Voter Apathy Still #1 Problem. Does anyone care?

A2There is a highly motivated and well-organized campaign underway to elect a new president and change the direction of Synod. With voter registration being significantly down this convention cycle (by about 855)*, they may just get their wish.

Meanwhile, President Harrison has been doing his job faithfully and quietly rather than campaigning—which may be the number one reason to vote for him.

The LCMS still has problems, but change doesn’t come overnight and much has improved under President Harrison. Issues, Etc. has been raised from the dead and is now stronger than ever. We have solid, faithful men in key positions, including Marcus Zill (LCMS U), Larry Rast (CTS President), Daniel Gard (CUC President), William Weedon (LCMS Director of Worship & IC Chaplain), Bart Day (Director of the Office of National Mission), Steve Schave (Director of Urban and Inner City Mission), Al Collver (Church Relations), Kevin Robson (LCMS Chief Mission Officer), and scores of faithful missionaries who are bringing Word and Sacrament to all corners of the globe.

The Lutheran Witness has been thriving under the guidance of managing editor Adriane Heins. Concordia Publishing House has been producing some great resources lately, including works by Luther, Walther, Chemnitz, and Gerhard—not to mention President Harrison’s own writings and translations. The new Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord has broken sales records. The popularity of these resources is an indication that people want distinctively Lutheran theology taught from their pulpits. They want to know what we believe, teach, and confess.

For our Synod to speak with that distinctively Lutheran (that is, scriptural) voice, we need leaders who are willing to do that. President Harrison has shown himself willing to rebuke error in the case of Matthew Becker. He’s resisted the temptation to do his best Charles Finney impersonation and blame our congregations’ numerical decline on “hearts that aren’t on fire for Jesus.” Rather, he’s willing to speak frankly about the real problem even though it means confronting parents with their reluctance to procreate and catechize.

The other candidates haven’t made it a secret that, if elected, they will take the synod in a very different direction. If you appreciate what President Harrison has done over the last six years and would like to see that continue, vote and encourage others to do likewise. Voter turnout will determine this election. If every pastor and congregation in Synod were to vote, Harrison would win by a landslide. It would be a shame if voter apathy determined the election instead of the desire of our Synod for faithful confessional leadership.

*This figure has been updated since this post’s initial publication. In 2013, there were 8,201 registered voters (6,432, or 78% actually voted). Currently, 7,346 are eligible to vote.


Comments

Voter Apathy Still #1 Problem. Does anyone care? — 30 Comments

  1. Dear Pastor Andersen,
    Thanks for the fine post. I really appreciate you giving recognition to some of the younger leaders in synod (though I think almost all are mid-age). It has been heartening to me to see such great talent and fine Christian men and women take up the duties as the older folks retire.
    I am wondering about the 2700 figure. Is that 2700 less than total possible–ca. 12,300 or is it 2,700 less than last time–which I think is the only time it has been done this way?
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. I remember rejoicing when Pastor Harrison won in 2010. I am praying fervently for his reelection.

  3. Alas, a congregation cannot vote unless it sent delegates to the previous year’s district convention. How many congregations lose their vote because of this? It seems like a poll tax. There is a resolution to change this bylaw: http://lcmsresolutions.org/res.php?n=11-03. Vote YES on 11-03. Meanwhile, the National Offering is tomorrow. For some, taxation without representation.

  4. I am attending the Issues Etc. Making the Case Conference and I am thrilled at the number of younger people here! The future of our church body, the millennials, are here in force! Last night Dr Larry Rast was signing copies of The Conservative Reformation and it’s Theology by Krauth with a preface by Larry Rast. It sold out.

  5. @Mary #5

    Mary, you are so very blessed! That’s such good news about the younger people attending. My daughter, who is in her late 30’s, has visited Aurora, CO and Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller’s church, Hope Lutheran. She was so impressed with him and how happy he seemed to be serving as Pastor.

    Diane

  6. @Rose #4

    Alas, a congregation cannot vote unless it sent delegates to the previous year’s district convention. How many congregations lose their vote because of this? It seems like a poll tax. There is a resolution to change this bylaw: http://lcmsresolutions.org/res.php?n=11-03. Vote YES on 11-03. Meanwhile, the National Offering is tomorrow. For some, taxation without representation.

    Confessional Pastors are not welcomed at meetings in some districts.
    There are other ways to reduce representation, too, I think.
    Doesn’t a Pastor (or layman) moving eliminate him from voting with no substitution of the new Pastor or the alternate delegate?
    Or am I (I hope) wrong on these? [Remember these rules were passed in 2010…and need scrutiny, IMHO.]

