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 21 “The ELCA was born in turbulent

times,” Chilstrom wrote in his mem- oir, A Journey of Grace (see page 27). Massive changes in society dur- ing the 1960s and 1970s were having an impact on all churches and the attitude of Americans toward reli- gious institutions.

The new bishop remembers being

thrilled with the ELCA staff that gathered in Chicago, the site chosen for the church’s national offices. “We had some very top-notch people taking positions with the ELCA,” he said in an interview with The Lutheran. “When you’re faced with a job you felt you could not do on your own, you wanted good people around you.”

But there were disappointments and worries in the first year. Income didn’t meet expectations. A budget of $112 million was found to be too optimistic. So Chilstrom encour- aged units of the new church to intentionally underspend. They did so by $7 million, but there was still a shortfall.

Financial woes would continue to plague the ELCA. In 1990 the budget was cut to about $90 million. And in subsequent years there were further cuts in staff and budget. The 2013 budget is about $62

million for ELCA operations, about $47 million of that is designated for mission support, plus about $18.5 million for ELCA World Hunger. As we began life together in the ELCA, some chose not to join us. In the first year more than 50 congrega- tions left to become independent or

Fact check 1988


Number of clergy 17,053 16,773

22 The Lutheran •

white, northern Europeans. “Out of this comes the question of how much variety can this church tolerate,” he added.

“It surprised me how much I would be involved in ecumenical affairs. That came very fast. Sud- denly I’m walking into a world where, if I thought the ELCA was large, the Anglican and Roman Catholic and Orthodox worlds were larger.

This photo of Gunnel Sterner, a vot- ing member from Bethlehem, Pa., to the 1997 Churchwide Assembly, was on the cover of The Lutheran. It became synonymous with the strong emotions surrounding the full com- munion agreement between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church. The agree- ment failed in 1997 but passed two years later.

part of The Association of American Lutheran Churches, formed by ALC congregations that didn’t approve of the merger.

Our new church had been launched, continuing the paths set by the previous church bodies, and shaping its own mission.

Fact check 1988


Number of clergy women

1,071 3,859

The first 100 days Chilstrom spoke glowingly about the first 100 days of the new church. “I’m beginning to see some changes happening in this church that in the long run are going to have profound significance for us,” he said. The bishop was referring to “intention- ally becoming an inclusive church,” break- ing out of the stereotype of Lutherans as


“It was a pleasant surprise to dis- cover that I had so much in common with people in those other churches. I coveted those relationships in the gospel.”

Ecumenism would be a key con- cern for the ELCA, in actions that both stirred some of us and troubled others.

In 1997 we approved full altar and pulpit fellowship with three Reformed Churches: the Presbyte- rian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ.

Fact check 1988


Number of clergy of color


While admitting some differences in the approach to the sacrament of communion, the agreement said that shouldn’t keep the church bodies from sharing the sacrament together, exchanging pastors and forming cooperative congregations. Though controversial in some circles, the “Formula of Agreement” passed by a vote of 839-193. However, that same year we failed—by a narrow margin—to approve a similar agreement estab- lishing fellowship with the U.S. Episcopal Church. After some rene- gotiation, it won approval two years later, but opposition to the require- ment that pastors be ordained by bishops remained strong and even caused some congregations to begin to withdraw from the ELCA. Those ecumenical agreements

capped years of dialogue begun long before the ELCA merger was


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