PSA on Synodical Communications

March 25th, 2010 Post by

I come from a mainstream media background. At the news organizations I’ve worked at, our objective was to simply report the news. We aim for balance, objectivity and fairness. And I can say that many reporters do a great job of just that — providing readers with news and information that they want and need.

Now, having said that, we all know that the mainstream media has tremendous trouble in this regard, too. Heck, I write every single day about the trouble the mainstream media has in covering religion news fairly and accurately.

Now, I mention all this so that we can understand that our Synodical press office doesn’t even aim for fairness. I don’t mean that as a criticism. The office views its job as protecting and advancing the corporation. It’s a public relations shop that communicates internally to Synodical members. I know many of the people who write for the publications and some are absolutely fantastic. Some could use a bit of help with either their writing or their understanding of Lutheranism. Of course, not all of the people who write for the Synod’s communications shop are Lutheran.

The point is, their job is not to report the news, per se. It’s to advance the corporation through communication with members. Here’s a recent story from The Reporter:

Convention delegates who attended the regional gatherings hosted last winter by the Office of the President generally gave a “thumbs up” to all but one of the 70 recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance.

Right now Synodical leadership is pushing hard for the Blue Ribbon Task Force’s restructuring proposals. To that end, the Synodical leaders held regional gatherings to promote these ideas and “build consensus.” Of course, even the recent health care legislative process had more open debate. Critics were allowed dedicated floor time, for instance. At these regional gatherings, discussion was designed to lead to approval. You might remember that delegates were surveyed about what they thought of each proposal and they had all of 180 seconds to make a decision on each one. Skeptics of the massive redesign of Synod’s structure warned that these surveys would be used to push the agenda through. The recent story in the

Now, it’s worth noting that a full 30 percent of the 1,250 delegates didn’t even attend. Some of these didn’t attend because they viewed the regional gatherings as a sham or a waste of time.

Anyway, the press release from The Reporter is interesting because it gives as an understanding of what the corporate position is right now. It looks like they’re pushing very hard for more centralized authority in the office of the president. Here’s how they put it, though:

The survey shows that delegates favor a major recommendation coming out of the report that would eliminate the Synod’s seven program boards and two of its six commissions and consolidate them into two advisory commissions, one for National Mission and one for International Mission.

“The enhanced understanding about the task force proposals on the part of the convention delegates will bring meaningful discussion to the convention floor,” Krueger said. “At the same time, the floor committee will be knowledgeable about the feelings of the delegates in regard to specific proposals and, based on the feedback it has received to date — in addition to the convention overtures and the feedback it will receive based on the overtures — will present resolutions for consideration that best reflect the overall consensus already achieved.”

Kieschnick said he has been encouraged by the churchmanship shown during the gatherings. “The collegiality so broadly exhibited at the nine regional gatherings was a reflection of how the people of the Synod can work together and walk together for the greater goal of the mission of our Lord.”

Anyway, this is an interesting article as far as it goes. Just remember, though, that the job of The Reporter is never to inform Synod members of the actual debate that’s going on about these proposals. You have to go elsewhere for that.






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  1. jim_claybourn
    March 25th, 2010 at 22:06 | #1

    Interesting how today’s Jesus First Newsletter takes great pains to point out how one of the main goals of the proposals is “de-centralization”:

    “The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States was founded in 1847 to support congregations in their ministries. In the eight score years since then, the congregations making up the Synod, now numbering over 6,000 in comparison to the original 12, experienced many changes, each in their own way. It makes sense that Synod’s structure should adapt itself to new circumstances. The proposals of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance go in the direction of de-centralization, yielding a leaner structure of boards and staff.”

    http://jesusfirst.net/2010March1.htm

  2. March 25th, 2010 at 22:37 | #2

    “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Mark Twain

  3. wrl
    March 25th, 2010 at 22:43 | #3

    @jim_claybourn #1

    Decentralization. Uhhh-huh. Only true if the SP divvies up power to those in the COP machine that vote with him. Other than that, it’s a big lie believed only by those LCMS Exceptionalism fanatics.

  4. wrl
    March 25th, 2010 at 22:44 | #4

    “If all the statisticians in the world were laid end to end, it would be a good thing.”

