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Bishops, News and Hearsay

Abstract: Details from Conference of Bishops meeting slowly emerge.

The ELCA Conference of Bishops (COB) meets at least twice a year (their most recent meeting was Oct. 4-9), but you might have a hard time finding out what happens at their meetings. The first ELCA account of the most recent COB meeting appeared on October 18 under the somewhat misleading title "ELCA Bishops Hear Presiding Bishop's Concerns about Ecumenism".
Before the ELCA news release, we had already learned from the Rocky Mountain Synod email newsletter that Bishop Allan Bjornberg (Rocky Mountain Synod) had been elected chair of the Conference of Bishops.
According the the ELCA release, in addition to ecumenism the bishops also discussed:

  • debt accumulation by seminary students,
  • ways of responding to inappropriate on-line behavior among ELCA professional leaders,
  • ELCA finances in general,
  • the "Book of Faith" initiative,
  • and ELCA disaster response.
  • The ELCA release was silent on the matter the sexuality social statement, but from a report (posted to a forum of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau by Pr. Marshall Hahn of the Northeastern Iowa Synod, we have the following:
    At our synod's Fall Conference, the bishop reported on the conversation at the Conference of Bishops' gathering of last week... Among the things agreed upon, were the following points:
    1) The Conference of Bishops is in agreement that the "refrain/restraint" motion does not apply to candidates in the Candidacy Process.
    2) The resolution is not an effort at "back door" but rather to try to deal with the practical realities of going immediately to discipline. The estimate is that the Schmeling case took 70% of the bishop's time for six months and hundred's of thousands of dollars. "Counting the cost" was one phrase that was used in discussing the resolution.
    3) We are in agreement that this will be for two years until the next assembly.
    4) Candidates must return to their synod of origin to attempt to re-enter. It would take the agreement of two bishops and two Candidacy Committees to change that. However, the restraint/refrain resolution does not apply to candidacy so that question is mute. You can only re-enter the roster through the candidacy committee and bishop of the synod from which you left the roster. Consequently, there is no way of circumventing the process by going to a more sympathetic synod.

    Does that 4th point strike you as odd? What does "restraint/refrain" have to do with clergy re-entering the roster? It sounds to us remarkably like a fragment of an implementing resolution that wandered in from another, vastly more complicated discussion about the shape of policy change.
    And at long last, there's a nod to the expense of enforcing the ELCA's policy: "the Schmeling case took 70% of the bishop's time for six months and hundreds of thousands of dollars."

    (Vol. I, xlix October 19, 2007 )

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