Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Twelfth Biennial Convention
University of British Columbia
June 25-28, 2009
THURSDAY, JUNE 25, 2009
The twelfth biennial convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada began with a festive service of Holy Communion, using the African-American-inspired Setting Six fromEvangelical Lutheran Worship. National Bishop Susan Johnson served both as presiding minister and preacher, and was joined by several unexpected appearances of “Philipp Melanchthon”, the sixteenth century reformer, who was both friend and associate to Martin Luther. Melanchthon’s appearance at the convention coincided with the commemoration of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession in 1530, a document penned by Melanchthon. Melanchthon’s appearances in this worship service were made to quote various articles taken from the Augsburg Confession – the most significant document in defining the beliefs of the reformers.
As is expected when the ELCIC gathers in convention, worship reflected the diversity of the church’s cultures and traditions, blended with an eye to put on display a touch of the convention’s locale. Singing was robust, with a wide variety of hymn traditions and styles represented.
Following worship, the first business session of the convention began. The Committee on Registration and Credentials reported 168 lay delegates and 158 clergy delegates, for a total of 326 voting delegates. Quorum was declared. 113 persons had also registered as visitors to the convention. Following this report, Bishop Johnson directed our attention to the proposed agenda for the meeting. A few minor oversights were corrected and the agenda was adopted as amended.
Johnson then provided both orientation for the practices of convention and explanations of the rather cumbersome Booklet of Reports (http://www.elcic.ca/In-Convention/2009-Vancouver/Bulletin-Of-Reports.cfm), using a combination of humour and warmth to draw delegates together.
Bishop Johnson’s written report to the convention, contained in the section “Officers’ Reports, was received as information, and she spent time telling us about her experiences during her first two years in office. She stressed her appreciation for, and reliance on, the assistance of the five synodical bishops, as well as the Most Reverend Fred Hiltz (Anglican Church of Canada Primate), and Mark Hansen (Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), She noted that she has monthly telephone conversations with both Hiltz and Hansen.
Following supper, the second business session began with a nominating ballot for Vice-President of the ELCIC. This ballot produced a slate of 120 names, although it was unsure whether the one ballot cast for Tim Horton was a real vote for a real person, or a touch of Canadian humour.
Following this ballot, Archbishop Hiltz led a group study based on Luke 4:16-21. Hiltz challenged each table of delegates to come up with a “bold step to take together” as part of the further development of the Waterloo Declaration of Full Communion signed between the ACC and the ELCIC. Written suggestions were delivered to Hiltz, and he promised to read, and consider seriously, each one.
Next on the agenda were several items from the National Church Council. Delegates were invited to provide nominations for a number of groups, including the Nominating Committee for the 2011 National Convention, the National Church Council, the ELCIC Group Services Inc. board (the group which administers the church’s pension and benefits plan) and the ELCIC Court of Adjudication. These nominations were in addition to the nominations already placed before the convention by the National Church Council (NCC).
NCC secretary Don Storch also provided notice of several items which were slated to come to the floor of convention from the NCC. These items will be sprinkled throughout the remaining business sessions.
The Committee on Reference in Council provided its first written report to the convention. This report came in two parts: a multi-page document containing petitions submitted to the ELCIC for consideration at this convention, and a two-sided page providing their recommendations. The first motion, dealing with the Administrative Bylaw regarding Nominations and Elections, was recommended for adoption, with an amendment. Eight further motions were then listed:
- Resolution Regarding ELCIC Conflict of Interest Policy;
- Resolution to Preserve and Protect a Congregation’s Ownership and Control of its Assets;
- Resolution Regarding ELCIC Human and Financial Resources;
- Resolution Regarding Congregations Leaving the ELCIC;
- Resolution Regarding Availability and Transparency of ELCIC Pension Information;
- Amendment to Corporate By-law, Section 20b – Regarding Nomination of Delegates to ELCIC National Convention;
- Motion Regarding Registration Deadline for Conventions; and
- Resolutions to Maintain the ELCIC as an Independent Church.
In each case, the Committee on Reference in Council recommended that “no action” be taken on the resolution, which, according to the Committee’s own terms of reference, means that “the committee recommends the convention not deal with this matter.” None of these resolutions were actually put before the convention for consideration or vote at this session, but it is rather disturbing that eight resolutions, submitted by numerous congregations and individuals, reflecting many hours of careful preparation, are, according to this committee, to be swept away as if they were never written. It makes one wonder why there is such a need to maintain such strict controls on matters such as a Conflict of Interest policy, or a policy requiring transparency in dealing with pension information.
The final act of business for the Second Business Session was the second ballot for Vice-Chair of the ELCIC. A report on this election will be provided in the Third Business Session.
The day ended with the service of Evening Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, with a sermon preached by Bishop Cindy Halmarson which seemed very clearly directed to those who are questioning some of the current trends in the ELCIC and, therefore, are “causing rumbles of discontent” and are being a “dis-grace” to the church.