Comprehensive Analysis on the Blue Ribbon Proposals Part 9 ““ Recommendation #6: Proof of the Great Deception by the Blue Ribbon Committee, by Pr. Rossow

February 1st, 2010 Post by

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.

Rules for comments on this site:

Engage the contents and substance of the post. Rabbit trails and side issues do not help the discussion of the topics.  Our authors work hard to write these articles and it is a disservice to them to distract from the topic at hand.  If you have a topic you think is important to have an article or discussion on, we invite you to submit a request through the "Ask a Pastor" link or submit a guest article.

Provide a valid email address. If you’re unwilling to do this, we are unwilling to let you comment.

Provide at least your first name. Please try to come up with a unique name; if you have a common name add something to it so you aren't confused with another user. We have several "john"'s already for example.  If you have a good reason to use a fake name, please do so but realize that the administrators of the site expect a valid email address and also reserve the right to ask you for your name privately at any time.

If you post as more than one person from the same IP address, we’ll block that address.

Do not engage in ad hominem arguments. We will delete such comments, and will not be obligated to respond to any complaints (public or private ones) about deleting your comments.

Interaction between people leaving comments ought to reflect Christian virtue, interaction that is gracious and respectful, not judging motives.  If error is to be rebuked, evidence of the error ought to be provided.

We reserve the right to identify and deal with trollish behavior as we see fit and without apology.  This may include warnings (public or private ones) or banning.

  1. Todd Wilken
    February 1st, 2010 at 10:42 | #1

    Some observations:

    - This proposal violates the principal of pastor/layman voting equity One pastoral vote, one lay vote for each congregation has been the standard. This proposal envisions congregations of over 1,000 sending 1 voting pastor and 3 voting laymen to District conventions.

    - Why 1,000? The Task Force doesn’t explain its reasoning here. Why not 500, 800 or 1,200?

    - 999 confirmed members earns a congregation 2 votes. 1,000 or more confirmed members earns a congregation 4 votes.

    To be consistent with the Task Force’s “logic” here, a congregation of more than 2,000 members should get 6 votes, a congregation of more than 3,000 members should get 8 votes, and so on. By the Task Force’s logic, the largest congregation in the LCMS (Hale’s Corners, WI reports 8,273 baptized members) could get as many as 18 votes. That means one congregation could out-vote two entire circuits at its District Convention.

    Now, the Task Force isn’t recommending this. But I ask, Why not? Why stop at 2 additional votes for over 1,000 members?

    - How would we determine if any given congregation really had more than 1,000 confirmed members? Self-reporting?

    - If this recommendation would require an audit of congregational statistics –especially of those congregations hovering just under the 1,000 mark. It would be too easy to pad the numbers for 2 more votes in the District convention.


  2. February 1st, 2010 at 12:41 | #2

    Rev. Rossow,

    Can you provide a summary of your thoughts thus far, perhaps in bullet point fashion, that I can take to the gathering in Atlanta Feb. 5-6? I’ve enjoyed reading and thinking through them very much, but the summary-bullet sheet would be most helpful, also eminently distributable:) By the way, I love addressing you as above — memories of the Sem.

    Stay well in Christ, Paul

  3. February 1st, 2010 at 13:37 | #3

    Pr. Rossow,

    Thanks for all of the information you’ve been posting re: the regional gatherings. I too will be at the Atlanta gathering this weekend, and I’m finding this information quite helpful.

    I remember when this particular recommendation was discussed at our Mid-South District convention last year; my initial reaction was “oh, that makes sense” but as soon as I began to think about it I saw exactly what you are saying …

    Using a congregation’s size to determine the number of delegates to a convention only makes sense in a structure where members of the congregation are members of the synod, which is most certainly not the case with Missouri.

    Pr. Becker,

    Hello from Chattanooga! I hope you’re doing well and I look forward to seeing you this coming weekend in Atlanta.

  4. Henry Bimpage
    February 1st, 2010 at 14:04 | #4

    Perhaps the Missouri Synod should go to a Theology of the Cross Principle or Greatest and Least Principle when it comes to district voting. Any Congregation under 100 members gets 1 voting pastor, 1 retired voting pastor, and 2 lay votes. A congregation between 100 and 1000 members gets 1 voting pastor and 1 lay vote. Any congregation over 1000 members gets no votes. This sounds biblical to me.

    Then again maybe we should just go back to casting lots.

  5. February 1st, 2010 at 15:24 | #5

    @Henry Bimpage #4

    Oh, I like this! What could foster more “outward focus” than more stations where the Word is taught and the sacraments rightly administered! :)

  6. jim_claybourn
    February 1st, 2010 at 15:58 | #6

    Paul Becker :
    Rev. Rossow,
    Can you provide a summary of your thoughts thus far, perhaps in bullet point fashion, that I can take to the gathering in Atlanta Feb. 5-6? I’ve enjoyed reading and thinking through them very much, but the summary-bullet sheet would be most helpful, also eminently distributable:) By the way, I love addressing you as above — memories of the Sem.
    Stay well in Christ, Paul

    I second this request. As our circuit delegate, I’m being asked to give a presentation to groups and congregations in our circuit.

