Similarities and differences for Canada’s Lutheran conventions
Lutheran Church–Canada’s 2011 Convention takes place from June 3 to 6 in Hamilton, Ontario. The theme verse from Scripture is “In your light, we see light” (Psalm 36:9).
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) will meet in Saskatoon from July 14 to 17. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the ELCIC convention theme is “Covenant People in Mission for Others.”
Overtures submitted by LCC congregations, circuits, boards and commissions to the convention and motions from the ELCIC’s National Church Council and General Synod reflect common issues in each church. Both show a need to address structural change and each approaches the issue with suggestions for administrative and organizational changes. Sexuality is also at the forefront, but each church body has different ideas on how it is addressed.
With respect to church structure, an ELCIC report suggests a restructuring from five to three synods; that its existing conferences (circuits) restructure into new “areas,” and that the national convention be downsized and held every three years instead of every two. LCC currently holds its national convention every three years.
One of LCC’s overtures related to structure asks the church to reexamine a restructuring proposal from a 1996 Report of the Task Force on the Nature and Structure of the Synod. Although declined by the 1996 convention, the authors of the overture believe with the current state of church membership and attendance it has relevance. Another overture suggests a different procedure for electing circuit counsellors and a rethink of circuit forums due to declining attendance. The forums invite members of circuit congregations together to discuss matters of mutual concern.
Although both church bodies will discuss human sexuality at their conventions, they take markedly divergent paths on this major issue. LCC’s overtures ask the convention to uphold historic biblical teaching on homosexuality, while the ELCIC’s National Church Council encourages the adoption of a Social Statement on Human Sexuality rooted in a much more innovative interpretation of the scriptures with regard to same-sex attraction.
The ELCIC recommendation from its council states, “Sexual orientation is not in itself a factor which disqualifies a candidate from rostered ministry or a rostered minister seeking a call.” An LCC overture asks the convention to support those with homosexual inclinations to overcome sin by repentance and by grace to be welcomed into the church and to receive the Lord’s Supper. However, it questions the suitability of ordaining practicing homosexuals.
On the issue of same-sex marriage, an LCC overture calls for a public statement that its pastors will not perform same-sex marriages, and that legal counsel be sought to assist congregations to develop policies regarding hiring practices and the use of church facilities that will ensure that biblically faithful teachings on homosexuality are not compromised.
In contrast, an ELCIC motion would allow pastors to “preside at or bless legal marriages according to the laws of the province within which they serve.” Since same-sex marriage is legal in every province, ELCIC pastors could perform such ceremonies, with due regard to their personal conscience on the matter. At its 2002 convention in Kitchener, LCC affirmed the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
In a letter to pastors and congregations, the ELCIC National Church Council suggests that division within the church over “moral issues” should be avoided. “We ask those persons, congregations, synods, and/or churches who are in disagreement to refrain from actions that will divide the body of Christ,” the motion reads. Meanwhile, a former ELCIC congregation is named in an LCC overture for reception as a congregation of Lutheran Church–Canada. Members of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Bergheim, Saskatchewan voted in 2009 to join LCC.
“We must remember that at this point none of these issues is decided,” notes LCC president, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee. “One can never assume to judge how a convention will act once it is in session.” The president also explained that what actually comes to the convention floor may begin with overtures and recommendations, but other factors can influence the final wording of a resolution. Lutheran Church–Canada’s Resolutions Committees meet in Winnipeg, April 15-16.
For more information on LCC’s convention go to www.lutheranchurch.ca/synod2011 and for the ELCIC convention http://elcic.ca/In-Convention/2011-Saskatoon/default.cfm