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Convention Highlights for Satuday, July 11, 2015


Delegates meet for the third and final day of business sessions at the Shaw Conference Center today.


View the convention agenda here.


Today's highlights:



Delegates approve policy regarding authorized lay ministry


The Faith, Order and Doctrine Committee (FOD) of the ELCIC’s National Church Council (NCC) was asked in the Fall of 2012 to consider the question of licensing lay people for sacramental ministry. This followed from a request to NCC from one of the ELCIC’s Synods acting in convention.


Of underlying concern was for under-served communities desiring more regular access to a full ministry of Word and Sacrament.


As part of a church-wide consultation, a study process was made available to: explore and discuss the current reality for congregations in Canada with respect to Word and Sacrament ministry; and to reflect on the Lutheran understanding of Word and Sacrament ministry and how that might shape future options for the provision of ministry.


The motion before convention delegates was the result of more than two-years of work on behalf of the committee and from engagement in the study across the church.


During discussion on the motion, several delegates expressed concern around the role of Diaconal Ministers with respect to the policy.


It was reported by FOD that in commending the policy to NCC, concern around the definition of Diaconal Ministry and the role of Diaconal Ministers with regards to the policy was lifted up. In March 2015, upon the recommendation of FOD, NCC made the following motion: Moved, seconded and carried: that FOD create the parameters for a study of Diaconal Ministry and Orders of Ministry and present these to NCC in November 2015.


The policy before delegates was noted to represent “sort of middle way,” said one member of FOD. “Right now the policy explains those circumstances under which authorized lay ministry might occur. If you look at those circumstances, they are circumstances that are otherwise bereft of pastoral care.”


FOD noted that though the policy it was seeking, “very hard to honour the pastoral needs, the need for Word and Sacrament of those communities by finding a mechanism in which they can raise up from within themselves people who can provide such ministries.”


Delegates passed the policy with 96% in favour of the motion.


More information on the work of the Faith, Order and Doctrine Committee can be found here.



Second reading of Constitution and updated Bylaws approved


Delegates to the National Convention approved a new constitution and bylaws for the ELCIC. This is expected to provide a flexible system of governance that will be able to respond quickly to any future challenges the church may face.


The changes allow for a smaller National Convention, which will be held every three years rather than biennially. There will also be a smaller National Church Council.


In her report to convention, National Bishop Susan Johnson noted that convention attendance had been dropping significantly. “We are trying to respond to the reality of rapidly decreasing attendance rates at National Convention by changing the representational structure for conventions,” she said, “having delegates elected by synods and keeping the numbers smaller so that we can bring the costs down by using smaller venues.”


The 2015 National Convention was noted to have the lowest number of delegates. “We can no longer pretend that we have a system that utilizes the concept of every parish being represented,” noted Bishop Johnson. “We must implement changes to bring back a system of fair and equitable representation. The proposed constitution and bylaw amendments will help us achieve this.”


Under the new constitution, Synods will select delegates to the National Convention. Of the 150 delegates, 80 will be lay, 10 will be youth and 60 will be rostered ministers. Each synod will be entitled to elect 10 delegates with the remaining delegates apportioned among the synods based on baptized membership.


Provision was made to allow an orderly process of transition that will be complete by the 2022 National Convention.


The motion on the ELCIC Constitution passed with 87% in favour, 11% opposed and 2% abstaining. The motion on the ELCIC Bylaws passed with 81% in favour, 17% opposed and 1 % abstaining.



Modern slavery, ecological stewardship explored in convention Bible study


In the conclusion of their two-part Bible study at the 15th National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the Rev. Dr. Allen Jorgenson and the Rev. Dr. Gordon Jensen focused on the themes of “human beings—not for sale” and “creation—not for sale.”


The study’s second part took place on Saturday, June 11 and continued the scholars’ exploration of the three subthemes of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, following the previous day’s session on the topic “salvation—not for sale.”


Rev. Jorgenson, who serves as assistant dean and associate professor of systematic theology at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, began with the creation of human beings in Genesis, which teaches that we are created in the image of God—or as Jorgenson put it, a “living signpost” of God.


Conversely, when people attempt to sell other human beings, they are usurping God’s place, “playing at being God and doing a bad job of it.”


Describing the biblical story of Joseph, who was sold by his brothers into slavery, Rev. Jensen—currently the William Hordern chair of theology and dean of studies at Lutheran Theological Seminary Saskatoon—cited human trafficking as a modern example of buying and selling human beings.


Around the world, including Canada, some of society’s most vulnerable members—including children, young women, and many Indigenous people—are stolen from their homes or sold into slavery as sex workers.


“Take a walk around any city, if you dare, and you can see it,” Jensen said. “These children and women aren’t wearing huge stickers that say ‘for sale,’ but that’s what they are. The auctioning of slaves is still happening.”


He highlighted the more than 1,200 Indigenous women reported missing or murdered in Canada over the last few decades.


Jensen described such modern slavery as rooted in the commodification and objectification of other human beings, which he connected to the labelling that fosters divisions based on gender, ethnicity, age, political views or financial status.


Recalling St. Paul’s words that “There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” Jensen said that such labelling and objectification is not part of God’s vision for us.


Rather, as argued by Martin Luther, the duty of the church is to work together with society to ensure that people are treated as fully human, as God created us.

