Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
(ELCIC) and homosexuality
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC):
The Lutheran movement in Canada is divided, much like it is in the United
States. In the U.S., the main denominations are the liberal/mainline
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and a conservative
Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.
The ELCIC is Canada's largest Lutheran body, and the most liberal. The other
main Lutheran denomination in Canada is the more conservative Lutheran Church
- Canada (LCC).
In both the U.S. and Canada, the liberal and conservative nature of the
denominations are reflected in their policies towards female ordination, and
policies towards homosexuals.
The ELCIC had about 200,000 baptized members in 642 congregations and 650
clergy in 2001. Its national office is in Winnipeg, MB. It is a member of the
Canadian Council of Churches, and the World Lutheran Federation. They
publish a monthly magazine, "Canada Lutheran."
They trace their history back to Dr. Martin Luther. Their beliefs are based
on the Book of Concord which dates from the 16th century. Luther's The
Small Catechism is used as a helpful guide. They observe two sacraments:
Holy Baptism, which is most often performed on infants, and Holy Communion.
Other rituals, like marriage and confirmation, are considered religious
Individual congregations are members of a local conference and one of five
Some ELCIC historical events:
||1976: Pamela McGee, became the first female to be ordained in the
Lutheran ministry in Canada.
||1986: The ELCIC was formed as a result of a merger between the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada and the Lutheran Church in
America - Canada Section.
||1989: The ELCIC and Anglican Church of Canada approved
joint sharing of the Eucharist.
||2001: The ELCIC adopted the Waterloo Declaration and
thereby entered into full communion with the Anglican Church of Canada.
||2005: The ELCIC web site was
established, making it (and this
ReligiousTolerance.org web site) one of the first approximately
20,000 web sites on the Internet.
Some the ELCIC activities about sexual orientation prior to 2003:
||1989: The ELCIC bishops issued a statement on homosexuality:
"Faced with the need to respond to questions concerning the
ordination of homosexual persons in the ELCIC, the bishops of the Church
state their practice as follows:
A self declared and practicing homosexual is not to be approved for
ordination and, if already ordained, is not to be recommended for
"Regarding the Church's ministry with all of its members, including
those of homosexual orientation, the bishops urge the church to
undertake a careful study of human sexuality based on the biblical
witness so that the ELCIC may be helped to provide ministry in the love
of Christ." 8
The statement was endorsed by the National
Convention in 1993.
||1991: The National Convention passed
"That the ELCIC seek to minister to those who commit violence against
all people, most especially women, children and lesbian and gay people,
those victimized by such violence, and those who observe it and do
nothing; that the ELCIC repent occasions when we have permitted such
acts of violence to pass by unnoticed and unchallenged; and that the
church study, seek to understand and work to overcome the verbal,
emotional and physical violence that is rooted in our social
2003 activities concerning sexual orientation:
|| July: The Conference of Bishops issued a letter to pastors.
It said in part:
'In the Federal announcement the government was clear in stating that
religious leaders will not be compelled to perform
same sex marriages. Regardless, the churches
still face questions about the blessing of such relationships. Since the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has no official policy
authorizing clergy to bless same sex relationships, pastors are not
permitted to perform such rites and will be disciplined for doing so.
For the sake of the unity and good order of the church, it is important
that any changes to this practice be authorized by this church acting
||November: The National Church Council of 2003-NOV encouraged
other groups in the denomination to discuss blessing same-sex relationships
by their pastors. They gave a number of reasons for this recommendation:|
||"...Concern in congregations and among pastors about their pastoral
||Questions in the wider society regarding the practice,
||Religious freedom and its protection in Canada, and
||Our commitment to a church united in the gospel."
