When the ELCIC was established it was intended that each parish would be represented at the convention by either its pastor or a lay member. Questions have been raised at conventions since 1986 about the lack of attendance, the cost of conventions and the reported difficulties of many attendees feeling that they had not made an effective contribution to the overall running of the church.
To remedy the issues noted above, suggestions have been received such as holding the convention less frequently, holding it at a more central location, selecting representation by conference rather than parish (to reduce the number of delegates), and separation of the business of the convention from the celebratory functions of the gathering.
At recent conventions questions have also been raised about naming youth delegates and giving them voice and vote.
The Future Directions Task Force, in its report to the 1997 Convention raised many of the issues noted above (see pages 191–192 of the Minutes of the 1997 Convention). Similar concerns have been raised at the subsequent conventions. At the 2001 Convention, NCC was tasked to review the issues concerning the convention and report back to convention in 2003.
The Constitution, Article X, Section 5, specifies that the voting delegates at a convention shall be 200 ordained ministers and lay delegates from parishes not represented by an ordained delegate.
Parishes are entitled to approximately 510 delegates (200 clergy and 310 laity). In addition, attendees include NCC (16), officers (4) and the synod bishops (5), plus guests, visitors and staff.
Attendance at conventions has been as follows:
|| Lay Eligible
|| Lay Attendance
|| Total Attendance
|| %of Total Eligible
Alternate ways of selecting delegates could include formulas that would recognize the varying size of synods, while retaining the ordained/lay mix of delegates.
The registration of the convention covers the cost for airfare, housing, meals and facility costs shared equally between all who attend. Parishes who do not send a representative to a convention do not share in these costs.
Registration in 1999 was $850, 2001 was $995 and 2003 is $795.
Convention expenses have often exceeded registration income. This was the result of less than anticipated attendance leading to a deficit which was than covered from the National Church budget.
To reduce the cost of the convention by a significant amount would require a reduction in the numbers who attend, consideration of holding the convention in central locations, and a shortening of the length of the convention. For example, if attendance were reduced to about 200, and shortened to 3 days, it is estimated that the cost if spread over all congregations would be $500 per parish.
The Corporate Bylaws require members of NCC to be of at least 18 years of age. Congregations in their bylaws might determine an age for someone to be able to vote at congregational meetings. Currently any congregation could select a youth for its delegate. Youth delegates have tended to be selected by synods, and funded either by the synod or the National Church. To include a certain number of designated youth would require an amendment to the Corporate Bylaws, the Constitution and the Administrative Bylaws. A mechanism would also have to be developed to fund the attendance of youth delegates. The attendance and participation of youth delegates at the last few conventions has been much appreciated by those who attended and received very favorable comments on evaluations.
There has been a practice of moving the convention location from synod to synod. It would be more cost effective to hold the convention in a central location such as Winnipeg or Toronto. Those locations would considerably reduce the airfare as the majority of delegates live close to one of those locations. The Winnipeg location would be very cost effective for the National Staff who assist in the organization and execution of the convention.
There have been suggestions that the "business portion" of the convention, could be accomplished in a two-day meeting, and that a separate "festival or celebration" event could be held at one or more locations to allow participation for a large number of members of this church.
Festival or celebration events would be self-funded, could be developed in cooperation between synods or other groups and allow for many individuals to attend.
The constitution requires action to be taken by two successive conventions (4 years).
The Administrative Bylaws can be changed by a convention for implementation at the next convention.
National Church Council will ask the 2003 Convention to give first reading to the following constitution change:
That the ELCIC Constitution, Article X, sections 2 and 3 be amended to read:
Section 2: A convention of this church shall be held in accordance with the ELCIC Act of Incorporation at a time and place determined by the National Church Council.
Section 3: The frequency, function, composition and responsibilities of the convention shall be defined in the Administrative Bylaw, Part V.
Since these changes to the constitution require approval by two subsequent conventions, these changes will receive first reading in 2003, second reading in 2005 and be put into practice at the 2007 Convention.
Between the convention in 2003 and 2005 a consultation process with congregations and synods will be undertaken to determine the will of the church frequency, function, composition and responsibilities of the convention.
A questionnaire will be developed and synods are asked to facilitate discussions at conference and synod conventions, ministerial meetings and congregational meetings about the questions. Results will be tabulated at the National Office and the Constitution and Bylaw Committee will recommend amendments to the Administrative Bylaws based on the results. The convention in 2005 will be asked to approve the resulting amendments.
Questions posed could include:
- How can the number of delegates to the convention be reduced and still allow for wide representation?
- If a representative group of delegates were selected, how would their attendance at convention be funded?
- How can youth delegates be selected and funded to attend the convention? Should youth delegates have vote at National Conventions?
- Can the "business" and the "festival" elements of a convention be separated into two separate events?
- How would selecting central locations (nearest to the greatest number of members) affect the convention?
- Are there other issues about conventions that you would like to have the NCC review as it considers changes?