Monday, July 18, 2011

Results from the 2011 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada National Convention

Results from the 2011 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) National Convention:

The Social Statement on Human Sexuality, 213 - 134, 61%, a wide-ranging document discussing all aspects of sexuality in the context of Canadian society. See here for more info on this document.

PASSED, 204 - 133, 61%, the following motion on the unity of the church:
As a confessional Lutheran Church which bases its life and teaching on the Scriptures, the ecumenical creeds and the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada affirms with the confessors at Augsburg in 1530 that "it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments" (AC VII).

We affirm that the church ought not be divided because of disagreement over moral issues, no matter how distressing such disagreement might be. We believe that any attempt to divide the church because of disagreements over morals, polity or liturgy is an unacceptable confusion of law and gospel, which will lead inevitably to a distortion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We encourage ELCIC members, congregations, synods and churches who share our commitment to the Scriptures, creeds and confessions and who disagree with one another over issues of morals, polity (including standards for ordination or consecration) and/or liturgy to remain in dialogue and unity with one another and maintain unity in the gospel and the sacraments as St. Paul recommends in I Corinthians 1:10-17. We encourage all Lutherans to work for and nurture the unity of the confessional witness to the Gospels which is essential to the Lutheran tradition. We ask those persons, congregations, synods and/or churches who are in disagreement to refrain from actions that will divide the body of Christ.
PASSED, 192 - 132, 59%, the following motion on blessing/the conduct of marriage ceremonies for committed same-gender relationships by clergy of the ELCIC:

It is the policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada that rostered ministers may, according to the dictates of their consciences as informed by the Gospels, the Scriptures, the ecumenical creeds and the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, preside at or bless legal marriages according to the laws of the province within which they serve. All rostered ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada are encouraged to exercise due diligence in preparing couples for marriage. All rostered ministers serving congregations are encouraged at all times to conduct their ministry in consultation with the lay leaders in the congregation and with sensitivity to the culture within which the congregation serves.
PASSED, 205 - 114, 64%, the following motion on ordination/consecration of ministers onto the roster of the ELCIC:

It is the policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada that sexual orientation is not in itself a factor which disqualifies a candidate for rostered ministry or a rostered minister seeking a call. Candidates and rostered ministers are in all cases expected to adhere to the qualifications and standards as set out in the constitution and bylaws of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and of the synod within which they serve. Synods and congregations are expected to evaluate candidates for ordination or consecration and rostered ministers for call in accordance with a conscience informed by the Gospels, the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

See the ELCIC's own report here.

And that was the end of motions pertaining to the Social Statement and matters arising from it.

This is an amazing, wondrous, spirit-filled result, recognizing that LGBT people are and always have been part of the magnificent diversity of God's creation, children of God, heirs to the kingdom of heaven, Lutherans, living parts of the body of Christ, equally called to the priesthood of the people, some called by God to serve in the ministry, all free to live with the one they love in committed, lifelong, monogamous, faithful relationships blessed by the church, supported as are all others in their chosen community of faith, spreading the good news of the redemptive grace of God's love through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But, lest you think that this was the only subject raised or that we are interested in, this National Convention did a prodigious amount of work on restructuring the church, right relationships with indigenous peoples, education, budget and finance, constitution and bylaw repair, and outreach. The ELCIC website will contain much information regarding the work of the convention, and is commended to you.

God be praised...

Phil Soucy
Director Communications LC/NA


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Adopts Statement on Sexuality

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) adopted a major social statement on sexuality with a vote of 213 yes and 134 no. 
Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) lifts prayers for the convention, the ELCIC, and for all those rejoicing and those for whom this is a source of disappointment.
The social statement, which directs and informs both church and public policy, speaks of families having various definitions: couples (heterosexual or homosexual) with or without children; extended families of aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, step-parents, stepchildren; families of unrelated people such as friends or people living in religious communities.
On marriage, the social statement says, “This church affirms marriage as a covenant of fidelity—a public, lifelong commitment between two people in a personal and sexual union.” The statement acknowledges that the traditional definition of marriage is being between one man and one woman, but goes on to say the church is faced with the reality that same-gender couples can legally marry in Canada, the church is conflicted on the subject of same-gender covenants of fidelity, and it is as troubling to some if the church acknowledges and affirms same-gender couples as it is to others if the church does not.
The social statement says that the church is called upon "to denounce discrimination, including sexual discrimination, in all its forms." The document says the church knows it is affected "by the biases of our predominantly heterosexual culture, and by our society's call for more openness."
Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of LC/NA, present at the convention said, "The passage of this social statement, which is more prophetic than that of the ELCA, marks a major turning point in the Canadian church towards full inclusion. A strong majority of the convention heard stories and passages from the Holy Scriptures as well as the personal witness of gay and lesbian delegates regarding the pain of exclusion and the joy of inclusion. One delegate pointed the assembly to Lutherans Concerned online resources to help the church live out its welcome. Our thanks are due to a host of delegates who stood in line for hours, some of them never reaching the microphone, who prepared wonderful, grace-filled speeches drawing on their own experiences, favorite passages from the Bible, and sound Lutheran theology from the confessions. Once again, today, I am proud to be a Lutheran."

See the full text of the statement.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Three times the welcome

Over the past week, we've finalized the Reconciling in Christ statuses of three congregations across the country.

Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church
Nearest to our offices in St. Paul is Lake Nokomis Lutheran Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lake Nokomis passed a welcoming statement on May 12th of this year. Many of their ministries involve feeding the hungry, from participation in the local Loaves and Fishes and Meals on Wheels programs to support for Feed My Starving Children and the local food shelf at Minnehaha United Methodist Church. You can join them in early August for a joint worship in the park. 

Trinity Lutheran Church
Trinity Lutheran Church of Worcester, Massachusetts passed a statement of welcome on the 22nd of May. Founded in 1948 out of the merger of three local congregations, Trinity is home to ministries ranging from community meals to education sessions. Their traditional worship is grounded in a wonderful music program including classical, gospel and jazz compositions.

Gethsemane's sanctuary

Back in the Midwest, Gethsemane Lutheran Church passed an affirmation of welcome on June 12th. Part of the ONE initiative and a Bread For The World Covenant Congregation, Gethsemane is dedicated to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger in the world. They also host a community health cabinet every month among their many missions.

We're so glad to do the work of welcome with the members of these congregations. Welcome to you all, and Thanks Be To God!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A few notes from New York

In the happy days after the lifting of the ban on marriage between same-gender couples in the state of New York, here is what a few ELCA pastors in New York are saying:

Rev. Phil Trzynka, pastor of Trinity Lutheran (East Side), New York City, is offering to perform marriages for free. He said:
"There are people within the church who say we support this, and we want to encourage GLBT, if they wish, to get married." 
Rev. Katrina Foster, pastor of St. Michael Lutheran, Amagansett, NY, said
"I'm very grateful that the Republicans were able to re-discover that democracy is for all of our taxpaying citizens, and that this is the proper extension of the principles that we share."
See the full stories at the links provided.