The Eastern Synod Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) has accepted “with deep regret” the ruling by its National Church Council that its synod’s approval of a resolution allowing a local option on the blessing of same-sex unions cannot be implemented because it went “beyond its constitutional authority” in doing so.
The Eastern Synod Council said that while it believes that its synod “had both the right and obligation” to pass the motion last July, it nonetheless believed that “it would be prudent to refrain from acting upon it at this present time.” (The Synod Council had the choice of either accepting the council’s ruling or filing an appeal with the church’s court of adjudication.)
The issue of local option – allowing individual congregations to decide whether they will bless same-gender couples – is, however, on the agenda of ELCIC’s National Convention in June just as it will be at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, with whom Lutherans are in Full Communion. Earlier, the Lutheran council had ratified a motion “to reconsider a local option for pastors and congregations to bless same-gender couples.” Anglicans, on the other hand, are to address a similar motion, which had been tabled at the last General Synod in 2004.
In a statement released shortly after its meeting in November, Eastern Synod bishop Michael Pryse said his synod’s council “continues to believe that the congregational local option is an appropriate way to proceed given the wide polarity of opinions that are so evident within the life of our church vis-a-vis this question.”
The local option “provides a reasonable accommodation that allows for a diversity of practice, without compromising the church’s ability to faithfully address broader ethical and theological questions concerning human sexuality,” added Bishop Pryse.
The resolution passed by the Eastern Synod would have allowed 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.