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Recent News Stories

ELCA news releases are detailed accounts describing events and ministires of the ELCA 

ELCA News
  • ELCA Conference of Bishops welcomes greater diversity

    ​CHICAGO — The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met here Sept. 26–Sept. 30 under a theme from 2 Corinthians: "We have this treasure in clay jars." The conference, an advisory body of the ELCA, comprises 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and the secretary. The conference welcomed 13 new bishops elected since the last conference meeting in March.

    "Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of God's people, the Conference of Bishops is now more diverse in more ways than it has ever been," said the Rev. William O. Gafkjen, bishop of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod and chair of the conference. "This is such an important gift, both because of the particular gifts and experiences each member of the conference brings and because it uncovers assumptions, challenges disparities and inequities, and calls for repentance and transformation in a church unaccustomed to such blessed diversity."

    In a report to the conference, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton addressed the actions taken by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, held Aug. 5-10 in Milwaukee. "I am convinced that the decisions we took were gospel-based — both judgement and promise — not a flash-in-the-pan, reflexive attempt to seem 'relevant,'" said Eaton. Alluding to Acts 15:28, Eaton continued, "'It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us' to take these steps."

    During the meeting, the presiding bishop and the conference issued a letter to President Trump urging him to restore funding to the Augusta Victoria Hospital and the other hospitals in East Jerusalem. "We are concerned about the impact that cuts in U.S. humanitarian assistance for the West Bank and Gaza are having on cancer patients and others treated in these facilities," the bishops wrote. Augusta Victoria Hospital is owned and operated by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and supported by the ELCA and several other member churches of the LWF. The letter is in response to the memorial addressing the Augusta Victoria Hospital that was adopted by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

    The conference voted to recommend that the Church Council, at its November 2019 meeting, work in new and concrete ways to give priority to this church's response to the global crisis of
    climate change. They also voted to commend the "Memorandum of Mutual Recognition of Relations of Full Communion" for adoption by the Church Council at the upcoming meeting.

    The conference considered proposed ordination rites being developed in response to the assembly's decision to ordain ministers of Word and Service. No decision was made about a possible recommendation to the Church Council for adoption of these rites.

    The Rev. Tracie L. Bartholomew, bishop of the ELCA New Jersey Synod and vice chair of the conference, was elected to a four-year term as chair of the conference. The Rev. Patricia A. Davenport, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, was elected to a four-year term as vice chair. Both positions are effective Jan. 1, 2020. Gafkjen has served as conference chair since 2016.

    In other business, the ELCA Conference of Bishops received:

    • A report on the three-year Leadership Initiative, which is focused on encouraging lay and rostered leaders across the ELCA.
    • An update on the ongoing development of the resource "Trustworthy Servants of the People of God," which articulates the church's hopes and expectations for its leaders.
    • A report on the conclusion of Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. The campaign ended June 30 with a total impact of $250 million, including $195 million in cash gifts and gift commitments, as well as $55 million in planned gifts to campaign ministries.
    • A training session presented by Aubrey Thonvold, executive director of Reconciling Works, that focused on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
    • A report from the director for Mission Support, the financial offering from congregations that is shared with synods and the churchwide organization
    • Reports from the ELCA presiding bishop, vice president, secretary and treasurer, and updates from the Conference of Bishops' various committees.

      - - -
      About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
      The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands.," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.


      For information contact:
      Candice Hill Buchbinder
      Public Relations Manager
      773-380-2877
      Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org



  • Presiding bishop and Conference of Bishops urge release of funds for East Jerusalem hospitals

    ​CHICAGO — The presiding bishop and Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have issued a letter to President Trump urging the administration to restore funding to Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) and other hospitals in East Jerusalem.

    AVH is owned and operated by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and supported by the ELCA and several other member churches of the LWF.

    The letter follows:

    Dear President Trump,

    With heavy hearts and a deep sense of urgency, we, the presiding bishop and Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, must call your attention to Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) and the other East Jerusalem hospitals. We are concerned about the impact that cuts in U.S. humanitarian assistance for the West Bank and Gaza are having on cancer patients and others treated in these facilities. 

