The Charter of the ELCA Ecology Task Force

A web presence for the ELCA’s new Ecology task force is is coming soon, but here are the notes (copied from a .pdf document linked here) outlining the purpose and scope of the ELCA’s new task force.

Awkward formatting due to copying and pasting from a .pdf document.  To read the .pdf, click above link, and then select Report of Particular Actions of the Church Council from their November meeting.

1. ECOLOGY STUDY DESIGN GROUP CHARTER

Background:
At its March 2009 meeting, the Executive Committee
recommended the following action, which was approved
by the Church Council [CC09.03.04]:
To acknowledge that the principles
of organization of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America call us to
be one church consisting of
“interdependent partners sharing
responsibly in God’s mission” in which
this church is called to be in
relationship with institutions and
agencies, including seminaries,
colleges, and universities, as well as
other partners, so that together we can
build capacity for evangelical witness
and service in the world;
To recognize that more than 20
years have passed since the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America came into
existence, that the relationships among
this church and partner institutions and
agencies have evolved substantially,
and that assumptions that undergirded
the original organization, governance,
and interrelationships of this church
may no longer apply or apply in a
REPORT OF ACTIONS OF THE CHURCH COUNCIL (NOVEMBER 13–15, 2009) – PAGE 2
different way in the 21st century;
To recognize further that
significant societal and economic
changes have taken place that raise
profound issues regarding the
organization and governance of this
church, its interrelationships with
partner institutions and agencies, and
the ways in which ministry can be
accomplished most effectively;
To acknowledge the desire by this
Church Council to address these
difficult and complex issues by
beginning a process to evaluate the
organization and governance of this
church and the interrelationships
among its expressions and partner
agencies and institutions for the
purpose of bringing a comprehensive
report and recommendations to the
2011 Churchwide Assembly;
To authorize the Presiding Bishop,
in collaboration with the Executive
Committee of the Church Council and
the Conference of Bishops, to appoint
a study group for the purpose of
formulating a plan to undertake such an
evaluation; and
To request that the study group
bring a report and possible
recommendations through the
Executive Committee in consultation
with the Planning and Evaluation
Committee for the April 2010 meeting
of the ELCA Church Council and such
report include the membership of a task
force to conduct the evaluation, an
outline of potential topics to address, a
timetable, budget implications, and
such other issues as the study group
believes will facilitate the evaluation.
Church Council Action:
To approve the charter for the Ecology Study
Design Group [as printed below]:
Living into the Future Together:
Renewing the Ecology1 of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America2 (ELCA)
October 28, 2009

PURPOSE

The purpose of the ELCA Ecology Study Task Force
study is to recognize the evolving societal and economic
changes of the twenty years since the formation of this
church, and to evaluate the organization, governance, and
interrelationships among this church’s expressions in the
light of those changes. The intended result of the Ecology
Study Task Force’s work is a report and recommendations
that will position this church for the future and explore
new possibilities for participating in God’s mission.

HISTORY

At its March 2009 meeting, the ELCA Church
Council authorized Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson in
collaboration with the Executive Committee of the Church
Council and the Conference of Bishops to appoint a study
design group. The task of the study design group was to
design a charter for a task force “ … to evaluate the
organization and governance of this church and the
interrelationships among its expressions and partner
agencies and institutions for the purpose of bringing a
comprehensive report and recommendations to the 2011
Churchwide Assembly.”3 The report of the task force first
will be received by the ELCA Church Council.
The study design group was formed and met on June
15-16, 2009. The group met via a conference call on
August 4 and then in a face-to-face meeting on September
15-16, 2009. In fulfillment of the ELCA Church
Council’s assignment, the study design group submits the
charter below. The charter contains the context, scope,
membership, budget, timeline, and process for the work of
the proposed ELCA Ecology Study Task Force.

CONTEXT

“The Church is a people created by God in Christ,
empowered by the Holy Spirit, called and sent to bear
witness to God’s creative, redeeming, and sanctifying

