National Bishop Raymond Schultz led the delegates' orientation session. He outlined various voting procedures, ins and outs of resolutions and motions and speaking to them from the floor, how rulings will be made, responsibilities of delegates, listing how stewards and other volunteers function as helpers.
During the session National Bishop Schultz informed the delegates of a ruling he was making related to the same-sex blessing resolution.
He stated that a letter by Alberta-based group Taking a Stand, sent to convention delegates urging them to vote against the proposal, and encouraging them to wear special red ribbons at the convention, had been distributed in violation of privacy legislation and had circumvented authorized channels.
Some delegates took exception when chair Bishop Schultz ruled the ribbons could not be worn on the convention floor. Schultz said "partisan paraphernalia" to indicate a voting preference was inappropriate and intimidating to some, in effect stating that you don't campaign at the voting polls. As a result, the ruling declared that red ribbons, rainbow logos, pink triangle insignias-any symbol showing a voting preference- would be disallowed during the busineess sessions and during worship.
Bishop Schultz stood by his ruling saying it was a way to provide a safe, non-threatening environment, and as fair a process as possible.
The same-sex blessing issue is a major focus of the four-day convention. The resolution by the National Church Council would allow "local options" for ELCIC congregations to recognize and bless same-sex committed relationships. These would not be actual marriages. That would be a matter for civil authorities, the resolution states. Authorization for such blessings would require the consent of the pastor and a two-thirds approval vote by a congregation. A yet-to-be-authorized church rite would be used.
Canada earlier this week became the fourth country in the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. However, the new law does not obligate churches to perform same-sex marriages.
The ELCIC national council forwarded its resolution to the national convention at the request of the Eastern Synod, following nearly a year's study and debate.
The convention will hold "listening circles" this afternoon for delegates to air their personal views on same-sex blessings.
Delegates will vote on the resolution Saturday morning.