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March 17, 2014

Highlights from the March ELCIC National Church Council Meeting

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) National Church Council (NCC) met in Winnipeg from March 6-8. Council members conduct the business of the church between National Conventions. The following is an overview of highlights from the meeting.

Report of the National Bishop
ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson shared highlights of her work since the last NCC meeting. A significant part of the bishop’s time is devoted to representing the ELCIC, and through her position as vice-president North America region – also representing the Lutheran World Federation.

In her report, Bishop Johnson shared her experience of participating in the opening of a sports facility at Dar al-Kalima School, Bethlehem. The facility is the second largest in the West Bank and Gaza, and provided many jobs and economic opportunities during construction. Future uses of the facility include sports programs for young women and girls, and because the facility has been built to international football, volleyball, soccer, basketball and racquetball standards, it will host local and international teams. The commitment to empowering women through sports will make this facility and its programs a model that will put Palestinian women’s sports on the map. “This is just one example of the work that we in the ELCIC support through our partnership with Canadian Lutheran World Relief; made possible through the generosity of Lutherans across Canada,” said Bishop Johnson.

A summary of the Report of the National Bishop can be viewed online: http://www.elcic.ca/Documents/documents/201403SummaryoftheReportoftheNationalBishoptoNCC.pdf

ELCIC National Office Strategic Plan
NCC members received an update on the progress of the ELCIC National Office Strategic Plan 2013-2017. This plan was developed following a visioning session with NCC members. It was reported to and affirmed by the National Convention in July 2013. The strategic plan outlines the goals and directions of the National Office and focuses on four areas: Spirited Discipleship, Healthy Church, Compassionate Justice and Effective Partnerships.

NCC approves in principle a Joint Assembly in 2019
In December, the Joint Planning Committee for the 2013 Joint Assembly – a national gathering of the ELCIC and Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) – met to evaluate the July 2013 gathering in Ottawa. The Joint Assembly received very positive feedback, along with suggestions for future consideration.

At its March 2014 meeting, council approved a motion that will see the ELCIC and ACC consider the possibility of holding a second joint assembly in 2019. This is the next opportunity that gathering dates for the ELCIC and ACC occur again in the same year.

NCC members also approved in principle a joint meeting with the ACC Council of General Synod in 2015. The National Bishop reported to NCC that program staff at the National Office and ACC General Synod have plans to meet semi-annually to discuss work that has natural synergies for collaboration.

ELCIC to commemorate 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation
In 2017, Lutherans around the globe will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The ELCIC will designate 2015 to 2017 for the commemoration of this significant anniversary. The theme the Lutheran World Federation has adopted for the commemoration, “Liberated by God’s Grace,” will also be used by the ELCIC. Resources will be developed for use across the church.

The goal of the ELCIC commemoration of the anniversary is to encourage all groups within the ELCIC that meet in this time period to consider using the theme and sub- themes as the basis for their gatherings. The ELCIC will seek to commemorate the anniversary in an ecumenical spirit, inviting partners, in particular Anglicans and Roman Catholics, to participate with wherever possible.

Faith, Order and Doctrine Study Materials for Congregational Use
The committee for Faith, Order and Doctrine (FOD) has created a four-session study guide on Word and Sacrament Ministry for congregational use. This resource was prepared with careful consideration following over 275 responses to a 2013 online survey, reflections from synod bishops, and contributions from throughout the church. This churchwide study will be distributed at all 2014 Synod Conventions and made available online in April.

Sunday, May 11: Day of Prayer for Vocations to Rostered Ministry
NCC members approved a motion that will acknowledge Sunday, May 11 as a day of prayer for vocations to rostered ministry. This is an opportunity to emphasize the role congregations play in the formation of leaders and in helping individuals discern a call to rostered ministry. The National Office will prepare resources for congregational use.

Easter 7 designated as the Day of Prayers for Peace in the Holy Land
NCC members approved a change to the ELCIC’s annual Sunday for Prayers for Peace in the Holy Land. This amendment from our current practice of using Lent 2 comes following a meeting among the four presiding bishops of the ELCIC, Anglican Church of Canada, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and The Episcopal Church in December 2013 and puts the ELCIC in line with similar observances by our partners. At this meeting, leaders discussed the importance of offering a united voice in times of need and what it meant to offer a common witness together across the four churches.

ELCIC brings expression of reconciliation to Truth and Reconciliation Commission
National Bishop Susan Johnson will be present at the March gathering of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. On behalf of the ELCIC, Bishop Johnson will bring an expression of reconciliation to the event. This gift will include a certificate bearing witness to the motion passed at the 2011 ELCIC National Convention on the Resolution on Right Relationships with Indigenous Peoples and a handcrafted pottery piece which was commissioned by the ELCIC.

Worship, Bible Study, Spiritual Renewal
NCC members begin and conclude each day of the council meetings with worship. Cynthia Haines-Turner, Anglican Church of Canada COGS appointment to NCC, served in the role of chaplain for this meeting. Communion took place at the opening and closing of the council meeting with Saskatchewan Synod Bishop Cindy Halmarson presiding.

Rev. Jeff Smith, rostered member from the Eastern Synod, presented a Bible study on Friday for NCC members. National Bishop Susan Johnson led NCC members in a spiritual renewal exercise on Friday evening that had the council sharing faith stories with one another.

Next Meeting
The next meeting of NCC will take place September 4-6, 2014 in Winnipeg, MB.

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 145,376 baptized members in 594 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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