I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends, maybe making some new ones, looking forward to the worship opportunities, I'll even welcome some of the things happening in the business sessions. But the big thing hanging over this convention, yet again, is same-sex blessings.
I'm not opposed to allowing pastors and churches to provide for the blessing of committed relationships between same-sex couples. I've voted in favour of it twice now (at the 2005 National Convention and the 2006 Eastern Synod Convention) and will again. It's just that this issue overshadows everything the church does when it meets in convention. Overshadows and distracts. It distracts and prevents us from getting to many other issues in the church.
The population of our country is growing yet we see membership and attendance in our churches dwindling to the point that congregations all over the place are looking at merging and closing. Shouldn't we be focusing on evangelism to fill our churches and plant new ones? Instead, that doesn't even seem to be on the radar because all we do is talk about sex whenever we meet.
As I see it, there are four major items on the agenda for the convention.
- We will spend most of Thurdsay together with the delegates of the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod which is taking place in Winnipeg at the same time as our convention. We have been in full communion with the Anglican Church for 6 years now and this will be a day of celebration.
- When we get back to the University of Manitoba campus on Thursday evening we will begin the process of electing a new National Bishop for the ELCIC (called a Presiding Bishop in some denominations). Bishop Raymond Schultz has announced that he will retire so we'll be electing a new bishop. Here again, I fear (and I'm pretty certain) that the issue of same-sex blessings will overshadow the election process. It will come down to politics between those for and those against and who each side perceives as "their" candidate. I fear that this won't be a Spirit-led ecclesiastical ballot to elect the chief pastor of our church but an issue-driven one.
- Then there is "the" motion regarding blessing same-sex unions. Two years ago a motion to allow a local option for the blessing of same-sex unions was defeated. Last year at our Eastern Synod Assembly virtually the same motion was passed but the National Church Council ruled that we didn't have the authority to do so as a synod and asked us to refrain from acting on our motion. Now they've proposed this motion.
That this convention affirms that the diversity within Canada's culture requires responses to a variety of persons in order for this church to be In Mission for Others. We also affirm that the synods have the mandate to devise mission strategies appropriate to their regional settings.
Accordingly, we encourage synods to develop ways to best minister to people who live in committed same-sex relationships, including the possibility of blessing such unions.
- Finally there will be a Stewardship of Creation Initiative on the agenda that might just be overlooked. The initiative says:
We commit ourselves as church to answer the call to respect the integrity of God's creation through an environmental stewardship initiative engaging our national, synodical, congregational and individual member expressions.
There is then an Implementation Strategy that will go along with that.