New Feature: Invited Guests from Around the Synod Take the BRTFSSG Survey and Share their Responses with Commentary ““ Today’s Guest: The Infamous and Pseudonymous “Carl Vehse”

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 surveyor is “Carl Vehse.” Vehse is a pseudonym taken from one of the prominent players in the LCMS’s founding years in Perry County, Missouri. Vehse then and “Vehse” now are interested preserving the Biblically prescribed role of the laity in the church. BJS  gives airtime to all sorts of confessional Lutherans. Sometimes those with a clergy bent argue with those with lay bent but I think you will see in most of the responses below that no matter which side of the lay-clergy continuum you are on, we have a common enemy in the type of “progress” represented by the BRTFSSG proposals.

His commentary is written in the blue font on the survey below.

Pastor Rossow

The Survey on
The Blue Ribbon Task Force’s Proposals
Carl Vehse

1) Affirm in our governing documents the mission and purpose of Synod Strongly Disagree
The objectives of the Synod are given in Article III; the purpose of the Synod is to work (more than it has been) toward those objectives in supporting the congregations.
2.1) Doctrinal resolutions of special significance and doctrinal statements will require a two-thirds vote at Synod convention. Strongly Disagree

The convention votes on resolutions and statements that support and are congruent with existing doctrine (in Art. II). The current Constitution distinguishes the special significance between doctrinal resolutions and doctrinal statements by requiring congregational balloting for the latter.
2.2) Reaffirm, clarify, amplify and strengthen constitution (Art VIII) and bylaws to enhance doctrinal unity. Strongly Disagree
The proposed and obfuscating changes would do the opposite. No current constitutional change is needed; though a change in current leadership is.
3.1) Congregations are the voting members of the Synod. Strongly Agree
Captain Obvious strikes again
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
Greater risk of lay delegates being squeezed out. Keep the advisory delegate role.
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 Agree
This is, again, obvious in the current Constitution/Bylaws.
4) Consider a New Name for Our Synod Strongly Disagree
There’s nothing wrong with the name, The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States. Let’s reuse that! Or Missouri Synod for short.
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
Again, lay delegates will be squeezed out. Keel the advisory delegate role
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
Don’t encourage the building of episcopist empires. If large congregations are upset with having the same vote as a smaller congregation, they can spin off daughter congregations.
6.2) Congregations with a pastoral vacancy are entitled to a vote by the vacancy pastor and one non-ordained vote. Not Sure
I favor this on one hand, but see problems with it on the other. Not sure how the scale will tip.
6.3) Congregations with more than 1000 confirmed members are entitled to two additional votes, at least one being a lay person. Strongly Disagree
See comment in 6.1
7.1) Establish a fixed number of total voting delegates to the national convention at approximately 650. Strongly Disagree
This bad idea will only centralize power in the synodical presidency, but giving less say in the conventions to individual congregations. Check back with me when the Synod has 10,000 member congregations
7.2) Amend the bylaws to delete the “advisory delegate” category from national conventions and reduce the number of “advisory representatives”. Disagree
See comment in 3.2 and 5
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
This, along with the tapdancing of most of the proposed changes, concentrates power up to the synod and district presidents and away from congregations, which is were the power should be.
8.2) Allow each district to determine how delegates would be selected. Strongly Disagree
See comment in 8.1
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
See comment in 8.1
9.1) Encourage the submission of overtures from congregations to their district conventions through circuit forums. Strongly Disagree
See comment in 8.1
9.2) Encourage the submission of overtures from congregations to the national convention through their district conventions. Strongly Disagree
See comment in 8.1
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
See comment in 8.1
10) Hold district and national conventions in a four year cycle. Strongly Disagree
See comment in 8.1. The synodical and district presidents would benefit; the congregations would be subject to increased danger from any bad leaders.
11) Allow Flexibility of Circuit Structure Strongly Disagree
Special interest (typically liberal) groups at the circuit level would become increasingly dominant
