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Convention Highlights - July 16

                   

 

The 2011 ELCIC National Convention continues today at TCU Place, Saskatoon, SK. You can view the convention agenda online.

 

 

New Secretary Elected

On the third ballot, Murray Walter was elected as Secretary of the ELCIC. Results of the ballot can be viewed here.

 

Mennonite Church Canada Brings Greetings

Rev. Dr Willard Metzger, General Secretary of Mennonite Church Canada, brought warm greetings to the Thirteenth Biennial Convention of the ELCIC Saturday morning.

“I delight in bringing welcome from your new friends and growing partner, Mennonite Church Canada,” said Metzger.

Relations between the ELCIC and MCC have been renewed since July 2010, when The Lutheran World Federation offered a historic apology to Mennonites for past persecutions.

The ELCIC and MCC have worked to apply this global statement of reconciliation in local churches. Metzger promoted the use of the joint ELCIC-MCC study guide, Healing Memories, Reconciling in Christ, which was given to all delegates. The guide raises awareness about the churches’ relationship and reconciliation.

Metzger noted that church leaders have been seeking opportunities for collaboration. He celebrated his “growing friendship” with National Bishop Susan C. Johnson and said that Bishop Michael Pryse, ELCIC Eastern Synod, and David Martin, Executive Minister of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, had also made a public declaration of reconciliation.

Metzger also shared a personal story: his great-great-great grandfather was a German Lutheran adopted by Mennonites in Kitchener, Ont. “So this is a bit of a homecoming,” he said. “Perhaps, here I have a long lost relative.”

Bishop Johnson thanked Metzger for his greetings and offered a gift. “This is a sign of hope for whole church,” she said, “That if we as churches can move towards reconciliation, within our own church we can find that same reconciliation.”

  • Healing Memories, Reconciling in Christ is available online.

Second Report of the Committee of Reference and Counsel

Delegates were presented with a number of motions from the Committee on Reference and Counsel on Saturday morning.

From Report #1:

Motion #1

That Administrative By-law Part 6 Section 8 be amended so that it reads ‘Petitions from synods and congregations shall be submitted to the secretary of this church not later than three months prior to the convention for referral to the Committee of Reference and Counsel and for inclusion in the bulletin of reports.’

The motion was carried.

Motion #2

That this assembly acknowledge and recognize that active pension plan members had traditionally enjoyed a credit of the 2% supplemental contribution to their pension accounts as it was not needed to support an unfunded liability, and that since mid 2003 the supplemental contribution has been used to support their pre-2003 retired colleagues retirement security and

That this assembly encourage the Board of ELCIC Groups Services Inc (GSI) to consider amending the pension plan to increase contributions to active pension plan members’ accounts once the unfunded liability is eliminated, and that GSI report the outcome of this work at 2013 convention.

That ELCIC participating employers be encouraged to seriously examine the effect on the pension account of their employees who were active pension pan members during the period when the 2% supplemental contribution was credited to the unfunded liability and

That ELCIC participating employers be encouraged to give consideration to using some of all of the funds freed up by the early elimination of the 4% additional contribution, to compensate their employees in lieu of the 2% supplemental contribution that was not credited to active plan members’ pension accounts since 2003.

Delegates spoke for and against this motion. The motion was carried.

Motion #4

That the ELCIC in convention ask the Administrator of GSI to explore possibilities for an alternative pension plan such Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative (www.caic.ca) and/or other ethical investing initiatives which seek to make investments which support positive social change and promote alternative economic structures. We ask the Administrator report back to the 2013 convention.

The motion was carried.

Motion #5

In this “Resolution Regarding Support for Continuing Education.” nine delegates submitted a resolution calling for synods, congregations, and agencies of the ELCIC to reaffirm and encourage a commitment to ongoing programs for continuing education for leaders in the ELCIC and recommending continuing education policies of the church be enhanced.

The Committee on Reference and Counsel recommended the motion be referred to the National Church Council. The assembly voted in favour of this recommendation.

Motion #6

Resolution Regarding Seminary Convention Delegates

This motion calls for each seminary of the ELCIC to be granted one voting delegate to national convention was presented. As this action would require an amendment to the constitution, as well as potentially relevant to a restructuring process or an NCC review of the constitution, the Committee on Reference and Counsel recommended the motion be referred to National Church Council. The assembly voted in favour of this.

