In last month’s Herald, your were provided with three motions that were passed at the National Assembly in July. Our Synodical Bishop has asked all congregations to carefully study, discuss, and consider the motions before taking any action. We have also been advised to put policies into place so that should a situation arise, we will be prepared to address it. So, it is in this context that each motion will be discussed in the months leading up to our annual meeting where the congregation will be asked to form congregational policies as they relate to these motions.
Each motion will be explained using the rationale given by the National Church Council. If there is an interest in a formal discussion on the motions and the rationale, please let me know. It is important to be fully informed.
An Affirmation Concerning the Unity of the Church
As a confessional Lutheran Church which bases its life and teaching on the Scriptures, the ecumenical creeds and the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada affirms with the confessors at Augsburg in 1530 that “it is enough for the unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments.”
We affirm that the church ought not be divided because of disagreement over moral issues, no matter how distressing such disagreement might be. We believe that any attempt to divide the church because of disagreements over morals, polity or liturgy is an unacceptable confusion of law and gospel, which will lead inevitably to a distortion of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We encourage ELCIC members, congregations and synods, and churches who share our commitment to the Scriptures, creeds and confessions and who disagree with one another over issues of morals, polity (including standards for ordination or consecration) and/or liturgy to remain in dialogue and unity with one another and maintain unity in the gospel and the sacraments as St. Paul recommends in I Corinthians 1:10–17. We encourage all Lutherans to work for and nurture the unity of the confessional witness to the Gospels which is essential to the Lutheran tradition. We ask those persons, congregations, synods and/or churches who are in disagreement to refrain from actions that will divide the body of Christ.
Rationale (from ELCIC Social Statement on Human Sexuality)
Equality: We live in a world that is increasingly aware of diversity in gender, ethnicity, ability, age, sexual orientation and socio-economic privilege. We live in a society that values equality and human rights. These rights have been articulated through documents such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For example, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms declares that “Every individual is equal before and under the law, and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religions, sex, age or mental or physical disability.” At the same time, we live in a world where inequality and discrimination exist.
Facing God and Being Church – Respect: We are called to deliver our messages and ministry with respect, “Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” This does not mean we speak without passion or commitment. It does mean that our words and actions focus less on arguing, and more on opportunities for new awareness, repentance, healing and God’s vision of hope.
Facing God and Being Church – Justice, Mercy and Healing: We are called to speak for justice and mercy, and against injustice and abuse. The church has deep concern for thoughts, words and deeds that diminish the God-given dignity of any person, group or community. We are called to emulate Jesus’ solidarity with the broken and hurting of the world. “[God] has told you, o mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” We are also called to examine our own actions that are perceived as oppressive, discriminatory or harmful.