    Without sufficient funds to secure the needed drugs for cancer treatment, AVH has been forced to delay treatments when doing so is ethically and medically acceptable, and it may soon have no alternative but to turn away patients who rely on the lifesaving treatments offered at AVH. AVH is owned and operated by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and several other member churches of the LWF. The LWF and its member churches intend to continue to provide lifesaving treatment to patients from the West Bank and Gaza through AVH, but the accumulated debt of the Palestinian Authority (PA) makes it increasingly difficult for AVH to pay staff, pay pharmaceutical suppliers for medications and avoid interruption of patient treatment. 

    We recognize that the situation is complicated and that many factors contribute to the PA's lack of payments to the East Jerusalem hospitals for the patients it refers to them. At the same time, the $25 million in FY2017 U.S. funding that was cut and the $25 million in FY2018 funding that has not been released to the East Jerusalem hospitals represent one-quarter of the cost of patients already treated by AVH and the East Jerusalem hospitals in those years. As of July 31, 2019, the PA debt to AVH alone was nearly $40 million, a level that is unsustainable for the LWF.

    We call on you, Mr. President, to restore funding vital to the safe and effective operation of the East Jerusalem hospitals as soon as possible so that the patients — especially children, who are particularly at risk — will continue to receive the treatment and care they need.

     

    Sincerely,

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
    Presiding Bishop
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    The Rev. William O. Gafkjen
    Bishop, Indiana-Kentucky Synod
    Chair, ELCA Conference of Bishops


    Cc: Secretary Mike Pompeo, Representative Nita Lowey, Representative Hal Rogers, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Patrick Leahy

     

    - - -

    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands.," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.


    For information contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    Public Relations Manager
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org


  • ELCA, Church of Sweden and The Episcopal Church issue climate commitment

    ​CHICAGO – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) joins the Church of Sweden and The Episcopal Church in a commitment to work together to advocate for national and international policies that address the urgency of the climate crisis and help create resilient communities while leaving no one behind. This statement is a renewal and update of the commitment made by the three church bodies in 2013.

    The statement follows:

    For several years, The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Church of Sweden (Lutheran) have responded with increasing urgency to the damages being inflicted on Earth, our common home. The intensity of the challenges becomes ever more apparent, and the link of unprecedented climate change to human action rests now on insurmountable scientific evidence. In human societies, these climate changes compound social injustices, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable among us with insecurities of food, livelihood and living space. Yet the burdens are not borne by humans alone: acceleration in the disappearance of species of plants and animals underlines the intertwined struggles of all life on Earth, and the destructive exploitation of resources leaves a diminished planet for all time to come.

    As we observe the Season of Creation, we renew the call for our churches to work together for the sake of Earth and to build collaborations wherever possible, both with other communities of faith and with diverse agents in our civil society. Now is the time for science, politics, business, culture and religion — everything that is an expression of human dignity — to address together this critical issue for our time.

    We claim the deep resources of our Christian faith for this work. We worship a God who created all that exists, who rejoices in its flourishing and blesses its diversity. We follow Jesus Christ, himself one of us "earth creatures," who in dying entered deeply into mortal suffering and who in rising gives hope for the renewal and restoration of all God has made. We are inspired by the divine Spirit, intimately present to all creation, who gives us strength, wisdom and perseverance to join in the "here and now" work of God in healing the brokenness of our hurting home.

    We acknowledge that these central affirmations of our faith have not guided our churches as they should. We have been slow to recognize the urgency of this crisis, lulled by traditions of honoring human life at the expense of other life and slow fully to integrate creation care into the way of love for God and neighbor. We have turned away from our own roles in environmental degradation, clinging as we could to lifestyles of unsustainable waste and overuse even as others suffer from lack of necessities. Moreover, majority cultures have ignored the insights of Indigenous siblings among us who are too often deeply affected by climate change, even as they bear spiritual practices and wisdom that can help the people of God to walk a more sustainable — and more loving — course.

    We affirm that, with God's guidance, we can do better in meeting this critical issue of our time. We acknowledge the dire urgency of this moment not through the lenses of despair, but through lenses of hope and determination. It is central to our holy calling to treasure the Earth and to care for it as our common home. This commitment does not compete with but surrounds our work for social justice within human communities.

