Baptized members are organized into congregations. The elected head of the congregation is a president or chairperson who also presides at congregational council. ELCIC congregations use a variety of organizational patterns. They develop their structures to fit their local needs. Whatever the structure, it works best when everyone gets involved.
The congregations belong to a synod. There are five of these in the ELCIC. The Eastern Synod includes congregations in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and most of Ontario. The territory of the other synods is obvious from their names: The Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod, The Saskatchewan Synod (although it includes a few Manitoba congregations), The Synod of Alberta and the Territories, and the British Columbia Synod. A bishop is the elected head of each synod.
The congregations in a synod also are grouped together into small geographic areas called conferences. The elected head of the conference is a dean who must be a member of the clergy.
At every level in the ELCIC, there is an elected governing body called a council. The congregation has a congregational council; the conference, a conference council; the synod, a synodical council; and the ELCIC, the National Church Council. These councils handle the routine decisions of the level of the church for which they are responsible. However they act only through the authority that has been given to them by the people who elected them.
The whole group makes major decisions at a regularly held or specially convened meeting. At the congregational level these are called congregational meetings and the annual meeting. At the synodical and national level, they are called conventions (or sometimes assemblies). While we hope that every member will take part in congregational meetings, we select representatives to participate at meetings beyond the congregational level.
Because we set the clergy aside for ministry and give them special training, we make it their business to take time to study and consider important theological matters. We give them the responsibility of guiding our decisions. With this in mind, we automatically make clergy official delegates to conference and synodical meetings.
Each level or expression of the ELCIC—national, synod, conference and congregation -- have areas of responsibility that are unique to that level and other responsibilities that they share with the other expressions.