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Smoke Signals—Reports on the 2009 Pacifica Synod Assembly

Smoke Signal #1 (Thursday afternoon, May 21)

Aloha All,

We’re here. Jeanne, Pastor Steve and I assembled for the sacrament of caffeine this morning at the Riverside Convention Center. Outside the day is presenting beautifully—sunshine burning through the morning clouds and persuading the smog to lighten up and show a little mountain silhouette. Inside the event site is filling up with reliable-looking people. Pastries, cookies, and black coffee are in abundance. Not a guilty looking mug in sight. We’re about 15 minutes away from the first session addressing the proposed social statement. Time to top off the gray cells with more coffee—I’m going to need all the help I can get to keep up with the program.

In Christ. In Riverside.

Your faithful delegates.

Smoke Signal #2 (Friday morning, May 22)

Day 2 has started with musical expression and movement that is quite progressive from the LCH perspective. Thus, Jeanne and I are seeking refuge in the snack room. The energy is moving in unusual ways in the main conference hall.

Recap of Day 1 (part 1)

Morning Session: Social Statement Hearing: The session was a warm-up for the main event today. No debate or discussion of the merits of the memorial on the Proposed ELCA Social Statement on Human Sexuality and Report and REcommendation on Ministry Policies. Focus of hearing was process and clarification of content.

The memorial was divided into Part A: Adoption of the Proposed Social Statement on Human Sexuality, and Part B: Adoption of the report and recommendation on ministry policies.

Although the hearing was designed to be neutral in tone, some of the dividing lines came into focus. There promises to be heated and heartfelt discussion today. This is not intended to be the focus of the Assembly (Compassion God, Use Our Hands), but is shaping up to be the major point of the assembly.

Afternoon Session: Opening of the Assembly and Bishop’s Report

  1. There are just shy of 400 delegates in attendance.
  2. The Treasurer brought the good news that the synod is in the black by $968.
  3. The Bishop recognized pastors with 25 and 50 years of service, newly ordained and called pastors into the synod, synod staff, and seminary interns including our very own Jacob Burkman, who are beginning their year-long internships.
  4. The Bishop recognized four Book of Faith congregations, including Pastor Lilley’s work at LCH.

Sounds like the music is done. Coast is clear. More later...


Smoke Signal #3 (later Friday morning, May 22)

Aloha All,

Continued dispatch from the synod. Attached is the ELCA Thursday Review—also available on the Pacifica Synod website.

Thursday Recap—part 2: Later, that same afternoon....

Bishop Fink’s Report:

Now is the most opportune time for the church. The church and society at large are facing the “perfect storm.”

  1. Fewer people are going to church, and fewer are identifying themselves as having any church affiliation. They are not seeing the church as relevant to their lives. Correspondingly, church mission, charitable donations, and service is declining. This is a major missional field.
  2. Our Economy is facing great tumult and uncertainty, resulting in fear and withdraw. The church must respond to scarcity with hearts of abundance.
  3. The church, and society at large, are facing divisions over social issues of abortion, human sexuality, gay marriage, rostering of gay church members, and bio-genetics. The church must respond with open hearts, open minds, and careful words to preserve church unity.

On the subject of the Social Statement on Human Sexuality, the Bishop asks everyone to be open to the findings of the statement and recognize the sincere work of the task force, and to be respectful of all of the divergent opinions and the “bound conscience” of each member as we deliberate.

The church has to face this issue with openness and a dynamic, forward looking perspective, or we risk isolationism and closing off from the world. We must be faithful to the body of christ, and go out into the world to share the gift of God’s grace, and that its there for all, heterosexual and homosexual alike.

We are a diverse church. Our views are divergent. We have conservatives, liberals, straights, gays—but we are called to be together as a Body of Christ. We may disagree, but we love each other as fellow members of the family. Bound together under the cross of Jesus Christ, the Pacifica Synod can find the spirit to stay together to do the important work we are called to do.

Prayer: Compassionate God, Use our hands, unite our hearts, and unite our hands and hearts with the world around us.

More later..... Time to vote....

Smoke Signal #4 (Friday afternoon, May 22)

Thursday—final notes:

Following the Bishop’s report, Dr. Frederick Niedner gave the keynote speech. You can read out about it in the ELCA Pacifica Thursday Review in much more faithful detail than we could muster. One bonus observation—Dr. Niedner has an extra brut-ally dry sense of humor (bad wine pun). Seriously. It pays to pay attention.

As for the rest of it, we would like to adopt by reference the contents of the Thursday Review to serve as our notes for the remainder of yesterday’s session.

We note that there are lots of parliamentarians and scholars of the ELCA constitution in the crowd. Changes proposed to Chapter 12 of the Constitution drew quite a few “Points of Order” from the crowd. When it became clear that the proposed revisions are solely for consideration over the next year, everyone settled down and business moved forward. It was a good lesson on the importance of order and patience.

At the end of the business day Thursday, Jim departed for his mother’s house in Laguna Woods, a 45 minute / 80 mph tour of the freeways and toll-roads through San Bernadino and Orange Counties. Jeanne and Steve went to La Campaneras in the Old Mission Inn Hotel where the food was delicious, the setting sublime, and the service inspirational, but not necessarily inspired.

Ok—on to Friday in Smoke Signal #5....

Smoke Signal #5 (Saturday morning, May 23)


We’re entering the final speech of the Saturday business session. The Synod Assembly is coming to a close. We’ll keep this brief. Attached is a picture of the gang [right], and a photo of the Hukilau group at work [below]. I don’t think you'll find any photo evidence from last night’s Hukilau post-party. Only stories, only stories.

As you probably have already heard, the Memorials to adopt the Social Statement on Human Sexuality and to adopt the related Report and Recommendations on Ministry Policies were both passed by the Synod Assembly. The final vote numbers are in the attached “Friday Review” prepared by the Pacifica Synod. The Church moves forward.

We will share a final worship service at noon before heading in our several directions.

We look forward to sharing our experiences with the Congregation.


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