Invited Guests from Around the Synod Take the BRTFSSG Survey and Share their Responses with Commentary ““ Today’s Guest: Pr. Charles Henrickson

We have invited over thirty people from around the synod to take the BRTFSSG survey and share with us their responses and comments. (You can take the survey yourself by clicking here.) Our list of invitees includes seminary professors, congregation chairs, lay elders, men, women, and even the top positions in the synod (yes, all the way to the top). The responses are starting to come in. We do not know how many will take us up on the invitation but hope it will be a good sampling of LCMS notables and regular folks. If you are interested in sharing your responses with commentary please e-mail me. We may not be able to post all responses but we would love to hear from you.

Today’s guest is one of our regular bloggers – Pastor Charles Henrickson.

The Survey on
The Blue Ribbon Task Force’s Proposals

Charles Henrickson
Saint Matthew Lutheran Church Bonne Terre, MO

1) Affirm in our governing documents the mission and purpose of Synod    Strongly Disagree
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I don’t see a glaring “problem or deficiency” in the foundational articles of our Constitution. (The only improvement I could see would be to strengthen the “strive for uniformity in worship practice” objective by removing the recently added “variety” escape clause, but that is not being proposed.) The Task Force’s proposed “solution” of changing the Constitution only raises red flags.
2.1) Doctrinal resolutions of special significance and doctrinal statements will require a two-thirds vote at Synod convention.    Strongly Disagree
Right now we don’t even know which resolutions are “doctrinal resolutions”! I’ve even asked the CTCR, and they don’t know! Based on how the current administration is throwing around terms like “our collective understanding” and “the official position of the Synod,” I don’t trust them to use this proposed solution in a helpful way. Until we come to a real consensus in doctrine and practice, I am suspicious of how this change would be used. Also, the Task Force dismisses the current provision for doctrinal statements, which is two-thirds ratification by congregations. Why?
2.2) Reaffirm, clarify, amplify and strengthen constitution (Art VIII) and bylaws to enhance doctrinal unity.    Strongly Disagree
Moving synodical conventions from three years to four years apart only takes power away from congregations and gives it to the bureaucratic hierarchy. Also, let’s “enhance doctrinal unity” first, through sound teaching and practice, and then maybe we can talk about appropriate Handbook changes.
3.1) Congregations are the voting members of the Synod.    Strongly Disagree
The reason I disagree with what seems like an innocuous survey statement is because the presentation ties this to a revision of Article V. But they do not give us the text of a proposed revision! The devil is in the details. So at this point the survey statement is worthless.
3.2) Ministers of Religion (ordained and commissioned) are members of the Synod who are eligible to serve as delegates of congregations to conventions of the Synod and in districts.    Strongly Disagree
Our synod’s polity historically has reflected a pastor/layman balance. Letting non-ordained professional church workers take the place of the “true layman” would skew that balance. And it would be likely to skew it in a more liberal direction.
3.3) Lay people, though not rostered members of the Synod itself, are closely linked to the Synod through their affiliation with member congregations of the Synod.    Strongly Disagree
What’s the point of this survey statement? What change would be enacted on the basis of this? We’re not told. And if laymen are so “closely linked to the Synod,” then why would you let their vote be taken over by professional church workers?
4) Consider a New Name for Our Synod    Strongly Disagree
If President Kieschnick’s proposals are passed, though, I do think a new name for the LCMS would be in order: Lutheran Church-Machiavelli Synod.
5) Voting delegates at conventions shall be one of the called pastors of the congregation and one lay person or minister of religion- commissioned of the congregation.    Strongly Disagree
See 3.2. This would change the historic pastor/layman balance of our polity. Professional church workers would often take the place of the true layman.
6.1) Multiple-congregation parishes being served by one or more pastors are entitled to one pastoral vote, with each congregation in the parish having one non-ordained vote.    Strongly Disagree
If each “point” in a multi-point parish gets a lay vote, that would tip the pastor/lay balance at the convention.
6.2) Congregations with a pastoral vacancy are entitled to a vote by the vacancy pastor and one non-ordained vote.    Strongly Disagree
Why should a vacancy pastor get a vote? Would this include district-appointed “intentional interims”? Bad idea.
