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, March 2005
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
This church will gather in convention under the theme "In Mission for Others" July 21–24 in Winnipeg.
What mission? What others?
The mission of the ELCIC is: to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people in Canada and around the world through the proclamation of the Word and the celebration of the sacraments and through service in Christ's name.
That's what our constitution says, but given this church's three defined arenas of ministry (National, Synod, Congregation), the shape of the mission varies with the structure responding to it. The shape given to the mission in congregations is different from that given it in synods; the shape in the synods is different from that of the National Office. You will be hearing more about this from National Church Council (NCC) as it reports on governance and strategy plans for the future of our national ministry.
The upcoming convention is national, not synodical or congregational. The strategies and structures are those that relate to the national role. Our task is to adopt a church-wide vision of our mission and set standards for the way we relate to the international community of churches and to each other as a whole church.
Not every policy needs to apply to the whole church all the time. Our job is to determine what things must apply to everyone all the time. Those matters that can vary according to time and place can be decided in other forums. Our job is to be clear on which is which. That will be one of the crucial questions regarding the Eastern Synod resolution regarding a possible local option for the blessing of same-sex unions.
The Rev. Les Stahlke has taught me to ask two important policy questions: "What is the service we do?" and "Who benefits from it?" The national agency of this church answers those questions in a different way from synods and congregations. What is it that this church requires from the National Office that is not a role for the other arenas? Sometimes we may want to ask whether the arenas to which roles are assigned are the right places for those jobs to be done.
Finally, there are questions regarding authority and resources. Certain roles are already assigned. No further authorization is required for the NCC or the National Office to take action on those matters.
Sometimes authorization is not assigned and must be granted by the convention. However, if authorization is given and accountability required, adequate resources must be provided to enable successful action. Since the National Church receives its financial resources through the allocations of congregations and synods, we must find ways to come to common consent on what is asked and what can be provided. That cannot happen if we cannot agree on the national dimension of this church's mission.
What I hope we can accomplish at this convention is a commitment to what the National Office must do so that this church, as a whole, can be a church "In Mission for Others."
This is the first in a series. Next issue I will discuss the question: What others?
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, March 2005