Next week ELCA members from all over the country and the Caribbean will gather in New Orleans for the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.  The Churchwide Assembly, which meets every three years, is the primary decision-making body of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

A churchwide assembly is very similar to a synod assembly, only on a much larger scale.  Each synod sends a number of voting members who gather to review the work of the church, receive and consider proposals from synod assemblies, elect officers, board members and other leaders, vote on ELCA churchwide policy and adopt a budget.

As Bishop Steven Ullestad likes to point out, the church has been gathering in this way to discern God’s will since the first churchwide assembly described in Acts 15.

Acts 15 describes a churchwide council called together in Jerusalem to answer the first (but not last) controversial question the church would face, do you have to be Jewish to be Christian?

“It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”

Based on scripture, tradition and past experience, the answer seemed a very clear “yes”.  However, Peter had a vision in which God commanded him to eat food that scripture declared unclean and Paul was sent by God to bring Gentiles to Christ.  So the leaders of the church came together, listened to one another, prayed and came to the decision that the Holy Spirit was leading them to something new. And when they announced their decision they explained it this way, “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…”

And so once again Lutheran Christians in the ELCA will gather to discern what seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us.

Voting members will be working hard but there will also be opportunities to attend bible studies, meet new friends and be reunited with old friends from around the country and worship with the gathered body of Christ.

Visitors have always been welcome at the assembly to see how the process works.  This year there is a new opportunity taking place the same time as the assembly – Grace Gathering.  Participants at the Grace Gathering can attend plenary sessions but also attend special workshops around the theme of the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  Our own Dr. Katheryn Kleinhans will be presenting a workshop on “The Heart of Lutheran Witness to the Faith”.

You can follow what is happening next week in many ways:

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.


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