Grace and peace to you as we gather in this nationwide expression of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
We are called together by the Holy Spirit to receive and then to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the people of Canada and beyond. We gather in convention to deliberate those matters that inform our plans for the next two years.
The theme for this convention is a continuation of the theme of the Ninth Biennial Convention held in Camrose in 2003. In Camrose the theme was Sing a New Song Unto the Lord. We called upon ourselves to recognize that the context in which we live has changed dramatically since our first congregations were founded. How we understand our mission and express the gospel calls for a new language understandable to the people among whom we now live.
We also declared in Camrose that our church has been very much a church for itself, meeting the ethnic and social needs of its own membership somewhat in isolation from the rest of society. As our younger members have become more integrated into Canadian secular life, they have dissociated themselves from this secluded mentality–even those who are believers–and have indicated in surveys that they find the church increasingly irrelevant to their spiritual life.
This convention’s theme acknowledges the need to commit ourselves to a more outward-oriented understanding of ourselves and our mission in the world. We are called not only to gather together communities of Christians, but to engage with other religious communities in order to be a blessing to the entire society. I find that the best expression of this call is found in Luke 6:
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. (Luke 6:27–35)
The secular world is our mission field. Lutheran theology calls us to be engaged in the world and its daily activities. Seven of the Ten Commandments address matters related to family life, business and civic affairs. We are not called neither to separate ourselves from secular society nor to convert it into a religion-ruled society. We are to exercise our civic life with the same self-giving unconditional love of God which we have experienced in the means of grace.
The world of other religions is part of our mission field. Conversion is not the only reason for telling the story of God. Jesus Christ and his relationship with God is a gospel that will make its way into the awareness of other believers in the same way that their gifts will awaken greater understanding of the Christian revelation.
Finally, we live in a society that has, in some arenas, become resistant, if not hostile, to the voice of religious believers. This is an experience that will be increasingly shared by all religious communities, not only Christians. We all are being required to learn how to explain ourselves and assert our authenticity in this resistant climate.
In response to these conditions, the National Church Council has adopted three strategic priorities out of the many functions that are carried out on a nationwide basis. These are:
- To be a public voice of the Lutheran Church in Canada and around the world.
- To share our Lutheran identity and gifts with other Christians.
- To seek out and develop leaders who can help us accomplish the above-stated priorities.
It is the responsibility of the Office of the Bishop to organize the national functions of this church around these priorities.
The Office of the Bishop includes two sets of functions:
- Those of the chief pastoral leader of the National Church; and
- Those of the chief executive officer (CEO) of the corporation.
These are outlined under four major categories:
- To oversee the administration of the National Church;
- To lead the church in its ecumenical and partner church relationships;
- To facilitate partnerships with and among the synods; and
- To be a symbol of the unity of the church.
The Church Constitution merges these functions into a single section, stating that the bishop of this church shall:
- Serve as its leader and counsellor;
- Seek to preserve its peace and order;
- Call, convene and preside over its conventions and the meetings of the National Church Council;
- Speak publicly and witness for the gospel on behalf of this church;
- Oversee the officers and executive staff;
- Co-ordinate the work of its committees, and serve in an ex officio capacity;
- Represent this church at meetings of the auxiliaries and recognized independent organizations;
- Convene meetings of the bishops of the synods; and
- Serve as the primary representative of this church in all inter-church associations and councils in which it holds membership.
National Church Council (NCC) meets twice a year to direct follow-up on convention decisions, engage in visioning and planning, set priorities, monitor finances and supervise the administration of the National Office.
The national bishop is solely and personally accountable for the operations of the National Office and participates with the NCC in the visioning and priority-setting process.
The functions of the National Office fall into three broad categories:
- Relationships outside the ELCIC;
- Relationships within the ELCIC; and
- Finance and Administration.
