WMLTblog — Dispute Resolution Meetings This Fall

July 15th, 2014 Post by

Found over on WMLTblog:

 

Witness Mercy Life TogetherIt is quite unique among Christian denominations, in use since 1992 when the LCMS convention adopted Res. 5-01B “To Adopt New Process for Conflict Resolution,” which the floor committee proposed “a. is thoroughly biblical; b. stresses the reconciliation of members within the family of God (encouraging a win-win rather than win-lose resolution of conflict); presents a positive witness to the secular community as to how Christians resolve their conflicts; provides for final resolution of disputes in a timely manner; is less costly in terms of money and time; discourages the secular approach of adversarilal litigation; and requires face-to-face meeting of the complainant and respondent in a spirit of Christian reconciliation.”

The dispute resolution process that was adopted was to be used for all disputes and required four pages of the convention Proceedings. Today there are five distinct processes (dispute resolution and expulsion) with applications also for other specific disputes (e.g., campus conflicts) covering 55 pages of the Synod’s Handbook and accompanied by nearly 200 pages of operating procedures manuals, every convention since 1992 making significant changes and additions to the bylaws governing dispute resolution.

While there continue to be mixed opinions regarding the Synod’s dispute resolution processes and some of its results, with calls to return to the former adjudication process submitted to every convention, the general response in the Synod continues to be positive for the reasons given in the 1992 convention action. Required involvement of trained reconcilers and face-to-face meetings between disputants often fosters reconciliation early on, before disputes reach the Synod level. Disputes that reach the Synod level are handled in an orderly manner in answer to St. Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 6 to “lay them before” the church.”

Because of regular changes to the bylaws and procedures governing the various kinds of conflict resolution, I (as Secretary of the Synod and administrator of the Synod’s dispute resolution process) will be hosting a series of meetings around the Synod to review current bylaws and procedures manuals with those most involved (reconcilers) and those providing good order (hearing facilitators). Also encouraged to attend are those who serve as administrators of the processes on the district level (district secretaries) and those who have significant roles in both the conflict resolution and expulsion processes (district presidents). The meetings will take place during September (eastern U.S.), October (central U.S.), and November (western U.S.).

I am happy to add that of the approximately 220 reconcilers, hearing facilitators, district secretaries, and district presidents invited to participate, nearly 200 have indicated that they will be able to attend one of the regional meetings, their attendance made possible by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans funding as well as a decision by the Council of Presidents that districts will assume travel costs. God bless our meetings together, that they will enable our Synod ever better to satisfy the intention of that 1992 resolution to provide for our Synod “a process for conflict resolution that is based upon thescriptural principles of reconciliation (Matt. 18 and 2 Cor.5).

Ray Hartwig


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  1. Ginny Valleau
    July 16th, 2014 at 08:58 | #1

    Quote: “While there continue to be mixed opinions regarding the Synod’s dispute resolution processes and some of its results, with calls to return to the former adjudication process submitted to every convention, the general response in the Synod continues to be positive for the reasons given in the 1992 convention action.” [My italics.]

    There are calls to return to the former adjudication process at every convention and the “…general response…continues to be positive…”? I wonder how this was measured. I have never heard anything “positive” about the DPR.

    Quote: “…covering 55 pages of the Synod’s Handbook and accompanied by nearly 200 pages of operating procedures manuals…”

    255 pages? Is this supposed to be a good thing?

    God’s Blessings,
    Ginny Valleau

  2. LadyM
    July 16th, 2014 at 11:30 | #2

    @Ginny Valleau #1 Great comments, Ginny. Could it be the 255 pages are there so that only a few take the time to read them? On a secular level, chaos/ignorance creates a perfect seedbed for the central government to assume control – think AHCA and the thousands of pages “explaining” that.

    We need to get this repealed at the next convention and some kind of overture to deal with our CRM guys enacted. They have been in limbo way too long. If it means cutting funding in other areas, so be it, but they deserve and need our help.

  3. diesirae
    July 16th, 2014 at 18:23 | #3

    “Thoroughly biblical” – :) :) :)

    What is this, but a most ridiculous example of pharisaical, bureaucratic, corporate-speak?

    Anything remotely like this “process” in the Scriptures? In the Confessions? In the writings of the church fathers? In the entire history of the church of God?

    But let’s pat ourselves on the back about how “unique among Christian denominations” we are.

