Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Infobox Christian denomination
name = Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


imagewidth = 200
caption =
main_classification = Protestant
orientation = Mainline Lutheran
polity = Interdependent local, regional, and national expressions withmodified episcopal polity
founded_date = 1988
founded_place =
separated_from =
parent =
merger = Lutheran Church in America, American Lutheran Church, & Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches
separations =
associations = Lutheran World Federation, Christian Churches Together, Churches Uniting in Christ, National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches
area = United States & Caribbean
congregations = 10,448
members = 4,709,956
footnotes = Presiding Bishop - The Rev. Mark Hanson

Vice President - Carlos Peña

Secretary - David Swartling

Treasurer - Christina Jackson-Skelton

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is a mainline Protestant denomination headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Formed in 1988 by the merging of three churches and currently having about 4.70 million baptized members, it is the largest of all the Lutheran denominations in the United States [ [http://www.elca.org/communication/quick.html ELCA Quick Facts] , retrieved December 13, 2007] and the fifth-largest Protestant denomination. [http://www.demographia.com/db-religusa2002.htm Christian Church Membership in theUnited States: 1960-2002] The next two largest Lutheran denominations are the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (with approximately 2.41 million members [cite web
title = About Us
publisher = Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
date= 2007
url = http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=73
accessdate = 2007-05-08
] ) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (with approximately 390,000 members). There are also many smaller Lutheran church bodies in the United States.

The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States. The ELCA also has congregations in the Caribbean region (Bahamas, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and one congregation in the border town of Windsor, Ontario, a member of the Slovak Zion Synod. Before 1986, some of the congregations that form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada were part of the ELCA's predecessor churches. As of the acceptance of the document "Called to Common Mission" (CCM) in the year 2000, it is the only American Lutheran denomination in full communion with the Episcopal Church, which is the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion.

The ordination of women as pastors (ministers of Word and Sacrament) predates the ELCA and began in 1970, in the former Lutheran Church in America. Lutheran ministerial clergy are referred to as pastors or, less commonly, priests and have somewhat similar sacramental and leadership functions as their Roman Catholic counterparts, modified by the Reformation conviction that ministry ultimately must be carried out by all members.

Organization and structure

The ELCA is headed by a Presiding Bishop, who is elected by the Churchwide Assembly for a term of six years. The Churchwide Assembly meets biennially in odd-numbered years and consists of elected lay and ordained voting members; between meetings of the Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA Church Council governs the denomination. The current presiding bishop, the Rev. Mark Hanson was elected in 2001 and was re-elected in 2007. The most recent Churchwide Assembly was held in August 2007 in Chicago, Illinois. The 2009 assembly is scheduled to meet in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The church perceives itself as having three expressions:1) The national church2) The regional synods3) The local congregation

The Church is divided into 65 synods, one of which is non-geographical (the Slovak Zion Synod) and 64 regional synods in the United States and the Caribbean, each headed by a synodical bishop and council. [For further information about the ELCA's structure and organization, see [http://www.elca.org/secretary/constitutions/ConstitutionsBylawsandContinuingResolutions2005.pdf 2005 ELCA Constitution] (pdf document, retrieved March 27, 2007)] Within the ELCA the term "synod" refers to the middle judicatory (referred to in some other Lutheran denominations as "districts" or "dioceses").

Within the church structure are divisions addressing many programs and ministries. Among these are support for global mission, outdoor ministries, campus ministries, social ministries, and education. There are twenty-eight colleges and universities affiliated with the ELCA throughout the United States established by the predecessor bodies.

Many of the local congregations are legally independent non-profit corporations and own their own property. Actual governing practice within the congregation ranges from congregational-meeting led (more common in smaller churches), through elder- and council-led, to congregations where the senior pastor wields great, if informal, power (more common in larger churches). [See the [http://www.elca.org/secretary/constitutions/congregations/index.html Model Constitution for Congregations] (retrieved March 27, 2007) - especially Chapter 5 "Powers of the Congregation" and Chapter 7 "Property Ownership".]

ELCA Constituting Convention

*1987 Columbus, Ohio

Churchwide Assemblies

*1989 Chicago, Illinois
*1991 Orlando, Florida
*1993 Kansas City, Missouri
*1995 Minneapolis, Minnesota
*1997 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
*1999 Denver, Colorado
*2001 Indianapolis, Indiana
*2003 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
*2005 Orlando, Florida
*2007 Chicago, Illinois
*2009 Minneapolis, Minnesota (scheduled)

Mission and Vision

* Mission Statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
** "Marked with the cross of Christ forever, we are claimed, gathered and sent for the sake of the world."

