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June 23, 2007

International Partners and Special Guests Address Delegates at the Eleventh Biennial National Convention of the ELCIC

Throughout Friday’s agenda, delegates at the Eleventh National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) heard about the work of the church and that of its partners; the people who represent some of the major relationships in which the Bishop’s Office engages. What follows are highlights from the special guests who addressed convention delegates.

Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan, President of Lutheran Church-Canada
Rev. Dr. Ralph Mayan brought greetings from the congregations, pastors and deacons of the Lutheran Church-Canada to delegates of the Eleventh Biennial Convention of the ELCIC at Winnipeg’s University of Manitoba.

He recalled the words of Paul in his letter to the Galatians (1:3-5) “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Mayan continued, “We rejoice with you that God has indeed delivered us from “this present age” according to the will of God the Father. Despite our diverging courses, we both stand beneath the cross, which keeps us helpful and hopeful in one another. There is a continued spirit of goodwill between the Churches.”

Mayan concluded with personal best wishes for National Bishop Schultz whom he has known since they both served pastorally in British Columbia. He added, “The West Coast gets in our blood.”

Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director – Faith, Worship and Ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada
Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan greeted the members of the convention on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), and received laughter from those gathered when she commented that it was evident that the Anglicans and Lutherans were true kindred when it came to dealing with the intricacies of parliamentary procedure.

Barnett-Cowan expressed her appreciation for the vote that took place the previous evening to allow ordered ministers of the ACC who serve ELCIC congregations to have the same rights and privileges as the equivalent order of ministry in the ELCIC.

Noting that both the ELCIC and ACC are learning a great deal from this relationship, Barnett-Cowan posed the question “Is there more that we could be doing together?”

Dr. Dieter Kays, President and Chief Executive Office of FaithLife Financial
Dr. Kays brought greetings to convention delegates on behalf of the Board of Directors and members of FaithLife Financial. In his report, Kays noted that one million dollars had been contributed to the Christian community in the past year through programs such as scholarships, grants and disaster relief, although, when volunteer hours are accounted for, in total, the amount was actually closer to two million dollars.  

Kays offering thanks to the ELCIC and to Bishop Ray Schultz, and wished Bishop Schultz many blessings on his retirement.

Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton, General Secretary of The Canadian Council of Churches
On behalf of the Canadian Council of Churches, Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton greeted delegates. Acknowledging that the convention would be dealing with some difficult items during its time together, Hamilton noted that most church groups are doing exactly that these days. She observed that, from a historical perspective, churches have always had difficult issues that needed to be dealt with.

In describing the Canadian Council of Churches, Hamilton described the ELCIC as a vital part of the 21 denominations that make up this organization and spoke appreciatively of how the “evangelical” part of ELCIC’s name forms a kind of bridge between different denominations.

Dr. Hamilton shared examples of how the ELCIC is participating in significant international work through the Canadian Council of Churches in events such as the parallel meetings that were held in Germany during the G8 Summit with religious leaders from across the globe who came together to speak for the peoples of the world by working with the G8 agenda and challenging leaders to speak out on behalf of those whose voices were not being represented.

Mr. Carlos Peña, Vice President of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Mr. Carlos Peña began by thanking the ELCIC for all that it is doing, and offered official greetings from the Evangelical Church in America. Focusing on the many commonalities of the two: the same continent, the word “evangelical”, and the same baptism and faith, he noted that the ELCA is also sharing full communion with The Episcopal Church in the United States.  

Speaking about how the common worship resource was also a form of partnership between the two bodies, Peña shared that the ELCA would also be discussing issues around sexuality in their national gathering in August. He noted that just as they are praying for us in our process, he would ask for our prayers in their process later this summer.  

Peña concluded by giving thanks for Bishop Schultz and offered his gratitude for all the gifts that Bishop Schultz had brought to the ELCA and noted that he will be missed.

Mr. Robert Granke, Executive Director of Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR)
Speaking to the partnership between CLWR and the Lutheran Church for more than 60 years, Mr. Robert Granke noted how the ELCIC and CLWR are embarking on new paths, based on collaboration. Granke highlighted a few of the areas of collaborating, such as: new placements in the Volunteers in Mission program; a capital and advocacy program, which has resulted in a total of $100,000 for the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem; mechanisms that have been established for seminarians to gain exposure to international work; preparations to take on a new project which involves building a new resource generation plant; and finding more ways to reach out to the general public.

Granke shared that, through the work of CLWR, 100,000 people are supported in one day and concluded by saying that there is a strong link between the mission of the ELCIC and CLWR, and spoke of his confidence of this partnership in the future.

