ELCIC aims to become ‘church for others’

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This month, the Anglican Journal welcomes a new column entitled Concerning Lutherans, modelled after a similar column in Canada Lutheran magazine entitled Concerning Anglicans. Written by a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Peter Mikelic’s first column gives readers a snapshot of our Lutheran partners since the Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada agreed to full communion in 2001.

July 6, 2004, will mark three years since the historic ratification of the Waterloo Declaration between our two church bodies. What have we in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) been doing since? In the tradition of the Reformation, we continue to discern the Spirit’s leading in the songs we sing.

Last month’s Anglican Journal noted that we Lutherans are also struggling with the issue of same-sex blessings. At the November meeting of National Church Council, a call went out that every parish participate in Spirit-led deliberations on the subject.

The hope of our national bishop, Rev. Raymond Schultz, is that we become “a church for others.” Over the decades, he said, we have been “so parochial, so ethnic and so domestic in our mission agenda, that we’ve let many opportunities for mission slip through our fingers.” Just as the church accepted Gentiles in the first century, slaves and blacks in the 18th and women in the 20th, the Spirit might well be directing us to receive gays and bless their unions in this century. Each of our five regional synods is making preparations to debate this issue at their respective biennial assemblies this summer as groundwork for next year’s national assembly in Winnipeg.

Meanwhile, we Lutherans rejoice in the rich diversity of our parish life. Originally founded as First Swedish on Dec. 16, 1903, Augustana Lutheran Church – a Vancouver parish in the synod of British Columbia – recently celebrated its centennial.

Messiah Lutheran church in Camrose, Alta., a parish of the synod of Alberta and the Territories, hosted a World Mission Festival in January in which their companion synod, the Eglesia Evangelica Luterana de Colombia, was featured.

In the Saskatchewan synod, 80 team members are fanning out across 144 parishes, gathering marvelous stories of ministry in a project entitled Every Congregation Visit.

In the Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario synod, the Lutheran church of the Good Shepherd in Selkirk, Man., celebrated its golden anniversary this year. Thanks was given to the people of St. Clement’s Anglican church, who graciously shared their facilities until Good Shepherd was able to move into their own building in 1955.

On Jan. 18, many of the 206 parishes of the Eastern synod, stretching from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to Halifax, participated in the synod’s It’s Your Call program, in which members were invited to consider who in their parish had the gifts for pastoral or diaconal ministry. (Preliminary results are encouraging!) The Eastern synod is facing a shortage of pastors, as seminary enrollment at Waterloo (and Saskatoon) has been declining for several years. As a result, the Waterloo Declaration Implementation Committee has urged Lutheran and Anglican seminaries to work together to train pastors.

Lastly, the ELCIC is an integral member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), a global umbrella organization headquartered in Geneva. As recently noted in this paper, our church hosted the 10th Assembly of the LWF in Winnipeg last year. Although marred by more than 50 visa denials by Immigration Canada, 380 delegates were inspired and motivated by the theme of the 10-day global assembly – For the Healing of the World.

Rev. Dr. Peter Mikelic pastors Epiphany Lutheran Church, Toronto, serves on the ELCIC’s National Church Council and writes for the Toronto Star, Canada Lutheran magazine and other publications.

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