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July 13, 2015

ELCIC convention endorses Welcoming the Stranger, climate justice

Delegates at the 15th National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) endorsed the document “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders” and approved a resolution on climate justice on Saturday, July 11.

A pledge to welcome strangers, refugees and internally displaced persons while challenging others to do the same, “Welcoming the Stranger” evolved from a December 2012 dialogue organized by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres between leaders of different faiths, faith-based humanitarian organizations, academics and government representatives.

Based around the theme “Faith and Protection,” the dialogue ended with a recommendation to develop a Code of Conduct for religious leaders to welcome migrants and refugees and to combat xenophobia.

During the period from February to April 2013, a coalition of faith-based humanitarian organizations that included the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) joined with academic institutions to produce the “Welcoming the Stranger” document.

The motion to endorse the document at this year’s ELCIC convention invited members and congregations to review it and sign the affirmations honouring respect for strangers, welcoming them into the community and speaking out in favour of social justice for them.

A strong 96 per cent of convention delegates voted in favour of the motion.

In approving the resolution, delegates asked the ELCIC’s National Bishop Susan Johnson to communicate the church’s endorsement of “Welcoming the Stranger” to major ecumenical and interfaith partners of the ELCIC, to Canadian Lutheran World Relief, and to the LWF, thanking the latter for its work and leadership in promoting values of hospitality, protection, respect and equality.

The climate justice resolution also received a strong endorsement from the convention, with 93 per cent of delegates voting in favour.

The resolution states that the ELCIC affirms the position of the LWF by acknowledging that climate change is real and influenced by human activity; that increasingly severe impacts are being felt around the world with growing social and economic costs; that it is possible to keep the effects below the internationally recognized danger threshold of 2 degrees Celsius by acting quickly now to reduce carbon emissions; and that climate change is a matter of social and economic justice, affecting the poorest and most vulnerable.

It supports the LWF in calling on political and business leaders to develop a strong global response to climate change by making deep cuts in carbon emissions through clear targets, respecting egalitarian principles by providing special assistance to the most vulnerable communities already dealing with the impacts of climate change.

As part of its commitment to climate justice, the ELCIC calls on all members, congregations, and synods, as well as the national church, to become more sustainable and eco-friendly with the goal of neutralizing carbon emissions by 2050.

It also calls for greater advocacy efforts, including:
- registering as an Accredited Greening Congregation through the ELCIC’s stewardship creation program: http://elcic.ca/Stewardship/Stewardship-of-Creation/default.cfm;
- sharing good practices with others through the LWF Facebook page LWF for Climate Justice; https://www.facebook.com/LWFforclimatejustice?fref=ts
- sustained climate justice advocacy in the perspective of COP20 in Lima, Peru leading up to COP21 in Paris, France, based on the LWF advocacy call and policy papers by the ACT Alliance: http://www.actalliance.org/what-we-do/issues/climate-change/issueview?b_start:int=15;
- participation in ecumenical and interfaith climate justice initiatives at the local, regional and national levels; and
- signing up to the #fastfortheclimate campaign: http://www.lutheranworld.org/fastfortheclimate on the first day of every month until the beginning of COP21 on Dec. 1, 2015.

Finally, delegates through the resolution asked Bishop Johnson to write to the Prime Minister of Canada and other federal leaders expressing the ELCIC’s concern for the climate and pushing for an effective response at COP21, as well as writing to the LWF sharing the climate justice resolution as one response to the Call for Commitment by member churches.

Almost 400 delegates, special guests, visitors and volunteers came together in Edmonton for the ELCIC’s 15th National Convention, July 9-12. News, photos and video highlights from the gathering are available on the National Convention website: http://elcic.ca/In-Convention/2015-Edmonton/default.cfm
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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 121,000 baptized members in 533 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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