Substance Misuse

Arising out of deep compassion and concern for all persons affected by addiction, and informed by the short definition adopted by the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) and the ASAM’s understanding of addiction, the following guidelines describe how the Greater Milwaukee Synod (the “Synod”) will respond to evidence of addiction and/or substance misuse of either a rostered Minister of Word and Sacrament or a rostered Minister of Word and Service (collectively referred to as “Rostered Minister(s)” or “Minister(s)”), while preserving the Synod’s discretion to treat each person and each case in the manner necessitated by differing facts, circumstances, and the needs of those affected. Nothing in these Guidelines is intended to, or should be understood to, conflict with the ELCA’s Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline.

Definition of Addiction from the American Society of Addiction Medicine

[Short Definition] “Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social, and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, cravings, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment of engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death” (American Society of Addiction Medicine).