Churchwide Assembly


The assembly:

  • Received the results of the ELCA’s first major fund-raising campaign. The 2013 Churchwide Assembly approved the $198 million campaign to help sustain and grow the ministries of the church. This assembly heard that in fact $250 million has been raised in cash, multi-year commitments, and planned gift commitments.

  • Re-elected Presiding Bishop Eaton on the first ballot with over 81 percent of the vote.

  • Adopted the social statement “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action.

  • Approved “A Declaration of Inter-religious Commitment,” which underscores the ELCA’s long-standing commitment to inter-religious relations.

  • Approved memorials on a variety of topics including gun violence, engagement in the Holy Land, and income inequality.

  • Presented a Declaration to People of African Descent to representatives of the African Descent Lutheran Association.  The declaration is an expression of confession of this church’s bondage to the sins of slavery, racism, discrimination, white supremacy and quietism.  “This apology is a recommitment to the process of right and equitable relations within this church, and the flourishing of Christ’s church universal,” Bishop Eaton said after the declaration was read.

  • Received the proposal for the triennium budget.

  • Elected Deacon Sue Rothmeyer as secretary of the ELCA.

  • Voted to commemorate June 17 as a day of repentance in the ELCA for the deaths of the Emanuel 9, the nine people who were killed June 17, 2015, during a Bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Church in Charleston, S.C.

  • Adopted a resolution condemning white supremacy.

Expanded information on the above highlights, and much more, can be found here:

We invited our voting members to reflect on the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. Here are a few of their responses:


Facing your Privilege and Prejudices


During the Churchwide Assembly the ELCA has taken major steps toward racial reconciliation and racism. We issued an apology to people of African descent for our complicity in slavery and ongoing racism. We also protested ICE and the separation of families at the border. While we’ve taken these steps, we all must personally look into and actively engage with our own privilege and prejudices. We cannot simply write these words symbolically, we must act. 

Everyone has certain degrees of privilege at any given moment in any context. Your level of privilege is dependent on many things like economic status, ethnicity, gender, religion, level of education, and physical and mental ability, just to name a few. It’s important to become aware of your privilege so that you can use it to help instead of harm.

For example, we can use our white privilege to help people of color be listened to and help them to receive the same benefits we do. We can help dismantle the systems set in place before us that are heavily influenced by white supremacist ideology. Whether we know it or not, white people have benefitted from white supremacy within our institutions. 

It is our duty to evaluate and hold ourselves accountable and educate ourselves about the history of our land, government, and church. While it is easy to say we were not aware of what was happening or that we weren’t actively participating in these oppressive systems, we must apologize and commit ourselves to being better. We must lift up the marginalized and oppressed, making a point to listen and educate ourselves on their point of view and history. We must be careful to not talk over them or discredit their accounts, but rather empower them and give them platforms to tell their stories. We must learn to deal with our discomfort with what we’ve done and what others before us have done so that others after us do not continue our oppressive systems and reconciliation is possible.


- Megan Mong

For me, the highlight of these events is always the worship. And I wasn't disappointed-our worship was joyful and varied, with a different theme each day, highlighting different cultures and styles of worship. One day we began with a Native American chant, another with a Gospel choir, and another with mariachi music. It was all glorious and beautiful-to worship the Lord with a thousand of my brothers and sisters. But I must say that the highlight of the week was the moment when we all sang the Sanctus, "Holy, Holy, Holy" from Setting 4, ELW (Setting 2, LBW and Setting 1 in the Service Book and Hymnal)-one thousand voices, from all over the country and beyond, joined in singing that beautiful song of praise from my childhood-it brought tears to my eyes, and reminded me that our church and the faith we stand for is alive and well.

- Jon Anderson

God was definitely busy throughout the Churchwide Assembly!  I found the whole experience to be extremely moving and inspirational.  I feel most blessed to be part of a church which willingly moves forth out of our comfort zones to stand up for the sake of the gospel to meet the needs of the whole people of God.  This was evidenced by the passage of the social statement “Faith, Sexism and Justice” and the memorial to become a sanctuary church. Also, the Litany of Confession to the Jewish Community is another testament of “doing theology not just hearing it”.

