Winnipeg, 17 July 2012 — Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canadas (ELCIC) Eastern Synod met in assembly July 5-8 at Wilfred Laurier University, Waterloo, ON. Over 300 delegates, special guests, visitors and volunteers gathered for worship, business and fellowship on the campus grounds.
The 2012 Eastern Synod Assembly began with a blessing by Six Nations representatives Father Norm Casey and Leona Moses. A service of Holy Communion followed; ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson preached, Synod Bishop Michael Pryse presided.
Synods covenant for mission graded
In his report to delegates, Bishop Pryse reflected on the synods covenant for mission. Reviewing the five principles of the synods Vision for Mission, Bishop Pryse scored each area using an Olympic-style scoring model.
The synods work in the area of Effective Partnerships scored the highest with an 8 out of 10. Bishop Pryse spoke of strengthening partnerships both within the synod among council, conference deans and ministry directors and with the Anglican Church of Canada, and the synods companion synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guyana
Scoring the lowest in the Bishops report was the synods work around the area of welcoming diversity.
Ive never visited a Lutheran congregation that didnt claim to be friendly and welcome, said Bishop Pryse. But lets be honest, we really struggle when it comes to breaking out of the rigid constraints of tribe and clan.
A church that doesnt reach out isnt holding up its end of the covenant and this is a challenge we absolutely must address with great urgency, challenged Bishop Pryse.
Synod takes steps forward in structural renewal process
Delegates to the Synod Assembly passed first reading motions for proposed constitution and bylaws of the Synod. These motions were put forward in response to recommendations from the ELCICs Structural Renewal Task Force and affirm the process and intent to enable church structures across all expressions to be more flexible, affordable and sustainable.
Delegates adopted a motion that, should the ELCIC Synods fail to develop realistic and sustainable proposals for restructuring and should the National Church Council be unable to bring forward restructuring proposals to their Fall 2013 meeting to maintain the ministry of the National Church, National Church Council be called upon to develop a proposal for an orderly process to wind down the current national structure, and appoint an interim secretariat or other means to facilitate the cooperation and collaboration of ELCIC synods in national and international organizations and initiatives in the future.
Speaking to the motion, Bishop Pryse indicated his hope that this would send a message to sister synods and bishops of the Eastern Synods desire to be a church from sea to sea to sea and the urgency of the current situation of the church structure.
Following the adoption of the motion, delegates passed a motion, that the Eastern Synod Assembly send a message through our bishop to our sister synods and their bishops that: we recognize since 1619 Lutherans have been seeking and struggling amidst adversity to serve God on the soil and seas we now know as Canada; we desire to continue as a national church from sea to sea to sea, a national church that relates to the world; and inasmuch as we are also anxious and concerned for the future of our common evangelical Lutheran voice and mission in Canada and around the world, we value and respect your intention for Spirit-led discernment; we desire to continue seeking and struggling together with you.
Additional motions pertaining to structural renewal were also passed including, that the synod council of the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada be authorized to take any and all necessary action to implement changes as per the constitution and bylaws presented and that the Eastern Synod participate fully in further conversation with the other synods and the ELCIC National Church Council to further develop options for the structure of the church.
The synod in assembly also passed motions that will see it: call on governments to develop and/or expand affordable supportive housing strategies; form a volunteer, ad hoc committee that will invite and help shepherd the synod in engaging in an ongoing learning process around the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and find ways to journey together, confronting the reality of racism; and, direct the synod bishop to write to the Prime Minister to express concern at the cuts in refugee health coverage recently announced by the federal government.
Anglican National Indigenous Bishop calls on delegates to remember baptismal call
Anglican Church of Canada Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald preached at the closing worship service on the afternoon of Saturday, July 7. Delegates were invited to worship at neighbouring congregations on Sunday morning.
Bishop MacDonald spoke of his recent involvement at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) meetings in Saskatoon. He spoke of sitting through the many days of testimony and of hearing of the way church people treated [those speaking at the TRC] over the years.
It was very difficult, said Bishop MacDonald, as he reflected on his experience listening to the stories of hurt and pain. The whole arsenal that I was offered when I was trained as a pastor seemed so meagre in the face of so much pain.
During the middle of the TRC gathering, Bishop MacDonald was asked to offer prayer.
This amazing thing happened, he said. Hundreds and hundreds of people lined up they came, elders and children. [And] despite the pain, despite all the obstacles in Indigenous Canada, there are literally thousands of people who are putting together a new life on the basis of their faith in the gospel. Its a powerful thing.
As I look at the traditional things I have done to try to respond to both pain and opportunity, I dont really know what to do, he continued. Its not the preachers, the politicians, the physiologists. Its not the pious. It is the baptized. For us to stand in the face of the pain of the past and the present, to stand with the rich opportunities in front of us of what we have to offer, is the baptism that we have received in Jesus Christ.
Synod meets and exceeds ELCIC Praise Appeal goal
Earlier this year, Eastern Synod congregations and members were personally invited to support the 2012 ELCIC Praise Appeal a national appeal for the church. Bishop Pryse encouraged synod members to do what they could to support the National Church in this very worthy effort as he set a goal of $100,000 for the synod. At a celebratory banquet on Saturday night it was announced that the synod had raised $100,414.
All five ELCIC synods held their conventions and assemblies this year. The Eastern Synod was the final synod to hold such a gathering this year.