Motion #7

Resolution on a Renewal Task Force

That the ELCIC create a taskforce to explore and identify pathways for the renewal of our church as a whole beyond just a focus on structures.

The membership of this taskforce will be made up of people from across the ELCIC with a focus on involving people who are creative and/or have experience in leading renewal in their contexts.

The Committee on Reference and Counsel recommended referring this petition to National Church Council as part of its ongoing work of offering leadership for the mission of this church. Delegates approved the motion that the petition be referred to National Church Council.

 

Elections for National Church Council and Group Services Inc.

Delegates have cast ballots for the election of National Church Council and Group Services Inc. View all the results as they are available on the "election results" page.

 

School Corporation Meetings Conducted

Luther College and Lutheran Collegiate Bible Institute (LCBI) held their corporate meetings during the Thirteenth Biennial National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Delegates unanimously adopted the reports presented by Luther College president Bryan Hillis and LCBI board chairperson Nancy Knutson.

 

Luther College a Vibrant Christian Educational Institution

Luther College President Bryan Hillis offered delegates a report from the educational institution in Regina. He shared news of a vibrant Christian educational institution, a college of the church grounded in the strong Lutheran tradition of education.

Hillis highlighted the Christian context in which both the high school and the university campuses operate, as well as the superior academics and wholesome social environment each offers. He elaborated on that Christian context, citing the mandatory Christian Ethics classes; a focus on critical, ethical thinking; regular intentional worship services; and service opportunities, to name a few.

Hillis concluded by thanking the ELCIC for its support and attention.

 

Delegates Approve Structural Renewal Recommendations In Principle

Delegates have approved in principle recommendations of the Structural Renewal Task Force and authorized the ELCIC’s National Church Council (NCC) to move forward with the implementation process.

The vote occurred on Saturday, July 16, the third day of business for convention delegates. A copy of the Structural Renewal Task Force Report can be viewed here: elcic.ca/Structural-Renewal.

The recommendations in the report of the Structural Renewal Task Force include: that the ELCIC be re-organized into three synods; existing conferences be reconfigured into "areas" (groupings of congregations) supported by leadership teams; conventions of the National Church and synods be held triennially; and National Conventions be smaller in size.

Sheila Hamilton, chair of the task force, and Rev. Mark Harris, task force member, took questions and heard comments from delegates for two hours during a Committee of the Whole session.

Delegates spoke passionately about finding a structure that meets both the church’s current reality, but also holds potential for growth.

Some delegates expressed concerns that the taskforce was driven too much by economic factors, while others were encouraged that the ELCIC structure would be "right-sized" to best meet the church’s changing needs.

Delegates also encouraged the use of technology to bring people, congregations and decision makers together.

Approval of this motion means that NCC will now consider how to best move forward with the next steps in the implementation process, including taking further motions to Synod Conventions in 2012.

 

Delegates Approve Motions On Unity, Same-Sex Blessings And Qualifications For Ordination

Delegates of the 13th Biennial ELCIC National Convention approved three highly anticipated and vigorously debated motions related to the ELCIC Social Statement on Human Sexuality. Delegates approved an Affirmation Concerning the Unity of the Church; a policy statement allowing rostered ministers to preside at or bless legal marriages, including those between same-sex couples, according to the laws of the province; and a policy paving the way for the ordination and installation of gay and lesbian pastors.

These motions, put forth by National Church Council (NCC), were drafted by the ELCIC Faith, Order and Doctrine Committee “to allow us to move forward if the Social Statement on Human Sexuality was approved,” said committee member and Saskatchewan Synod Bishop Cindy Halmarson. The social statement itself was approved during Saturday’s business sessions, following more than two hours of debate.

Affirmation Concerning the Unity of the Church (Motion #26)

Passed by a vote of 204 to 133, the affirmation states that the church should: not be divided because of disagreement over moral issues and that ELCIC members, congregations, synods, and churches who disagree with one another remain in dialogue and unity; maintain unity in the gospel and the sacraments; refrain from actions that will divide the body of Christ.

Delegates offered a wide range of perspectives during the debate from serious reservations to gratitude.

“I speak against the motion,” said one delegate. “The fruit of the spirit are love, peace and joy, and since we have discussed this issue, there has been no peace, love, or joy.”

