(Technology Editor’s Note: We are pleased to post articles on the BJS website from one of the longest operating confessional groups in the LCMS – The Lutheran Concerns Association – LCA. This article is by BJS Advisory Board member Rev. Martin Noland. We will be posting the LCA newsletters on their page on this site: https://steadfastlutherans.org/lca and excerpting articles from those newsletters here on the home page. We recomend you join the LCA and subscribe to The Clarion. Please see the bottom of this post for more information on the LCA and “The Clarion.”)
(Here is Rev. Noland’s introduction to his post: The LCMS President’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance issued a report in August 2008 entitled Walking Together – The LCMS Future: Proposals and Possibilities for Consideration and Discussion (available at synod’s web-site: www.lcms.org). These proposals are to be considered by the synod at its convention in 2010 in order to change its structure and governing powers. I have called these proposals the Blue Ribbon Plan and written specific critiques elsewhere (see www.steadfastlutherans.org under Blue Ribbon Plan.)
Recently while organizing some of my files, I came across a copy of a document from six years ago that proposed some of the same ideas found in the Blue Ribbon Plan. The document was sent by the Coordinator of the Jesus First organization to his associates on January 30, 2003, in the form of sample overtures to the 2003 LCMS district conventions. The overture title was To Provide more equitable and Representation and Voting Privileges at Conventions and Study Other Organizational Matters.
The single Resolved in the overture stated:
RESOLVED that the Commission on Structure of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod study the voting and organizational structure of our Synod and bring recommendations for solving the following matters and other issues related to these structures to the entire Synod no later than ten months prior to the 2004 Synodical Convention:
- Granting commissioned ministers fair representation, perhaps on a circuit basis, to district and national conventions;
- Providing a more equitable representation based on size and number of congregations, circuits, and districts;
- Reducing the size and number of Synodical boards and commissions, wherever possible, and determine the best method for selecting members;
- Asking the Council of Presidents to participate more directly in the nomination and appointment of Board and Commission members;
- Considering ways by which two or more districts may share the services of individual staff members;
- Exploring options for choosing Synodical vice-presidents two through five on a regional basis.
The LCMS Commission on Structure responded to this request in a timely manner (see the 2004 LCMS Convention Workbook, pages 264-265). After weighing numerous factors with regard to delegate selection, the Commission on Structure concluded that all congregations should elect two delegates each to district and synod conventions. The two delegates would be one rostered minister (clergy or commissioned) and one layman. Although this would mean larger synod conventions, the Commission reasoned that the National Youth Gathering has in recent years registered over twice the number of synodical congregations with no great logistical problems. The Commission reasoned that if congregations can afford to send their youth on a fun and fellowship trip, they can certainly afford to send their delegates to do the work of the church.
The response to the Commission on Structure can be found in overtures 7-02 and 7-03, in the 2004 LCMS Convention Proceedings. These overtures, sent by members of the Jesus First organization, clearly indicate that Jesus First disagrees with the LC-MS Commission on Structure. In order to bypass the Commission, overtures 7-02 and 7-03 urged the appointment of a separate Task Force for the project. A whole series of overtures were also submitted asking for delegate representation based on congregational size (overtures 7-42, 7-43, 7-44, 7-45, 7-46, 7-47, 7-48, 7-50, 7-53, and 7-54 in 2004 LCMS Convention Proceedings).
These too were sent mostly from Jesus First. The corresponding Resolution brought from the Floor Committee to the 2004 convention (Res. 7-08) was soundly declined by the convention. Subsequently, in March 2005, the synodical president appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance. This task force has brought back the same concept of delegate representation based on congregational size which the 2004 convention soundly declined.
This is a secret history, because synodical commissions and task forces usually preface their work with a brief history of when and how the synod considered its proposals. Why did the proponents of the Blue Ribbon Plan not do this? Probably because they don’t want people to know that the same ideas were soundly defeated at the 2004 convention. Since it is unlikely that the same delegates will be present at the 2010 convention, they will most likely be ignorant of the secret history of the delegate representation based on congregational size proposal. For this reason, the present essay will be useful for delegates to the 2010 convention.
Why are the members of the Jesus First organization so persistent in their demands for the delegate representation based on congregational size principle? Perhaps most of them are simply ignorant that the Missouri Synod is constituted as a membership organization, whose members are individual congregations. Each of these members has equal rights, as is the case in most membership organizations. This is the fundamental principle of the synod’s structure and governance. If the principle of delegate representation based on congregational size would be adopted, then the members of the synod would be unequal and a principle of elitism, or aristocracy, would become the fundamental principle of synod. Perhaps members of the Jesus First organization believe that bigger congregations are greater, or more important, than smaller ones. Do they not understand Jesus words The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them . . . but it shall NOT be so among you! Whoever is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he who governs as he who serves (Luke 22:24-26).
The synod’s traditional pattern of delegate selection is not perfect, but it has worked for over 150 years. Although other proposals from the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synodical Structure and Governance may be beneficial, the proposal on delegate representation based on congregational size needs to be defeated again!
Rev. Dr. Martin R. Noland
(Here is some more information on the LCA and their publication. “The Clarion” is about 6-8 pages, made up of several brief articles written by well known and respected theologians in the LCMS. If you would like to subscribe, just send your *snail mail* (United States Postal Service) address to Rev. Richard Bolland. You might also want to get a copy of this publication or some of its articles to your congregation’s delegate to your district convention, as well as to your circuit’s delegate to next Summer’s synodical convention.)