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Ninth Biennial Convention
Augustana University College, Cambros AB
June 12 - 15, 2003

Sing to the Lord a New Song
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Report of the Assistant to the Bishop for Ecumenical Relations

Sisters and brothers, co-workers in the gospel, peace with your spirits.

With thanksgiving for the time that I was able to minister in partnership with the people of the Emerson Lutheran Parish (Emerson/Friedensthal, Manitoba), and with joyful anticipation, I accepted Bishop Schultz’s invitation to come to work as one of his assistants in the ministry of our National Church. An official call was issued by National Church Council at its meeting in March and I, along with my partner in this ministry, Elaine Sauer (Synodical Relations), will be installed at the opening Eucharist of our Convention in Camrose.

The process, which began in a conversation with the bishop at the end of November, has been a journey, as the work will continue to be, and the learning curve feels steep, but the support is magnificent. It is a satisfying privilege to work as an Assistant to the Bishop, a delight to work with Ray, and it feels good to be part of the ministry team in the office in Winnipeg, a solid and very gifted group of devoted servants of the church.

My major responsibilities include:

  • Promoting and encouraging the international and ecumenical aspects of the Evangelical Declaration.
  • Providing executive support to relationships with full communion partners by:
    • Providing advice and counsel to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Regional Office in North America (RONA) and the North American Regional Committee (NARC) on the policies, procedures and protocols of our church.
    • Providing advice and counsel to the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission on the policies, procedures and protocols of the ELCIC.
    • Submitting reports and recommendations to the National Bishop for presentation to National Church Council.
  • Providing executive support to initiatives with Christian churches with which we do not have full communion relationships by:
    • Initiating National Church Council or National Convention decisions to begin formal conversations or to enter into formal procedures with other churches.
    • Submitting reports and recommendations to the National Bishop for presentation to National Church Council.
    • Providing advice and counsel to ecumenical initiatives on the policies, procedures and protocol of our church.
  • Representing the ELCIC on ecumenical boards and agencies as assigned, including but not limited to:
    • The Governing Board of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC).
    • The Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission.
    • The LWF North America Regional Committee.
    • Consulting with the Director of the Lutheran Office for Public Policy (LOPP) to ensure that National Church Council nominates and elects representation to various agencies that best serve the interests of the ELCIC.
    • Representing the Office of the Bishop as assigned.
  • Assisting the National Bishop to develop and maintain partner church relationships.
  • Carrying out policy and supervising the staff of the ELCIC Mission in the World program.
  • Assisting in the inter-church communications and negotiations related to the ELCIC Companion Synod Program.
  • Administering the international policy of the Global Hunger and Development Appeal (GHDA).
  • Advising the National Bishop on matters related to Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR).
  • Preparing or monitoring and approving all communication from or on behalf of the Office of the Bishop related to full communion, ecumenical and international matters.
  • Assisting the National Bishop to implement recommendations from the Conference of Bishops pertaining to full communion, ecumenical and international matters.
  • Attending all meetings of National Church Council as requested by the National Bishop to provide information and advice.
  • Representing publicly the Office of the Bishop at the request of the National Bishop.

The above is the abridged version of my job description; as you can see, there is much to learn. I appreciate so much your prayers, for me, and for all of us who work on your behalf in the National Office of the ELCIC.

I would like to comment briefly on three areas of responsibility mentioned above and draw your attention to the more detailed reports related to those areas. First, there is Mission in the World, the single largest area of ministry managed by our National Church, as represented by our budget. We have a faithful and very dedicated staff person to coordinate the program, Kelvin Krieger, who has been with world mission in the National Office for about a decade. I invite you to read carefully Kelvin’s report presented on Page B-25.

Since February of 1999 we have been working with the Vision for Mission , which was intended as a five-year strategic plan for world mission, Canadian mission, and campus ministry. The National Church Council Vision for Mission Task Force was established to develop a follow-up plan. The Task Force was put on hold in response to the significant changes taking place in staff and funds available for mission in the National Office. We are proceeding with a Mission in the World work plan for the next biennium which grows out of the Evangelical Declaration and the 1997 recommendations of the Future Directions Task Force for Mission; this approach was initiated by the Mission Staff Team at the time (Cindy Halmarson, Mark Koenker, and Kelvin Krieger), in August of 2002. We will continue to adapt this plan to reflect the priorities of our church and the vision of the Evangelical Declaration which calls for a flexible approach that is responsive to opportunities for mission as they arise.

The next area, the work of the Program Committee for Worship (PCW), is heart, soul, and foundation of who we are as God’s people in this part of the body of Christ we call the ELCIC. Continued reductions in benevolence have meant, among other things, that in the National Office we have come to a point where we can do much less than we used to when it comes to program. Thankfully, in the area of worship, we are richly blessed with a wonderful team of extraordinary folks dedicated to excellence in their work, and to ensuring a resource base for our church that is both deep and broad.

The Program Committee for Worship is itself a small group of only three pastors, all of whom have full-time calls in other areas: André Lavergne, Chairperson (parish ministry), Karen Johnson-Lefsrud (nursing home chaplain), and Jann Boyd (seminary professor). This remarkable group does an amazing amount of work themselves, and coordinates the efforts of many others. I encourage you to read André’s report (Page B-27) , itself only a brief sketch of all the marvelous things they do and supervise. For more details on a regular basis, and a web-based source of worship riches beyond compare, I invite you enthusiastically to look at the web site, www.worship.ca . Pastor Wendell Grahlman, the webmaster, and another faithful and very gifted volunteer, has worked on this with Pastor Lavergne since 1995. If you have never looked at it, you have missed a great deal; if you have looked at it, you know how valuable a resource we have, a resource respected, admired, and used around the world.

There are many other faithful volunteers who might be listed here; space limitations preclude such exhaustive lists, but we could not function as a church without these kinds of above-and-beyond ministries, by our pastors and many, many lay people in all areas of our life together.

Another major area of responsibility for me is as ELCIC staff member of the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission. I began my work in the National Office by attending, with Bishop Schultz, the meeting of this group at the end of February. I won’t describe in detail the ongoing work of the Commission because there is a very thorough report (Appendix 1, Page X-1) prepared by the Lutheran Co-Chair, Bishop Michael Pryse of the Eastern Synod. Again, I invite and encourage you to read that report. For my part, it is enough to say that it is a rich part of my job in this office.

Finally, I would like to share a note about the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in Winnipeg, July 21-31. I continue with all the responsibilities I have had previously, as one of those parish pastors involved in volunteer ministry beyond the immediate call: chairperson of the Local Worship Implementation Group, member of the International Worship Planning Group, member of the planning group for the Sunday Celebration, and member of the Assembly Local Committee. During the ten days of the Assembly there will be many and varied chances for worship, expressions of our global Lutheran communion, as well as of our own ELCIC as part of that communion. I hope and pray that you will be able to join us in Winnipeg for what is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; it would be great also to have you as a volunteer, either in the area of worship, or in any of the many other areas where we need help. There is much more information available for you, including volunteer applications, on the Assembly web site at www.lwf-assembly.org .

I thank God for this call, and I trust that the One who calls through the church will supply what is needed in the church.

With you in Christ’s service,

Paul N. Johnson
Assistant to the Bishop for Ecumenical Relations

In full communion with The Anglican Church of Canada
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