Saturday, August 13, 2016

New 'Worship and Service roster' in ELCA

Deaconess Louise Williams
preaching at ELCA Churchwide Assembly, August 2016
A recommendations on ‘One Roster of Word and Service’ was presented to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. In essence, the Assembly was asked to consider a recommendation to transition the three current rosters of Word and Service – Associate in Ministry, Deaconess, and Diaconal Minister – into one, new, unified roster of Word and Service, to be called Deacon. This recommendation has been many years in the making, and Louise Williams (past-President, DIAKONIA World Federation) has served on the ELCA task forces and teams that crafted it. 
Louise reports: 'The great news is that the ‘Word and Service roster’ passed overwhelmingly at the Assembly. Deaconesses, associates in ministry and diaconal ministers received a rousing ovation'.

(You can watch a video of the voting process for this recommendation here, starting at 17.50. I love the voting machines - very innovative)

(You can watch a video of Louise Williams' preaching at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly here). 

(the following from the Minutes of ELCA Church Council, April 2015)
The former Vocation and Education program unit convened a consultation on the ministries of deaconesses, diaconal ministers and associates in ministry in January 2007 with funding from the ELCA Deaconess Community. From that consultation, a Public Ministry Consultations Planning Team worked for three years, fostering similar gatherings in eight regions of the ELCA. The planning team submitted a report in 2010 that included nine recommendations.
The first six recommendations were specifically related to the rosters for deaconesses, diaconal ministers and associates in ministry:
1. Address the ELCA constitution and other governing documents to remove the word “lay” to describe all three of these rosters in public ministry.
2. Articulate a common theological foundation for ministry, reclaiming “diakonia” as the foundation for all three rosters.
3. While recognizing and valuing the differences in tradition and history of these three rosters, we recommend that they become one roster with three expressions.
4. Require basic theological preparation for all three rosters while maintaining flexibility toward goals of effective and diverse mission and ministry.
5. For the sake of good order, examine the titles, symbols, and visible signs of each of the three rosters.
6. Vigorously encourage synods, bishops, and churchwide staff to communicate more effectively the value of and variety of gifts of these three rosters (e.g., advocate with congregations and agencies as they consider staffing).
The final recommendations related to all four of the current rosters, including those ordained to Word and Sacrament ministry:
7. Develop standards that are fair and consistent for procedures for call, salary guidelines, and related issues.
8. Develop unified ongoing formation and discernment tools and events.
9. Continue the momentum of the work of this consultation so that dialogue may continue among
rosters. The next step in this dialogue needs to include all four rosters.

In November 2012, the Church Council voted [CC12.11.38]:
To receive with gratitude and thanks the interim report of the Word and Service Task Force, convened in response to Church Council action [CC10.11.64] taken in November 2010;
To offer profound appreciation and thanks to persons who serve as associates in ministry, deaconesses, and diaconal ministers on the lay rosters of this church;
To affirm the preliminary conclusion of the Word and Service Task Force that this church should move toward creation of a single, unified lay roster of Word and Service ministry, subject to further review and recommendation by the Conference of Bishops and the Church Council and approval by the Churchwide Assembly;
To authorize the Word and Service Task Force to continue its work in order to facilitate the creation of such a unified roster, to develop a process outlining how the existing lay rosters would be closed, and to provide a process for transition of existing associates in ministry, diaconal ministers, and deaconesses into such a new roster, and, in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary, to consider and propose possible amendments to the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to accomplish its recommendations;
To authorize the Executive Committee of the Church Council to expand the membership of the Word and Service Task Force;
To acknowledge the recommendation to form a task force to review the study “Together in Ministry” and to recognize that the subject of this request will be addressed by the Office of the Presiding Bishop in conjunction with the report and recommendations on theological education that respond to the report of the Mission Funding Task Force; and
To authorize the Executive Committee of the Church Council to act as necessary to facilitate the work of the Word and Service Task Force, including the authority to authorize additional expenditures.
During deliberations of the Word and Service Task Force, the question of whether those on the unified roster should be ordained arose. The task force determined that the question was beyond the scope of its responsibilities and asked the Church Council to appoint a working group that would deal specifically with the matter of ordination and its implications and bring recommendations to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly. The task force recommended that the working group include representatives of the Church Council, Office of the Presiding Bishop, Conference of Bishops, Word and Service Task Force and Association of Teaching Theologians.
In November 2013, the Church Council voted [CC13.11.65]:
To thank the Word and Service Task Force for its ongoing work to manage the transition from
three lay rosters to one unified Word and Service roster;
To receive the request of the task force to appoint a separate working group to consider the
question of ordination for this roster;
To request the Congregational and Synodical Mission unit, in consultation with the Conference
of Bishops and Office of the Presiding Bishop, to identify possible individuals, including bishops, to serve on a working group and to provide those names to the Executive Committee;
To authorize the Executive Committee to appoint a working group to consider the question of ordination of the unified Word and Service roster; and
To request that the working group bring progress reports to Conference of Bishops and Church Council beginning in fall 2014.

