The 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is underway. Maybe this is your first time attending, or maybe you’ve been to every assembly. Maybe you’re not familiar with this event. No matter who you are, if you are an ELCA member, this Aug. 8-13 event matters.
Want to know why? Here are 10 facts you probably didn’t know about the assembly:
- It’s the highest governing body of the ELCA. That means that every decision it makes will have affect the work of the churchwide organziation, every synod and every congregation. (OK, you might have known this one, but you have to walk before you can run right?)
- It’s paired up with the Grace Gathering. For the first time, 500 ELCA members will experience the assembly through the Aug. 10-13 partnering event, Grace Gathering, a recognition of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
- There will be a real indulgence. Yes, one from Martin Luther’s time!
- Leymah Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and a Lutheran, will be a keynote speaker at the Grace Gathering. Her work in bringing peace and women’s empowerment to her country of Liberia won her the award, and she continues to speak on issues of women’s rights and peace around the globe.
- Each churchwide assembly receives special communionware for worship. This year’s pieces were crafted and commissioned by member Beckie Aitken, who is married to Northeastern Minnesota Synod Bishop Thomas M. Aitken.
- You can stream all the worship services, keynote speeches and plenary sessions from home or abroad via the Churchwide Assembly website.
- Roughly 2,200 registered attendees are coming, including 980 voting members from 65 synods, guests, staff, vendors and more. In addition, dozens of volunteers will be there, helping with everything from security to worship.
- Declaration on the Way will be under consideration by assembly. It is a unique ecumenical text that draws on 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue in preparation for the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017. The declaration draws together a litany of 32 consensus statements, where Catholics and Lutherans already have said there are not church-dividing differences between them.
- There will be 29 memorials for the assembly to vote on. Memorials are broad actions on policy that are voted on at synod assemblies and passed on to be voted on by the churchwide assembly. Among them are “Deepening Relationships with Historically Black Churches,” “Gun Violence Prevention” and “Welcoming Refugees.”
- New Orleans, the site for this year’s assembly is not new to the ELCA. New Orleans hosted the 2006 Lutheran Student Movement and the 2009 and 2012 ELCA Youth Gatherings. The ELCA has had a consistent presence in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005, offering long-term support to residents through Lutheran Disaster Response.