  5. PPPadre
    March 25th, 2010 at 22:56 | #5

    “Generally give a thumbs up…” Interesting how they define that. The only proposal not to get that thumbs up “received a larger percentage of ‘Disagree’ votes than ‘Agree’ votes.” A “thumbs up” isn’t a majority, isn’t a supermajority to account for the nearly 1/3 of the delegates that weren’t there. A “thumbs up” is anything where “disagree” is less than 50%, regardless of how many undecideds there are.

  6. wrl
    March 25th, 2010 at 22:56 | #6

    “The enhanced understanding about the task force proposals on the part of the convention delegates will bring meaningful discussion to the convention floor,” Krueger said. “At the same time, the floor committee will be knowledgeable about the feelings of the delegates in regard to specific proposals and, based on the feedback it has received to date — in addition to the convention overtures and the feedback it will receive based on the overtures — will present resolutions for consideration that best reflect the overall consensus already achieved.”

    ***

    We should send “Elements of Style” to everyone involved with the Task Force. How many more prepositional phrases can we squeeze in? I had to read that paragraph five times to figure out what it was saying.

    Too many prepositions = obfuscation.

  7. Kiley Campbell
    March 25th, 2010 at 23:01 | #7

    I guess they never asked the Wyoming District delegates because we did not give thumbs up to this non-lutheran drivel. I guess they didn’t want to print my comments :) Something about reject and condemn or some words that spring up the 8th commandment card faster that R. Lee Ermey can on Full Metal Jacket.

    Kiley

  8. March 25th, 2010 at 23:04 | #8

    “Decentralization” indeed! Bitter is sweet, too. Read the Jesus First newsletter this evening and was amazed to learn that their are now (at least) eight different types or kinds of congregations, with at least eight different types of pastoral ministry required. And the seminary can’t do that, obviously. These different kinds of churches need to network with their own kind; a kind of “balkanization” of the LCMS if you ask me. Uniformity has been long gone for these folks. Thanks for the excellent reporting, Mollie!

  9. johannes
    March 26th, 2010 at 05:39 | #9

    Obfuscation, indeed. Giving “thumbs up” is a mis-characterization of what the delegates really said. To say that a given recommendation is “important” or “significant” is not to agree with it. It only says that it’s important. For instance, almost everyone would agree that the health care bill that just passed congress is “very important.” But over 60% of Americans think it is a bad law. Which is it? The task force did not ask the right questions. It only wanted the right answers.

    Obfuscation, indeed!

    Johannes (prepositionally challenged)

  10. Conv. Delegate
    March 26th, 2010 at 06:31 | #10

    Not to be too cynical here, but if you look at the charts of the feedback, the first column that your eye is drawn to is “Total Responses.” And the response rate is in the high ’90′s. When I first looked at it, I thought the approval rate was in the high 90′s. I couldn’t believe that so I looked closer.

    Given that the purpose of these gatherings was to “sell” the proposals, the agree rate on a good bit of them is rather low. Only 54% “agree” with they Synod President picking his Vice Presidential candidate from a pool of those nominated. Only 52% “agree” that the CMO should “supervise” the Pastoral Education coordinator. 50% “agree” that the DP should nominate the circuit counselors.

    I wouldn’t say thats a “thumbs up” on all but one of the proposals, especially when you combine that with the 400 or so delegates who did not attend.

    Encourage delegates to read, read, read.

  11. Conv. Delegate
    March 26th, 2010 at 06:55 | #11

    Thoroughly read the proposals, not just official Synod publications, that is.

  12. PPPadre
    March 26th, 2010 at 08:21 | #12

    johannes :
    To say that a given recommendation is “important” or “significant” is not to agree with it.
    Obfuscation, indeed!
    Johannes (prepositionally challenged)

    This article was on the survey given to individual delegates, which asked if you “Strongly Agree,” “Agree,” “Not Sure,” “Disagree,” or “Strongly Disagree” with the various proposals and their various points. So the “thumbs up” characterization is not out of place on those items that actually have majority opinion in the “Strongly Agree + Agree” column.

    Two other questions I have – first, with regard to fixing the number of delegates – there was a question on the survey that said “if not 650, what number of delegates would you prefer?” I did not see any results from that question.

