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Changes proposed to include synods
in nomination process for church

by Betsy Carlson (Editor, WordAlone Network)

August 2005

Voters at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly Aug. 8-14 in Orlando, Fla., will have an opportunity to move church council elections a step closer to being representational of synods.

The ELCA church council is asking the assembly to allow synods to nominate candidates for the council. They now are nominated by the assembly's own nominating committee. The assembly still will elect the council members. The council wants church council membership to remain at 37, including the denomination's four officers and 33 other elected members, who serve six-year terms.

The new nomination process will have 11 different synods, on a rotating basis, each nominate two candidates for one church council seat every two years. Currently council members are nominated and elected at churchwide assemblies. About a third of its membership changes every two years. That pattern will continue.

Nominations from the floor of the churchwide assembly for church council will not be allowed.

The WordAlone Network has worked for several years to make national governance accountable to synods and local churches.

"We are gratified that the churchwide council is responding to efforts by WordAlone and some synods and some bishops to revise our governmental structures," said WordAlone Director Mark Chavez in July.

One such proposal is to enlarge the church council to 65 members, plus officers, with each synod nominating and electing its own representative.

WordAlone also suggested changing the assemblies to conventions and so voting members would be seen as delegates representing and accountable to the people who elected them.

Neither objective has been achieved yet.

Assembly members are told usually that they represent no congregation or group and are to work on behalf of all the members of all the congregations in all the synods of the ELCA.

Pre-assembly materials assert that the church's governance system has served the church well in its 17 years of existence. However the information acknowledges that the system is perceived as confusing, complicated and unresponsive. To help change that perception, the governance proposal encourages church council members to visit their synod councils and to keep in contact with the synods.

The proposal adds several advisory members to the church council who will take part in council committee meetings, "where they will have the most opportunity to help shape the work and decisions of the council."

These new advisors include presidents of the ELCA's five ethnic associations, chairpersons from each program unit of the denomination, a person from Augsburg Fortress Publishers, one from Women of the ELCA. Also advising will be the chairperson from the consulting committee on the work on behalf of women and a representative each from the ELCA's colleges and universities, from seminaries and from social ministry organizations.

Present advisors are one bishop each from the nine ELCA regions and two youth advisors.

"The purposes of advisory members are to interpret to this church the policies, goals and outcomes established by the council; to shape the work of their committees, synods and organizations around those policies, goalsand outcomes and to bring ideas, issues and expertise to the council and its work," says the pre-assembly materials.