It has been the season for national church conferences, conventions and synods the world over. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) held their church-wide assembly in Edmonton Alberta JUL 9 – 12. During the convention, the ELCIC re-elected its National Bishop, the Revd Susan Johnson, to a 3rd four-year term. The convention also approved by 95% a motion to allow a lay person to be appointed to preside at communion.
In an article by Diana Swift in the Anglican Church of Canada’s magazine, the Anglican Journal, Ms Swift interviewed Bishop Johnson regarding the motion for lay eucharistic ministers. Bishop Johnson was very explicit in the interview that the ELCIC had undertaken the decision to authorize lay people to preach the word and preside at communion very carefully. That the situation whereby someone would be authorized to preside as a layperson would happen following very specific guidelines for the period of one year. The ELCIC has been so careful, because they do not wish to harm the full-communion relationship with the Anglican Church of Canada, which mirrors the full-communion relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Bishop Johnson said that a lot of checks & balances were written into the policy. Also;
- The lay minister will work under the supervision of a mentoring pastor
- They are non-stipendiary
- They cannot wear clerical dress or vestments
- They cannot preside at weddings, funerals or baptisms
- They may not offer pastoral care, but will refer those needing counseling to their mentoring pastor
The ELCIC has a need for the policy because of a lack of clergy for Lutheran groups in remote locations. The Faith, Order and Doctrine Committee of the ELCIC began studying the situation in 2012. Only groups that have no other option available; multi-point parishes, itinerant ministers or clergy-sharing with an ELCIC ecumenical partner; the Anglican Church of Canada, the Presbyterian Church in Canada or the United Church of Canada, will be considered for approval for a lay presider.
The policy which was passed at the ELCIC National Convention can be amended by the National Church Council between National Conventions as needed. Two members of the Anglican Church of Canada have been tasked with writing a statement on what the policy will mean for their church.
Image from restfulincrease.org