Ms. Edelvis Iraida Rodriguez Cadillo, Treasurer of the Peruvian Lutheran Evangelical Church (ILEP)
Bringing greetings from the Peruvian Lutheran Evangelical Church, Ms. Edelvis Iraida Rodriguez Cadillo briefly outlined the structure of the church in Peru, and acknowledged the assistance of the ELCIC in the formation of the church in 1993.  

Cadillo noted that Peru is very poor, with a high level of malnutrition, and an overall lack of work. These factors have a significant impact on the lives of those in these congregations and consequently, there are programs to assist women and children through the church, to support their overall health and well-being.

Cadillo spoke of the importance of the partnerships they have formed with churches in continuing their work and read a letter from Rev. Pedro Bullon, Pastor/President of the ILEP, who offered his greetings to those gathered, and acknowledged the celebration of six years of full communion with between the ACC and ELCIC.

Oberkirchenrat Norbert Deneke , United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), and General Secretary of the German National Committee (DNK) of the LWF 
Bringing greeting from the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, Oberkirchenrat  Norbert Deneke expressed his gratitude for having the opportunity to learn about the ELCIC through his attendance at convention. He noted that he recognized many German surnames on delegates name tags and that it made him feel very much at home.  

VELKD is a communion of eight territorial churches with approximately ten million members and mission of the VELKD is realized through seven areas of focus: A common order of service for worship; A common position on theological questions, such as: how can Christ be confessed in a pluralistic society?; Promotion of congregational renewal through publications, etc.; Cultivation of relationships with the worldwide Christian community; Engaging in dialogue with other Christian denominations; Responsibility for common church law; and Collaboration with other member churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany, which includes a communion of the Lutheran and Reformed territorial churches in Germany.

Ms. Kathy Magnus, Regional Officer of Lutheran World Federation (LWF) – North America
Kathy Magnus brought greetings and information on the work of the Lutheran World Federation that celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and is recognized as the second-largest partner to the United Nationals High Commissioner for Refugees with direct care of over 400,000 refugees around the world. Some 140 member churches in 78 countries continue to champion the cause of displaced peoples. Highlights of the international successes prompted to an enthusiastic litany of sorts as Magnus led the delegates in repeated cheers of, Sixty-Six Million Lutherans Do Make a Difference!
 
Noting the maps and handout materials provided for delegates, Magnus encouraged their use at the parish level. She focused on Rwanda, just one of many vulnerable countries. In 2003, over the course of 100 days, over 800,000 people were massacred. In the aftermath, ninety-one of every one thousand babies will die at birth. One fifth of children will die before they reach the age of five. Immediately after the massacre, Magnus said simply, LWF was there. She shared stories of the return of hope to people whose lives had been shattered and reminded the delegates that, You are tangibly in mission for others around the world .

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (greeting was by video)
Rev. Paul Johnson provided introductory remarks prior to the tape of Bishop Younan being shown and indicated that in 2001, the ELCIC signed a bilateral agreement with the ELCJHL, making it a partner with that church. Earlier this year, the ELCIC becaome part of an organization called the Coordinating Commission for Palestine, which meets once a year to coordinate support for the Palestinian church.

In his video greeting, Bishop Younan expressed his gratitude for the ELCIC forming an agreement to stand together with their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. He noted that the Palestinian church is strong in its witness, and seeks to work for justice and peace.  

Ms. Betty St. Onge, President of the Board of the Evangelical Lutheran Women (ELW)
Ms. Onge greeted the convention on behalf of the ELW and commented that this gathering was truly a family gathering, and that this convention was like a family reunion for 2007.  

Onge reported that the ELW celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2006 and that they have begun a discernment process to assist them in looking towards the future. As a part of this, they have constructed a congregational survey that has been sent out to their membership and are working with focus groups across Canada. Onge said that they are looking forward to seeing how the ELW will redevelop itself.

Since the inception of the ELW, members have donated more than 2 million dollars to the work of the national church. In looking forward, the ELW will be putting out a publication called, No Place Like Home, which is a new resource about homelessness. They are also looking forward to their next convention in July where they will gather under the theme: “Be not afraid”.  Onge concluded by reminding the convention to “be not afraid” and to “be in mission for everyone, everywhere.”

Sister Anne Keffer, Head, Deaconess Community of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA)
Sister Keffer offered greetings to the convention from the Deaconess Community of the ELCA and noted the history of the Deaconess Community for delegates which began 120 years ago and was originally a part of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). There are currently 75 women in the community of deaconesses, and 4 more candidates have come forward.

Keffer noted several examples of how deaconesses are serving in communities: offering hospitality to immigrants as they arrive, caring for special needs children, coordinating international volunteers and working for peace in areas of conflict. Keffer indicated that these deaconesses were serving in communities around the world, and through this work, they were seeking to make a difference.

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 174,555 baptized members in 620 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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