  7. Some pastors have been complaining that they turned in their paperwork to vote — but the information is not processed, or lost by Synod, and so they are not registered to vote.

  8. @Abby #8

    I heard this same thing from a friend. He says neither he, his congregation’s lay delegate, nor others in his area are able to vote.

    Not good at all.

  9. In addition to the benefits listed earlier regarding Pres. Harrison’s faithful service, we must emphasize a tenor of humility among the synodical leaders. They simply are doing their task with the Lord’s blessing without trying to make names for themselves. Thank God we’ve been returned to being home in the house of our fathers rather than blindly charting our own path toward proclaiming ourselves. After all, milinials who remain Confessional, along with many of us who are older than them don’t want the inovations, gag orders, and the like. Rather, we long for the Word rightly preached and Sacraments rightly administered in the Divine Service, Lutheran schools that remain actually Lutheran and (Godwilling) classical in their approach to education, and seminaries that feed us students faithfulness in chapel and the classroom during our formation.

  10. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I would suggest that everyone who was eligible to vote but was unable to vote, for any reason at all, send a letter by mail to the Secretary of the Synod. I think it will be easier for the staff to process the complaint if it is hardcopy, not email.

    What information should be in the letter, besides the complaint that you were unable to vote:

    1) Full name of Voter
    2) LCMS congregation in which Voter is a member
    3) LCMS pastor who serves that congregation and was eligible to vote for the same election.
    4) LCMS district of that congregation
    5) Name of Secretary of that LCMS district
    6) Date of district convention in 2015 AND INDICATION THAT VOTER ATTENDED
    7) Contact information of Voter–and indicate if any items in this contact information changed from the previous year at the time of district convention registration
    8) Indicate whether you received the postcard, email, and envelope from the synod with instructions how to vote and when.

    This may not give you a vote, but will help the Secretary track down the sources of problems for the future.

    Before sending the letter, you may want to call up your Circuit Visitor and inform him of the problem, and check on your eligibility to vote–he should know.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  11. @Martin R. Noland #11

    Send an email to someone to let them know it’s coming (because it will arrive after the deadline) and then overnight mail a paper vote — shouldn’t that be able to count as well? And list all the things you suggested …

  12. I agree with all the fine comments noted above and am appalled the there seems to be an issue in voting by some people. I did not recall that being an issue for the last voting process. It would seem some took a page out of the big city Democratic voting methods. If true we would appear to have a serious lack of ethics and morals by those who seek to turn the election back to when they were in power. What a shabby state of affairs that would be.

    I would like to also mention that the current administration is running a fairly tight fiscal ship. Recall that when first taking office Synod had borrowed approximately $16 million from itself to keep operating. All of the borrowed money from restricted accounts has been paid back in full, I believe that happened in 2014 or 2015. That is a remarkable feat! Now unrestricted funding can be directed where most needed instead of paying off this debt. Three more years under the old administration would have put the Synod in dire financial straights.

  13. @helen #7

    Doesn’t a Pastor (or layman) moving eliminate him from voting with no substitution of the new Pastor or the alternate delegate?
    Or am I (I hope) wrong on these? [Remember these rules were passed in 2010…and need scrutiny, IMHO.]

    No, they do not lose the right to vote. The congregations are entitled to submit forms indicating that the pastoral or lay delegate has been replaced. See http://www.lcms.org/convention/presidential-election. Of course, this really should have been done a long time ago; that is why there have been repeated postcards mailed out by the Secretary of Synod.

    I imagine that the most common reason that the number of electors is down this cycle is because the Synod delayed sending out the delegate form to the districts. In the previous district convention cycle, the Synod had sent out a form that would not only be used by congregations to register their delegates to the district convention, but also to register the same people as electors of the Synod’s president. However, those forms weren’t given to the district secretaries until late 2014 or early 2015. Thus, they were not available to many districts (such as my own Northern Illinois) by the time that they had to complete the selection of delegates (in September 2014) and so our district had to create its own form. In early 2015 delegates were sent out the additional synodical form and told to complete it and bring it to the district convention, but many failed to do so. After the convention there was a scramble to follow up with people who forgot to bring them–but according to the previous district secretary, not everyone responded to his letters to get the forms in. Thus, they may have used the district form to register and may have attended, but are not valid electors because they did not turn in the Synod’s registration form.