The Council encouraged
"...congregations, clergy gatherings, conferences and synods to use
the constitutional process of this church to examine the issue and give
direction to this church’s deliberations; such examination should
include prayer, biblical and confessional study and responsible
engagement with one another with insights from scientific and
sociological disciplines and with awareness of implications for our
ecumenical relations." 6
2004 activities concerning sexual orientation:
||2004-MAR: At the National Church Council meeting, members engaged
in a discernment session, using a resource prepared by the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) called: "Journey Together
Faithfully." 11 They
passed motion CC-04-43:
"That the National Bishop issue a news release that
reiterates the information given in the release issued after the
November 2003 meeting and that advises that the National Church Council
offers Journey Together Faithfully and an accompanying resource
that sets the ELCIC context related to the material as an option for
study within the ELCIC." 7
The ELCIC context included an
excerpt from a Lutheran Church in America Social Statement titled "A
Statement on Sex, Marriage and Family," which was unusually positive,
considering that it was almost 35 years old:
"Scientific research has not been able to provide
conclusive evidence regarding the causes of
homosexuality. Nevertheless, homosexuality is viewed biblically as a
departure from the heterosexual structure of God's creation. Persons who
engage in homosexual behavior are sinners only as are all other persons
- alienated from God and neighbor. However, they are often the special
and undeserving victims of prejudice and discrimination in the law, law
enforcement, cultural mores, and congregation life. In relation to this
area of concern, the sexual behavior of freely consenting adults in
private is not an appropriate subject for legislation or police action.
It is essential to see such persons as entitled to understanding and
justice in church and community."
||2004-MAY: The Forum, published by the ELCIC's Synod of
Alberta, contained a debate on SSM. Editor Pastor Brad Everett wrote:
"In the ELCIC, two of the more pressing issues are (in order of
importance), the understanding of the authority of Scripture and
homosexuality. Homosexuality as a social issue came to the fore this
past year when various court decisions altered the traditional
definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. Homosexuality has
been an issue in the church for some time now, with individuals and
groups working to change the Church’s traditional teaching on this
matter to allow for blessing same-sex relationships, and for the
ordination of non-celibate homosexuals."
||2004-JUN: The Eastern Synod includes the Maritime Provinces,
Quebec and the southern and eastern parts of Ontario. At their 2004
Assembly, they passed a motion:
"That the Eastern Synod petition the National Church Council to
initiate a study of the theological, ecclesiological, and pastoral
implications of authorizing a parish-based local option to perform
same-sex blessings and bring appropriate recommendations to the 2005
National Convention." 4
||2004-SEP: At the National Church Council, a project was launched
to ask ELCIC scholars to write essays on topic implied in the Eastern
Synod's motion. Twenty essays were written by individuals and pairs of
individuals. Additional submissions were made by 43 people. All were
subsequently placed online during 2005. 5
2005 National Convention:
This was held in Winnipeg, MB, on JUL-21 to 24.
The National Bishop, Ray Schultz, reported that a person who is no longer in
the employ of the National Office released a list of the convention's voting
members with their addresses to a conservative group "Take a Stand." That
group wrote letters to the delegates, supplying them with a "Take a Stand on
the Word of God" ribbon, and asking that they wear the ribbon if they
opposed a local option motion that would allow individual congregations to have
their pastor bless loving, committed same-sex relationships. Schultz banned the
wearing of the ribbons at the Convention.
Bishop Schultz asked that the Youth Convention be allowed to address the
Convention and vote. However, since it was not an agenda item, it required
unanimous support of the delegates. Eight of the 377 delegates vetoed the
proposal. The eight apparently were mainly opposed to the local option proposal.
Young people could be expected to be in favor of a local option.
The National Church Council (NCC) recommended that Motion 15 be approved, as
"NCC recommends that the ELCIC acknowledge the inadequacy of sections of
'Sex, Marriage and the Family, A Social Statement of the Lutheran Church in
America, 1970' referring to homosexuality and homosexual behaviour in light
of developing theological, pastoral and sociological scholarship and that
the ELCIC suspend the application of those references.
"That the ELCIC allow pastors to perform blessings for same-sex couples who
want to make a lifelong commitment to one another in the presence of God and
their community of faith. Authorization to perform such blessings shall
require the consent of the pastor, the consent of the congregation or
calling agency as expressed by a two-thirds majority vote at a duly called
meeting, and consultation with the synodical bishop. These blessings shall
use a rite authorized by this church.
"That the ELCIC's Program Committee on Worship be requested to develop a
provisional rite for the blessing of same-sex couples in committed
On the afternoon of JUL-22, small group discussions, called Listening
Circles, were held on the local option motion.
A motion was proposed to express regret that the Youth Assembly were refused
voting privileges. It passed overwhelmingly.