6.3) Congregations with more than 1000 confirmed members are entitled to two additional votes, at least one being a lay person.    Strongly Disagree
This is one of the worst proposals in the whole lot. It gives more power to the megachurches, which, by definition, therefore takes away power from small-to-medium-sized congregations. And because, under the Task Force proposals, district conventions (rather than electoral circuits) would elect delegates to the national conventions, this change would affect not only the districts but also the national synod. This proposal would fundamentally change our historic understanding of the dignity of each congregation. Accident of demographics and location–or worse, watering down Lutheranism for the sake of numbers–does not make one congregation “more of a congregation” than another! Make no mistake, this proposal is designed to consolidate the power of the pseudo-Lutheran church growthers! It must be defeated!
7.1) Establish a fixed number of total voting delegates to the national convention at approximately 650.    Strongly Disagree
By reducing the number of delegates, you would be weakening the voice of the individual congregations, taking power further away from the grassroots.
7.2) Amend the bylaws to delete the “advisory delegate” category from national conventions and reduce the number of “advisory representatives”.    Strongly Disagree
While I do not favor letting professional church workers take the place of true lay delegates, I would not take away their voice as advisory delegates.
8.1) Determine each district’s number of delegates according to that district’s percentage of the total number of congregations and confirmed members in Synod.    Strongly Disagree
Allowing district conventions, rather than electoral circuits, to choose delegates to the national convention would be a terrible move, fraught with the potential of political abuse, moving in the direction of hierarchicalism, and moving power away from the grassroots. This is one of the worst proposals of all! It must be defeated! Also, President Kieschnick’s abuse of the “exceptional” delegate provision should not be used to justify eliminating the rare and proper use of that provision in favor of an even worse situation.
8.2) Allow each district to determine how delegates would be selected.    Strongly Disagree
Same as above. Allowing the district to determine the criteria for selection of delegates invites political abuse! Terrible idea!
8.3) Whichever method or system a district uses to choose its delegates, it would choose an equal number of ordained and non-ordained delegates.    Strongly Disagree
“Non-ordained” is not the same as a true layman. See 5 and 3.2.
9.1) Encourage the submission of overtures from congregations to their district conventions through circuit forums.    Strongly Disagree
Individual congregations should have their voices heard. Circuit forums that actually submit overtures are few and far between.
9.2) Encourage the submission of overtures from congregations to the national convention through their district conventions.    Strongly Disagree
This is rank hypocrisy on the part of President Kieschnick! Over the last two cycles, entire districts have indeed submitted many overtures to the national conventions, and, if those overtures did not fit Chairman Kieschnick’s agenda, his floor committees buried them!
9.3) While all overtures submitted would still be considered, resolutions from circuit forums and district conventions would receive priority at district and Synod conventions, respectively.    Strongly Disagree
Same as above. Some “priority,” Chairman Kieschnick! Not even the chance for an up-or-down vote! This survey statement would cover up your hypocrisy.
10) Hold district and national conventions in a four year cycle.    Strongly Disagree
Again, as with most all of these proposals, this one tends in the direction of hierarchicalism, increased bureaucratic power, and moving power away from the grassroots.
11) Allow Flexibility of Circuit Structure    Strongly Disagree
This would only increase the dialogue distance between megachurches and traditional congregations, just the opposite of what we need to be doing.
12) Consider future district configurations (give the job to the COP to report to the 2013 convention)    Strongly Disagree
The potential for political abuse here is apparent, particularly in the current climate. Putting those “troublesome” confessional districts out of existence, downsizing them away, is not a farfetched scenario. The only districts that should be eliminated for “neutral” reasons are the non-geographical SELC and English districts, whose congregations could be absorbed into existing geographical districts. If you want to reduce the expense of districts, reduce the bureaucracy in their buildings. And if the theological direction of district and synod were better, and people could trust what their money was being used for, that might prompt increased giving. Address that problem first.
13) Establish Five Regions in Our Synod    Strongly Disagree