    I don’t think there was any malice or partisanship that accounted for that snafu. It was probably just an oversight in St. Louis. Somebody didn’t realize that delegates to district conventions need to be registered months in advance of the conventions and so they dawdled on sending out the form.

  14. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I think Pastor Kellerman has the answer to the registration snafu. Apparently those who are unable to vote did not fill out the official “additional synodical form.” Thanks for his comment #14. This also explains the drop in registered voters by 2,700.

    This reminds me of a movie scene:

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  15. @James Kellerman #14

    Thank you; I’m glad I was wrong.

    I fail to understand the reason/necessity of delegate’s voting in advance of the convention. It seems to have caused a great deal of trouble and extra paperwork which translates to extra expense.

    Anything else I’m thinking about registration not getting done in time had probably better not be said here.

  16. @helen #18

    According to The Final Report of The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance (October 15, 2009, p. 34), the main reason the BRTFSSG recommended having congregational delegates elect the Synod President prior to the convention was:

    “If this recommendation is adopted, each congregation will be able to participate in voting for the President of the Synod.”

    Well… except for those (typically small, typically more conservative) congregations who didn’t send a delegate to their (probably liberal-dominated) district convention.

  17. While Harrison might take some credit for hiring competent individuals to key Synodical positions, credit for Issues, Etc. goes to Todd Wilken, Jeff Schwarz, and their many supporters, and credit for CPH goes to Bruce Kintz, Paul McCain, Jon Schulz, and their many employees.

    The Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, of which I know a little, was published prior to Harrison’s first election.

    Let’s give credit where credit is due. “Success” was being achieved even in more distressing and turbulent times, and it is untoward to misattribute it elsewhere, especially during an election cycle.

  18. @Robert #21

    No argument here; full credit where credit is due. My point was simply that President Harrison’s solid leadership has created a culture in which confessional Lutheranism can flourish. While not all was bad during more turbulent times, things are unquestionably better now.

  19. Dear BJS bloggers,
    I agree with Pastor Scheer’s comment. If you attended your district convention in 2015, but did NOT receive the envelope containing your Voter ID or password (or the email with the same)—there may still be time to get registered. Call LCMS HQ on Monday, ask for Secretary’s office, and you might be able (i.e., I can’t promise it will work) to vote. If you know anyone in same plight, let them know Sunday. Proper registration and identification is needed to prevent the “Chicago effect” (names of the dead, multiple ballots, etc.)
    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  20. @Carl Vehse #19

    Well… except for those (typically small, typically more conservative) congregations who didn’t send a delegate to their (probably liberal-dominated) district convention.

    Exactly!
    BRTFSSG probably had those counted…out.

    There was a new way invented, in Texas, to preserve that razor thin majority every Triennium, as we know here.

    I don’t know if Lutheranism can survive a repeat of the “Texas effect”.

    So, if you are an “unregistered” Harrison supporter, please don’t give up! [They can e-mail a registration form if they can take votes that way.] It matters!

  21. We need to hire the Vogons in three years instead of Election America. Then we’ll beg for the current system to be back in place six years hence.

  22. Check out the Today’s Business download and you will see an overture to change the requirement about attending District Conventions. People are listening. Be patient. In the meantime, if you can, vote.

  23. Let’s not forget those people who excreted The Final Report of The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance: Dr. Ralph Bohlmann, Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, Rev. Jon Braunersreuther, Dr. Jeff Schrank, Rev. David Buegler, Mr. Ron Schultz, Rev. William Diekelman, Mr. Tim Schwan, Rev. Robert Greene (Chair), Rev. Will Sohns, Rev. Raymond Hartwig, Dr. Larry Stoterau, Dr. Tom Kuchta, Ms. Virginia Von Seggern, Dr. William G. Moorhead, and Ms. Jane Wilke.

    The BRTFSSG Report notes that Rev. Robert Kuhn had been a member of the BRTFSSG. However as noted in BJS:

    “While it is true that Dr. Kuhn wouldn’t have been able to continue his work on the Task Force because of personal matters, he had already resigned from the Task Force prior to that, not because of personal matters, but because he disagreed with the direction the Task Force was headed. This untruth greatly disturbed Dr. Kuhn – he did not want his name associated with the BRTFSSG Final Report. It seems as though this untruth is yet another example where the words of the Final Report don’t really line up with the facts.”

    And, of course there are the delegates who voted for the odious BRTFSSG changes. You may have one of those 2010 delegates in your own congregation.

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