REPORT OF ACTIONS OF THE CHURCH COUNCIL (NOVEMBER 13–15, 2009) – PAGE 3
activity in the world.”4 In light of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America’s calling to participate in
God’s mission, this church is engaging in an evaluation
and reimagining of its ecology and related ecosystems.
The Church, the body of Christ, is a living entity that
must be mindful of and attentive to its relationships and to
its contexts. The ELCA, part of the body of Christ,
celebrates that an important part of the ELCA identity is
its relationship with its partners in ministry. While each
partner occupies an ecosystem of its own, the three
expressions of this church (congregations, synods, and the
churchwide organization), along with its agencies and
institutions, live together as they seek to participate in
carrying out God’s mission in the world.
In the 20 years since the ELCA was created, the
environment has changed dramatically in ways not
imagined when the ELCA was formed. There has been an
explosion of knowledge. New developments in
technology, particularly related to electronic
communication, have altered the way people understand
and relate to one another. Globalization and mobility have
produced new levels of religious, ethnic, racial, and
cultural diversity within American society.
Many churches in the United States have struggled to
negotiate these changes positively. The trends in
membership and giving within the ELCA—back to its
predecessor bodies—reflect the challenge of envisioning
these changes as rich opportunities.
• In 2008, the baptized membership of the ELCA was
4.7 million while the population of the United States
was 304 million. In 1970, the baptized membership
of the ELCA was 5.7 million while the population of
the United States was 203 million.
• The number of those attending worship in a typical
ELCA congregation has declined from about 148 in
1990 to about 128 in 2008.
• The ELCA has been unable to achieve the goal it set
for itself in 1988 of a 10 percent baptized
membership of persons of color or language other
than English. While these groups represent 32
percent of the population in the United States, they
comprise only three percent of the baptized
membership of the ELCA.
• The membership of the ELCA is considerably older
than the population of the United States. The average
age of a baptized member of the ELCA is about 56.
This compares to an age of about 40 for the general
population.
• In 2008, undesignated and designated giving to
ELCA congregations declined for the first time since
t
he beginning of the ELCA. When adjusted for
inflation, undesignated and designated giving to
congregations in the ELCA has risen only slightly
since the beginning of the ELCA.
• Congregations consistently have lowered the amount
they share with their synods and the churchwide
organization as a percent of undesignated and
designated giving. In 1990, congregations remitted
about 10 percent of their undesignated and
designated giving to their synod and the churchwide
organization. In 2008, congregations sent about six
percent.
• Mission support passed on from synods to the
churchwide organization has remained at about $65
million since the beginning of the ELCA. Adjusting
for inflation, the churchwide organization is
operating with half the financial resources available
in 1990.
• The American economy, which is now clearly global
in its scope, has most recently slipped into a
recession that has impacted the financial capacities of
the various expressions of this church and its
partners.
• The structure and governance practices of the ELCA
(i.e., the Churchwide Assembly, the Church Council,
the Conference of Bishops, Synod Councils, the
churchwide organization) have not been evaluated as
a whole in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and
cost.
At the same time, in this changing, exciting, and
sometimes overwhelming environment, God has
continued to bless this church with abundant gifts. The
ELCA has a long history of service through its
congregations, synods, the churchwide organization,
seminaries, campus ministries, outdoor ministries,
colleges and universities, social ministry organizations,
global companions, and other partners. Because of the
faithful commitment of the members of this church, the
ELCA continues to accomplish its purposes to proclaim
God’s saving Gospel, to carry out Christ’s Great
Commission, to serve in response to God’s love to meet
human needs, to worship God, to nurture members in the
Word of God, and to manifest unity.5
The ELCA gathers together 4.7 million baptized
members in over 10,000 congregations. In 2008, 1.3
million people attended worship each week, 62,000
children were baptized, and $1.9 billion was given by its
members to support the mission and ministry of the
ELCA. This mission and ministry grow out of a
theological heritage that believes the Good News of Jesus
Christ speaks to all people and all places. Its confessional

REPORT OF ACTIONS OF THE CHURCH COUNCIL (NOVEMBER 13–15, 2009) – PAGE 4
documents recognize that unity is in the teaching of the
Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.6
Over the decades, this ecology has been shaped by
the Lutheran capacity for broad theological reflection,
dialog, and conversation. Opportunities abound for
participating in God’s mission in creative new ways. As
we live into the future together, how can this church in its
various expressions participate most effectively in
carrying out God’s mission in the world?

SCOPE

Recognizing these significant environmental changes,
the ELCA Ecology Study Task Force will be led by these
overarching questions:
What is God calling this church to be and to do in the
future?
What changes are in order to help us respond most
faithfully?
Specific questions to be addressed are:
1. What unique gifts does our theological, confessional,
and liturgical identity bring to this environment and
to this time of change?
2. How is God surprising and leading us in the midst of
change and uncertainty to new and distinctive
opportunities?
3. What are the key changes, internal and external, that
have most impacted the relationships and
interdependence within and among the
congregations, synods, the churchwide organization,
and related organizations, agencies, entities, and
partners including, but not limited to, seminaries,
campus ministries, outdoor ministries, colleges and
universities, social ministry organizations,
ecumenical partners, global companions, and others?
4. Given the importance of congregations in the ELCA,
how has the changing environment impacted their
mission and relationships? How might this church
through its congregations, in partnership with synods
and the churchwide organization, engage in ministry
with evangelical missional imagination for the sake
of the world?
5. How can the ELCA’s relationships with its full
communion and global mission partners strengthen
and extend this church’s mission and ministries?
How can we learn from and partner with ministries
and organizations accomplishing God’s work beyond
this church?
6. How can this church most effectively and efficiently
steward and deploy the funds available for its
mission? What are the current patterns and what are
their implications for future funding patterns?
7. How can the governing documents in the
Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions
provide structures and governance mechanisms that
strengthen identity and faithfully and effectively
facilitate mission and ministry?
MEMBERSHIP
The twelve to fifteen members of the ELCA Ecology
Study Task Force will reflect a variety of perspectives and
backgrounds representative of the expressions of this
church. The study will engage additional resource people
throughout the process.
BUDGET
The estimated expense for the ELCA Ecology Study
Task Force’s work for 2009–2011 is $170,000. This
includes expenses for staff support, travel, task force
meetings, and limited research and consultation services.
2009: $35,000
2010: $90,000
2011: $45,000
TIMELINE
The ELCA Ecology Study Task Force will report
regularly to the Conference of Bishops and Church
Council for the purpose of preparing a report and
recommendations for action at the August 2011
Churchwide Assembly.

PROCESS

The methodology with which the study proceeds will
be critical and will be the first order of business. The
ELCA Ecology Study Task Force will carry out its work
with transparency and regular communication with the
various constituencies of the ELCA. It will seek wisdom
from existing research and input from the expressions of
this church and its institutions, agencies, and partners.

Footnotes:

1 Ecology is the science of the relationship and
interdependence between living beings and their
environments. It is also a study of the relationship
between parts and the whole, in this case among the
ELCA’s various constituencies.
2 In the remainder of the charter, the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America normally will
be referred to as “this church.”
3 CC09.03.04, ELCA Church Council Meeting,
March 27-30, 2009.
4 ELCA Constitution 4.01.
5 ELCA Constitution 4.02
6 The Book of Concord, The Augsburg Confession, Article VII

About Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. National Guardsman. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s