Food for thought
Highlights from the 16th Biennial National Convention, part I
Grace and Peace, from God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This year’s National Convention took place on the University of Manitoba campus in Winnipeg on July 6-8, 2017 under the Lutheran World Federation theme for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, “Liberated by God’s Grace.” The convention is the opportunity for delegates and church officers to conduct the business of the church, worship together, hear from our partners in ministry, and plan and look forward to where the church is going next.
This is the first year of a smaller convention delegation. Fewer delegates attended on behalf of each synod rather than the former process of having one or two delegates from each congregation. Our synod was represented by a diverse group of 27 people from across the province comprised of 2 youth, 15 lay, and 10 rostered individuals. We had gathered in Red Deer a month prior to the convention to learn how best to represent the synod and participate in the convention.
One highlight for me was the worship services. Eucharistic worship opened and closed the convention in the meeting hall, with Willard Metzger of Mennonite Church Canada preaching at the opening service, and the Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell of the United Church of Canada preaching at the closing service. Each day’s business session began with morning prayer.
On Friday night a moving National Reformation Commemoration Serviced was held off-site at St. Gianna Beretta Molla Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholic Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg read the gospel, and our National Bishop Susan Johnson preached and presided. That service also included participation from some of our ecumenical partners and was open to guests, many of whom came from local area Lutheran congregations. History in the making!
The theme, “Liberated by God’s Grace,” was central to the worship and witness of the convention. Dr. Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land and past president of the Lutheran World Federation, in his opening keynote address spoke passionately to that, and also considered the gift and challenge of each the three LWF subthemes. He spoke, for example, of how a message of “salvation not for sale” runs counter to a prosperity gospel that denies the free gift of grace. He noted that the subtheme of “human beings not for sale” challenges us to work for the dignity of all people in the face of international exploitation of the vulnerable through human trafficking and child soldiers. And he noted that the premise of “creation not for sale” calls on us to recognize that abusing God’s gift of creation has human costs which affect the world’s poorest communities. He inspired us to consider what it means to be witnesses of grace and love to the whole human race.
In her hopeful report to the convention National Bishop Susan Johnson spoke of what it means for the ELCIC to be a church in Mission for others through our four national strategic directions: spiritual renewal, healthy church, compassionate justice, and effective partnership, all undergirded by our hope in Christ that will not disappoint us.
Equally inspiring was an update on the Reformation Challenge which was issued to the whole church for the two years leading up to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The goals were deliberately set very high as something for which to aspire: supporting 500 refugees, planting 500,000 trees in Canada and around the world, raising funds for 500 scholarships for the School in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land, and raising $500,000 for the Lutheran World Federation Endowment Fund. At the time of the convention, one goal was surpassed, with the sponsorship of 536 refugees. As for the other goals, 74,121 trees had been planted, 150 scholarships supported, and $145,052 pledged to the LWF Endowment Fund. The campaign continues until October 2017.
To be continued…
God’s Peace to you all,