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Reforming Our Church

October 23, 2015 4 Comments

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by Paul Schallhorn

Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) is about to change.This year, LCC’s three districts meeting in convention called on Synod to restructure. In other words, they’re asking LCC to change the way it’s built. What exactly we look like in the end depends to a large extent on what ideas members of LCC like you suggest.

The task of making sense of everyone’s ideas and of providing a detailed new structure for consideration falls to the Commission on Constitutional Matters and Structure of Synod (CCMS). Ever since LCC became an autonomous church body in Canada 25 years ago, the CCMS has been asked to monitor how we are constituted and whether or not the structure we have in place is serving us well as a Synod. Up until now there have been only a few revisions to our structure in our church’s history—some major, like revamping whole sections of our Handbook, and some minor, like changing the wording and thrust of certain Synodical bylaws.

But within the last two years, we have seen an unprecedented mandate for change. We saw it in the 2014’s Synodical Convention as well as at this year’s three District Conventions: LCC members are speaking with one voice, saying that our structure is broken—especially when difficulties in one District can threaten the life of the whole national church body.

You may wonder how this came about. Back in 1988, those gathered in Winnipeg who attended our constituting convention voted to use the existing constitution of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) as the framework for how we would structure ourselves north of the border. The LCMS’ constitution was intended for a much larger Synod than ours, but since there was nothing better for us to use at the time, many thought we could just tweak it over the subsequent years to fit our much smaller Synod. Those revisions started as soon as the early 1990s. Numerous taskforces were struck to recommend such changes to the following LCC Synodical Conventions.

Over time, however, it became evident that we had a large problem with respect to our structure: we were not really living out our constitution in practice. We were living less like a Synod of those “walking together” in unity, and more like a federation of separate Districts—just as we had under our time within the LCMS. So what were we to do? Change our practice to fit our constitution, or change our constitution to fit our practice? Previous commissions asked that very question of Synod with little response; the issue was just not deemed important enough to deal with.

That is, it didn’t seem important until now. With the recent struggles of two of our three Districts, the need to answer that question has been highlighted in a dramatic way. The CCMS is working in earnest to recommend a new structure for LCC, to be voted on at the next Synodical Convention in 2017—a new structure with the ability to meet all of our needs from the grassroots up to the Synodical level. Following approval by Synod’s Board of Directors, the 2017 Convention may take place in October rather than June to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. What an exciting time that would be as we would possibly reform our Synod’s structure at the same time!

To bring this plan to fruition, we as the CCMS will engage the services of a restructuring consultant as well as some advisors from each District who will help guide us through this process. Part of that process will involve you: we need the feedback of local churchgoers to help us determine the best plan forward towards a better and stronger Synod. Never in our church’s history has there been this kind of opportunity for your voice to be heard. Plan on taking advantage of this significant opportunity by already praying about what you will share with our commission. You have the ability to make a meaningful impact on how we walk together as a Synod.

Never in our church’s history has there been this kind of opportunity for your voice to be heard. Plan on taking advantage of this significant opportunity by already praying about what you will share with our commission. You have the ability to make a meaningful impact on how we walk together as a Synod.

Over the coming months we will report to you on our progress through The Canadian Lutheran to keep you in the loop. Please pray for us as the CCMS because the scope of this restructuring plan for LCC is daunting and what we are setting in place will perhaps direct us as a Synod for decades to come. But above all, pray to the Lord of the Church to help us move forward in the best way possible to seek and to save the lost among our communities and provinces and country and world!

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Rev. Paul Schallhorn is Secretary of Lutheran Church–Canada’s Board of Directors and Secretary of synod’s Commission on Constitutional Matters and Structure. For more info on the CCMS and its current members, see this story.

  • Meg Em

    Will the ‘reformation’ include ordaining women? That would be a good start, I’m sure.

  • Paul Kenneth Biesenthal

    an outreach to shut-ins other than the Lutheran hour would be nice since I cannot reach the nearest Lutheran church in my city

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  • T.E. Lthetruth

    ABC District is financially and morally bankrupt. Its failures could bring down the whole church!