On the subject of “creation—not for sale,” Jorgenson hearkened back to the view of Luther that God has given his divine self to us to illustrate the connection between God the Father and his creation, which includes human beings and the natural world.


Indigenous peoples, he added, have often referred to the earth as a mother, which further reframes the relationship of human beings to creation.


Many of our most spiritual moments, Jorgenson noted, are experienced as aspects of nature’s beauty that serve as “masks” of God. But nature, too, suffers from sin, as he pointed to the many ways that God’s creation is under attack from pollution, deforestation, and climate change.


“Sin simply must be called out, and we are given a voice, a voice to say no to sin, enough to greed, and never to matricide,” Jorgenson said. “We are freed by the gospel, the glorious gospel that comes to us in the baptismal washing of Atlantic, of Pacific, of Arctic waters.


“We taste the gospel in bread baked with prairie wheat. We smell the gospel in Okanagan wines. We savour the gospel in Niagara vintages. We relish the gospel in Nova Scotian varietals. We hear the gospel in Indigenous and settler languages of this land—and that, my friends, that is Good News indeed.”


Echoing the theme of the convention, “Liberated by God’s Grace,” he added, “Creation is not for sale. Creation is for freedom.”


Jensen offered an example of how the sale of human beings and creation were connected by telling the story of 19th century Indigenous people who lost their way of life even as they lost their land, which was then sold to the highest bidder (the concept of owning, buying or selling land being wholly alien to Indigenous tradition).


The Bible study ended with further questions for discussion:


  • What are some of the ways you see human beings for sale in our workplace, neighbourhood and marketplace?

  • What does it mean to treat everyone as ‘fully human’ rather than as a commodity to be sold or used?

  • What are some of the ways that you can say NO to creation’s commodification?

  • How can our world be transformed when we see ourselves and all creation owned by God rather than something we possess? Let your imaginations in God’s grace run free, for it is what we and all creation were created for.



ELCIC Convention endorses Welcoming the Stranger, Climate Justice


Delegates at the 15th National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) endorsed the document “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders” and approved a resolution on climate justice on Saturday, July 11.

A pledge to welcome strangers, refugees and internally displaced persons while challenging others to do the same, “Welcoming the Stranger” evolved from a December 2012 dialogue organized by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres between leaders of different faiths, faith-based humanitarian organizations, academics and government representatives.

Based around the theme “Faith and Protection,” the dialogue ended with a recommendation to develop a Code of Conduct for religious leaders to welcome migrants and refugees and to combat xenophobia.

During the period from February to April 2013, a coalition of faith-based humanitarian organizations that included the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) joined with academic institutions to produce the “Welcoming the Stranger” document.

The motion to endorse the document at this year’s ELCIC convention invited members and congregations to review it and sign the affirmations honouring respect for strangers, welcoming them into the community and speaking out in favour of social justice for them.

A strong 96 per cent of convention delegates voted in favour of the motion.

In approving the resolution, delegates asked the ELCIC’s National Bishop Susan Johnson to communicate the church’s endorsement of “Welcoming the Stranger” to major ecumenical and interfaith partners of the ELCIC, to Canadian Lutheran World Relief, and to the LWF, thanking the latter for its work and leadership in promoting values of hospitality, protection, respect and equality.

The climate justice resolution also received a strong endorsement from the convention, with 93 per cent of delegates voting in favour.

The resolution states that the ELCIC affirms the position of the LWF by acknowledging that climate change is real and influenced by human activity; that increasingly severe impacts are being felt around the world with growing social and economic costs; that it is possible to keep the effects below the internationally recognized danger threshold of 2 degrees Celsius by acting quickly now to reduce carbon emissions; and that climate change is a matter of social and economic justice, affecting the poorest and most vulnerable.

It supports the LWF in calling on political and business leaders to develop a strong global response to climate change by making deep cuts in carbon emissions through clear targets, respecting egalitarian principles by providing special assistance to the most vulnerable communities already dealing with the impacts of climate change.

As part of its commitment to climate justice, the ELCIC calls on all members, congregations, and synods, as well as the national church, to become more sustainable and eco-friendly with the goal of neutralizing carbon emissions by 2050.

It also calls for greater advocacy efforts, including:
- registering as an Accredited Greening Congregation through the ELCIC’s stewardship creation program: //elcic.ca/Stewardship/Stewardship-of-Creation/default.cfm;
- sharing good practices with others through the LWF Facebook page LWF for Climate Justice; https://www.facebook.com/LWFforclimatejustice?fref=ts
- sustained climate justice advocacy in the perspective of COP20 in Lima, Peru leading up to COP21 in Paris, France, based on the LWF advocacy call and policy papers by the ACT Alliance: http://www.actalliance.org/what-we-do/issues/climate-change/issueview?b_start:int=15;
- participation in ecumenical and interfaith climate justice initiatives at the local, regional and national levels; and
- signing up to the #fastfortheclimate campaign: http://www.lutheranworld.org/fastfortheclimate on the first day of every month until the beginning of COP21 on Dec. 1, 2015.

Finally, delegates through the resolution asked Bishop Johnson to write to the Prime Minister of Canada and other federal leaders expressing the ELCIC’s concern for the climate and pushing for an effective response at COP21, as well as writing to the LWF sharing the climate justice resolution as one response to the Call for Commitment by member churches.

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