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, Volume 21, Issue 6.
More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
National Church Council (NCC) disallowed the Eastern Synod authority to make a synodical decision on a local option for same-sex blessings, but voted to ask the 2007 National Convention to reconsider its 2005 decision on the question. In the opinion of NCC, this is a matter the whole church should decide in convention.
Members of this church are all over the map on same-sex relationships. Some members, at both extremes, are so firm in their opinions that they consider holders of the other opinion enemies. Many members, I believe, are somewhere in the middle, open to possibilities, but not wanting to do the church harm. Unfortunately, no resolution agreeable to all of us seems available at this time.
NCC is trying to separate the theological meaning of same-sex relationships from strategies for mission in the local setting. Normally, the church would study the matter extensively, develop a statement to which a majority could agree, then develop actions and policies based on the statement. It takes time to arrive at such agreement; therefore, NCC has put in place a process for study, involving the whole church, leading toward the adoption of a social statement on human sexuality in 2009. In the meantime, same-sex individuals are part of this church, are in lifelong, committed relationships, and have been waiting for this church to accept them and wish them God's blessing. Adopting a provisional mission strategy, as proposed, might allow the church to observe some cases in order to determine whether this is a faithful use of mission or not.
Requests for acceptance and inclusion come to the church in the context of some congregations. Mission in one place responds to different challenges than mission somewhere else. Canadian society is not the same from one region to the next; not even the same from one neighbourhood to the next. Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, where Brian Heinrich is the pastor, is known as the poorest postal code in the nation, while West Vancouver has the most millionaires per capita! The two regions of the same city call for different mission strategies.
Cities, like Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, exhibit different social and congregational conditions from some rural areas and other cities. NCC is asking whether this church can be elastic enough to contain strategies that will work in one context but not in another.
The Lutheran World Federation Department for Mission and Development prepared a major report on mission in context, because mission on the global scale faces the same challenges. A cosmopolitan country like Canada reflects the world, even in the church; some attitudes come from Dallas, some from Stockholm, some from Hong Kong. Some look longingly to 'the good old days', some are wish dreams for the future. All of them are genuine responses to the call of the gospel. None of them is universal.
The early stories of Christianity are full of ambivalence over mission strategies. I have already written about the conflict between Paul and Jerusalem regarding missions to the Gentiles: whether to circumcise male converts and require Gentile women to observe Jewish social rules. You know other examples that include Jesus breaking Sabbath rules for the sake of healing and Paul's arguments about eating in Greek temples. We are a church In Mission for Others. Mission happens in the context of the other, now, even as it did in the Gospels and in the early church.
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, October/November 2006