One of the hallmarks of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) is our phenomenal diversity. We are a people of unique cultures and ethnic traditions. We Canadian Lutherans worship in at least a dozen languages and utilize a plethora of liturgies. We passionately hold distinct and differing views on issues, some of which are potentially divisive.
Yet we are a family – an integral constituent of the Body of Christ with our sisters and brothers of the Anglican Church of Canada. Our national bishop, Raymond Schultz, has articulated his vision for our church on more than one occasion: “We are a church for others – in mission for others!”
To assist in bringing this beacon into sharper focus that our church may follow, our National Church Council established a strategic three-fold direction at its March 4-6, 2004 meeting in Winnipeg:
To be a public voice of the ELCIC in addressing the compelling issues which face our local, national and international communities – issues such as education and health care, sexual orientation and corporate globalization;
To share our abundant gifts and capacity to re-energize the ecumenical movement in Canada and worldwide; and
To identify and create an apostolic model of leadership which, in the words of Bishop Schultz, “like a trumpet call [will] assemble the people of God for a bold new venture” beyond our starved spirituality and obsession with materialism.
Council also recommended Journey Together Faithfully, a 2003 resource of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as a congregational option in our study of same-sex issues. Currently, our social statement on the matter is the 1970 ELCA statement, Sex, Marriage and the Family, which was affirmed by the ELCIC in 1991.
Of the five regional synods meeting in convention this spring and summer, only the Eastern Synod will deal in any substantive manner with the question of same-sex blessings. At the June 24-27, 2004, assembly at Brock University in St. Catharines, the Easter Synod Council will petition the national council to authorize “a parish-based local option to perform same-sex blessings [after] a study of the theological, ecclesiological and pastoral implications.”
Eastern Synod defines a local option as requiring: 1) the consent of the congregation or employing agency; 2) the consent of the called pastor; 3) the use of an ELCIC approved rite of blessing.
To avoid the deliberate divisiveness of allowing same-sex blessings without national discussion on the matter, as the diocese of New Westminster discovered, appropriate recommendations would be brought from the Eastern Synod assembly to the July 2005 ELCIC Convention in Winnipeg for debate.
It is the hope and belief of both the national bishop and the National Church Council that, in spite of the polarization which will occur, this issue need not and should not divide our church. We can remain the viable and vibrant, diverse and distinct community we Lutherans have always been, and still carry out the imperative to do justice to the marginalized. Rev. Dr. Peter Mikelic pastors Epiphany Lutheran church, Toronto, serves on the ELCIC’s National Church Council and writes for various church and secular publications.