This is Part 9 of a continuing series analyzing the final report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance (BRTFSG). All posts in this series are listed here.
The Great Deception – Upholding the Congregation Principle
The one theme that has been sounded louder than any other by President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Structure and Governance (BRTFSG) is upholding the congregational principle. The Task Force claims to uphold this principle but in recommendation #6 (and in other recommendations) they undermine it drastically. In this ninth part of my comprehensive analysis on the recommendations I will describe the congregational principle, demonstrate how the Task Force reneges on their commitment to it and offer and explanation as to why they did this.
In the words of the Task Force from the Final Report (p. 15) here is the congregational principle:
Understandably, the Synod considers the local congregation to be the basic unit of Synod polity, whether acting as a single congregation or in association with other congregations. Aligned with, flowing from, and guided by the Synod’s theological principles to advance Christ’s mission, the recommendations seek to broaden the voice and participation of the congregations in the Synod, with the congregations … (then follows several examples from the proposals)
They cite recommendation #6 as an example of upholding the congregational principle. Here is recommendation #6:
Recommendation #6: Establish Congregational Representation at District Conventions
Each member congregation involved in a multi-parish situation shall be represented by an associate member and lay member, with no associate member having more than one vote. Congregations with pastoral office vacancies shall be represented by the pastor called to provide vacancy/interim pastoral service or an associate member and the congregation’s lay representative(s). Again, no pastor or associate member shall have more than one vote at a convention. Congregations with more than 1,000 confirmed members shall be represented by two additional delegates, at least one being a layperson.
A limited number of non-voting special guests may be invited by a district president to attend one or more sessions of the convention, and also may be invited to speak to the convention on one or more issues. All associate members not having a vote may attend the convention and are eligible to have a voice. (Appendix 1, Pages 1.10 and 1.69)
If we were to ask a third grader to do the math on the above proposal they would be able to figure out that this does not promote the congregational principle. It undermines it. Congregations are not the basic unit of the synod polity according to this proposal. Gross numbers have become the basic principle. Congregations are not equally represented. Members are equally represented. If your congregation has more members you get more representation. To make matters worse, the district president is also granted authority to invite special delegates to the convention who even though they cannot vote, have what is in many cases a greater authority, the right to address the convention from the floor.
We and others have asserted that the BRTFSG has taken a page out of Saul Alinsky, the founder of community organization. Alinsky promotes aggressive and even immoral tactics in order to change communities. One of those principles is to keep repeating over and over pious sounding principles whether your proposed changes reflect those principles or not. In other words, if you keep repeating something over and over people will believe that is what you stand for, even if your actual work contradicts those proposals.
The work of the Task Force is clearly Alinsky-like. Those who have attended the district conventions where the Task Force spoke and the Regional Gatherings where they spoke, have noticed that this refrain of “upholding the congregational principle” is recited over and over and over again. In fact however, the proposals do not uphold the congregational principle but instead undermine it.