In 2014, the Executive Committee appointed members of the working group, which became known as the Entrance Rite Discernment Working Group.
At its March 2015 meeting, the Conference of Bishops reviewed the Word and Service Task Force report as well as a report and update from the Entrance Rite Discernment Working Group. The conference adopted the following recommendations for the Church Council “for an expanded conversation around leadership within this church.”
We as the Conference of Bishops offer a word of deep gratitude to the Word and Service Task Force and the Entrance Rite Working Group. We recognize their many hours of fruitful work. Reflecting on that work has helped the conference to identify even broader, more foundational questions about the church and its mission. Consequently, we ask that the Church Council expand the conversation and discernment across the church. This conversation and discernment would revolve around the various leadership needs within this church as we move together into the future. The Conference of Bishops supports moving forward the work of unifying the Word and Service rosters at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly while at the same time asking that a decision on the appropriate entrance rite and related issues be delayed to a future date.
We live in a time of incredible change within the church and world. Among many congregations worship numbers are declining, age of congregants is increasing, and sustainability is being questioned. Seminarian debt is on the rise while at the same time the number of bi-vocational and part-time ministries is on the increase. We also recognize that new patterns of ministries and opportunities for mission will continue to emerge. At issue is what kind of leadership is needed within Christ’s church, the ELCA.
As this conference entered into discussion about the faithful work of the Word and Service Task Force and the Entrance Rite Working Group additional questions emerged:
• What forms of leadership might best serve God’s mission?
• Do we have a theology that unleashes servant ministry in the world?
• How do we as a church more fully honor the gifts of ministers of Word and Service?
• What is the future for ministers of Word and Service in the face of changing opportunities
for call?
The work of the Theological Education Advisory Committee also raises questions about leadership, educational standards, and lay theological education.
We suggest:
• that the time leading into and during 2016 Churchwide Assembly be used to facilitate
broad-based discussion and discernment around leadership within this church.
• that voting members be equipped and empowered to continue these conversations in their
congregations, conferences and synods.
• that we as a church work together to define issues of leadership and refine recommendations
about rosters and entrance rites through a process of intentional, open conversation seeking God’s guidance for the sake of the world.
Church Council discussion:
Vice President Carlos E. Peña announced that the council’s Program and Services Committee would review reports from the Word and Service Task Force and the Entrance Rite Discernment Working Group as well as related recommendations from the Conference of Bishops. He asked the Rev. Marcus C. Lohrmann, bishop of the Northwestern Ohio Synod, to present the recommendations of the conference.

Bishop Lohrmann described the reports and the discussion of the Conference of Bishops on unifying the current lay rosters, using the title “deacon,” and what entrance rite to use for the new unified roster. He explained that the conference reached consensus on moving ahead with unifying the current three lay rosters but delaying decisions on the entrance rite and related issues.

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