This summer our church met in National Convention with the theme Called to Journey Together: The Ministry of Reconciliation. One of our pieces of business was the adoption of Reimagining Our Church—Public Ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
As I wrote in the preface, “With this document, the ELCIC is invited to live into a new and fresh vision for our church….
“In this present endeavour, we are being invited to reclaim the ministry of lay people, reimagine the ministry of deacons, and refocus the ministry of pastors. This is an ambitious project which holds the promise of redefining who we are as members of the ELCIC.
“We are all, whether lay or consecrated or ordained, being invited to consider how best we might participate in God’s mission and together to imagine and build a church which is missional, diaconal and prophetic.”
The document was adopted almost unanimously. Later, by a motion that came through the Committee for Reference and Counsel, the convention adopted the following motion:
NC-2019-31— That the 2019 ELCIC in Convention, [in light of our theme of reconciliation and our task of considering the Reimagining the Churchdocument which lifts up the vocation and ministries of members of the diaconate and of lay people], express regret and offer repentance for the ways in which both members of the diaconate and lay people have had their vocations and their ministries marginalized or dismissed as second class in the life of this church. We affirm the deep value of their ministries and vocation in the life of our church and commit to an ongoing journey of healing and ministry together. CARRIED.
I am committed to working in a churchwhere the gifts of all the baptized are lifted up, respected and utilized whether as lay people, deacons, pastors and bishops.
When St. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth and said, For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into the one body (I Corinthians 12: 12–13a).
Paul goes on to use the analogy of the body discussing the role of the foot and the hand and the ear and the eye, but he also could have talked about the role of layperson, deacon, pastor and bishop.
We have differing and complementary roles but we are all needed for the body to function. It is not a hierarchy—we are all baptized members of the body of Christ who happen to be members of this church,the ELCIC.
I hope that each and every one of you have felt supported and respected in the way you function within the body. Where that hasn’t happened, I am deeply sorry. We can and should do better.
I hope that each and every one of you is using the gifts God has given you to their fullest potential so that we can imagine andbuild a church which is missional, diaconal and prophetic.
We need each and every one of you to be fervent in prayer, humble in service, generous in giving, joyful in sharing the gospel, according to your gifts and abilities, both in the church and in the world.
We are a church that is facing many challenges, in some places more than others, but I remain hopeful for our future as we continue to grow in faith and love as a church and as individuals.
God bless you as we live into this vision of a reimagined church.
National Bishop Susan Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada