When members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) gather for their business sessions at the Joint Assembly, the way their denomination is structured and governed will dominate the agenda.
Lutheran delegates will be presented with a new five-year strategic plan for the ELCIC, intended to make their church more nimble, lighter on governance and focused on its vision of being “in mission for others.”
“The challenges of decreasing resources in both membership and finances remain before us,” ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson said in a written report to delegates. “So it is time for us to roll up our sleeves and work to find a new way forward.”
Part of that new direction includes proposed changes to the size and frequency of the National Convention, the ELCIC’s version of the General Synod.
One proposal would see the National Convention meet every three years instead of every two. How many people attend the gathering would also be reduced. Currently each of the ELCIC’s 502 parishes is entitled to send at least one lay delegate to the National Convention. Regionally selected pastors, diaconal ministers and youth representatives make up another 212 possible delegates.
A new system would see a smaller number of delegates-the majority of whom would be laity-chosen by each of the ELCIC’s five regional synods, much like how Anglican dioceses elect delegates to the General Synod.
There are also proposals to reduce the size of the National Church Council, the ELCIC’s equivalent to the Council of General Synod, and to simplify the church’s constitution.
“These changes are driven by both governance principles and by the need for cost savings,” Bishop Johnson wrote. “I hope that they will allow us to direct more resources toward mission and ministry!”
So far the national leadership’s call to “structural renewal” has had mixed results. Last year the ELCIC’s four western Canadian synods rejected a proposal to merge into two.
Not all of the National Convention’s business will be taken up with constitutional and structural change, however.
ELCIC delegates will also be asked to endorse a resolution addressing sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The motion includes a call to “congregations, rostered leaders and synods to provide leadership in preaching, teaching and other forms of public witness against the commercial exploitation of human beings.”