Canadian Lutherans look outward as national convention ends

ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson (right), with Diaconal Minister Virginia Burke, at the convention closing worship service. Photo: ELCIC
ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson (right), with Diaconal Minister Virginia Burke, at the convention closing worship service. Photo: ELCIC

National Bishop Susan Johnson re-elected, church takes action on “welcoming the stranger” and climate justice

WINNIPEG, Canada/GENEVA, 16 July 2015 (LWI) -- The 15th National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) concluded on 12 July in Edmonton, Alberta, leaving a wave of excitement as participants departed home to further the work of liberation by God’s grace.

Nearly 400 convention delegates and invited guests joined parishioners in joyful singing of hymns for the closing worship service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Edmonton. Reflecting the full communion partnership between the ELCIC and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC), Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the ACC delivered the sermon, putting in a biblical context the outcome of the 9-12 July convention.

He congratulated ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson on her re-election to a third four-year term. Johnson, who has served as national bishop of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member church since 2007, is also LWF Vice-President for the North American region.

Liberated by God’s grace

Invoking the theme of the convention and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, “Liberated by God’s Grace,” the ACC Primate offered images and impressions of what this meant for the Canadian Lutheran church.

“By God’s grace, yours is a church being continually liberated from a clinging to the past, and liberated for that future to which God is calling you at every level of your church, in the spirit of continuing reformation,” Hiltz said.

“Yours is a church liberated from continually looking in upon itself. You have been turned inside out, liberated for looking out upon the world as a church “In Mission for Others,” he said, referring to the ELCIC’s vision statement.

Indigenous issues

Indigenous issues were a major focus of the convention, and Hiltz praised the ELCIC for its repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery; its endorsement of the United Nations (UN) Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; its support for Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and ongoing efforts at healing; and its call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Welcoming refugees, building effective partnerships

Some of the actions taken related to LWF’s work. Hiltz highlighted the decision to welcome 500 refugees to Canada and the need to build effective partnerships with other organizations and faith traditions.

The convention gave overwhelming endorsement to the document “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders,” which the LWF and other faith-based organizations developed jointly with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in June 2013. The ELCIC invited its members and congregations to review it and sign the affirmations honoring respect for strangers, welcoming them into the community and advocating for their social justice.

Delegates asked the National Bishop to communicate this endorsement to the church’s major ecumenical and interfaith partners including the LWF, which they thanked for its work and leadership in promoting values of hospitality, protection, respect and equality

Climate justice: A matter of social justice

The focus on environmental stewardship included a commitment to plant 500,000 trees around the world, which resonates with LWF’s invitation to its churches to plant their own trees in the Luther Garden in Wittenberg, Germany by 2017, and to match this action locally.

The convention also gave strong approval to a resolution affirming ELCIC’s support for LWF’s ongoing advocacy that climate change is a matter of social and economic justice, as it affects the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.

Delegates affirmed LWF’s call to political and business leaders to develop a strong global response to climate change by making deep cuts in carbon emissions through clear targets that include special assistance to the most vulnerable communities.

As part of its commitment, the ELCIC called on all its members, congregations, and synods, as well as the national church, to become more sustainable and eco-friendly with the goal of neutralizing carbon emissions by 2050.

The delegates asked the National Bishop to write to the Canadian Prime Minister and other federal leaders expressing the ELCIC’s concern for the climate. This would include pushing for an effective response at the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in France, in which the LWF will participate later this year.

With 121,000 baptized members, the ELCIC is Canada’s largest Lutheran denomination. It joined the LWF in 1986. Its Convention, held once every two years, is the church’s highest decision-making body.


Edited from ELCIC Information

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