Lutherans look outward as national convention ends

The 15th National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) formally wrapped up on Sunday, July 12, leaving a wave of excitement as participants departed home to further the work of liberation by God’s grace.

For the final day of their convention in Edmonton, Alta., attendees joined parishioners at Trinity Lutheran Church for a closing worship service. Hundreds packed the church pews as their joyful voices rang out during the singing of hymns.

Reflecting the full communion partnership between the ELCIC and the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, delivered the sermon, putting the accomplishments of the convention in a biblical context.

He congratulated the ELCIC’s National Bishop Susan Johnson on her re-election to a third term, noting to applause, “We have been blessed at this convention and for the last eight years by the ministry of our national bishop Susan, and we all rejoice in her re-election.”

Invoking the theme of the convention and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, “Liberated By God’s Grace,” Archbishop Hiltz offered images and impressions of what the ELCIC had been liberated from and what it had been liberated for.

“By God’s grace, yours is a church being continually liberated from a clinging to the past, and liberated for that future to which God is calling you at every level of your church, in the spirit of continuing reformation,” the Primate said.

“Yours is a church liberated from continually looking in upon itself. You have been turned inside out, liberated for looking out upon the world as a church In Mission For Others.”

Indigenous issues were a major focus, as Archbishop Hiltz praised the ELCIC for its repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery; its endorsement of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; its support for Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and ongoing efforts at healing; and its call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

He also highlighted the church’s embrace of the Reformation Challenge to welcome 500 refugees to Canada, its focus on environmental stewardship—which includes a commitment to plant 500,000 trees around the world—and its acknowledgement that it cannot accomplish everything alone, building effective partnerships with other organizations and faith traditions.

“Do you see all the work you did in convention?” the Primate asked. “Your church is looking outward … You are seeing the needs and the hopes of the world, and by God’s grace, you are responding.”

Following the sermon, Bishop Johnson presented the newly elected members of the National Church Council before officially closing the convention.

Outside, church members who had attended the convention offered their thoughts on the experience.

Cindy Schriner, a member of Hosanna Lutheran Church in Edmonton who served as treasurer of the local arrangements committee, sat in on many of the sessions as a non-delegate.

“I thought it was amazing, I really do,” Schriner said.

“When you get that many people together in one room, everybody has an opinion and everybody was respectful of the reason we were there … They brought up good points from what I could see, and they had fun doing it … There was a mixture of business, fun and worship, and it all melded together for an amazing experience.”

Youth delegate Katlin Kitching, a member of Westside Evangelical Lutheran Church in Barrie, Ont., was appearing at her first national convention after previously attending last year’s Eastern Synod Assembly.

“Even after last year, going back into the church and hearing them talking about things, I understood where it was coming from more,” she said. “I could understand what they were talking about because we’re involved in it.”

“It just makes you feel … that you’re more part of the church, going to the big decision-making stuff.”

Kitching, 17, described worship services, the sermon by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and getting to know people from all over Canada as highlights of the national convention.

The Rev. Bart Coleman, parish pastor at Zion Lutheran Church in Beausejour, Man. and a member of the registration and credentials committee, noted the passion of delegates and their unity on many issues, as many resolutions were approved with more than 90 per cent in favour.

Highlighting one issue in particular, Rev. Coleman noted, “I’ll go away feeling very proud to be part of a community of people who take very seriously the reconciliation and building of right relationships between us and Indigenous people.”

“I think it was a very bold, very soul-searching look at the past,” he said. “But also a hopeful look to the future.”

Almost 400 delegates, special guests, visitors and volunteers came together in Edmonton for the ELCIC’s 15th National Convention, July 9-12. News, photos and video highlights from the gathering are available on the National Convention website:
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination with 121,000 baptized members in 533 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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