The Rev. Paul Johnson is the Assistant to the Bishop for Ecumenical and International Relationships. As such he assists the national bishop through participation with the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, The Lutheran World Federation, Canadian Lutheran World Relief, the Lutheran Council in Canada, the Canadian Council of Churches, and the World Council of Churches. Each of these large bodies has many subdivisions and ad hoc structures. Together with Mr. Kelvin Krieger, the assistant is responsible for the administration of the Mission in the World program, including full-time paid missionaries, short-term workers, Volunteers in Mission and Global Mission Events. This position requires extensive travel and sensitive relationship-building and negotiation. This position is further responsible for supervising the Global Hunger and Development Appeal and policy relationships with the Program Committee for Worship.
The Rev. Elaine Sauer is the Assistant to the Bishop for Synodical Relationships. As such, she assists the national bishop through participation in national/synodical consultations and the Conference of Bishops. She is the policy communicator and relates to the program committees for Leadership in Ministry, Youth Ministry, Canadian Missions, Stewardship, and the Women’s Desk. These activities involve her attendance at board meetings of the Evangelical Lutheran Women (ELW), Lutheran Theological Seminary (LTS), Saskatoon, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary (WLS), Canadian Lutheran Youth Gathering and the Church Extension and Capital Fund (CECF) and related subdivisions of the ELCA and Anglican Church of Canada. This position involves extensive travel within the North American continent and requires the ability to “touch base” with program staff in each of the synods. Relationship-building, encouragement and idea-sharing are major functions of this position. Together with Ms. Barb Fast and Mr. Jeff Pym, the assistant is responsible for the planning preparation and distribution of stewardship materials, as well as Communiqué and general information distribution.
Ms. Faye Schultz is the Executive Assistant to the bishop’s office, providing organizational, logistical and communications support to the bishop and the two assistants.
Ms. Gloria McNabb is the Director of Finance and Administration (DFA). She is an accountant responsible to the bishop for all financial transactions, reporting and annual audits of the financial records of this church. In addition to the day-to-day finances of the national operation, this position involves supervision of the investment and distribution of Lutheran Investment Funds and Endowments (LIFE) funds, the Church Extension and Capital Fund (CECF), the Continuing Education Plan (CEP) and numerous restricted and unrestricted accounts. She sits as an advisor to the meetings of Group Services Inc. (GSI) and provides financial services to ELW. Ms. Juliann Schneider serves as her accounting assistant.
This director further coordinates the physical aspects of the National Office facilities and equipment, maintains personnel records, provides and maintains policy manuals and, together with Ms. Mary Krieger, Coordinator, Informations Systems/Website (IT), provides for the operation of an email network between synods and national, and a church-wide Internet website. Ms. Laverne Johnson serves as the administrative support person to the DFA and the IT and also maintains the circulation and subscription database of Canada Lutheran.
The DFA is further responsible for the planning and management of national conventions.
The manager of communication reports to the bishop’s office through the assistant for synodical relationships. This position involves a rearrangement of roles in the office and has not yet been filled. The manager of communication will supervise Ida Backman, the editor of Canada Lutheran and the graphic designer, Kristen Guy.
In addition to providing for a print periodical and website, the manager of communications will provide for news releases, official publications, and the public “face” of this church. The bishop’s office will work closely with the manager of communications in the drafting and delivery of official communiqués.
These changes reflect the recommendations of the Communications Review Task Force.
The Director of the Lutheran Office for Public Policy (LOPP) is a deployed part-time staff person working closely with the bishop’s office to design involvement in issues where church and society come together. Most of the work in this office is carried on ecumenically in cooperation with the Canadian Council of Churches, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, KAIROS and many related sub-agencies. This position has been filled by Dr. David Pfrimmer, who resigned in order to take up new responsibilities as Principal Dean of Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. Succession plans are under consideration but have not yet been fully developed.
Although there are three main work areas in the National Office organization, the office is not so much departmental as it is interdisciplinary. Due to cutbacks in budget, staff shortages require that various members of the office must multi-task and join in various combinations to team up on larger jobs.
