Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
ELCIC congregations are welcome to republish this material in their church publications. Please acknowledge its original publication by including the credit line:
Canada Lutheran, December 2004
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
Our church is blessed with two seminaries whose histories and constituencies are seen as unique and separate; two seminaries barely making ends meet.
About a year and a half ago I talked with someone who described the two academies as icons. They are seen as symbols of the culture and history of the West and the East. When I asked whether one new school on neutral territory for the sake of economics would be possible, I was told by people from both east and west that such an option never would be acceptable.
In other words, people in our church pretty much reflect the east-west divide that we see in public politics in Canada, not unlike the feelings expressed by the premiers who addressed Prime Minister Paul Martin's schedule of transfer payments to provinces.
I see this situation as a mission opportunity! These are fields ripe for harvest! National Church Council (NCC) has adopted as a strategic priority for this church that we are:
To be a public voice of the Lutheran Church in Canada speaking to the compelling questions and issues facing our global community.
What better role for us than to model to the rest of the country how to rise above regional partiality and become one community with the whole membership across this land.
I grew up and was educated in Western Canada where I was taught certain prejudices toward people from the East, Ontario in particular. Later, as a young pastor of this church, I attended an annual convention of the Lutheran Church in America-Canada Section and learned that Lutherans in the East were hospitable, negotiable and committed. Whatever parochialism I saw among Easterners was no different than what I saw in Alberta.
The history of our regionalism is built upon economics, mission development, population concentrations, the proximity of the USA and immigration patterns. Our present organization is the product of many mergers. People still identify with predecessor bodies. Synod members reflect strong regional loyalties and biases.
The national value and influence of this church is being gradually eroded through underfunding and special interest giving. Anything other than the local congregation is seen as some kind of "special" ministry rather than a ministry owned and shared by the whole church for the good of the whole land.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Our church exists by God's grace, not by our regional religious activities, loyalties and accomplishments. In God we are incorporated into a new human community that is no longer identified by old categorizations or former alliances.
So then…remember that you Gentiles were…aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)
Is anyone willing to work at reaping this harvest?
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, December 2004