The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) National Church Council (NCC) met in Winnipeg from September 11-13. The following is an overview of highlights from the second and third day of meetings.
Both mornings began with Bible study. On Friday, council members spent time in small groups reflecting on Biblical passages demonstrating the ELCIC’s call to be actively engaged in the five visioning pillars (Compassionate Justice, Effective Partnerships, Focused Framework, Diverse Faces, and Spirited Discipleship) developed at the March 2008 NCC meeting. Discussions focused on how council members feel God is calling them and the ELCIC through the text. Saturday morning’s Bible study provided an opportunity for council members to share with one another personal reflections on their faith journey.
The business session commenced with a report from the Conference of Bishops and then individually from each Synod Bishop. The purpose of reports from the Synod Bishops at council meetings is to provide council members with an environmental scan of the synods, including highlights, challenges and key information. Synod Bishops reported on the outcomes of their synod conventions which took place this year and noted with appreciation the presence of National Bishop Susan C. Johnson at all five synod conventions. Several Bishops expressed concerns regarding congregations voting to leave the ELCIC, vacancies within congregations, and the challenge of identifying pastors with an interest towards being called to rural and northern vacancies. Several new programs and initiatives coming out of individual or collaborative Synod work were also highlighted.
The Right Rev. Colin Johnson, council representative for the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), shared his report on the Council of General Synod (COGS), noting the visioning work being done by NCC was also being done at COGS. Bishop Colin Johnson said it was exciting that both the ELCIC and ACC were with new leadership who brought to the table, "fresh vision, fresh energy and new priorities."
Rev. Teresita Valeriano, Regional Officer for Lutheran World Federation North America (LWF-NA), shared highlights from her first six months in the position. LWF-NA is comprised of three church bodies – ELCIC, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Estonian Lutheran Church Abroad – and works to foster relationships between member churches. Rev. Valeriano highlighted a new resource from the LWF titled Food for Life: Recipes and Stories on the Right to Food which shares stories of people throughout the world as they cope with scarcity and adapt to climate change, and includes recipes from LWF member churches.
Greetings were shared from David Swartling, Secretary of the ELCA. Swartling highlighted a number of areas the ELCA is currently working on such as becoming a Book of Faith church which invites members of the ELCA to become more fluent in the first language of faith – the language of Scripture, and is a five-year initiative of the church.
Hildy Thiessen, Executive Director of Group Services Inc. (GSI), provided council with an update on the pension plan for the ELCIC. Thiessen noted that the markets, "continue to be volatile right now," and GSI continues to closely monitor the performance of its investment managers along with reviewing the structure of the portfolio. Thiessen provided an update on the pension deficit, noting GSI is on track, and estimates the pension deficit will be eliminated in eight years, which is ahead of the 15-year projection strategy that was put in place in 2004.
A report of the Evangelical Lutheran Women (ELW) was presented by Ruth Vince, Executive Director, who shared highlights from the 2008 Biennial ELW Convention in July. ELW’s board will meet September 18-21 in Winnipeg and deal with motions from the convention. Following the Convention, the National ELW Board met via conference call to discuss issues around the Esprit magazine and determined that it will be continued through 2009. ELW’s board voted to raise the price of the magazine by $8.00 to deal with budget concerns but Vince noted that more conversation needs to take place about the role of the magazine and how it fits with the vision of the ELW. Vince also noted that ELW continues its work in the areas of social justice and living out faith in our daily lives. Through ELW’s commitment to raising the awareness of human trafficking, ELW was able to name two individuals for appointment on the Vancouver Olympic Committee dealing with human trafficking and the 2010 Olympics.
Time was allotted on Friday evening for committees of the council to meet; committees began with their reports after Bible study on Saturday morning. The Constitution Committee addressed a willingness to develop a plan for reviewing the ELCIC’s Constitutional documentation which no longer adequately addressed the current structure of the church. ELCIC Secretary Donald Storch noted there is, "lots of energy and enthusiasm for this (work)".
Council also reviewed correspondence received since its last meeting. Following up on two letters from the co-chairs of the Joint Anglican-Lutheran Commission, council members passed motions to support a joint meeting of NCC with COGS in 2010 and also to pursue the opportunity for a joint meeting of the two national bodies of the ELCIC and ACC in 2013 which is the next time both the ELCIC’s National Convention and the ACC’s General Synod will take place in the same year.
Two items were added as part of new business for council. A call to special service was issued for Rev. Pamela Peterson to Victoria Correctional Services Canada at the Kent Institution in Agassiz, BC and council members asked National Bishop Susan C. Johnson to issue a response to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regarding an application for a new pornography channel and voice the ELCIC’s opposition of the application.
The next meeting of NCC will take place March 5-7, 2009 in Winnipeg. NCC meetings are also scheduled for June 24-25, 2009 (prior to the 2009 Convention) and September 10-12, 2009. The meeting concluded with Closing Worship Service. Bishop Johnson presided and Rev. Doug Reble delivered the sermon.
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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