    I suggested something like this on the topics discussed at the LCA meeting a couple weeks ago,


  7. February 1st, 2010 at 17:15 | #7


    For you I will do it! Hoepfully can get it to you or here on the site before the 5th. I look forward to seeing you at the conference in a couple weeks.

    Rev. Rossow :)

  8. Convention Delegate
    February 1st, 2010 at 20:56 | #8

    I too will be attending the regional gathering in Atlanta this weekend. Back in the Fall I received the BRTFSSG Final Report along with the document Congregation–Synod–Church and interestingly “Duties of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod,” Walther’s speech to the First Iowa Dsitrict Convention from Aug. 1879. It is 60 pages in legnth and I urge every delegate to read it. I found it fascinating and found a good bit of what Walther says is in opposition to the BRTF proposals. So much so I was puzzled as to why this was included in the Synod mailing. In regard to Proposal #6, Walther writes on page 28,

    “Accordingly, if only two or three Christians were present, the Lord would be present too, and He proves that the congregation has such great power by this, that He is in their midst. And when He is present, it is not a half- or a quarter-Christ, but the entire Savior. Yes, even a small rural congregation of seven families has as much power as all the congregations in America combined, because it also has Jesus in its midst, with all His grace and all the rights and merits He won for us on the tree of the cross.

    This is why the same Heshusius says: “A small group of 10 or 20 people, who truly confess Christ, has just as much power in the kindgom of Christ as does a congregation with thousands of members.” (Concerning the Office and Power of Pastors, published by Dr. Schutz, Leipzig, 1854, p. 65)

    . . . . But it is different in the kingdom of God. The smallest congergation is just as important as the largest one, and the largest is no more important that the smallest, because every congregation is great only because Christ is present in it.”

    I think Walther makes a whole lot of sense.

  9. PPPadre
    February 1st, 2010 at 23:11 | #9

    The recommendation states “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.” But if you look carefully at the recommended bylaw changes, there is nothing that prohibits a pastor of a dual parish from exercising a vote for each congregation in the parish. Vacancy/Interim pastors are precluded from having more than one vote, but pastors of dual parishes are not.

  10. February 2nd, 2010 at 00:35 | #10

    Convention Delegate,.

    Yes, the Task Force misuses Walther. Check out post 2 in this series for another glaring example of misuse.


  11. helen
    February 2nd, 2010 at 14:13 | #11

    @Dan at Necessary Roughness #5

    Extra votes for congregations under 100… hmm.
    Would that give extra respect to our rural congregations?
    Or promote coffee houses?

    [None of the above should be taken to mean I favor extra votes…. for any congregation.]

  12. Lil
    February 2nd, 2010 at 16:29 | #12

    I found Glen Piper’s article about the Dearborn meeting (12/20/09) quite enlightning as I attended our delegate meeting.

  13. Lil
    February 2nd, 2010 at 17:00 | #13

    . . . and, of course, Rossow’s many excellent articles!

  14. February 5th, 2010 at 09:15 | #14


    I ran out of time and will not be able to get you the bullet point list.

    In the spring we will publish a lot of this stuff and include lots of different formats: short and sweet, comprhensive, etc.


  15. Helen
    February 6th, 2010 at 20:47 | #15

    @Todd Wilken #1
    Most churches should consider their membership the average attendance at four Sundays a year, (picked randomly but not including Christmas or Easter). Then we’d have a clue as to how many the congregation affects.

    In LWML, there was some proportional representation. It was kept in check by the per capita assessments paid to the district and national structure annually. Most groups didn’t have the resources to pay for non attending/non contributing members.

    lcms, inc. has assessments, too. Perhaps those should rise as the congregation appears to get larger? ;)

  16. Miles Whitener
    February 16th, 2010 at 00:03 | #16

    Wonder if this is relevant to the topic (I found this at another site):

    See where this link goes:

  17. February 16th, 2010 at 13:28 | #17

    The WHOIS information lists the created date of Jan 22, 2009. Maybe a little wishful thinking :)


If you have problems commenting on this site, or need to change a comment after it has been posted on the site, please contact us. For help with getting your comment formatted, click here.
Subscribe to comments feed  ..  Subscribe to comments feed for this post
Anonymous comments are welcome on this board, but we do require a valid email address so the admins can verify who you are. Please try to come up with a unique name; if you have a common name add something to it so you aren't confused with another user. We have several "john"'s already for example. Email addresses are kept private on this site, and only available to the site admins. Comments posted without a valid email address may not be published. Want an icon to identify your comment? See this page to see how.

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.