Some Background

Started by Brad Everett, July 13, 2011, 10:45:41 AM

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Brad Everett

The 13th Biennial National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church In Canada will kick off Thursday July 14 and end with closing worship on Sunday July 17, in Saskatoon, SK.
The Canadian sister of the ELCA, the ELCIC was formed in 1986 and is made up of five synods (British Columbia, Alberta and the Territories, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northern Ontario, and Eastern) with a total of 607 congregations and a baptized membership of 152,500 (according to the ELCIC website). Due in part to our relatively small size (although the largest Lutheran denomination in Canada, we're smaller than some ELCA Synods) every congregation is entitled to send a delegate (either clergyrostered or lay) but of course not everyone does. And since 2001 we have been in full communion with the Anglican Church of Canada.
To say this is a pivotal convention is a gross understatement. To begin with, following in the footsteps of the ELCA, the convention will be considering a social statement on human sexuality and three motions arising from it. I'm including them in full to give readers the full sense of of what is being proposed.

1. Motion on the Unity of the Church
MOVED that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in convention adopt the following affirmation as representing the position of this church and communicate this action to congregations, partner churches in Canada, sister churches in the Lutheran World Federation and other Lutheran church associations in Canada.
An Affirmation Concerning the Unity of the Church
As a confessional Lutheran Church which bases its life and teaching on the Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds and the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada affirms with the confessors at Augsburg in 1530 that "it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments" (AC VII).
We affirm that the church ought not be divided because of disagreement over moral issues, no matter how distressing such disagreement might be. We believe that any attempt to divide the church because of disagreements over morals, polity or liturgy is an unacceptable confusion of Law and Gospel, which will lead inevitably to a distortion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We encourage ELCIC members, congregations and synods and churches who share our commitment to the scriptures, creeds and confessions and who disagree with one another over issues of morals, polity (including standards for ordination or consecration) and/or liturgy to remain in dialogue and unity with one another and maintain unity in the gospel and the sacraments as St Paul recommends in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17. We encourage all Lutherans to work for and nurture the unity of the confessional witness to the Gospel which is essential to the Lutheran tradition. We ask those persons, congregations, synods and/or churches who are in disagreement to refrain from actions that will divide the body of Christ.

2. Motion on Presiding at or Blessing Marriages
MOVED that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in convention adopt the following policy statement:
It is the policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada that rostered ministers may, according to the dictates of their consciences as informed by the Gospel, the Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds and the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, preside at or bless legal marriages according to the laws of the province within which they serve. All rostered ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada are encouraged to exercise due diligence in preparing couples for marriage. All rostered ministers serving congregations are encouraged at all times to conduct their ministry in consultation with the lay leaders in the congregation and with sensitivity to the culture within which the congregation serves.

3. Motion on Standards for Ordination and Consecration
MOVED that convention actions NC-1993-16 and NC-1989-96 be rescinded and that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in convention adopt the following policy:
It is the policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada that sexual orientation is not in itself a factor which disqualifies a candidate for rostered ministry or a rostered minister seeking a call. Candidates and rostered ministers are in all cases expected to adhere to the qualifications and standards as set out in the constitution and bylaws of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and of the synod within which they serve. Synods and congregations are expected to evaluate candidates for ordination or consecration and rostered ministers for call in accordance with a conscience informed by the Gospel, the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

All I can say is that at least the Faith, Order and Doctrine Committee that developed these motions refrained from referring to "bound conscience". One other note, the second motion allows for "same-sex marriages" rather than "blessings" as the law of the land permits such unions.
The other big item is the report of the Structural Renewal Task Force. Commissioned two years ago to address the challenges facing the ELCIC (i.e. declining membership and finances), if accepted this would drastically alter the shape and governance of the ELCIC (e.g. three synods instead of five, conventions every 3 years rather than 2, cutting the number of delegates to National Convention to 150 etc.). This is an all/or nothing proposition as there is no "tweaking" of various recommendations—it's accepted or rejected as is. It's hard to get too excited about a business proposal that contains the selling point "A scenario wherein the number of congregations and total membership is reduced by 50% continues to support the proposed grouping" (i.e. reducing the number of synods).
Finally we will have elections for National Bishop, with the current Bp. Susan Johnson saying she'll serve if elected. Unlike previous years when there was buzz about the election of a National Bishop (even when there was an incumbent willing to serve) the silence has been deafening.
Add to this the fact that several traditional/conservative congregations and pastors have left the ELCIC, with others in process, it appears the sexuality issues which were defeated in 2005 and 2007 by declining margins, will likely pass but that the tone of the convention will be different from previous years. Being such a small denomination when pastors and congregations leave it is noticed, even on a national level.
So it should prove to be an interesting and pivotal three days for the future of the ELCIC. This will be "make or break".


Is solid ground having a hospitality suite at the convention?

Brad Everett

I have no idea what presence Solid Ground will have at the convention, but would suspect there might be something near the convention centre.

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