* Vision Statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
** Claimed by God’s grace for the sake of the world, we are a new creation through God’s living Word by the power of the Holy Spirit;
** Gathered by God’s grace for the sake of the world, we will live among God’s faithful people, hear God’s Word, and share Christ’s supper;
** Sent by God’s grace for the sake of the world, we will proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, serve all people following the example of our Lord Jesus, and strive for justice and peace in all the world.

* Statement of Purpose:
* The primary purposes of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are expressed in the constitutions of congregations, synods, and the churchwide organization as follows:
** To proclaim God's saving Gospel;
** To carry out Christ's Great Commission;
** To serve in response to God's love to meet human needs;
** To worship God;
** To nurture members in the Word of God; and
** To manifest the unity given to the people of God.

* Operational Values:
** Commitment to the Confession of Faith and Statement of Purpose;
** Interdependence;
** Servant leadership;
** Effective stewardship of resources;
** Inclusive representation in assemblies, councils, boards and committees;
** Ongoing review of functions; and
** Nurturing of unity.

* Strategic Directions:
** Support congregations in their call to be faithful, welcoming, and generous, sharing the mind of Christ
** Assist members, congregations, synods, and institutions and agencies of this church to grow in evangelical outreach;
** Step forward as a public church that witnesses boldly to God's love for all that God has created;
** Deepen and extend our global, ecumenical, and interfaith relationships for the sake of God's mission; and
** Assist this church to bring forth and support faithful, wise, and courageous leaders whose vocations serve God's mission in a pluralistic world.
*These strategic directions are offered with profound gratitude for the outpouring of gifts the Holy Spirit gives to members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
* In the course of implementing each of these strategic directions, the churchwide organization must and will:
** Encourage, welcome, and depend upon the lively and creative exchange of resources and ideas throughout the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
** Recognize and encourage the vital contributions and deepening relationship with institutions and agencies of this church and with Lutheran, ecumenical, and interfaith partners;
** Confront the scandalous realities of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, age, gender, familial, sexual, physical, personal, and class barriers that often manifest themselves in exclusion, poverty, hunger, and violence; and
** Pursue ardently the ELCA's commitment to becoming more diverse, multicultural, and multi-generational in an ever-changing and increasingly pluralistic context, with special focus on full inclusion in this church of youth, young adults, and people of color and people whose primary language is other than English.

Predecessor churches

The ELCA formally came into existence on January 1, 1988, creating the largest Lutheran church body in the United States. The Church is a result of a merger between the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), all of which had formally agreed in 1982 to unite after several years of discussions. The ELCA's three predecessor churches were themselves the product of previous mergers and splits among various independent Lutheran synods in the United States. [For example, see Lowell Almen, "One Great Cloud of Witnesses", (Minneapolis:Augsburg Fortress, 1997) p.9-12 for a brief recounting of the formation of the ELCA; or the [http://www.elca.org/communication/roots.html Roots of the ELCA] is available online (retrieved March 27, 2007]

* The American Lutheran Church
**In 1960 the American Lutheran Church, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church merged to form The American Lutheran Church, with the Lutheran Free Church joining in 1963. The ALC brought approximately 2.25 million members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany, Norway, and Denmark. It was the most theologically conservative of the forming bodies, officially teaching biblical inerrancy in its constitution (although seldom enforcing it by means of heresy trials and the like). Its demographic center was in the Upper Midwest (with especially large numbers in Minnesota).

* The Lutheran Church in America
**In 1962 the United Lutheran Church in America, the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church formed the Lutheran Church in America. The LCA brought approximately 2.85 million members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany, Sweden, Slovakia, Denmark and Finland. Its demographic focus was on the East Coast (centered on Pennsylvania), with large numbers in the Midwest and some presence in the Southern Atlantic states. There are notable exceptions, but LCA-background churches tend to be more formalistically liturgical than ALC-background churches. Its theological orientation ranged from moderately liberal to neo-orthodox, with tendencies toward conservative pietism in some rural and small-town congregations.

* The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches
**In 1976 the AELC was formed from congregations that left the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in a schism precipitated by progressive-traditionalist disputes over biblical literalism, academic freedom and ecumenism. Its establishment was precipitated by the Seminex controversy at the LCMS's Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri in 1974. The AELC brought approximately 100,000 members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany; the complexion of its theology generally resembled that of the LCA, as the dissenting former "moderate" faction of the LCMS.

