The decision has been made to convene voting members in-person for the 2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly held in Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 8-12, all things being equal. Given the uncertainties with COVID-19, there are likely questions about how we will convene. Below are some responses to frequently asked questions. The Churchwide Assembly Planning Team will continue to listen to research and advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local public health officials, professional meeting and event planner organizations, as well as our host city and the meeting venue. Please note that some of the responses below may change so come back for future updates.
At this time, vaccinations will not be required to participate as a voting member or attend the assembly as a congregation observer, volunteer or other non-voting member category. That being said, as a partner in the Faiths4Vaccines movement, the ELCA does trust the vaccine and advocates for the equitable distribution of the vaccine. The more participants who are vaccinated, the safer the assembly will be, so, on the advice of medical professionals, the Churchwide Assembly Planning Team encourages participants to get fully vaccinated before coming to the 2022 Churchwide Assembly. As is stated in the "Care-Filled Worship and Sacramental Life in a Lingering Pandemic" document – an ecumenical consultation on protocols for worship, fellowship, and sacraments, "Our core principle is that, at all times, Christians will seek to act responsibly in the exercise of their faith as they fulfill their obligation to love their neighbors as themselves. Christians will refrain from judging the witness of others as long as others are not endangering the common good."
The CDC does recommend delaying non-essential travel until a person is fully vaccinated. If a person is not fully vaccinated, the CDC has recommendations for travel. Please visit the CDC website for the recommendations.
There are several ways you can look for vaccination providers near you in the United States. Visit "How do I find a COVID-19 vaccine?" on the CDC website. Remember, to be considered fully vaccinated means you are currently either 2 weeks after your second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine. For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/.
No. While the 2022 Churchwide Assembly livestream will be available to watch, as usual, the churchwide organization does not have the capability to have voting members participating in debate and voting both in-person and virtually. Having voting members participate virtually would require the development of a system that could handle both in-person and online voting and queueing for debate in a manner consistent with the Churchwide Assembly rules for handling such things. While development of such a hybrid system may be possible, it would be very expensive, and it would be very unlikely it could be completed in time. In addition, there is a significant concern of equitable access and opportunity for voting member participation in such a meeting.
If a voting member who was elected to participate in the 2022 Churchwide Assembly is unable to attend, or if a voting member does not feel comfortable attending, they should notify their respective synod office immediately. "If a voting member elected by the Synod Assembly is unable to serve, the name of an eligible person chosen by the Synod Council shall be submitted by the secretary of the synod to the secretary of this church. If a vacancy occurs or exists within 30 days or less of the convening of the Churchwide Assembly or during the meeting of the Churchwide Assembly, the synod bishop may submit the name of an eligible person to the secretary of this church. The individual whose name is submitted to the secretary of this church shall be registered and seated by the Credentials Committee as a voting member from the synod. [ELCA Constitution 12.41.12]
At this time, we do not anticipate requiring masks, but we strongly suggest unvaccinated attendees follow the CDC's large event guidelines. Unvaccinated people are expected to "wear your mask over your nose and mouth, secure it under your chin, and make sure it fits snugly against the sides of your face." Fully vaccinated people can participate in the 2022 Churchwide Assembly without wearing a mask or physically distancing as it is not required by the state of Ohio, the city of Columbus, or the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Because voting members will be seated with their synod, physical distancing will be difficult. If you are unvaccinated, wearing a mask will be especially important in times when physical distancing is difficult.
We have learned a lot about best practices for COVID-19 safety measures at events, but we're still learning. We will use local, state, and federal public health guidelines to inform our decisions as they relate to necessary precautions needed to control the spread of COVID-19 onsite. The CDC website states, "Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance." Prevention measures are still recommended for unvaccinated people.
Attendee and guest health and safety is the top priority of the ASM Global managed Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC). There are hand sanitizing stations throughout the facility, increased air filtration systems, UV light sanitizing on escalator rails, and more. The GCCC is committed to making sure that all of the attendees and guests are as safe and healthy as possible. The GCCC has developed a comprehensive and sustainable cleaning, training, and safety guide to lead their reactivation efforts and facility operation moving forward. The GCCC REACTIVATION AND SARS-CoV-2 MITIGATION PLAN has been crafted and informed by ASM's VenueShield® program. Click here for more information.
There are no plans to alter the housing process at this time. Voting members will be assigned a double occupancy room with another voting member. During the online registration process, there will be an option for a voting member to request a single occupancy room. However, the additional expense of staying in a single room will be incurred by the voting member.
The two primary hotels will be the Hilton Columbus Downtown and the Hyatt Regency Columbus.
At this time, the Hilton Columbus asks that guests follow all local guidelines and laws with respect to wearing a mask in indoor public areas. Their Team Members will continue to wear face masks out of an abundance of caution. You can learn more at https://www.hilton.com/en/corporate/cleanstay/.
The Hyatt Regency Columbus currently implements enhanced cleaning measures as part of their COVID-19 special measures. Information on their special measures can be viewed at https://www.hyatt.com/info/coronavirus-statement.
Room reservations must be made when completing the online assembly registration process when we get closer to the assembly. Please do NOT contact hotels directly.
We are committed to honoring the churchwide organization Open Meetings policy and allowing visitors to attend in-person. However, we are encouraging visitors to watch the assembly proceedings via the livestream and participate in worship virtually. Not everyone who attends will be fully vaccinated and the Churchwide Assembly Planning Team acknowledges and respects that voting members will be at different levels of comfort with gathering in a large group. Several factors can contribute to the likelihood of attendees getting and spreading COVID-19 at large events. Visitors participating virtually is the safest choice, particularly for unvaccinated people.
If you have a question that hasn't been answered here, you may send it to the Churchwide Assembly Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org.