Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Post-Convention Thoughts

Well, I'm back from the 11th Biennial Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. It was good to see old friends and to make new friends. I spent a lot of time with a seminary classmate, a bit of time with a friend from my teenage years, and got to know some new people from across Canada.

Part of our first full day at the convention was spent worshiping and celebrating with delegates to the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. It was a neat day. We heard Dr. Sallie McFague speak about Global Warming and how it's an issue of faith and the gospel. She was good! We sat at tables with lay and clergy from both the ELCIC and ACC getting to know each other. We shared Holy Communion. We saw the reaffirmation of A New Covenant: Towards the Constitutional Recognition and Protection of Aboriginal Self-Government in Canada, A Pastoral Statement by the Leaders of the Christian Churches on Aboriginal Rights and the Canadian Constitution. It was reaffirmed by representatives of The Anglican Church of Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Christian Reformed Church in North America, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), The Presbyterian Church in Canada, Mennonite Central Committee Canada, and The United Church of Canada.

We elected a new National Bishop. She is Susan Johnson, currently Assistant to the Bishop of the Eastern Synod, ELCIC. I've known Susan for years and I think she will make a good bishop for our church. She will be ordained bishop in September.

We passed the Stewardship of Creation Initiative, what many were referring to as a "Greening the Church" motion. The goals for this initiative are:
  • To reduce the negative impact the ELCIC, at all levels, has on the environment.
  • To increase the ELCIC's commitment to and understanding of environmental stewardship.
  • To involve youth in this initiative and create opportunities for leadership development.
We recommited or reaffirmed the Evangelical Declaration which was adopted by the ELCIC in 1997 as its theology of mission for the decade ending 2007. It has received some minor editing and has been retitled, In Mission For Others, An Evangelical Theology of Mission. It's a good statement.

All of these things were very good but received very little attention compared to The Issue. On Saturday we looked at the motion on mission to homosexuals and same-sex couples. There was a whole lot of debate, many people lining up at the microphones, equal time given to speakers on both sides of The Issue, and then the vote was taken. It was done by secret ballot, which I think was a good thing so that nobody was intimidated or pressured to vote a certain way. The result was 181 votes (48%) for the motion and 200 votes (52%) against the motion. The motion failed.

I was neither disappointed nor relieved at the outcome. As Gamaliel said: "If what they are planning is something of their own doing, it will fail. But if God is behind it, you cannot stop it anyway, unless you want to fight against God" (Acts 5.38-39). People on both sides of The Issue believe in what they are supporting and believe they have it on good scriptural authority that their opinion is the right one. I don't think The Issue is going to go away. We'll see what the future holds. In either case I don't believe that support or opposition of The Issue will put our salvation in jeopardy. I think the main thing it will influence at this time is how our church is perceived by our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in faith.

On Saturday evening we celebrated the ministry of our retiring National Bishop and outgoing National Church Council members, followed by a nice party/reception with a cash bar and a pretty good jazz band. Sunday morning's closing worship was beautiful. Mark Sedio (you'll find his name under a few pieces in Evangelical Lutheran Worship) was a great musician throughout the convention.

Now. It's good to be home.

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