“We are losing the heart of our people, and it shows in their giving,” expressed another delegate. “You can not legislate the hearts of the people we are serving.”

One church member expressed her appreciation for the work of the committee and NCC for putting forth the motion and offered this comment: “I have consulted with theologians and biblical scholars, and they have verified that in the original language ‘to love one another as I have loved you’ there is no ‘except’ or ‘but.’”

Delegates cast their votes as the last order of business on Saturday night. “I want to commend you for the respect and patience you’ve shown,” concluded National Bishop Susan C. Johnson following the announcement of the vote results.

Motion on Same-Sex Blessings (Motion #27)

Passed by a vote of 192 to 132, Motion #27 allows ELCIC rostered ministers to preside at or bless marriages according to the dictates of their consciences and according to the laws of the province in which they serve, including those of same-sex couples.

Early in the debate, a delegate made a procedural motion to table the discussion until the 2013 National Convention. “I believe the motions we have passed are a good framework to build on. I am suggesting we take a bit of time to let this document breathe before we take further steps,” he said.

The motion to postpone failed, and debate continued.

“I’ve heard several people say that this issue has been dealt with, but the status quo is unacceptable—to love the sinner and hate the sin,” said one delegate. “That is hate, discrimination, exclusion and alienation. That is saying I can ride the bus but sit at the back. That is not love. That is not what Jesus would do.”

“I have serious misgivings about how this might play out in practical terms,” expressed a delegate. “The day will come when a couple will ask to be married in a congregation that won’t participate in that kind of service. What will be the ramifications?”

Another speaker encouraged delegates to open the door for the congregations who do wish to participate in same-sex blessings. “I speak in favour of this motion even though I know I won’t be performing these marriages,” he said. “My congregation has made its position clear: it is not a place they are prepared to go. As a pastor, I can marry couples because I have been called by that congregation. I marry in their name, and it behooves me to consider their wishes. I would be surprised if these marriages happen in five per cent of our congregations. But the question is, can we still work with the congregations that will do this? Let them do their ministry as we do ours.”

National Bishop Johnson led the delegates in song (Lord Listen to Your Children Pray) as ballots were cast.

Motion on Rostered Ministry (Motion #28)

Passed by a vote of 205 to 114, Motion #28 states that sexual orientation is not in itself a factor that disqualifies a candidate for rostered ministry. The motion rescinds two past convention actions that disallowed self-declared, practicing homosexuals to be approved for ordination and call.

“I thank you for your love and patience during this debate. On behalf of my congregation, I speak against the motion,” said one delegate. “It is against God’s will and Gods word, the Bible.”

“When I look at my experience of 20 years, I can’t see that anything good has come from church’s current policy on this issue,” said Eastern Synod Bishop Michael Pryse. “I’ve seen the terrible results of this policy: broken people, broken families, broken congregations, substance abuse, broken lives. That’s what happens when you demand celibacy of those who don’t have the gifts to live celibate lives. This motion provides the opportunity for willing congregations to consider these candidates.”

“I urge you to not vote for this,” expressed a rostered delegate. “Will congregations be allowed to ask a candidate’s orientation? Are we opening a can of worms for congregations that are on the orthodox side? Will pastors have to hide their orientation to get a job? Is this a decision that’s made too soon?”

At the end of the debate, one rostered delegate broke her silence. “I rise to speak in favour, and I do so praising God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. God made me gay, and I celebrate God’s gift,” she said. “This church has nurtured me and helped me become the person I am. As I prepared myself to take this call, no one ever asked me about my sexuality, but we were told we could stay if we were celibate or silent. Today I break my silence on behalf of my sisters and brothers who cannot speak. I implore that gifted gays and lesbians may be embraced, empowered and sent.”

 

Update on Motions Before Delegates

Further information will be provided on these motions, the following is preliminary information.

Motion 23: The motion is carried

Motion 24: The motion is carried as amended.

Motion 26: 204 yes, 133 no. The motion is carried.

Motion 27: 192 yes, 132 no. The motion is carried.

Motion 28: 205 yes, 115 no. The motion is carried.

Motions can be found in Section F of the Bulletin of Reports.

Delegates also approved a motion from the Committee on Reference and Council to refer all unfinished business to National Church Council.

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