The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) British Columbia (BC) Synod met in convention May 10-13 at Mount Zion Lutheran Church, New Westminster, BC. The 2012 BC Synod Convention commenced on Thursday evening with opening worship.
Delegates had full business sessions before them on Friday and Saturday.
Incumbent Rev. Clifford Reinhardt was re-elected synod secretary on the second ballot. And incumbent Darlene Johnson was re-elected as vice-chair of the BC synod, also on the second ballot.
On Friday morning, Jagrup Brar, MLA for Surrey-Fleetwood, BC spoke to delegates about his experience of living for one month on welfare, as part of the MLA Welfare Challenge put on by Raise the Rates, a local organization that advocates on behalf of people living on assistance. Brar lived for an entire month on $610, the amount of government assistance provided to a single male.
During the one month challenge, Brar scrutinized all his expenses to ensure he had enough to cover all his costs for accommodations, transportation, clothing and food. He spoke of losing over 20 pounds during the month because of the significant dietary adjustments he had to make to stay within his financial restrictions.
Brar shared with delegates the immense challenges faced by those on assistance, highlighting in particular the experience he had of going to get a food hamper. Brar noted that just to get a hamper a person has to have at least five dollars for the required transportation to get to and from the facility. Transit transfer tickets are available but they expire in an hour and a half, said Brar, and most of the time the line up for food takes much longer than that.
“We need to do a better job,” said Brar. “Poverty will not go away. The starting point is building a comprehensive poverty reduction plan with clear targets and timelines.”
Friday afternoon, the fiscal 2013 budget (July 1, 2012-June 30, 2013) reflecting a $22,700 deficit, was approved by delegates. The BC Synod has been looking at a number of ways to make cuts to expenditures over the past few years to eliminate a significant deficit budget. The synod was able to realize a small surplus recently but that came about at the expense of eliminating the assistant to the bishop position two years ago. In his report, BC Synod Bishop Greg Mohr recognized that while the elimination of the position of the assistant to the bishop has made it possible to post two consecutive surpluses, it has come at a cost in terms of the expectations on his position as well as that of the synod officers.
“It also means that there are many things that cannot be attended to,” Bishop Mohr said in his report, “and that there are things not accomplished as well as they should be. Further, it makes it difficult to focus on our key priorities.”
Delegates received highlights from the Committee on the Report of the Bishop. Members of the committee noted how impressed they were with how much has been accomplished by Bishop Mohr in his two years in office, despite reduced financial and human resources. Committee members noted their appreciation for how Bishop Mohr has focused the synod on the right questions as they consider, “What does it mean to be a church in the 21st century.”
During the report, the committee presented several motions, including two which will see the BC Synod promote the ELCIC’s national Call to Spiritual Renewal initiative and encourage all congregations within the synod to participate in this renewal process.
A significant item on the agenda for convention delegates was the structural renewal proposals that will come before all five ELCIC Synod Conventions this year.
In a very close vote, the motion before BC Synod Convention delegates: “Be it resolved that the council of the British Columbia Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada be authorized and directed to take any and all necessary action in collaboration with the council of the Synod of Alberta and the Territories of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada to create a new synod, comprising the following geographical area, namely, British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut” was defeated. In a written voting process, out of 84 valid ballots delegates voted 54 in favour and 30 against. The vote received 64.3% in favour but required 66% (2/3rds) in order to pass.
Saturday’s agenda also included a presentation to delegates on a proposed redevelopment of campus space held by the synod at the University of British Columbia. Rev. Don Johnson, known affectionately in the synod as “the grandfather of campus ministry” shared his excitement for the redesign of the space.
“I am so excited about this possibility,” he said. “This proposal means we would be able to function in a new way even though we have changed as a community. This is a transformation for us!”
As one of the last orders on the agenda, a motion, brought forward through the Committee on Reference and Council, calls on the BC Synod Council to seek further engagement with the ELCIC’s National Church Council, and the other western ELCIC Synods, to develop options for the structure of the church “in order to achieve our goals in mission and ministry in the 21st century.”
Delegates also unanimously passed a motion that will see the BC Synod continue to explore ways and look for opportunities to work together with the Synod of Alberta and the Territories.
ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson preached at the closing worship service on Sunday morning. In her sermon Bishop Johnson focused on God’s daily presence in our lives and how we are all called to come together and take strength and support from one another.
Bishop Susan spoke of the call to community, “to encourage each other; to accept each other; to comfort each other; to love one another.”
“Secure in that love we can begin together to reach out and share that love with God, with each other, and with the community,” she said.
“What an amazing privilege!!” she remarked, and encouraged, “Let us help and encourage each other to accept that invitation, to live out God’s love in our world, as a people and a church In Mission for Others.”
All five ELCIC Synods meet in convention this year. Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod met April 26-29. British Columbia Synod met May 10-13. Synod of Alberta and the Territories meets May 24-27. Saskatchewan Synod meets June 1-3. And the Eastern Synod meets for its assembly July 5-8.
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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