    Second, the summary says that it is of the responses of Voting Delegates. There were a lot of participants in the regional gatherings that were not voting delegates (DPs, members of the Boards of Directors of the districts, and advisory delegates). How many of them were surveyed, and were they lumped in with the voting delegates in this report? (I know, report says “Voting Delegates,” but Proposal 13 says “All congregations shall be eligible to participate not only in the nomination but also the election of the President of Synod,” when in actuality the congregations are specifically prohibited from binding their delegates to a certain vote for SP – it is the delegates, not the congregations, that vote. So when it says “Voting Delegates,” does it mean “gathering participants?”)

  13. Johannes
    March 26th, 2010 at 10:48 | #13

    @PPPadre #12

    I stand corrected. However, I vaguely remember that we did have some kind of survey on the relative importance of the various proposals, and I guess that’s what I was thinking of.
    Thanks for the corrective.

    As a non-delegate to the Dearborn gathering, I did make my opinions known in the survey, so your second point re: who “voted” in the survey is well taken.

    Johannes (still prepositionally challenged, and guilty of selective memory syndrome as well)

  14. Alex
    March 26th, 2010 at 10:54 | #14

    Back when the gatherings were taking place and the methods of taking the surveys was discussed it was pretty obvious that any statistical results were useless. The reason given for the surveys was to provide feedback to the task force so they could refine their proposals. I thought, putting the best construction on it, that the surveys were fine IF they were only to be used by the task force for that purpose. As feedback they would have had limited usefulness, more useful in refining how to convince people than refining the proposals themselves, as statistics they would have none since the surveys were not even the same at different conventions. That the surveys were different is not surprising since the proposals were not even finished yet and still being refined, hence the need for feedback. The way the results are being presented, not only in The Reporter but even the the final proposals themselves, is as if all delegates heard the same presentation and the same proposals and were given the same survey. This is extremely misleading and irresponsible. My best construction was apparently a wrong one. The way the gatherings were run and the way the surveys are being used it seems far more likely that they were a pretense to convince delegates to vote for the proposals and gather “evidence” that the proposals are popular in order to convince the rest of synod. This construction is unfortunately much more consistent with what has happened than the official line. It would be much easier to trust synod if they didn’t mislead and lie so often. If they are really interested in mending the division in synod honesty would be a good place to start.

  15. Rev. J.R. Wheeler
    March 26th, 2010 at 16:56 | #15

    The final proposal is now being redacted to reflect what they learned at the regional meetings? And then the delegates will receive what is further redacted by the floor committee? And so the delegates will have to very quickly read the final proposals (which ones made it and in what form) and then vote on them? Almost another ‘we have to pass it so we can see what is in it’. Am I wrong on the timeline for what is going to be the final ‘resolution’ presented?

  16. Helen
    March 26th, 2010 at 18:00 | #16

    @PPPadre #5

    Well, Padre, I suppose Kieschnick would say he got a “Thumbs up” to lead us down this primrose path (insult to primroses, btw). Was his margin ever as high as 53%? I don’t remember that it was.
    [ And the means were questionable! ]

  17. March 26th, 2010 at 21:10 | #17

    Rev. J R,

    As far as I can tell and predict you are exactly right. The Task Force is nearly spineless and is foisting on us highly “focus-grouped,” felt needs sort of proposal.

    TR

  18. March 27th, 2010 at 10:42 | #18

    March 25th, 2010 Post by Mollie

    “…At the news organizations I’ve worked at…”

    Sorry, have to ask, ‘is that correct grammar?’

    Anyway, will this subject be moot if Rev. Harrison is elected?

  19. Helen
    March 27th, 2010 at 11:04 | #19

    Honest reporting in all synod publications will require a change of habits… or personnel.

    The “restructuring” comes before the election at Convention.
    It should go down in flames, first.

    Then give us Matt Harrison, DV!

  20. Mollie
    March 27th, 2010 at 11:05 | #20

    Mark, I don’t think it’s incorrect — but it’s definitely clumsy!

  21. Deacon Brian Hughes
    March 28th, 2010 at 12:26 | #21

    Organization and Process, the new Law and Gospel.

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