Preliminary survey results in the review of the LCA/NZ Constitution show most respondents believe the document is ‘mostly fine’ but insufficient and that it needs a major ‘tidy up’.
The General Church Board (GCB) is conducting the review on behalf of General Synod. The aim is to develop a constitution that serves the church well in being faithful to Christ, living out the gospel and thriving in this 21st century. The article on Confession is not up for review, as it expresses the LCA/NZ’s core belief in Scripture and confession.
The process has so far involved input from volunteer analysis groups on specific issues; initial analysis of the results from the church-member survey, the young persons’ survey and individual submissions; collation of information provided to the review and follow-up on specific matters with groups within the LCA; and a video-conference involving the bishops and representatives from GCB, the districts, and the LCA Standing Committee on Constitutions.
In a recent communiqué, LCA/NZ Bishop John Henderson said: ‘I’m pleased to report that the consultation process continues to go well. We are taking things slowly, so that the consultation can be as widespread as possible.’
A small number of church members did not believe the current constitution needed updating. On the other hand, a few said the constitution was so ‘broken’ and ‘out of date’ that it should be completely rewritten.
Church members said, among other suggestions, that they would like the constitution to:
- be better organised and easier to read for the lay person;
- to have the lack of clarity and seeming contradictions in the current version removed, for example, by including definitions of key terms;
- better highlight the primacy of Christ as Lord and head of the church (and not wait until clause 6.1 on page 4 to mention this);
- bring the definition of ‘membership’ in congregations more into line with what is now typical practice in our church;
- acknowledge the increasingly multicultural nature of our church; and
- to have a name for the church that is more inclusive of our New Zealand brothers and sisters.
Some other constitution-related matters raised in the review address things such as: Synod delegate nomination processes; how to better listen to and engage with young people; and how to better include Indigenous, cross-cultural and youth ‘voices’ in the decision-making forums of the church. There has also been feedback that the church needs to talk more about our theology and practices (eg the ordination of women). Those matters, however, are outside the scope of this review.
A summary interim report is expected to be released in late August 2020. Bishop Henderson encouraged members to read it and discuss the findings among congregations and church agencies. ‘I encourage all congregations and local church agencies to join in the discussions that your district will organise during September and October this year’, he said. ‘I’m confident we will find agreement on what to propose to the next Convention of General Synod to improve our constitution for our ongoing journey into the 21st century.’
To find out more about this review go to the review webpage at www.lca.org.au/constitution-review
If you have any questions about the constitution review, please contact Peter Schirmer, Executive Officer of the Church, at firstname.lastname@example.org