The National Church Council (NCC) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) has told its Eastern Synod that it cannot allow individual congregations to decide whether same-sex unions may be blessed in their parishes.
The Eastern Synod went “beyond its constitutional authority” when it voted July 6 to allow the so-called “local option” on same-sex blessings, said the NCC in a statement issued Sept. 19.
Michael Pryse, bishop of the Eastern Synod (which includes an area from Ontario to the Maritimes) said he has asked the Eastern Synod Council, which meets in mid-November, to “reflect on the ruling and to determine an appropriate response.” The synod can either accept the NCC’s ruling or file an appeal with the church’s court of adjudication, he said in an interview. (ELCIC national bishop Raymond Schultz earlier explained that the court of adjudication is “an appeal court that hears questions of appropriate due process or lack thereof.”)
“The council did a very fine job. They struggled valiantly with the question,” said Bishop Pryse of the NCC’s decision.
At the same time, the NCC also ratified a motion, which would be presented to the ELCIC’s National Convention in June 2007, “to reconsider a local option for pastors and congregations to bless same-gender couples.”
The NCC said all congregations and pastors of the ELCIC must “continue to abide by decisions made at the 2005 National Convention,” which defeated a motion allowing same-sex blessings. The NCC met mid-September to discuss the decision of the Eastern Synod. The 11th biennial convention of the Eastern Synod, which met in Waterloo, Ont., voted 197-75 to allow the “local option” on same-sex blessings after about an hour of intense debate.
The option would allow a pastor to bless the unions of same-sex couples but only after a two-thirds majority vote by his or her congregation and after consultation with the bishop.