by Bishop Bill Gohl

a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline… – 2 Timothy 1:7

The ELCA Church Council, the highest legislative body between Churchwide Assemblies, acted this last week to end the use of “Visions and Expectations for Ordained Ministers.” That action is described in this press release. Bishop R. Guy Erwin (Southwest California Synod) shared this Facebook post reflecting on “What does this mean?” +bg

Bishop Erwin writes:

The ELCA Church Council took action today to permanently end the use of the “Vision & Expectations” (V&E) document that in its original form was written to (and indeed did) long block the ordination of non-celebrate gay and lesbian pastors in our church. Though revised after Churchwide Assembly decisions in 2009 to remove those specific prohibitions, it continued to be an object of offense to many—for whom the changes made seemed insufficient.


V&E blocked my own ordination for 20 years, so I am not at all unhappy to see the end of it. Its redeeming features as an expression of aspirations for ordained ministry had—in my view—been completely obviated by its notorious history.


The possibility of a new aspirational document for those seeking ordination as pastors and deacons in the ELCA has been lifted up by the Church Council, but no firm timeline for that has been set. If it happens, it will take some time.


In the meanwhile, the ELCA’s disciplinary document for officers, rostered leaders, and lay members of the church, called “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline,” will continue in force without substantive change, and it will likely continue without change until a wide-ranging Churchwide conversation can occur. Again, there is no timeline for that. The “Definitions & Guidelines” document articulates the same rules as “Vision & Expectations” did, so there has been no substantive shift in ELCA expectations for the life and conduct of rostered ministers.


The Church Council also made it explicit by amending the ELCA Candidacy Manual today that the rostered ministers portions of the “Definitions & Guidelines” document have now immediately become the church’s expectations for those in the church’s candidacy process, and that candidates’ familiarity with and assent to that document will be required in all the steps of the candidacy process in which the “V&E” document had previously been used.


Thus there will be no interruption in the church’s expectations of conduct for its rostered ministers, which remain largely unchanged. Still, the disappearance of Vision & Expectations is, in my opinion, a great good thing.


I am happy to have had a small part in the decision making process. But the conversation is far from over.

For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:6-7