Yet another layer of bureaucracy between congregations and national synod? No thank you!
14.1) Implement process for quadrennial Synod Priorities    Strongly Disagree
How does this “engage congregations in the development of priorities” when most all of the proposals move power away from the congregations?
14.2) Realign national Synod ministries into two Mission Advisory Councils    Strongly Disagree
Dumping all the boards into two pots and making them advisory, not administrative, concentrates power in the hands of the Synod President.
14.21) International Missionary Advisory Council and National Mission Advisory Council.    Strongly Disagree
Same as above.
14.22) Council staff execs report to Synod President    Strongly Disagree
More and more power in the hands of the Synod President! Bad idea, especially with the current one. But even with a good SP, he would have enough to do without adding total control of all the staffs/execs/councils.
14.3) Provide coordination with districts for certain ministries.    Strongly Disagree
Makes it sound like this could not already be done, which is misleading. Why is such a statement thrown in, except to sound nice?
14.4) Transfer some responsibilities to districts    Strongly Disagree
Same as above. Window-dressing to try to sell the package
14.5) Transfer most BUE and BPE responsibilities to regents and BOD (CUS would continue with certain responsiblities) .    Strongly Disagree
Our colleges are in bad enough theological shape as it is. This would not help. And the seminaries would suffer by neglect.
15.1) Involve the totality of congregations in selecting candidates for the Synod President and First Vice President    Strongly Disagree
There is nothing preventing any congregation from participating in the nomination process as we have it. And in this version, at least, the Task Force does not even have a specific proposal to replace it!
15.2) President and First Vice President elected as a team.    Strongly Disagree
Let the convention elect the 1VP they want to elect.
16) Election of Synod Vice-Presidents Regionally    Strongly Disagree
The basic idea of our polity is synod and congregations. The synod in convention should be able to elect vice-presidents from among any of the clergy on our roster, regardless of where they happen to live. This is a transparently obvious move to get more liberal VPs from the coasts.
17.1) The Board of Directors composed of 17 voting members, as defined in the presentation.    Strongly Disagree
Again, the regional move is an attempt to get more liberal board members. And having BOD members appointed, rather than elected, is another move toward centralization of power and away from the synod in convention.
17.2) First Vice President, Secretary and VP-Finance/Treasure are non-voting members.    Strongly Disagree
This would move the Secretary from a voting member to non-voting, while letting the President remain a voting member. Is this directed against Secretary Hartwig?
18.1) Elect or appoint all Synod and district officers and board members to four year terms.    Strongly Disagree
Three-year terms are long enough!
18.2) Have no term limits for district presidents    Strongly Disagree
It is hard to “unelect” a bad incumbent DP. Term limits at least creates an open seat now and then.
18.3) Have no term limits for any national board and commission members.    Strongly Disagree
See above.
19) Expand the certification process for pastoral candidates.    Strongly Disagree
This may well be the very worst proposal of all! Or at least tied for first. “Interpersonal and leadership deficiences” is DP-speak for weeding out those troublesome confessional guys! To move certification from the seminaries to the COP is a very bad idea! And there is language in this proposal that sounds ominously like a “provisional call,” with the semi-pastor having to please the DP after placement! This proposal must be defeated!
Now if you haven’t noticed, I have marked “Strongly Disagree” for each survey statement, even the more innocent-sounding ones, because President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon package, as a whole, stinks! The overall effect would be to consolidate power in the hands of the Kieschnick/JesusFirst crowd, to centralize power and move it away from the congregations. This is their desperate attempt to secure the reins of power for the future, before their window of opportunity closes. “Efficient,” if it is efficient in the wrong direction, is not a good thing.
The Task Force has loaded the survey statements with nice-sounding language, but they still have not provided enough specific detail. And where they have tipped their hand, the power grab is obvious. Even proposals which might otherwise be neutral, in this current climate, and based on the Kieschnick track record, must be viewed with suspicion. Let us first get to work on theological unity, in doctrine and practice! This is not the time for major changes in structure and governance.

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