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ELCA Church Council meets, addresses well-governed and sustainable church

The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met at The Lutheran Center in Chicago November 8-11. The council, which serves as the ELCA’s board of directors, centered its meeting around worship, Bible study and personal reflections on faith.

As it continues to focus its work around Future Directions 2025, the council engaged in discussions around a “well-governed, connected and sustainable church,” as outlined in the plan’s fifth goal. Addressing efforts toward governance and building consensus around a shared understanding of its roles and responsibilities, the council approved the Preface and Part 1 of the ELCA Church Council Governance policy manual. The policy manual development committee also led discussions on Part 2 of the manual, which will address how the council can best be equipped to fulfill the roles and responsibilities outlined in Part 1.

In other action, the council elected the Rev. Philip Hirsch to a four-year renewable term as executive director of ELCA Domestic Mission, beginning February 1, 2019.  The council also re-elected the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla to a four-year renewable term as executive director of ELCA Global Mission, beginning Feb. 1, 2019.

In other business, the council:

  • recommended to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly the adoption of the policy statement, “A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment;”
  • defined the symbols for the roster of Ministers of Word and Service as a deacon’s stole and a cross. In addition, the council requested the ELCA worship team develop an appropriate rite and rubrics for the ordination of deacons, subject to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly approval of ordination as the entrance rite for the roster of Ministers of Word and Service;
  • formed a working group to draft a declaration to people of African descent to be presented to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. The working group will develop in this document a confession of this church’s bondage to the sins of slavery, racism, discrimination, white supremacy and quietism, and a commitment to begin the work of repentance, which this church confesses to be “the chief topic of Christian teaching;”
  • extended the Mission Support experiment with five synods—Nebraska Synod, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, New England Synod, Lower Susquehanna Synod, and Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod. The council requested an initial report be brought to the April 2019 meeting and a final report and recommendations to the November 2019 meeting. Mission Support is the financial offerings from congregations shared with synods and the churchwide organization;
  • received reports on the implementation of the strategy toward authentic diversity within the ELCA and the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery. The reports are in response to actions taken by the 2016 Churchwide Assembly;
  • approved a 2019 fiscal year current fund spending authorization of $67,164, 676; and
  • approved a 2019 ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $21,500,000;
  • approved a Church Council designated fund representing the excess revenue over expenses from fiscal year 2018, estimated to be in the range of $1.5-$2.5 million, to be released toward funding the fiscal year 2019 operating budget;
  • recommended amendments to the constitution of this church for adoption by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly;
  • adopted revision to Policies and Procedures of the ELCA for Addressing Social Concerns;
  • revised the Alcohol Social Criteria Investment Screen; and
  • participated in a conversation on racial justice;


The council also received:

  • reports from the officers, its committees, the administrative team and the Conference of Bishops;
  • an update on Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA;
  • a report of the Theological Education Advisory Committee (TEAC);
  • an update on Lutheran Services in America;
  • presentations from Separately Incorporated Ministries;
  • congregational vitality learnings; and
  • greetings from ecumenical partners.

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