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June 28, 2009

ELCIC National Convention Delegates Encouraged to be Joyful Witnesses

Speaking with conviction and warmth, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) led a Bible study with delegates of Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s (ELCIC) Twelfth Biennial National Convention, taking place June 25 to 28 at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

Bishop Hanson drew his theme “Living at the Intersection of Fear and Hope,” from John 20:19-23, where Jesus appears to the disciples after his resurrection. Here the disciples are hiding in fear when Jesus arrives and says, “Peace be with you.”

Bishop Hanson said that the church is often fearful, as the disciples were. It can withdraw, and become possessive, distrustful, and anti-neighbourly. He said that in times of fear, the church can distort itself into a fortress, a military outpost, a retreat centre called “Nostalgia,” or a competitor in a consumer market.

Instead of giving in to these pessimistic worldviews, Bishop Hanson said, the church should adopt a “hermeneutic of joy,” even in the midst of organizational challenges like declining numbers.
“I don’t know the world is particularly interested in our internal conflicts,” he said. “I think it would be a powerful witness if we learn how to engage in respectful discussion…that in our differences, we come together joy in the presence of the crucified risen Christ.”

Bishop Hanson suggested that to get to this point, the church should “Go with the flow—of the Spirit poured out.” He suggested that hallmarks of a Spirit-filled church are a restored community, confident hope, and unity within diversity. He quoted Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”

Delegates responded enthusiastically to Bishop Hanson’s study. His jokes about slideshows and convention culture were met with laughter and applause. At the end of the study, delegates laid hands on
one another while Bishop Hanson prayed for them to be joyful witnesses in the world.

Presiding Bishop Hanson is the national leader of the ELCA, composed of approximately 4.7 million members in over 10,000 congregations. The ELCIC and the ELCA are partner churches within the Lutheran World Federation. The two churches share some projects and initiatives, including the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal, the Book of Faith program, which encourages Biblical literacy, and a recently in the area of Global Mission.

Over 400 Lutherans are meeting in Vancouver at the ELCIC's National Convention. Full agenda details and a live link to the proceeding are available on the National Convention website: http://elcic.ca/In-Convention/2009-Vancouver/default.cfm

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 162,100 baptized members in 611 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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