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Lutheran issues: a timely discourse (2)
Archived Articles 24 Apr 2009 Eva VabasaluEesti Elu
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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCiC) is composed of 5 Synods across Canada beginning on the west coast with the British Columbia Synod (56 Congregations), Synod of Alberta (149), Saskatchewan Synod (134), Manitoba/Northwestern Ontario Synod (65) and Eastern Synod which covers an expanse from Sault Ste. Marie to Halifax some 200 Congregation, an overall count of just over 600. Not all Lutheran Congregations belong to the ELCiC. St. Peter’s Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church’s Congregation in Toronto for instance falls under the Lutheran Church in Canada (LCC) an entirely separate umbrella assembly, while St. Andrew’s Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. Peter’s Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Vancouver's Congregations do fall under ELCiC.

The ELCiC has a set of Administrative Bylaws and each Synod also has a separate set of bylaws. Website of the ELCiC posts an Approved Model Constitution for Congregations, amended March 2006, and many if not all Congregations across Canada have adopted a near identical version of this precedent. ELCiC’s Administrative Bylaws and Synod’s bylaws supersede the Congregation’s bylaws. It is helpful to think of these 3 sets of bylaws as an inverted triangle with the dual-power base being at the top. I am not likely to surprise you when I say these bylaws are confusing to a layman. A high-powered litigation lawyer told me the bylaws were too wordy and opaque. He got no argument from me. I have come to the conclusion after treading through the voluminous bylaw maize that the Synods have a very tight grip on its Congregations and I expect added contraction.

In April 17 - 20, 2008 BC Synod council proposed significant changes to its ‘model’ constitution: Should this congregation desire to sever its relationship with the ELCiC as provided in Bylaw 3, Section 6, the property owned by this congregation shall, prior to such event occurring, be transferred to the British Columbia Synod at a nominal consideration and the officers of this congregation shall do all things necessary to give effect to this provision.

The Eastern Synod made a similar Motion fairly recently and then withdrew it. There is however no assurance it will not revisit this Motion. Particularly noteworthy is the entire Amendments section under Article XII re the "Approved Model Constitution for Congregations," especially Section 4.

Clearly, ELCiC has suffered division created by the same-sex issue and diminishing congregations have left the ELCiC in financial difficulties. It has to do something, either be swallowed up in a merger by the larger Anglican Church of Canada or look for available funds elsewhere. There is a National Convention coming up June 25 - 28 in Vancouver.

A keynote premise of Lutheranism is for Congregations to control their property but such autonomy is endangered. The good news is that Congregations are still able for the time being to separate from the ELCiC with its assets. (Your minister might have a conflict of interest with this decision if his/her pension is with the ELCiC.) Another safeguard would be to set up a non-profit foundation and transfer assets and property to it. When it comes down to protecting the Congregation’s cash-savings perhaps it may be necessary to consider a Swiss bank account. Times are changing and the water is rising.
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