The highlight was being present to witness Bishop Eaton being reelected on essentially the first ballot!  Bishop Eaton by her very personable nature and witness of the faith promotes the ministry of women in the church on a daily basis.

My significant memory was the Declaration/Apology to the People of African Descent.  Hopefully, this will pave the way for all peoples in the ELCA and beyond to realize that often our silence makes us complicit in failing to show love to all our brothers and sisters.  

By attending this assembly, I learned much about the various ministries of the ELCA both here and abroad.  Although I have attended synod assemblies and women’s Triennials, this Churchwide helped to broaden my knowledge to more deeply understand the ministries and complex workings of the church. Love for your neighbor and the biblical passage “as you have done it to the least of these my brothers you have done it unto me” were the driving force of the assembly and should be witnessed in all we say and do throughout our synods and congregations and beyond!


- Janice Gerken

One of the highlights for me was being a part of something larger than myself. To know that my voice mattered in such a large gathering of the church body, but that we could be in one spirit on a diversity of topics. Another highlight was being able to worship each day and take in the various ways the Spirit moved through song, prayer, preaching, and sacrament.

The memory that moves me the most was listening to the speaker about gun violence and to the trauma and grief it brings to a community. Listening to the speaker, Desta Ronning Goehner, give her testimony and story was powerful. The song and candles following reminded me that even a small light brings hope and the strength to continue healing, and to move to action in walking with and alongside our siblings in Christ and neighbors.

The most significant learning was that no matter what we face as a church and among each other, we are church together. What holds us together is neither our strengths or differences but Christ. What happens in Jesus’ death and resurrection is an event that is ongoing through our lives that allows us to love each other as Jesus does, to respond to the call of the Spirit, and to see the world through God’s eyes.

What inspired me was the fact that such a diversity of people with their gifts and their love for God and the world God made were willing to work so hard to make hope, life, joy, peace, justice, and love a reality in their communities. In doing so, I was reminded that all our communities are outposts of God’s kingdom and places where Christ is found and the love of Christ extended. We are church together through Christ.

- Laura Smith

Upon returning home from my first Churchwide Assembly, our pastor’s sermon included some discussion about the current Daredevil Exhibit at the Harley Davidson Museum, likening this a bit to how we may or may not respond in certain life situations that we encounter as Christians.  How fortuitous was his sermon!  This week in Milwaukee, we were daredevils!  We became the first church body to declare ourselves a Sanctuary Church!  We passed a social statement on Faith, Sexism and Justice: A Call to Action!  We passed a Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment!  We were daredevils together this past week!  Together, with the Holy Spirit, we paved the way in some pretty exciting, scary and new ways.  I am inspired to take this back to my home congregation.  To open the eyes of the members of my congregation and community, to all the amazing opportunities the ELCA has to offer the world.  We really are church and church together!  I hope that those of us that attended this assembly can go back home and make the connections needed to make even a bigger impact with the resources we have as a church.  Thank you so much for this opportunity to be a part of an amazing week!


- Julie Barstow


The Churchwide Assembly was a wonderful opportunity to more fully see the work of the church in action.  I fully enjoyed the opportunity to attend and represent the Central States Synod.  One of the highlights for me was being able to join in the procession celebrating the 50th anniversary of women’s ordination.  I processed with over 500 other female clergy and was moved to tears by this experience and to know that I was surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses of women who came before.

Thank you to the Central States Synod for giving me this opportunity to attend and get to know other Lutherans from across the country.

- Elizabeth Cummings

CWA2019 was my first and I am full of AWE. Of significance to me was the process of such a large assembly (an egalitarian representation of 927+ voting members) being able to accomplish so much very significant Church business. (Electronic voting machines tallied our names and vote and posted the results on the big screens within a minute!) The business accomplished at this Assembly was truly prophetic. I am AWED by the work of the Holy Spirit in our ELCA. 


