A NEWS RELEASE
From National Office of the ELCIC
Winnipeg, 24 January 2007--The following is the text from a letter to Church from ELCIC National Bishop Raymond Schultz:
I called a special meeting of National Church Council (NCC) for 19-20 January 2007 in order to attend to urgent convention matters. Disclaimer: my meeting quotations are based on a version of the minutes that have been neither reviewed nor officially approved at this writing.
The first reason for calling the meeting was to confer with Council on matters related to my retirement from office. As issues were discussed, the following recommendations came forward:
That each ballot for bishop take place no sooner than 30 minutes following the report of the Elections Committee.
The election of a bishop provides for up to six ballots. In past conventions, each ballot has been distributed immediately following the results of the previous ballot and voting has taken place within the next three to five minutes. First-time delegates and lay members unfamiliar with many of the nominees find the time pressure difficult. This convention policy will give delegates a half-hour to think about the next ballot.
The installation or ordination of the bishop-elect will take place Thursday, September 27 at 7:00 pm.
If the bishop-elect is a sitting bishop, the service will be an installation. If the bishop-elect is not a bishop, the service will be an ordination to the office. The service will take place in Winnipeg in a public service in conjunction with the September NCC meeting.
That Bishop Schultz be asked to remain on staff in an advisory capacity for the month of September 2007 in order to facilitate an orderly transition for the bishop-elect.
This arrangement is similar to the arrangement Bishop Sartison and I had at the beginning of my first term in office.
As a final area of agreement, I was asked informally by Council to prepare a paper on the responsibilities of a delegate to be distributed with other pre-convention materials.
My second reason for calling the meeting was to ask NCC to rethink whether its recommendation regarding a local option for same-sex blessing was a productive way to approach the question. Up until now, we have seen two black-and-white sets of opinions among our members argue the same Bible texts and the same confessional documents to opposite conclusions. There has seemed to be no common ground when we try to discuss same sex blessings as matters of a moral, doctrinal or pastoral concern.
My question to myself was whether there is something else we can agree on. My conclusion is that there are several points of agreement when we talk about Mission. Morality and doctrine focus us on our own interests; mission focuses us on the needs of others.
The 2005 theme In Mission for Others has had strong support across this church and resonates with the hopes and dreams of our members. We agree that we want to be a church in mission for others. This year’s National Convention theme continues with an examination of our call to mission.
The areas of authority and administration related to mission are clear:
The national church sets standards and maintains the Church Extension Capital Fund;
the synods define and implement mission initiatives within their territories; and
congregations or ministries like campus ministry constitute the major arena in which programs are carried out.
Now the question of same sex ministry is framed as one of mission. Is ministry to homosexuals a call to mission? Are they among the others for whom we want to be in mission?
NCC agreed to rethink its previous approach and rescinded motion CC-06-63:
That NCC recommends to the ELCIC 2007 National Convention that the ELCIC recognizes the blessing of same-gender couples who want to make a life-long commitment to one another in the presence of God and their community of faith is a matter of pastoral discretion. Authorization to perform such blessings shall require the consent of the pastor and the consent of the congregation or calling agency, as expressed in a 2/3 majority vote at a duly called meeting of the congregation or calling agency, and in consultation with the synod bishop.
In its place, the following recommendation was adopted:
This convention affirms that the diversity within Canada’s culture requires responses to a variety of persons in order for this church to be In Mission for Others.
We also affirm that the synods have the mandate to devise mission strategies appropriate to their regional settings.
Accordingly, we encourage synods to develop ways to best minister to people who live in committed same sex relationships, including the possibility of blessing such unions.
A third reason for a special NCC meeting came out of the Conference of Bishops. The bishops recommended that this church, as a part of its mission, takes intentional action toward the “greening” of the church. The preliminary proposal to NCC read:
That the ELCIC answer the call to respect the integrity of God’s creation through a two-year renewable stewardship initiative engaging its national, synodical, congregational and individual member expressions.
It was agreed that the statement as proposed lacks definition. Thus the March 2007 NCC meeting will give "approval to a strategy to be presented at the Convention concerning the activities at the national, synodical and congregational level leading to environmental projects for a greener church."
Several members of Council observed that the January meeting represented the most in-depth and sincere discussion of sexuality that had occurred for some time. There were many opinions, several expressed differences, times of coming together and a strong belief that this challenge represents a genuine call to mission. Alternates to the present motion were considered and worked through before this resolution was settled on.
I will write to you again after the March meeting.
May the voice of the Spirit be our guide,
National Bishop Raymond Schultz
View the pdf version of the Letter to the Church from ELCIC National Bishop Raymond Schultz here: http://www.elcic.ca/docs/RSLetter.pdf
For more information, please contact:
Ms.Trina Gallop, Manager of Communications
302 - 393 Portage Ave. Winnipeg MB R3B 3H6