    Specifically, we commit ourselves to work together to allow the common commitments and different contexts of our churches to challenge, inspire, complement and strengthen one another's witness.

    1. We will advocate for national and international policies and regulations that enable transitions to carbon neutral resilient societies in ways attentive to the many dimensions of climate justice.
    2. We will pursue education and advocacy efforts that attend to the most vulnerable, whose needs must be put ahead of the more privileged.
    3. We will raise awareness in our churches by promoting the use of education, worship and action resources available locally, regionally, nationally and globally.
    4. We will seek deeper understanding, through praying and listening to experiences in our own communities and with others, about ways overconsumption can be addressed and about the diverse impacts of climate change.
    5. We will build multiple collaborations: through support and cooperation with our international communions, through inter-religious dialogue and shared advocacy, through national and international organizations and with all others seeking to address climate change.

       
      The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
      Presiding Bishop
      Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

      The Most Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelén
      Archbishop
      Church of Sweden

      The Most Rev. Michael B Curry
      Presiding Bishop and Primate
      The Episcopal Church

       
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      About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
      The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands.," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.


      For information contact:
      Candice Hill Buchbinder
      773-380-2877
      Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

       


  • ELCA’s comprehensive campaign concludes with a total impact of $250 million

    ​CHICAGO – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) first comprehensive campaign, Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA, has concluded after more than five years with a total impact of $250 million, including $195 million in cash gifts and gift commitments, as well as $55 million for planned gifts to campaign ministries.  

    "The Campaign for the ELCA began in 2013 with a goal of nearly $200 million," said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. "That was a big goal. But with God's help and our members' generous support, we made it. I thank God for what this church has done for the ELCA's ministries — here at home and around the world."

    Through the campaign, ELCA members and congregations helped strengthen and expand the ministries of this church in four priorities — congregations, hunger and poverty, leadership, and the global church. The campaign focused on areas that include growing this church's communities of faith, forming new leaders, welcoming neighbors, overcoming malaria, confronting hunger and poverty, and accompanying our global churches.

    "It's been an amazing blessing to be able to direct this campaign," said the Rev. Ron Glusenkamp, director of Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. "To be able to be in so many different places and spaces across this church and to see how people have responded to the call to give — to give from the heart and to give generously — has really been a gift. And, while the dollars are impressive, what is most important is the impact these gifts are having. And so, for all of that, I say thank you and God bless you."

    For a detailed look at the campaign's impact in its four priority areas, as well as a breakdown of giving, please visit ELCA.org/campaign.

     

    - - -
    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands.," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    For information contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    Public Relations Manager
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

    Alix Schwindt
    Manager, Donor Communications Strategy
    773-380-2044
    Alix.Schwindt@elca.org

     


  • Interfaith coalition galvanizes action on climate emergency

    NEW YORK — Building on the momentum of the United Nations Climate Change Summit 2019 in New York on Sept. 23, a coalition of more than 45 global interfaith organizations will join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for a faith-based civil society consultation on Tuesday, Sept. 24, to address the current climate emergency. The consultation will meet under the theme "Climate Emergency: Faith-based Organizations Raising Ambition — Leaving No One Behind."  

     

    A global, Interfaith group of leaders is coming together for the consultation to share experiences, commitments and perspectives. Their goal is to produce plans detailing how the interfaith community can galvanize global movement. This watershed moment requires action by all, and faith voices of recognition and hope are imperative.

     

    "The negative impacts of climate change and pollution are shouldered disproportionately by the most vulnerable, who have often contributed the least to the problems and are not equipped to implement response measures or build resilience," said Ruth Ivory-Moore, ELCA program director for environment and corporate social responsibility. "All of creation is interlinked. We are compelled to comprehend our commonalities and value the worth and dignity of all life. We must find ways to reach across political, sectoral and functional lines, and work together with all of our global neighbors."

     

    Special reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2018 and 2019 expressed the urgency of taking rapid action over the next decade to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in order to avoid the risks associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes to the global environment. The consultation will focus on climate emergency declarations by faith groups; climate justice; climate migration, loss and damage; and actionable plans for 2019 and beyond. 

     

    To speak with a participating leader or learn more about the event, please contact Karen Krueger at 202-626-3844 or karen.krueger@elca.org.