In addition to the activities of the National Office outlined in the reports of the various leadership staff, the national bishop personally participated in the following program activities:
- The Lutheran World Federation–North America Region
Following the Tenth Assembly of the LWF in Winnipeg, I have communicated to Ms. Kathy Magnus, North America Regional Coordinator, the desire of this church to develop a more deliberate plan of interaction between the four member churches of the region. This intentionality has resulted in a major consultation between the lead staff members of the ELCIC and ELCA and a regional consultation between all four members around the theme of Communio, contextual mission and human sexuality.
- The Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
Hosting the Lutheran World Federation Tenth Assembly in 2003 was a major task of the National Office and the Office of the Bishop. The 10 days of assembly stretched into two weeks of set-up, post-assembly council meetings and follow-up. This church played a major role in designing worship and leading a prayer service in solidarity with delegates denied visas to enter Canada.
Together with Dr. David Pfrimmer, I sit as a member of the governing council of the LWF. Pastor Susan Johnson was nominated and re-appointed to the position of advisor to the council. The council normally meets once a year to follow up on the assembly theme and set priorities for the Geneva office. Last year’s meeting was held near Geneva; this year’s is slated to take place in Israel.
- Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR)
Because of the evolving relationship between CLWR and the church bodies which it serves, I have attended almost all the meetings of the governing board of the agency. In addition to participating in a goal-setting and governance-planning exercise on the board, I have led a staff team in executive meetings between the ELCIC, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) and CLWR. While a number of matters have been worked out, the nature of mission administration in both church bodies is changing, calling for adaptation in the agency’s policy. The Canadian Internal Development Corporation (CIDA) has also had an impact on the relationship of churches and the agency due to the increasing demands of government bureaucratic procedures and regulations. It will be crucial for the new director of the agency to work together with the church bodies in shaping a renewed relationship based on conditions considerably changed from those of even ten years ago.
- Evangelical Lutheran Women Inc. (ELW)
ELW’s board meets twice a year and invites the national bishop or bishop’s appointee to attend. Reciprocally, the ELCIC invites the president of ELW or her appointee to attend NCC meetings. A close relationship between this church and ELW exists, partly because the two institutions operate out of the same office and cooperate in a number of programs and initiatives. ELW was an active participant in the hosting of the Tenth LWF Assembly and takes an active role in international women’s issues through the executive director. Not inconsequentially, ELW has provided the ELCIC an annual mission gift averaging $100,000 as well as additional funds for smaller designated projects.
- Schools and Seminaries
While Elaine Sauer attends to regular business at seminary board meetings, the national bishop is required to participate in the selection of a principal dean and president. Both seminaries have been in the search process, Waterloo having elected Dr. David Pfrimmer and Saskatoon restarting its search process after a first round resulted in no finalist being recommended.
Luther College also has been in a search for a new president and has elected Dr. Bruce Perlson to succeed Dr. Richard Hordern, who served as president for 11 years.
The Augustana Act of Incorporation is being revised by the Alberta legislature to recognize the change in ownership that has taken place, but to allow continuation of a body that will ensure compliance with the agreement signed between Augustana and the University of Alberta and to receive and administer funds for the promotion of the ongoing ministry of the church in the Augustana Faculty.
Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute in Outlook, Saskatchewan continues under interim president, Mr. Doug Hopkins.
- Millennium Study of Leadership
The $50,000 given to the ELCIC by Lutheran Life at the Waterloo convention in 2001 was used to fund a two-year study of leadership history, analysis and projections under the leadership of Dr. Kenneth Kuhn. The study is complete and the final report has been received by NCC. A further grant of $17,000 will provide the resources to organize a national response to the recommendations in the report.
- Anglican/Lutheran Relationships
Ongoing matters for discussion and recommendation are administered by the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission. The commission receives requests from the respective national councils of the two churches as well as from joint meetings of the two bodies’ bishops, studies the issues as required and makes recommendations for action or for alternative decision-making procedures.