Presiding bishops

To date, three pastors have been elected to the position of presiding bishop of the ELCA. Herbert W. Chilstrom served as the first presiding bishop from 1988 to 1995. He was followed by H. George Anderson (1995-2001), who had previously been the President of Luther College. The current presiding bishop is Mark S. Hanson, who also serves as president of the Lutheran World Federation. Hanson began his tenure as bishop in 2001; he was re-elected in August 2007 for a second term.

Beliefs and practice

See also http://archive.elca.org/questions/, http://archive.elca.org/communication/brief.html and http://archive.elca.org/communication/faith.html

The ELCA is a member church of the Lutheran World Federation, a communion of Lutheran Churches throughout the world. Lutheranism is associated with the German reformer Martin Luther, with its official confessional writings found in the Book of Concord. The ELCA accepts the unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel, acknowledging as one with it in faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of that document.

*"Theological Position": The ELCA is less conservative than the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) or Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the second and third largest Lutheran bodies in the United States respectively. Although having a sizable conservative minority, practically all moderate-to-liberal Lutherans in the U.S. belong to the ELCA; all other Lutheran bodies in the U.S. espouse some form of doctrinaire confessionalism or pietism, or an admixture of the two.

* "Interpretation of Scripture": ELCA clergy are less likely to take the Bible literally, in concord with most liberal Protestant bodies and in sharp contrast to the LCMS or WELS. ELCA seminaries and colleges generally teach a form of historical-critical method of biblical analysis, an approach that, broadly speaking, seeks to understand the scriptures and the process of canon formation with reference to historical and social context. For a brief description, see [http://www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/New-or-Returning-to-Church/Dig-Deeper/The-Bible.aspx The Bible] on the ELCA website. Because of its use of the historic confessions, its ideological basis in Luther's catechism and its tradition of retaining many Roman Catholic traditions, such as vestments, feast days, the sign of the cross, incense and the usage of a church-wide liturgy, there are many aspects of the typical ELCA synod church that are very Catholic and traditional in nature. The ELCA is a very broad organization, however, and there are large segments of the denomination that are evangelical catholic composed of socially conservative and socially liberal factions both centering on liturgical renewal [www.valpo.edu/ils] [Cimino, Richard. Lutherans Today, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2003, 81-101.] , confessional, charismatic/renewal, moderate, and liberal activist, or even combinations of these. Each of these groups tends to see and use the Bible differently. This tolerant and young church body (1988) has generally perceived such diversity as an asset, instead of a liability or threat, as earlier generations likely would have.

* "Sacraments": Like other Lutheran church bodies, the ELCA confesses at least two Sacraments, Communion (or the Eucharist) and Holy Baptism (including infant baptism). Confession and forgiveness is often included in the sacrament count; however, confession is a return to the baptismal waters and so the number may remain at two. The ELCA holds to the doctrine of the Sacramental Union, in other words, the belief that Christ is truly present – body, soul, humanity and divinity – "in, with and under" (Augsburg Confession) the Bread and Wine, so that communicants receive both, the elements and Christ himself. Other denominations, mainly of the radical reformation Reformed persuasion, sometimes erroneously perceive this as a belief in consubstantiation. The ELCA, however, rejects the belief of consubstantiation and regards attempts to explain in terms of philosophical metaphysics how the Eucharist "works" as disrespectful of, if not blasphemous against, the Sacrament's miraculous and mysterious character. In effect, the ELCA belief in the "mysterious" character of the consecrated elements is more in line (along with most other Lutheran Church bodies) with the traditional Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican belief - this being of a real, though unexplainable, partaking of the body and blood of Christ. The Roman Catholic Church believes in transubstantiation, while many other Protestant church bodies doubt or openly deny the Real Presence in the elements of communion. Unlike practically all other American Lutheran church bodies, the ELCA practices open communion, inviting all persons baptized in the name of the trinity with water to receive communion. Some assemblies also commune baptized infants similarly to Orthodox practice. In its quest to return to many of the traditional catholic (universal) practices, the leadership of the ELCA encourages its churches to practice the Eucharist at all services, although some churches still retain non-communion services that alternate with the full liturgy of the Eucharist. In addition to the two sacraments, the ELCA also retains the other five sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church - not as sacraments, but as acts that are sacramental in nature, or sacramentals. These include confirmation, holy orders, extreme unction, confession, and marriage. Their practice and their view as "minor sacraments" varies between churches of a "high" and "low" church nature.