Grace Lutheran Church in Kelowna, BC, presented a motion asking that Motion
15 be referred to the Court of Adjudication. They supplied a 12 page
rationale with a two page summary, The motion was defeated 224 to 108.
A motion to provide literature to pastors to help people quit their same-sex
orientation was tabled. It was revisited later in the Convention and was
Prior to the vote on Motion 15, delegates were given three minutes to present
their case. Among the more interesting comments were:
||A woman who draw a parallel between the present rejection of same-sex
relationships and her past situation. She had been excluded from the church
because she had entered an interracial marriage -- presumably many decades
||The belief that 62% of the membership under 35 years-of-age supported
the motion while 62% of those over 35 opposed.
||Many references to the inspiration and
inerrancy of the Bible.
||That the motion was originated by the Eastern Synod after a seven year
||A 21-year-old delegate heard it said that if the motion is defeated it
would come back in the future when his generation takes charge. But he/she
is the only member between the ages of 18 and 32 in their congregation. When
her/his generation takes charge, there will be no church.
||An analogy between loving committing same-sex couples wishing a
blessing, and murderers wanting their knives blessed and incestuous couples
wanting a blessing, etc.
||Genesis says it is not good for a man to be alone. God values diversity.
We should too.
The convention had earlier decided that a 2/3 majority would be necessary to
pass Motion 15. The motion was defeated with 183 votes in favor and 220 against
with 5 abstentions.
A motion was passed overwhelmingly:
"Move that our church's leaders, congregations and pastors 'seek to
maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:3), rejecting
all words and actions hostile to gays and lesbians in our churches and
communities, and taking steps to create a more welcoming place in this
church for gays, lesbians, and their families'."
Eastern Synod's 2006 convention:
The Eastern Synod of the ELCIC held their eighth biennial convention in
Waterloo, ON, during 2006-JUL-04 to 08. Over 40% of the national membership of
the denomination live in this synod. By an overwhelming vote of 197 to 75, they
decided to implement a local option so that individual congregations can decide
whether or not to bless same-sex relationships.
On JUL-08, opponents to blessing same-sex couples mounted an unsuccessful
motion to ask the National Church Council to consider the matter. They argued
that the Synod did not have the jurisdiction to conduct the vote. Essentially
the same motion had been presented to the ELCIC's national convention in 2005,
where it was defeated.
Mirko Petricevic of The Record, a Waterloo ON newspaper wrote:
"Before a Lutheran pastor can bless a gay couple's union, the pastor must
consult the bishop and get a two-thirds majority approval from the
congregation. This approach has been dubbed the 'local option' and affects
about 204 congregations from Sault St. Marie to Halifax...."
"Rev. Raymond Schultz, the church's national bishop, said he believes
jurisdiction over same-sex blessings resides with the national church. 'On
the other hand, social change doesn't occur in societies unless somebody
pushes the boundaries,' Schultz said. He said he views the Eastern Synod's
vote as an act of civil disobedience akin to the civil rights movement in
the United States which fought for equal rights for African Americans during
the 1950s and 1960s." 12
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"A Guide to the ELCIC," at:
"Called to Full Communion (The Waterloo Declaration)," 2001, at:
"Full Communion," Anglican Church of Canada, undated. Online at:
"Considering the Matter of Same-Sex Blessings," at:
"Considering the Matter of Same-Sex Blessings - The Essays," at:
"Discussions on Human Sexuality," at:
"ELCIC Context for 'Journey Together Faithfully'," at:
"Related National Church Council and Convention Motions," at:
Erwin Buck, "Six Studies on Homosexuality," (1985), ISBN
0-968844502. Currently out of print. Available online at:
Erwin Buck, "Study on Homosexuality and the Church," at:
"Journey Together Faithfully: A call to study and dialogue,"
Mirko Petricevic, "Lutherans confirm same-sex blessings. Conference
delegates reject appeal; congregations will get final say," The Record,
ON, 2006-JUL-10, at:
"News from the ELCIC 2005 National Convention," Lutherans
Concerned/North America, 2005-JUL, at:
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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-JUL-10
Latest update: 2006-JUL-10
Author: B.A. Robinson