I was a voting member at the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly this summer in Pittsburgh. This is the report I wrote up for my church’s newsletter:
Monday morning in Pittsburgh I was greeted by a table full of cookies. They have a tradition at weddings called the ‘Cookie Table’. Apparently, all of the relatives bring cookies and pool them together, then everybody eats as many as they want (not just one or two, there’s plenty for all). The host synod in Pittsburgh decided to do this for the Churchwide Assembly. They put out a cookie table for us, not just the first day, but Monday through Friday, different conferences providing cookies for each day. On Monday, we learned that they had a goal of 200 dozen cookies a day. By Friday, we learned that they didn’t exactly hit that goal. They brought us 400 dozen cookies each day.
The theme of the assembly was “Always being made new.” We witnessed plenty of new creation over the week. We elected a new presiding bishop and a new church secretary. We passed a new social statement on Criminal Justice. We were introduced to a new ELW Prayer Book for the Armed Services. We learned about new missions nurtured by the Mission Investment Fund, new understanding through the Book of Faith Initiative, and new hope through Renewing Congregations. We heard new voices through the youth and young adults standing up and saying “We are with you, are you with us?”
At the same time we are a church that is “Deeply Rooted”. We were greeted by leaders from other churches: from the Malagasy Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore, from the Jewish Council, from a Catholic Bishop, and from the World Sikh Council (the first time the ELCA Churchwide Assembly has been greeted by a non-Abrahamic faith). We heard reports from the church officers. We listened to Memorials sent from the synods, and acted on them. We amended our Governing Documents. We debated, and hearing from voting members with great passion and with great attention to detail. We saw more of the wonderful work that the Churchwide organization is doing through presentations about global and local mission and the ELCA Malaria Campaign.
We worshiped. We prayed. We sang. We ate cookies together.
We celebrated the 25th anniversary of the ELCA, and approved a 25th Anniversary Campaign so that the church we love can grow and serve even more.
We were greeted with cookies, as family, because we there is nothing more Lutheran that feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger. We are a church that is “Deeply Rooted and Always Being Made New”.