* "Ministerial training and ordination": Pastors are trained at one of eight ELCA seminaries located throughout the United States. They generally hold a Bachelor of Arts degree or equivalent, as well as a master's degree in divinity, and are required to learn biblical Hebrew and Greek. Pastors are ordained by bishops under terms of "Called to Common Mission" (CCM), the full-communion agreement between the ELCA and The Episcopal Church, a phased embrace of the historic episcopate. Since the passage of CCM, a small number of pastors have received special dispensation under extraordinary circumstances for presbyter ordination rather than episcopal ordination, under a [http://www.elca.org/ecumenical/fullcommunion/episcopal/ccmresources/Ordination_Unusual_policy.pdf bylaw exception] passed by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly. Pastors who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) have been prevented from serving as ordained ministers unless they agree to celibacy, though around forty pastors who are in principled non-compliance to this policy continue serve as pastors in ELCA churches by joining the roster of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries. [http://www.elm.org/elm-roster-and-affiliates/] At its 2007 churchwide assembly in Chicago 83 ELCA pastors and seminarians came out as GLBT, many serve in the ELCA without any discipline from their synodical bishop. [ [http://www.lcna.org/lcna_news/2007-08-08b.shtm Goodsoil press advisory: LGBT Lutheran pastors are introduced press event ] ] Many bishops, however, still discipline GLBT pastors and pastors who might celebrate GLBT unions, either implicitly or explicitly, in accordance with stated ELCA practice. [Vision and Expectations for Ordained Ministers, http://archive.elca.org/candidacy/vision_ordained.html] .

* "Worship styles": The ELCA is undergoing a process of renewing its worship life. It recently released "Evangelical Lutheran Worship", a main resource for congregations. It is the first in a constellation of resources to be released in the next few years. Many ELCA congregations are liturgical churches where local customs flourish. Their worship life is rich and diverse, and is rooted in the Western liturgical tradition, though Lutheran-Orthodox dialog has some minimal influence on Lutheran liturgy. Visitors to Lutheran churches may find some people who will make the "sign of the cross" on their body and others who do not. Many Lutheran Churches use traditional vestments (alb, cincture, stole, chasuble, cope, etc.) and liturgical colors: white, red, green, and purple – although in recent years, blue is worn for Advent, scarlet for Holy Week, and gold for Easter Sunday only. Much of the dialog of the liturgy has its roots in the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, and in fact, since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, most major parts of the ELCA's liturgy are worded exactly like the English Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. There has always been a minority of Lutherans who are less liturgical or even non-liturgical. Some ELCA congregations have a non-liturgical contemporary service, either in addition to traditional service or exclusively. Wide variety in worship is, however, assured by Article VII of the Augsburg Confession where unnecessary uniformity is discouraged. One important compromise that has developed is that many Lutheran congregations have two or more worship services each week, with different degrees of formality in each.

* "Musical Heritage": Springing from its revered heritage in the Lutheran Chorale, the musical life of ELCA congregations is just as diverse as its worship. Johann Sebastian Bach and African songs are part of the heritage and breadth of Lutheran church music. The Lutheran liturgy is music filled with five to seven hymns per service including metrical psalter, metrical responses and hymns. The new Evangelical Lutheran Worship has ten settings of Holy Communion, for example. They range from plainsong chant, to Gospel, to Latin-style music. Congregations worship in many languages, many of which are represented in Evangelical Lutheran Worship and upcoming worship resources. Other books often found in ELCA churches include the "Lutheran Book of Worship", "With One Voice", "This Far by Faith," and "Libro de Liturgia y Cántico ".

Comparing the ELCA and LCMS

The differences between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) largely arise from historical and cultural factors, although some are theological in character.

When Lutherans came to North America, they started church bodies that reflected, to some degree, the churches left behind. Many maintained until the early 20th century their immigrant languages. They sought pastors from the "old country" until patterns for the education of clergy could be developed here. Eventually, seminaries and church colleges were established in many places to serve the Lutheran churches in North America and, initially, especially to prepare pastors to serve congregations.