- Patricia Phelan

When I think back on my experience at the CWA the thing that comes to mind is the worship experiences.  The daily communion services – especially the opening and closing services – were inspirational and uplifting.  The varied music and worship styles were memorable and were highlighted with the festive processionals.  The most memorable procession in my mind was the procession of female pastors when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women.

- Lloyd Pinon

One of the highlights for me was to see the larger church at work. In grace and love, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we made decisions for the church to live out our faith through statements, memorials, and action. 


A memory I will take with me was Friday morning's worship, when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the ordination of woman, the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of the ordination of the LGBTQIA+ community in open relationships. The procession of women into the worship space was powerful. For nearly 4 minutes women flowed into the worship space. The gifts and call of God was seen in that glorious entrance! It gave me goosebumps it was so moving! 


I learned how far we have to go as a church to address the ways we do and have neglected and oppressed woman, people of color, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQIA+ community. We have taken a few steps in the right direction, but have a long road to travel. I learned that my voice matters in that conversation, it is the white hetero male voices that need to address issues and move into a new way of being church, not just the people who are oppressed.


I am inspired to get back to work, to preach the Gospel in new ways that seek to include, invite, and welcome all of God's beloved creation. To point out racism, to advocate for peace, to provide safety for the broken and alone. Inspired to challenge, teach, and dialogue with the community of faith what it means to be the church, living out the decisions we have made at churchwide with grit and grace. I am inspired to bring memorials, resolutions, and statements addressing ways we can more fully live out the Gospel of Jesus to our synod assembly. 


- Chris Deines


Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God's Grace in Action."  

New Orleans, LA

August 8–13, 2016


The assembly – the highest legislative body of the ELCA – is comprised of 980 voting members serving on behalf of the 3.7 million members of the ELCA. The ELCA's 65 synods elect voting members to serve at churchwide assemblies.

Participation in the recent Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was a privilege – inspirational, informative, and encouraging.  From outstanding worship to engaging small-group conversation to enlightening Bible studies to hands-on, productive service projects, this assembly was also a call to faithful action by our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton.
A number of actions were approved by the 945 voting members in attendance; chief among them are these:


  • Elected William B. Horne II of St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Clearwater, Fla., vice president of the ELCA. Horne was installed during closing worship Aug. 13.

  • Accepted the "Declaration on the Way," a unique ecumenical document that marks a path toward greater unity between Catholics and Lutherans. At the heart of the document are 32 "Statements of Agreement" that state where Lutherans and Catholics do not have church-dividing differences on topics about church, ministry, and the Eucharist. The document also presents the differences that remain.

  • Approved AMMPARO, the ELCA's strategy to Accompany Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation, and Opportunities. The ELCA developed this strategy based on commitments to uphold and guarantee the basic human rights and safety of migrant children and their families; to address the root causes of migration in countries from Central America's Northern Triangle and Mexico and the treatment of migrants in transit; to work toward just and humane policies affecting migrants in and outside the United States; to engage as a church with all of its companions, affiliates, and partners to respond to the migration situation and its causes; and to advocate for migrant children and their families.

  • Approved the Ministry of Word and Service roster. Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, ELCA associates in ministry, deaconesses and diaconal ministers will be included in a single, unified roster of Ministry of Word and Service. The accompanying constitutional amendments related to the roster were also considered and approved by the assembly.

  • Approved the 2017-2019 budget proposal. The budget includes a 2017 current fund spending authorization of $65,296,005 and a 2017 ELCA World Hunger spending authorization of $24.8 million; a 2018 current fund income proposal of $64,057,220 and a 2018 ELCA World Hunger income proposal of $25 million; a 2019 current fund income proposal of $64,151,175 and a 2019 ELCA World Hunger income proposal of $25 million; and authorizes the Church Council to establish a spending authorization after periodic review of revised income estimates.