    Good Lord. This has to be a baby boomer thing. No, I’m probably wrong about that. But this is a splendrous example why many of my peers (30-something) want nothing to do whatsoever with this brand of “church.”

    When I read, “220 reconcilers, hearing facilitators, district secretaries, and district presidents invited to participate,” I get chills. What creativity! Let’s create more fake, do-nothing offices! Genius! Just think: together we can all hold hands and snuggle as we wait the warm-and-fuzzy apocalypse.

    Friends, look closely. THIS is the infection. THIS is the disease.

  4. July 17th, 2014 at 04:51 | #4

    @diesirae #3

    Please don’t leave. We need you.

  5. R.D.
    July 17th, 2014 at 06:41 | #5

    When they say, “win-win,” what do they mean? Do they mean that all parties to the dispute repent as applicable? e.g., a pastor teaches falsely saying anyone baptized is welcome to the altar entrusted to him and his congregation becomes divided. DRP comes in and affirms the Lutheran teaching of closed communion and encourages those who hold the error to repent according to God’s word, and they do so and are then “inclined to walk together in meekness and in peace.” Surely that’s what they mean. Yet how did the “old” system not do that? What was “wrong” that needed “fixed?”

  6. Brad
    July 17th, 2014 at 08:25 | #6

    @diesirae #3

    This is the evolutionary path of canon law. It is built and supported by the bureaucracy to sustain the bureaucracy, and generates it own class of canon lawyers and administrators. Historically, if a church survives long enough, it rises, falls, gets reworked, etc., until a massive Reformation pulls the flush handle on the whole mess.

    Like all canon law, it is wrapped in pious language, as if it were to serve God and His people. In practical application, it sometimes does… but eventually, it just grows to serve the bureaucracy, and those who take the time to learn how to manipulate it.

  7. helen
    July 17th, 2014 at 11:34 | #7

    @Ted Crandall #4
    @diesirae #3
    Please don’t leave. We need you.

    Badly! Some of us are hoarse and weary, and probably disregarded as well! However:

    From Walther’s “The Sheep Judge Their Shepherds” sermon on Matthew 7:15-23. : Jesus says you will know the false shepherds by their fruits. Walther’s outline:

    The Sheep are the Judges,
    They Should Know and be Certain of the True Doctrine,
    They Dare Not Let Themselves be Blinded by a Good Outward Appearance, and
    They Must Above All Look for Righteous Fruits.

    And Walther again:“In divine things no one is excluded from the duty of judging because all of Christ’s sheep are judges: The learned and unlearned, man and wife, hired man and hired girl, young and old. Each has his own soul, his own life, his own salvation at stake.”

  8. R.D.
    July 17th, 2014 at 12:15 | #8

    Helen makes an excellent point. Here I am arguing this process and that when the real issue is, according to the Bible, who is supposed to do what. Who’s job is judging and how does the process we have uphold the biblical teaching?

  9. Matt Mills
    July 17th, 2014 at 14:16 | #9

    Doesn’t the equation:

    “unique among Christian denominations” + “in use since 1992″ + “thoroughly biblical” = restorationism?

    I mean, if we aren’t restorationists, how can we say the “thoroughly biblical” solution is something that no one in Christendom thought to adopt until 1992?

    Puzzled,
    -Matt Mills

  10. helen
    July 17th, 2014 at 14:33 | #10

    @Matt Mills #9
    how can we say the “thoroughly biblical” solution…

    This grew from Wally Schultz’ treatment by the bureaucrats… and the Bible was not referred to in deciding against him. I wonder if Bible or Confessions have been used since; the people involved in “adjudicating” are not necessarily Lutheran or Christian.

    Besides that, you have to have a DP’s permission to use the process. Figure out how anybody is going to get that, when the DP is part of the problem.

    They’d do a lot more for Lutheranism if they all stayed home and donated the $$$ to be divided among the CRM’s!

  11. helen
    July 18th, 2014 at 08:51 | #11

    @R.D. #8
    how does the process we have uphold the biblical teaching?

    The Bible says, talk personally….(which I do not agree requires people to travel across country when we have e-mail, Skype, conference calling with video, etc.); if that fails, have the conference call with “2-3 others” and if that doesn’t move the miscreant, “tell it to the church”.

    That’s where DRP breaks down: you have this “secret” (to the church) process, in which the person with the problem with someone else, or some procedure, morphs into the “defendant” who is not allowed to talk to ANYONE about the DRP, during or after.
    Since a parishioner, or Pastor, has to have the permission of his/her DP to use it, it’s obvious that problems with a DP… or anybody/anything he’s protecting… will never be discussed.

