The first full day of the Churchwide Assembly began with Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson's oral report to the assembly. Bishop Hanson set a positive tone for the Gathering, challenging voting members and visitors to ponder the question--throughout the week--"What shall be our witness here?" Stressing that the story of the assembly was not yet written, he challenged everyone to pray and ponder the story they would be sharing "back home" of what happened here.
Then the assembly moved into an extended Quasi Committee of the Whole consideration of the proposed social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. Although Bishop Hanson encouraged voting members to avoid discussion of the yet-to-come Recommendation on Ministry Policies (regarding the possible rostering of gay and lesbian persons in committed relationships), I noticed that most of the speakers during the Committee of the Whole time still focused their comments on the pros and cons of possible changes in the ELCA's policies toward gays and lesbians.
Tuesday afternoon featured reports on the Lutheran Malaria Initiative, funding for the ELCA's work on HIV/AiDS, and a great presentation by Lutheran World Relief President John Nunes, a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod leading this joint ELCA-LCMS relief agency. Tuesday afternoon and evening afforded voting members and visitors the chance to attend two rounds of hearings on key assembly business items.