July 19, 2011
A hope filled tone calling for grace and care for one another marked the closing worship service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) 13th Biennial National Convention as delegates and special guests were sent out with a message to be Covenant People: In Mission for Others. Almost 600 people attended the enthusiastic closing worship service on July 17 at TCU Place in Saskatoon, SK.
“We have worked hard,” said ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson in reference to the significant agenda delegates attended to over the three business days of convention.
Bishop Johnson acknowledged that throughout convention delegates, “experienced together just about the whole gamut of emotions” and that while some were excited about decisions delegates had made, others were not.
“We have made some very difficult and gut-wrenching choices for the future of our church and its ministry,” she said, her own emotion for the statement surfacing as she struggled to hold back tears. “Some of us will be leaving this convention elated, and some will, and have already, left despondent.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada presided at the service. Bishop Johnson preached on the gospel from Matthew, the parable of the wheat and weeds.
“Throughout history, people have used a variety of ways, some mild, some extreme to separate ‘us’ from ‘them’,” Bishop Johnson said. “Who’s them? Why the weeds of course! And we know who the weeds are. We can separate wheat from weeds, right?”
But after considering the many categories we try to use to separate ‘wheat’ from ‘weeds’ and the inherent difficulties of that, Bishop Johnson suggested, “Maybe, just like the servants in today’s parable, we are not given the job of separating wheat and weeds because we don’t have the ability. We can’t do it.”
Rather, the point of the parable is that Jesus was and is here with the weeds and the wheat, said Bishop Johnson. “He did not differentiate among those he associated with, among those he loved. The point is that in the overwhelming love of Jesus, the barriers come down.”
Bishop Johnson reminded delegates that this does not mean inactivity. “In today’s parable we see the owner of the field caring for the crop – both wheat and weeds – watering, fertilizing, making sure that it all grows. And that is what we are to do as well. It’s why we are trying to live out our vision of being a church In Mission for Others!”
She encouraged delegates to, “stop erecting barriers that separate us from them. Let us let the image of God in me recognize and honour the image of God in you. And let’s get on with the work of caring for the field – weeds and all! This is my prayer, for myself and for this church.”
During the worship service, Bishop Johnson installed newly elected officers of National Church Council (NCC), with returning NCC members and all others present at the service pledging to support them in their work.
In addition to a full business agenda, the ELCIC’s 13th Biennial National Convention was also filled with meaningful worship services that open and closed the business sessions. A banquet on Saturday night celebrated not only 25 years of the ELCIC, but also 35 years of women’s ordination in the church, the 10th anniversary of full communion, and included a number of tributes to individuals and organizations that contributed to the life of the church.
Almost 600 Lutherans and special guests met in Saskatoon, July 14-17 for the ELCIC's 13th National Convention. Full agenda details, and highlights are available on the National Convention website: elcic.ca/In-Convention/2011-Saskatoon.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 152,500 baptized members in 607 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.
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