    - - -

    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.


  • ELCA presiding bishop issues pastoral message on racism and white supremacy

    September 13, 2019


    "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).

    "Racism — a mix of power, privilege, and prejudice — is sin, a violation of God's intention for humanity" (Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture, 1993).


    Dear Church,

    Centered in Christ, the 2019 Churchwide Assembly was significant in many ways: worship, thoughtful deliberation and prayer led to the adoption of memorials and resolutions that will shape this church for years to come. Among these decisions, this church was called to address the deadly power of racism and white supremacy. Martin Luther's clear exposition of the gospel — that God justifies, that we are redeemed by the death and resurrection of Jesus, and that grace is a gift — not only makes it possible to engage in this work but gives us a framework in which to do it. The doctrine of justification is a great leveler. It acknowledges that no one group of people can claim supremacy over others. We are all deeply in need of grace, and God gives this gift to all. Standing equally under the judgement and promise of the gospel, we, as a church, can recognize the overt and covert ways that a culture of white supremacy denies full humanity to all people, and we can work to dismantle it. 

    • We offered a public apology titled "Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent." In the context of the quadricentennial remembrance of American slavery in this country, we acknowledge that racism and white supremacy are deeply rooted in that history, and that the church is complicit. This apology "means working toward a deeper understanding of slavery and its legacy, of institutional and structural racism, of white privilege, and of attitudes and foundations of white supremacy." It was accepted by the African Descent Lutheran Association with a call to accountability. You can watch the video here and utilize this explanation as a resource. In June the Council of the Lutheran World Federation, our global communion, also adopted a resolution commemorating the quadricentennial.
    • We adopted a resolution condemning white supremacy. Through study, prayer and action, we call "all congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to engage in communal study of the structures and rhetoric that empower and fuel racism and white supremacy and to take to heart the teaching of Scriptures, so we may all be better equipped to speak boldly about the equal dignity of all persons in the eyes of God." Whether our churches and communities are racially diverse or predominantly white, this is work for all of us. We have several existing racial justice resources available to support this work.
    • We adopted a resolution to establish June 17 as "Emanuel 9 Day of Repentance," commemorating the martyrdom of Clementa C. Pinckney, Cynthia Marie Graham-Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel L. Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson by a violent white supremacist, Dylann Roof, who grew up in the ELCA. The resolution calls for June 17 as a day of repentance, grounded in prayer; worship resources are currently in development. It also calls for deepening conversations with the African Methodist Episcopal Church on matters of racism and white supremacy, and building upon the long-standing relations between our two churches. A letter I received from the senior episcopal leadership of the African Methodist Episcopal Council of Bishops noted that "Martin Luther was the 'Great Reformer.' Richard Allen started the AME Church to reform the racially divided American Christianity he experienced in his lifetime. It is appropriate that Churches birthed by these two persons who sought more authentic and true expressions of Christianity engage in conversations that will lead to 21st Century reform, justice, and reconciliation." In response, I have acknowledged the significance of their willingness to engage in deeper conversations with us, as an affirmation of our striving to be accountable in and through authentic relationships. I shared my hope that our talks since 2015, as well as previous rounds of dialogue between our two churches, will enable us to develop new models that move us from dialogue to diapraxis, or dialogue in action, for the sake of our witness to our unity in Christ in these divisive and deadly times. As you think about possibilities in your local context, I commend to you the congregational resource we co-published in 1996, "Understanding One Another."

    These recent developments build upon the continuous work we are doing as the ELCA and in ecumenical partnership. Through bilateral work, such as our joint Statement of Mission with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and in councils and coalitions, especially the National Council of Churches and its A.C.T. Now to End Racism initiative and the cross-racial dialogue of the Conference of National Black Churches, we are doubling down on our work, witness and advocacy with other Christians against racism and white supremacy.

    You, in congregations and synods, are identifying new and renewed possibilities for engaging in this difficult but life-giving work and witness. We take the next steps together assured that there is no longer that which divides us, for we are one in Christ Jesus. 

    In peace,

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
    Presiding Bishop, ELCA

    - - -

    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    For information contact:

    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    Public Relations Manager
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

     

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