The ELCIC Conference of Bishops and the Anglican House of Bishops meets jointly once a year in the fall to discuss matters of common concern and to study and worship together.
A joint meeting of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the USA was held in April. I presided and preached at one of the Eucharistic services.
- Conventions and Assemblies
The national bishop represents the ELCIC at the conventions and assemblies of the Anglican Church of Canada and the ELCA. Such events have included General Synod and the synods of the Diocese of New Westminster and the Province of Rupertsland of the Anglican Church of Canada and the 2003 Churchwide Assembly of the EL CA.
The national bishop attended the conventions of all five synods in 2004 and conducted the process in each for the election of bishop.
The National Lutheran Youth Gathering was held in Hamilton in 2004.
ELW held it’s quadrennial convention in Winnipeg.
I was a presenter at the Global Mission Event (GME) in Fargo, North Dakota a week before the national convention.
The ELCA bishop or designate attends fall meetings of the ELCIC NCC and the ELCIC bishop or designate attends spring meetings of the ELCA Church Council.
- Conference of Bishops
The Conference of Bishops is convened three times a year. One meeting is held in conjunction with the ELCA Bishop’s Academy in early January; a second is held in conjunction with the Anglican House of Bishops in the fall; and a third meeting dedicated solely to ELCIC concerns is held in late November, early December.
- Synod Councils
The national bishop attends one synod council meeting per year in each synod and provides for the attendance of one of the assistants to the bishop at each year’s second meeting.
- Other ELCIC events
The national bishop does not normally participate in parish-based events because those are part of the life of the synod and should properly be attended by the synod bishop. Some exceptions have been made for Eastern Synod events because, as a single synod containing almost 45% of the church’s membership, the Eastern Synod membership does not see the national bishop as frequently as the other 55% of the membership which receives four sets of bishop visits.
The installation of Sister Anne Keffer as presiding deaconess of the ELCA Deaconess Community took place in Chicago.
- International Travel
Most international travel falls on the shoulders of the assistant for ecumenical and international relations, but the national bishop also travels abroad. A CLWR-sponsored tour of India allowed for a visit to the churches from which most of the delegates who were refused visas for the LWF assembly came. It further provided orientation to part of the Asia Region of the LWF.
The LWF council meets in various locales among the seven regions.
- Church and Society
A trip to Mexico this past March was the culmination of a study of NAFTA affects on the North American economy. KAIROS organized a church leaders visit to one agricultural region and one industrial region of Mexico for the purpose of seeing first-hand how those economies are impacted by neo-liberal trade policies. Church leaders included bishops of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church, a representative of the United Church of Canada and a member of a Roman Catholic religious order. The trip was followed up by a visit to Ottawa in April where these observations were shared with legislators and senior ministry staff.
Two Thousand and three saw the national bishop and the director of public policy host a meeting with Mr. Matthew Coon Come, Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa. The visit provided an opportunity to introduce the grand chief to Dr. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the LWF, and highlight aboriginal issues coming before the tenth Assembly.
A visit to NCC by Mr. Dennis Whitebird, Grand Chief of the Manitoba Assembly of Indian Chiefs, was also arranged prior to the Tenth Assembly.
A pastoral letter was written to Prime Minister Paul Martin discussing a Lutheran understanding of the difference between state and church marriage and the matter of blessing same-sex couples.
I was the keynote speaker and a workshop presenter at the Social Justice Institute, Edmonton in May.
- Group Services Inc. (GSI)
A great deal of energy went into meetings and strategy planning with GSI around the deficit in the retiree pension plan. Numerous information meetings were held with officers, bishops and both boards. Public relations were difficult and sometimes painful.
- Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB)
The CCCB extends an annual invitation to the national bishop to attend their assemblies and bring greetings on behalf of the ELCIC.
This list represents a brief summary of those activities in which the national bishop was personally involved. Most other ministries of the National Church are carried out through planning and interrelationships with officers, staff and co-workers in other church bodies.
Raymond L. Schultz
ELCIC National Bishop