commented his photo appeared on screens in the Plenary Hall.
As Phil Moeller, one of our Voting Members, commented his photo appeared on screens in the Plenary Hall.

 

Bishop Graham was among leaders of the day's worship.
Bishop Graham was among leaders of the day's worship.
All photos taken from the CWA galleries found on the ELCA Web site.

First day at CWA – Riveting ‘Rules & Procedures’?

We have arrived in Minneapolis for the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA).  Over 1,000 voting members join staff, advisors, and visitors of all kinds to make up those gathered at this year’s assembly. 

Though there were many meetings and orientations for voting members on Monday morning and afternoon, the assembly opened with a worship service at 4:00PM, and business officially began with a plenary session at 7:00PM. 

Two leaders from our synod, the Rev. Mark W. Olsen and the Rev. Robin Steinke - both on staff at Gettysburg Seminary - are pictured taking communion during Opening Worship of the Churchwide Assembly.
Two leaders from our synod, the Rev. Mark W. Olsen and the Rev. Robin Steinke - both on staff at Gettysburg Seminary - are pictured taking communion during Opening Worship of the Churchwide Assembly.

If you have attended an assembly in the past, then you will know that worship is wonderful!  The liturgy is well done, the music is amazing, and the preaching is inspiring. This evening, the Presiding Bishop, Mark Hanson, preached on Jesus’ encounter with the disciples after his resurrection in the book of John.   Bishop Hanson encouraged the assembly to remain connected with every sister and brother and to be neither an anxious Church nor a divided Church but a sent Church, embodying forgiveness, joy, peace, hope and love.   

After worship came dinner. Then the assembly’s official business began.  There was the usual: information about logistics, traditional greetings, and an introduction to the voting devices. Then things got interesting. 

The assembly discussed rules and procedure. Doesn’t sound so interesting?  Well,  I know it may not seem like it, and there were points in the ordeal when debate  did seem redundant rather than riveting, but the discussion was so interesting because of the disagreement regarding items like whether those speaking at a microphone should be able to speak for two or three minutes and whether some votes should require a simple majority or two-thirds vote.  I, for one, was hoping that the someone would suggest an amendment to the texting, BlackBerry, and computer ban inside the plenary hall, but this discussion did not reach the floor, so I spent a lot of time travelling between my seat and the outside of the plenary hall to update the synod’s Twitter account: dcsynodelca.

In the end, the evening’s business ran later than scheduled, and with all the travel people had already done that day, the day felt especially long, but it was good: good to be reunited with brothers and sisters in Christ, good to be the Church.

In the news: Churches offer back-to-school physicals

In “Prescription for School Success” (written by Marie French), the meaningful impact of activity initiated by a coalition of congregations including St. Mark Lutheran in Springfield, Virginia, is described. In addition to pads and pencils, a physical and required vaccinations help students participating in the Partnership for Healthier Kids get ready for a new school year. (Springfield Connection – The Connection Newspapers, 8/13/09)

Good luck keeping up with the kids

Did you see the great article about the impact our teens had in New Orleans? I hope that our adults have the same impact in Minneapolis. Check out “Gratitude for the Lutheran Teens” on BestofNewOrleans.com.

Health Care Reform in Maryland – ELCA Lutheran Involvement

July, 2009

Brother and Sisters of the ELCA;

You’re hearing a lot about health care reform in the news. Perhaps you’ve heard about it from our ELCA advocates in Washington if you’re part of the e-advocacy network.

Did you know that Maryland has been working to cover all Marylanders for eight years? And that we ELCA Lutherans have been part of that effort every year since it began? What have we done?

  • We’ve covered more Maryland kids, and their parents
  • We’ve required insurance companies to keep young adults up to age 25 on their parents’ policies.
  • We’ve established a generous prescription drug assistance program
  • We’ve restricted limitations and exclusions on medical insurance policies
  • We’ve provided medical insurance to lower-income adults
  • We’ve enrolled those eligible for State programs

When we began the mission was to continue advocating changes, expansions, policies and programs until everyone in Maryland had adequate coverage for appropriate health care at an affordable cost. We’re not there yet, but we’re closer.  Now the leadership of the General Assembly has caught the vision of universal access and is considering how to finish the job. This summer House and Senate leaders will study options and possibilities for covering all Marylanders. A proposal that will guide their considerations is the Health Care for All Plan  endorsed by LOPP/MD and many health, religious, human service, and community organizations.

What can you do to make sure that everyone in your congregation and community has affordable health care coverage?

SIGN-ON! We, the board for ELCA public advocacy in Maryland, ask you, your congregation and its organizations to endorse the resolution in light of what we say about health care access: We urge all people to advocate for access to basic health care for all and to participate vigorously and responsibly in the public discussion of how best to fulfill this obligation [ELCA, “Caring for our Health,” 2003]. You’ll find a summary of the Plan at the link above.

SIGN UP! Be a part of the expansion effort by partnering with Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Education Fund (MCHI) and the State to find the uninsured. MCHI has resources to do this but we need community connections to get the word out. Your parish nursing ministries, your women’s and men’s organizations, your daycares, preschools and after-schools, your Sunday Schools, community partners and ministeriums are great places to let people know that if someone has no health insurance there are State programs that make it available. Contact MCHI or LOPP/MD to get started.

Whatever happens in federal health care reform, the states will have a role. LOPP/MD and MCHI are available to discuss the Maryland proposal and how it may fit with a new, federal health care reform plan. Decision-makers in Maryland and in Washington will act when we show our commitment to universal coverage. Sign-on and sign-up; let’s work to cover everyone.

In the News: Summertime is Funtime at St. Paul’s Lutheran in D.C.

“Some people think, ‘Oh religion, oh that’s boring,’ . . . But we have fun.” Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a long-standing tradition that holds terrific summer memories for children all over our area, including those being nurtured at St. Paul’s Lutheran in D.C. according to an article in The Washington Times (6/12/09).  Read about their approach to sharing the message of God’s grace in the summer  months, as well as those of other congregations such as National Presbyterian whose member is quoted above. Read Summer Fun with the Bible by Liz Essley for the whole story.

In the News: Pastor’s Opinion on Immigrant Policy in Online Washington Post

In a Guest Voices: Other Views on Faith and Its Impact on the News posting (6/10/09) to the Washington Post Web site, the Rev. Kathleen Blaner of Resurrection Lutheran Church in Kensington, Maryland, writes,

The name St. Dysmas comes from the traditional reference to the repentant thief crucified with Jesus. The Community of St. Dysmas is an ELCA congregation operating within the Maryland correctional system. Learn more at www.stdysmasmd.org.
The name St. Dysmas comes from the traditional reference to the repentant thief crucified with Jesus. The Community of St. Dysmas is an ELCA congregation operating within the Maryland correctional system. Learn more at www.stdysmasmd.org.

“A good pastor treats an illegal immigrant in jail for getting drunk and being on the wrong end of a fist no differently than the pastor would treat the most important political official on earth. We take vows to tell Manuel from Peru, locked in a jail cell and about to be deported, to stop drinking and fighting. Those same vows make it our sacred duty to tell the President of the United States when he’s not loving his immigrant brother as much as he loves God, himself, and others.”

The full text of “St. Dysmas Didn’t Need a Green Card” can be found on the Washington Post forum. It contains more of Pr. Blaner’s perspective on President Obama’s support of “Secure Communities.”