    It appears to be CYA for the system, and to heck with the individual who’s been hurt by it.

  12. July 18th, 2014 at 10:28 | #12

    With all due respect, the DRP is the imposition of a business model on Christ’s Church. You simply cannot have a “Win-Win” outcome when questions of doctrine and biblical practice are at stake. Additionally, we have repeatedly seen that the DRP values the Bylaws of the Synod more highly than the Holy Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions. Remember the David Benke case? VP Wallace Schultz rightly suspended him from his office as Atlantic District President based on Scripture and the Confessions only to have it reversed by the DRP appeals panel who never once mentioned Scripture or the Confessions but only cited the Synodical Bylaws and a CTCR study on fellowship which the CTCR itself said did not apply to the Yankee Stadium situation. It is a process which can only be accurately described as one that is by the COP, for the COP, and of the COP. It is the wrong model for the Church because it does not listen to God’s Word.

  13. Brad
    July 18th, 2014 at 10:52 | #13
  14. July 18th, 2014 at 11:15 | #14

    I would like to recommend to you the ACELC’s work concerning the DRP. http://www.acelc.net/page/acelc_admonition__error_documents_12773. (Click on Dispute Resolution to download the document.) The Dispute Resolution Process is one of the 10 areas of Concern/Error which the ACELC is trying to change in our Synod precisely because it is not a biblical model at all and even when it does work, its findings can’t be enforced. Ask Rev. Tim Tolar of Kenai, AK how coming out on top of the DRP’s convoluted and elongated process could not stop the NWD President from contributing to the destruction of his congregation there. As a result, a good pastor and the faithful remnant had to leave our Synod and join ELDONA.

  15. Randy
    July 18th, 2014 at 11:27 | #15

    If as much time and energy that has been expended on the convoluted and harmful DRP was instead expended on proper catechesis, we wouldn’t need the DRP.

  16. Tim Schenks
    July 19th, 2014 at 02:41 | #16

    Randy :If as much time and energy that has been expended on the convoluted and harmful DRP was instead expended on proper catechesis, we wouldn’t need the DRP.

    Thank President-Emeritus Ralph Bohlmann for that.

  17. Tim Schenks
    July 19th, 2014 at 02:43 | #17

    Rev. Richard A. Bolland :As a result, a good pastor and the faithful remnant had to leave our Synod and join ELDONA.

    Even worse now that ELDoNA has been accused of teaching false doctrine. Is he still a member of it?

  18. July 19th, 2014 at 09:41 | #18

    As far as I know they remain in the ELDONA. I don’t know the status of the claim of false doctrine, however.

  19. helen
    July 19th, 2014 at 10:30 | #19

    @Tim Schenks #17
    Even worse now that ELDoNA has been accused of teaching false doctrine. Is he still a member of it?

    “Accused” does not make it so!

    Rolf Preus was “accused” of something and driven out of a congregation, but near as I can figure out, his chief sin was arguing with The President of one of the ‘little synods’. Quite a few pastors said they agreed with him but bailed when it became “unsafe”.

    ELDoNA has published a lengthy rebuttal to the “accusations”.
    Probably their greater sin is calling the head man “bishop”
    although Luther was cool with that… if the man did his job.

    [Isn’t “job evasion” the problem we have with “presidents”?]

  20. Randy
  21. R.D.
  22. helen
    July 19th, 2014 at 16:56 | #22

    @Rev. Richard A. Bolland #14
    Ask Rev. Tim Tolar of Kenai, AK how coming out on top of the DRP’s convoluted and elongated process could not stop the NWD President from contributing to the destruction of his congregation there. As a result, a good pastor and the faithful remnant had to leave our Synod and join ELDoNA.

    @R.D. #21

    Yes, R.D., infinitely more entertaining to criticize ELDoNA than to right the wrongs in “synod” which drove good men and congregations out! [And when people are really bored, they can split hairs objectively/subjectively.]

    Meanwhile if the CRM fire burns down in LCMS, throw another one into the flames!

