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Central district hears news of missions

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

The Central District convention continued Wednesday, April 26 in Winnipeg. Pastor Mark Dressler (St. Paul, Saskatoon) led devotions reading the entire text of 2 Timothy as the devotional message.

ESSAY (Bible Study)

Continuing the study of John’s Gospel, Dr. Harald Tomesch, president of Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines drew delegates’ attention to what he considers the pivotal moment in the account of Christ’s life—the resurrection of Lazarus. Outlining recurring themes and structures he noted that “writers of the New Testament are engaging you with the [writing] tools of the day to attract the best communication possible.”

ELECTIONS

Concordia University College of Alberta Board of Regents

Edna Schutz

District Nominating Committee

Clergy
Rev. Alvin Borchardt
Rev. Howard Ulmer

Lay
Gordon Unwin
Terry Cooper

Synod Nominating Committee

Clergy
Rev. Harold Borchardt

Lay
Walter Heinemann

REPORTS

Following Tuesday’s group activities which identified three internal and three external challenges faced by the district and its congregations, facilitators Patti Kelm and Dwight Lawrence brought back to the convention a consolidated list.

External challenges included competition of interests and lifestyles; moral decline and secular values; negative perception of the church and shifting demographics (rural decline/regional diversity/urban growth). The internal challenges identified by the delegates included health of relationships; resistance to change and a declining resource base (financial/job transience).

The facilitators noted differences between the challenges identified by clergy and lay delegates. In the internal challenges, clergy were most concerned about lack of commitment (to Christ, to pastors being in the Word, self-centred approach) and weak understanding of theology and doctrine (confusion, lack of teaching fostering resistance to change, disunity in practice and doctrine). Lay persons saw lack if youth involvement/retention and aging congregations; a desire for greater lay empowerment; and involvement of women in leadership as the most important internal challenges.

The leaders then asked delegate to form small groups, identify the top three from the entire list and produce three action items to address the challenges. The responses and action plans will go to the Board of Directors for further discussion and possible implementation.

District Missions Reports

The report from the districts Mission and Congregational Services Department included first-hand accounts of outreach activities.

Rev. Neil Otke shared stories of lives changed by the Gospel through the StreetReach program in Thunder Bay.

Pastor Wayne Olsen from LaRonge Lutheran Fellowship in northern Saskatchewan expressed his thanks to the mission department and congregations for supporting this outreach to first nations people. He detailed the variety of ways his congregation touches lives in the community.

Rev. Randy Heide who serves in Warman and Martensville, bedroom communities of Saskatoon explained the family-focussed ministry in the two communities that is “bringing the Word, growing the faith and sharing the love of Christ” with new young families.

Hospital chaplaincy was the focus of Rev.Howard Ulmer’s presentation. He related a story of a chaplaincy call that provided opportunity to show the love of Christ.

Pastor Dan Abraham (Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Winnipeg) told of the growing relationship he and his congregation are building with Oromo Lutheran immigrants from Africa.

As with all district conventions, delegates heard from an LCC missionary Rev. Sandor Arguello who serves in Nicaragua. He reported that the mission, established in 1997, now has five missionaries, 15 pastors, 31 deaconesses, four teachers, 22 congregations and some 15,000 members.

The Lutheran pastors have received permission from the government to perform weddings. Previously only Roman Catholic priests were allowed to perform the ceremony.

Recent construction of 11 new permanent churches is slowly replacing the thatched-roof rancheros. For the people of Nicaragua this is a sign LCC will not abandon them. Pastor Arguello’s presentation featured photos of LCC pastors and members of congregations helping build the churches during recent mission trips.

RESOLUTIONS

The convention adopted a resolution encouraging congregations to find new and creative ways for proclaiming his faithfulness.

The resolution regarding making the position of district president part-time came back to the floor for further discussion. Eventually, the delegates decided to call the question. When put to the vote the resolution was defeated. A similar resolution with the same theme asked that the responsibilities of the director of mission and congregational services be reassigned to reflect a half-time position. The resolution was defeated.

With ethnic/immigrant mission work growing across Canada, a resolution asked for better coordination between district and synod mission executives in outreach. It also called for the creation of a national ethnic immigrant mission developer position. An amendment took the creation of a national position out of the resolution. Delegates adopted the amended resolution.

Another resolution dealing with immigrant lay training asked the district to help fund students who are eligible for either the Pastors with Alternate Training (PAT) program or lay leadership school through the district’s student aid fund. The secretary of the district indicated that the nature of the resolution is the responsibility of the Board of Directors and he recommended withdrawal of the resolution. Another option was to send the resolution back to the committee for refinement. Delegates decided to send the resolution back to committee. The committee held a brief meeting and brought back a revised resolution. An amendment to clarify the spirit of the resolution was adopted and the question was called. A standing vote indicated that the resolution was adopted.

A growing number of people are choosing cremation over burial. A resolution asked the Board of Directors to seek guidance from Synod in this issue as it relates to Lutheran theology and practice. An amendment asked the seminaries to provide a report on this topic. The amendment was defeated and the original resolve amended to ask the Commission on Theology and Church Relations to report by the next convention. Delegates adopted the amended resolution.

Delegates defeated a resolution to approve in principle the relationship model of governance for the district and bring the handbook into line with the governance model which would have been presented to the next district convention.

The Board of Directors was asked to review the current format of conventions and asked the board to clarify the procedure for submitting convention overtures. Delegates adopted both resolutions.

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