  • Approved various memorials (proposals) from the ELCA's 65 synods. In addition to memorials considered "en bloc," the assembly separately approved the following: deepening relationships with historic Black churches; toward a responsible energy future; repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery; peace with justice in the Holy Land; justice for the Holy Land through responsible investment; African Descent Lutherans; call to discernment on U.S. foreign and military policy; welcoming refugees; and supporting military personnel and their families, and veterans and their families.

  • Elected members to serve on: Church Council, Portico Benefits Services, Mission Investment Fund, Augsburg Fortress, Committee on Appeals, Committee on Discipline and Nominating Committee.

  • Adopted amendments to the ELCA Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions.


Voting members from the Central States Synod: Donna Florio, Mindy Tilberg, Brittany Garrelts, Mamy Ranaivoson, Michael Peck, Keith Holste, Eli Truhe, Dennis Allerheiligen, Wayne Sharp, Janis Hutchinson, Amy Truhe, Bob Mitchell, Jodee Reed, Christine Schindler, and Bishop Roger Gustafson.

Check out several videos of the assembly, including Bishop Eaton's report at

A complete report of assembly actions is available for download at: Legislative_Updates_for_the_2016_Churchwide_Assembly.pdf .


We invited our voting members to share their experiences at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly. Here are a few of their responses:


The Churchwide Assembly really brought to my attention the varied voices in our Church. It was inviting to hear people's passion about topics I rarely engage and to hear the opposite passions from those who were equally engaged and vocal.

I was struck by the many gifts of our Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton. She is a very aware, connected person who seems to speak several languages and who knows the Roberts Rules of Order! She has a quick wit and a sense of balance that kept things flowing while not running over topics in a dismissive manner.

Worship was a real treat as well. We had several preachers who live the gospel in ways Salina, Kansas does not seem to call one to live the gospel, yet, their proclamation held a message for me (and for everyone, I hope!) that drew me to greater attention to the justice and social issues of our lives. The music was filling and uplifting; with a thousand voices singing praise to God, it was really amazing!


- Amy Truhe, Rostered Voting Member

My experience at the CWA in New Orleans was heart warming and uplifting!  We are a diverse Church and an ever changing Church. Yes, we are 500 years old in 2017 but we have baby steps to take. This is an exciting time to be a Lutheran! One item I lift to you: We approved "Declaration on the Way" memorial by an overwhelming vote to commune with our brother and sisters from the Catholic faith. Many other exciting days are ahead of the Lutheran Church. But most importantly we need to keep this in our minds and our hearts: We Will Never Change The World by Going To Church. We Will Only Change The World By Being THE CHURCH!


- Dennis Allerheiligen, VP Synod Council

The enthusiasm  that was felt throughout the entire week at the Churchwide Assembly, the excitement felt when praising God through worship, and the love and acceptance of our differences and the willingness of all to work for justice and equality for our neighbors; are all areas of motivation I hope to be able to share with the local congregational members, so that we may strive to do God's work, as God's people. 

Seeing the church in action has renewed my spirit in the fact that we are a living church at work in the world and all our difference in context just add to our effectiveness in changing our world for the better. Each local congregation doing God's work in their neighborhoods adds up to positive change for the sake of the entire faith community. We do not have to all do the same exact thing to be church.


- Rev. Donna Florio, Voting Member


I am very proud to be apart of a church taking a stand on problems in the world and moving towards inclusiveness of other church denominations. Churchwide reminds me how awesome our church is and that it is growing in the right direction. I know that in order for our church to continue we need youth, we have them, and they are excited to participate.

With each year I leave excited about the direction our church is heading. I would like my congregation to realize we are apart of something so much bigger than our church and the those that sit in the pews on Sunday morning. We are a church that serve God's children all around the world. I would like for them to feel the pride I do when I hear what our donations are doing. Our church provides clean water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, and the first ones with disaster relief. And because my church is an African-American church I would love for them to know what a big part people of color have in making this all work. I want them to feel included and as proud as I am to be apart of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

- Janis Hutchinson, Voting Member