The earliest predecessor synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was constituted on August 25, 1748, in Philadelphia. It was known as the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States. The ELCA is the product of a series of mergers and represents the largest (5 million member) Lutheran church body in North America. The ELCA was created in 1988 by the uniting of the 2.85 million member Lutheran Church in America, 2.25 million member American Lutheran Church, and the 100,000 member Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. Previously, the ALC and LCA in the early 1960s came into being as a result of mergers of eight smaller ethnically-based Lutheran bodies composed of German, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Slovak, Dutch, and other folk.

The LCMS sprang from German immigrants fleeing the forced Prussian Union, who settled in the St. Louis area and has a continuous history since it was established in 1847. The LCMS is the second largest Lutheran church body in North America (2.7 million). It identifies itself as a church with an emphasis on biblical doctrine and faithful adherence to the historic Lutheran confessions. Insistence by some LCMS leaders on a literalist reading of all passages of Scripture led to a rupture in the mid-1970s, which in turn resulted in the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, now part of the ELCA.

The ELCA tends to be more involved in ecumenical endeavors than the LCMS.* The ELCA, through predecessor church bodies, is a founding member of the Lutheran World Federation, World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches USA. The LCMS does not belong to any of these.

The pattern of Scripture interpretation generally practiced in the ELCA seeks to consider carefully the meanings of passages and their form, including the time and place in which passages were written. Emphasis is placed on the message of a specific text within the context of Scripture. As indicated in the ELCA's constitution, "This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life." For more information on the history and current documents of the ELCA, look at other resources linked to the "About the ELCA" section of the [ELCA] http://www.elca.org Web site.

* See the series of essays, "With Confidence in God's Future" for more on ELCA's ecumenical outlook. Get it in [Word] http://archive.elca.org/communication/WithConfidence.doc, or [PDF] http://archive.elca.org/communication/WithConfidence.pdf format.

Comparison to LCMS in ELCA's point of view according to the "Honoring Our Neighbor's Faith" [p. 86 "Honoring Our Neighbor's Faith", Robert Buckley Farlee (ed.), Chicago: Augsburg Fortress, 1999. ISBN 0-8066-3846-X] These conclusions are not agreed upon by the WELS or LCMS.

Rostered ministry

As a Lutheran church body, the ELCA professes belief in the "priesthood of all believers", or that all baptized persons have equal access to God and are all called to use their gifts to serve the body of Christ. Some people are called to "rostered ministry", or vocations of church leadership and service. After formation, theological training, and approval by local synods these people are "set aside, but not above" through ordination or commissioning/consecration. The ELCA currently has four types of rostered ministers:
*"Pastor (Priest)": An ordained minister called to the "office of public ministry" of "Word and sacrament" and considered a "steward of the mysteries" of the Church (i.e. given the "Office of the Keys" to proclaim absolution.) Pastors traditionally serve congregations, but this role is being expanded to include other forms of ministry as well (i.e.chaplains).
*"Deaconess": A lay woman, married or single, who serves the Church in a variety of ways. Traditionally, deaconesses served in the caring professions as nurses, social workers, or teachers.
*"Associate in Ministry": Serves local congregations, synods or other ministries in a variety of roles as parish administrators, parish musicians, youth ministry leaders, or other positions.
*"Diaconal minister (Deacon)": A minister of Word and Service who may serve as a chaplain, youth minister, or in some aspect of social justice or advocacy work. This is the newest category established by the ELCA. A Diaconal minister is similar to the role performed by permanent deacons in the Episcopal Church.

The Division for Ministry at the ELCA's headquarters is responsible for the oversight and pastoral care of rostered ministers, in addition to the synodical bishop. Information on the Division's work and the various types of rostered ministry can be found at the [http://www.elca.org/ministry/ Division's webpage] . More and more ELCA congregations are employing specialized and even general ministers outside of this national oversight.

Ecumenical relations

The ELCA is a member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and Christian Churches Together and is a "partner in mission and dialog" with the Churches Uniting in Christ.

The Church maintains full communion relationships with member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (which is a communion of 140 autonomous national/regional Lutheran church bodies in 78 countries around the world, representing nearly 66 million Christians), the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ. In 2005, the ELCA approved a provisional agreement with the United Methodist Church called "A Proposal for Interim Eucharistic Sharing", which is the first step toward reaching full communion with that denomination. The General Conference of the United Methodist church approved full communion with the ELCA on April 28, 2008. This agreement will take effect if it is approved by the church-wide Assembly of the ELCA in 2009. [http://calms.umc.org/2008/Menu.aspx?type=Petition&mode=Single&number=1455 retrieved 4/30/2008]

On October 31, 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, the Lutheran World Federation – of which the ELCA is a member – signed the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" with the Roman Catholic Church. The statement is an attempt to narrow the theological divide between the two faiths. The "Declaration" also states that the mutual condemnations between 16th century Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church no longer apply.

