Rev Raymond Schultz, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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More of Bishop Ray's writing can be found in From the Bishop including texts from sermons and addresses.
Our national and synod officers held their biennial consultation in mid-March to talk over mutual concerns and review the way we divide up the wider work of the church. Part of the meeting time was used for peer-to-peer meetings between treasurers, secretaries, vice-chairs and so on. Rev. Paul Gehrs and Mr. Ryan Andersen, assistants to the bishop, did a marvellous job of building community among us. They brought us together as a leadership team sharing mutually in planning and mission support.
One message emerged loud and clear: there are more mission opportunities presenting themselves than we have resources to address. As you may have read, the initial results from the 2006 Canadian census show that our cities are growing by leaps and bounds, but we lack the funds to place mission developers in new communities or we are unable to purchase the land we need for church buildings.
This isn't easy work. The familiar model of mission development, in which the pastor visits around a new neighbourhood, knocking on doors and inviting folks, is much less effective than it once was. The current population of new residents has little or no experience of the church and what people do know is sometimes as much rumour and prejudice as fact. The willingness to commit, or even to appear interested, is hard to find among new urbanites. New strategies are required.
The financial resources required are high as well. Land is expensive and development costs leading up to the organization of a congregation must be borne by the church at large. New strategies are required to encourage existing congregations to use their resources for starting new congregations in growing areas. The future mission of this church will depend on a strong sense of partnership for mission.
Perhaps the sense of shared partnership was the reason the national/synodical officer consultation was so pleasurable. As the partnership between the synod and the national officers was highlighted, we were able to celebrate the gifts shared. Participants were encouraged to speak of church involvement that brought them joy—and they did! There is joy in this service.
Our convention in June will receive a recommendation to renew the mandate of the 1997 document: Evangelical Declaration. That short paper describes the core of our mission theology so superbly that we want to keep building on it. It will be renamed In Mission for Others: An Evangelical Theology of Mission and given a ten-year mandate to guide our priorities. There is joy in celebrating this landmark anniversary of the writing that has given us our mission theme and defined our tasks as responses to the current social environment.
I salute Rev. Gordon Jensen, Ms. Judy Wry and the members of the Future Directions Task Force on Mission for this gift of vision! Thanks be to God!
(The rest of the original task force consisted of: Rev. Timothy Graff, Dr. Robert Kelly, Rev. Anne Knudsen, Ms. Janet Morley, Bishop Telmor Sartison, Rev. Pat Simonson, Ms. Marquise Sopher and Ms. Kristan Tastad.)
Bishop Raymond Schultz
Canada Lutheran, April/May 2007