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ABC District asks LCC to appoint Interim Pastoral Leader

Delegates at the 2015 ABC District Convention.

Delegates at the 2015 ABC District Convention.

CALGARY – On May 22, the Alberta-British Columbia (ABC) District opened its 10th regular triennual convention, held at Prince of Peace Lutheran School in Calgary.

The first session of convention business began Friday evening, with the first resolution to be considered primarily a matter of housekeeping. Resolution 2015-01-18 “To Ratify the Following Revised Constitutions and Bylaws” was a resolution to approve five recently amended/revised congregational constitutions. It passed without debate.

Following that, attention turned to Resolution 2015-01-11A, “To Request Lutheran Church–Canada to Provide Interim Ecclesiastical Supervision for Members of Synod in Alberta and British Columbia.” After some debate, and a minor amendment, the resolution passed overwhelmingly.

As the overture was originally suggested by Lutheran Church–Canada’s (LCC) Board of Directors, LCC President Robert Bugbee was invited to address the convention when the resolution was first introduced. He noted serious division in the District since the emergence of the District’s financial crisis—a situation that has led to a lack of confidence in and frustration with District leadership. He further noted that the current structure of District leadership, which calls the District President to function both as Chief Executive Officer of the District and as an ecclesiastical supervisor within Synod, has become unworkable given the current situation. The current crisis requires the District President to focus primarily on the corporate responsibilities of the District. An Interim Pastoral Leader is therefore important, President Bugbee said, in order to provide vital pastoral care to the congregations of LCC in Alberta and British Columbia as they navigate this difficult situation. Such a person, he also noted, would have to be someone who had no involvement in the lead-up to the current crisis in the District. Meanwhile, the new District President would be free to focus on his corporate responsibilities as the District’s Chief Executive Officer.

While the most recent convention workbook had suggested a somewhat different version of the resolution (2015-01-11), the version as presented to the convention by the resolutions committee (Resolution 2015-01-11A) returned to the language used in the original overture (2015-01-11A), adding an additional resolve to note that funding for the interim pastoral leadership position would come out of the ABC District’s revised budget. An amendment made from the floor added that this pastoral leadership position was to be considered a priority in the District budget over all other staff other than the District President.

The Interim Pastoral Leader is to be appointed by LCC’s President and Board of Directors, and will “carry out the ecclesiastical functions normally performed by the District and its officers.” The resolution recognizes this position as temporary in nature, but sets no firm end date for it, noting instead that the Interim Pastoral Leader will continue to serve in such a role “until such time as the LCC Board of Directors and President, in consultation with the ABC District Board of Directors, are satisfied that the financial circumstances leading to the District seeking CCAA protection have been adequately resolved and the District President is able to carry out his ecclesiastical functions.”

Following the adoption of the above resolution on interim pastoral leadership, another resolution (2015-01-12, “To Decline to Appoint or Elect an Interim District President”) was also adopted.

Additional information on the convention, including the convention workbook, is available from the ABC District’s website here.

Opening Worship

The year’s ABC District Convention takes place under the shadow of the District’s Church Extension Fund (CEF) and District Investments Ltd. (DIL) crisis—something recognized clearly in opening comments from ABC District President Donald Schiemann, and in the following business session with its vote on interim pastoral leadership. It was also clear in the convention’s opening worship service, which took place immediately after the first business session of the convention.

Rev. Darren Dressler served as liturgist for the opening worship service.

Rev. Darren Dressler served as liturgist for the opening worship service.

Instead of white paraments, which might be expected given the Ascension season, the worship space was instead decked in purple—the colour of penitence. The liturgy was a “Service of Prayer and Preaching” and the day was designated a “Day of Supplication and Prayer.” The Scripture readings for the service were passages dealing with repentance (Joel 2:12-19; 1 John 5-2:2; and Mathew 6:16-21), and an extended session of prayer took pains to address the crisis, among other petitions.

The sermon, preached by President Bugbee, focused on the crisis in light of Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 40:28-31. President Bugbee called all to repentance and to seek refuge for our wounded church in the wounds of Christ. He further exhorted the congregants to remember the promise of God through Isaiah, that “those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength.” There is hope in the midst of the pain.

But it is also important that the Convention take seriously the work of dealing with the crisis, President Bugbee continued. While all delegates must see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, he explained, that does not mean there is not a place for “frank talk.” Sometimes frank talk and hard questions are the only way forward.

The Convention is likely to see some of that frank talk May 23; delegates will hear reports that day on the CEF/DIL crisis from the Court-Appointed Monitor, from the Chief Restructuring Officer, and the Restructuring Committee.

Additional participants in the opening worship service were Rev. Darren Dressler as liturgist, and Rev. David Dressler, Rev. Mark Ruf, and President Schiemann as lectors. The host congregation was Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church (Aidrie, Alberta).

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This article, ABC District asks LCC to appoint Interim Pastoral Leader, first appeared on Canadian Lutheran Online.