  23. Gene White
    July 19th, 2014 at 23:54 | #23

    A lot of good comments and observations included above and I was especially caught up with the comments on “win-win.” It doesn’t always come out that way based on personal experience back in the mid-90’s. We had a conflict between our pastor and church leadership and I, as the president of the congregation was designated as one side of the argument and the pastor the other side. First the ground rules were established and then came the first face to face discussions with the facilitators and the two parties. The first protest was filed because the pastor blatantly violated the ground rules. The meeting concluded with an assignment to respond to a topic and see if there was some common ground to be found. At the second meeting the common ground was not found as the pastor didn’t do his assignment, etc. After a huddle of the district staff and facilitators then announced that the process was at an impasse, so that was the end of the DRP for that situation. I think it would be fair to call this a loose-loose situation. I don’t recall anything relating to Scripture being mentioned during the process, but then this was an east coast salt water district. I was not left with a positive impression of the process or the people running it. The real bad news came a year or so later when the congregation imploded and 40 families left, which included all the members of the both choirs and most of the leadership. Unfortunately, my wife and I were the only ones that stuck with LCMS, while the majority went to ELCA and a minority left Lutheranism all together.

  24. Tim Schenks
    July 20th, 2014 at 00:56 | #24

    helen :“Accused” does not make it so!

    Helen, I wouldn’t compare Pr. Preus with Pr. Rydecki/ELDoNA at all. Why are you?

    When Pr. Preus was removed from the ELS (basically for supporting an LCMS position), his own congregation passed a unanimous resolution that he was faithful and taught only pure doctrine. He later refused to declare fellowship with ELDoNA rather than going along with the ACLC. He’s now back in the LCMS.

    Pr. Rydecki, who later joined ELDoNA and wrote its paper rejecting Objective Justification, was removed from WELS for False Doctrine–the rejection of Objective Justification! Now, the ACLC is apparently reconsidering their fellowship, and Gottesdienst Magazine is no doubt regretting they’d ever awarded him their Sabre of Boldness.

  25. helen
    July 20th, 2014 at 07:06 | #25

    @Tim Schenks #24
    Helen, I wouldn’t compare Pr. Preus with Pr. Rydecki/ELDoNA at all. Why are you?

    It was the first “accusation” that came to mind, that I wanted to put on the board. I’m not a fan of “accusations”. Preus’ congregation had a nice supportive vote, but when it was him or the synod, they valued their comfort more than their convictions.
    (I don’t know Rydecki.)
    I used to know some of the other men in ELDoNA when they were LCMS. Some of their congregations did leave LCMS with them.

    Maybe “I’m no theologian” but I’m not making a fat salary pretending to be one either. I hear sermons about “the outside world” persecuting the church; the devil is doing just fine from inside.

  26. helen
    July 20th, 2014 at 20:12 | #26

    If you want to know about the Pastors of ELDoNA, Pr. Kent Heimbigner of Charity, Burleson, Texas, is among them. Charity voted itself out of LCMS in 2001. [Those who say we should leave our heterodox synod should be interested in their story.]

    I don’t know how to get this blog post made a topic, but I think it would be worth doing.

    http://confessionallutheran.org/pastors-blog/comfort-that-really-comforts/

  27. helen
    July 25th, 2014 at 09:27 | #27

    ]@diesirae #3
    Friends, look closely. THIS is the infection. THIS is the disease.

    Anything to provide more cushy jobs for more bureaucrats, so that besides their nice salaries, they can spend time at nice resort hotels, eating fine meals and being entertained lavishly… all on your “mission” dollars. No wonder there aren’t enough dollars! [Oh, I forgot round the world junkets; some people are photographed elsewhere so much that I really wonder if they have a home here.]

    All in a good cause, I suppose: like avoiding the fact that we’ve got problems in the US that people were elected to solve, or so we thought! Like spending yet to be determined dollars on “DRP discussions”, ignoring the fact that most real problems never get to DRP because the interested DP doesn’t want them there.
    And that what we have asked for repeatedly, futilely, was an end to dumping good Pastors without “Lutheran reasons” and new calls for those who have been dumped. [We used to blame the removals on Jerry’s anxiety about his razor thin majority. Now it seems that confessional scalps are worn by other confessionals bucking for bureaucracy!! How many will it take, I wonder, to get that “invitation/appointment”?]

    To repeat what someone else said: How is it that all a DP has to do to get rid of a confessional Pastor is wait and discourage his being called for four years… after which he’s dropped from the roster?
    Meanwhile the professional bureaucrat can live for decades on a non-pastoral job and still refer to himself as a pastor.

  28. Amy
    July 25th, 2014 at 09:50 | #28

    @helen #27

    Well said, Helen.

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