Social issues

In general, the ELCA is a broad, inclusive organization with a majority of leadership that tends to be liberalFact|date=December 2007 which emphasizes social justice among its core values. However, there is a great deal of diversity of opinion among its constituent congregations, and, thus, the ELCA has been the arena for a number of tussles over social and doctrinal issues during the years since it came into existence in 1988. In part, this is due to the fact that the ELCA assimilated three different Lutheran church bodies, each with its own factions and divisions, thus inheriting old intra-group conflicts while creating new inter-group ones. In general, however, the ELCA has avoided major schisms, partly by engaging in long periods of study and interactive deliberation before adopting new stances. Differences on issues usually reflect geographic differences among so-called "Red States" and "Blue States" in the U.S. generally, although historic demographic splits (e.g., urban liberalism over against rural or suburban conservatism) are often perceptible as contexts.

The ELCA's stances on social issues include:

Role of women

The ELCA ordains women as pastors, a practice that all three of its predecessor churches adopted in the 1970s. Some have become synod bishops since the formation of the ELCA, with about 10% of the synods currently led by female bishops.

exuality

The ELCA does not have a statement on human sexuality, but expects to adopt one at its 2009 Churchwide Assembly. At present, a Church Council Message adopted in 1996 provides information about what members of the ELCA have in common on the subject and states that "marriage is the appropriate context for sexual intercourse." The process of studies and draft statements on human sexuality is documented [http://www.elca.org/faithfuljourney here] .

The ELCA welcomes all people into worship and full membership in its congregations. At present, the document "Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministry in the ELCA" states, "Single ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life. Married ordained ministers are expected to live in fidelity to their spouses, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful. Ordained ministers who are homosexual in their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual relationships." As of the August 11, 2007 vote at the Churchwide Assembly in Chicago, the ELCA urged its bishops and synods to "exercise restraint" in disciplinary action against gay and lesbian ministers who violate the celibacy rule who are in "faithful committed same-gender relationships". The resolution passed by a vote of 538-431. [cite news
title = Lutherans vote not to punish gay ministers
work = Los Angeles Times
pages =
date= 2007-08-12
url = http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-lutheran12aug12,1,5002913.story?track=rss
accessdate = 2007-08-12
]

Creationism/evolution

The ELCA has not adopted an official position on creation or evolution, but there is general agreement on Historical and Form Criticism in biblical scholarship.

Abortion

The issue of abortion has also been contentious within the ELCA. The church, in documents approved in 1991, set out its position on the matter as follows. The ELCA describes itself as "a community supportive of life," and encourages women to explore alternatives to abortion such as adoption. However, the church states that there are certain circumstances under which a decision to end a pregnancy can be "morally responsible." These include cases where the pregnancy "presents a clear threat to the physical life of the woman," situations where "the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse," and "circumstances of extreme fetal abnormality, which will result in severe suffering and very early death of an infant." Regardless of the reason, the ELCA opposes abortion when "a fetus is developed enough to live outside a uterus with the aid of reasonable and necessary technology."

See also

*Augsburg Fortress
*The Lutheran
*Churches Uniting in Christ
*ELCA Youth Gathering
*List of ELCA colleges and universities
*List of ELCA synods
*List of ELCA seminaries
*Lutheran Peace Fellowship

References

External links

* Main web site [http://www.elca.org ELCA.org]
* Site introducing ELCA to seekers [http://sharingfaith.org sharingfaith.org]
* ELCA Disaster Response [http://www.elca.org/disaster ELCA.org/disaster]
* ELCA Global Mission [http://www.elca.org/globalmission ELCA.org/globalmission]
* [http://www.elca.org/colleges/find/ ELCA Colleges and Universities]
* [http://www.elca.org/theologicaleducation/seminaries/ ELCA Seminaries]
* [http://usliberals.about.com/od/faithinpubliclife/a/ChurchesBudget.htm About.com: Five Christian Denominations Issue Joint Statement Opposing President Bush's 2006 Budget] A history of many of the bodies that merged to form "ELCA":
* Wolf, Edmund Jacob. [http://www.archive.org/details/thelutheransinam00wolfuoft The Lutherans in America; a story of struggle, progress, influence and marvelous growth.] New York: J.A. Hill. 1889.


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