Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) National Bishop Susan C. Johnson recounted a whirlwind of “firsts” and shared her signs of hope for the church as she delivered her Report of the National Bishop to delegates, special guests and visitors attending the Twelfth Biennial National Convention taking place June 25-28 at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
Bishop Johnson recalled her work over the last two years which saw her visit South America, the Holy Land, and Canterbury, England, to strengthen relationships with partner churches. To five synod conventions and the Canadian Lutheran Youth Gathering, so she could listen to members’ hopes and concerns for the church. And to council and organizational meetings that revealed the need for economizing and restructuring in the face of financial challenges.
“This biennium has been an amazing new experience of learning and growing,” Bishop Johnson said. “Some of it has been inspiring, fun, joyful, and wonderful. But there have been lots of challenges.”
One challenge facing the ELCIC is a sheer matter of numbers. The church today has roughly 24 per cent fewer baptized members than it had when it was formed in 1986. Another challenge has to do with financial realities which are affecting the church on many levels.
“The National Church is running on about a third of the purchasing power we received in 1986,” Bishop Johnson reported to more than 400 voting delegates and visitors. “The synods and the National Church have continued to try to do all the same mission and ministry with fewer dollars and fewer staff. But we know that we can’t go on like this.”
Noting that there were many signs of hope, the theme of this year’s convention, Bishop Johnson noted that the church is looking at ways to restructure and partner with other churches and organizations so the ELCIC can continue to fulfil the mission to which God is calling the church. Strategies being considered or underway include: talking with the Anglican Church of Canada about possible collaboration in program areas; joining the administration of the ELCIC and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Global Missions programs; and the appointment of a Resource Generation Task Force charged with developing strategies for increasing revenue. In addition, the National Office has cut staff by 30 per cent in the past two years.
“We are trying to address our challenges with as much creativity and courage as we can muster. But this convention is about signs of hope, and there are abundant signs of hope for our beloved church!” Bishop Johnson said. “All across the ELCIC, I see examples of individuals, congregations, and ministries trying new and exciting ways of being In Mission for Others. We are partnering with Canadian Lutheran World Relief to tackle development work and refugee concerns. The youth of our church have made Stewardship of Creation the National Youth Project, challenging themselves to be leaders in their communities.
“In spite of the difficulties and challenges, I am full of hope because I know that this is God’s church and that it is God’s leadership and vision and faithfulness that will see us through our challenge and help us to grow into the vision for ministry that God has for us. And because of this, we will be a blessing to our hurting world.”
Over 400 Lutherans are meeting in Vancouver at the ELCIC’s National Convention. Full agenda details and a live link to the proceedings are available on the National Convention website: https://elcic.ca/In-Convention/2009-Vancouver/default.cfm
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 162,100 baptized members in 611 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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