12) Consider future district configurations (give the job to the COP to report to the 2013 convention) Strongly Disagree
The COP has enough to do trying to manage its own responsibilities. If the unevenness is really felt, changes in district configurations should come from congregations and up through the respective districts.
13) Establish Five Regions in Our Synod Strongly Disagree
Yikes!! Another layer of bureaucracy… and regional purple palaces?!?
14.1) Implement process for quadrennial Synod Priorities Strongly Disagree
I’m strongly opposed not only because of “quadrennial”, but especially “Implement process for… Priorities” (?!?) If you can’t implement the process (much less the priorities) with a BOD, SP, COP, two seminaries of professors, and 36 conventions every three years, that quadrennial arrow-pointing PowerPoint ® chart isn’t going to do squat!
14.2) Realign national Synod ministries into two Mission Advisory Councils Strongly Disagree
Yikes, more bureaucracy… and just to advise
14.21) International Missionary Advisory Council and National Mission Advisory Council. Strongly Disagree
Along with the IMAC and NMAC logos (developed by highly paid consultants) and high-rise travel budgets for all of the IMAC and NMAC executives
14.22) Council staff execs report to Synod President Strongly Disagree
More concentration of power goes to the SP
14.3) Provide coordination with districts for certain ministries. Not Sure
What certain ministries are not being coordinated with districts? Does it involve a coordination executive and a coordination executive travel budget?
14.4) Transfer some responsibilities to districts Not Sure
Then the coordination problem would be solved. So which is it?
14.5) Transfer most BUE and BPE responsibilities to regents and BOD (CUS would continue with certain responsiblities) . Not Sure
I’m not sure whether such transfer would help or merely concentrate power into fewer people.
15.1) Involve the totality of congregations in selecting candidates for the Synod President and First Vice President Strongly Disagree
This sounds so “Mom and Apple Pie-ish,” and the lack of any details makes me doubly suspicious. Any congregation can nominate; if they don’t it’s their decision, not the Synod’s to get involved
15.2) President and First Vice President elected as a team. Strongly Disagree
The 1VP should have the function of an independent advisor. A “team” means that the SP candidate, not the delegates would pick his “running mate” – more centralization of power
16) Election of Synod Vice-Presidents Regionally Strongly Disagree
The responsibilities of the VPs are synodical in scope, not regional. That would pit one region against another for influence. It would also limit the VP candidates to that region.
17.1) The Board of Directors composed of 17 voting members, as defined in the presentation. Strongly Disagree
I’m against the idea of regions and the BOD appointing 30 % of its members. Also there’s no need for 17, while the size of the Synod continues to shrink. In fact I’d like to see 10-12 BOD members.
17.2) First Vice President, Secretary and VP-Finance/Treasure are non-voting members. Not Sure
18.1) Elect or appoint all Synod and district officers and board members to four year terms. Strongly Disagree
I favor the three year cycle for conventions, so four year terms would not be helpful.
18.2) Have no term limits for district presidents Strongly Disagree
Missouri Synod congregations would be better served by periodic changes in district leadership. And term limits would guard against any abuse of incumbency.
18.3) Have no term limits for any national board and commission members. Strongly Disagree
Missouri Synod congregations would be better served by periodic changes in synodical leadership. And term limits would guard against any abuse of incumbency.
19) Expand the certification process for pastoral candidates. Strongly Disagree
The seminaries need to take more responsibility to weed out unqualified seminarians (and potential swimmers in the Tiber or Bosporus) before they get calls. Providing a temporary license to a seminarian who receives a call that would be replaced by being ordained a few years later if the DP and congregation are happy is like a pastor issuing a temporary permit at a couple’s wedding that would be replaced by a marriage vow and license a few years later if everyone is still happy.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


New Feature: Invited Guests from Around the Synod Take the BRTFSSG Survey and Share their Responses with Commentary ““ Today’s Guest: The Infamous and Pseudonymous “Carl Vehse” — 6 Comments

  1. This is a great idea, and I’d like to see more of these–it’s important that this committee realize there are both clergy and laity at all levels that want to see true, confessional Lutheranism maximized, and vague, ambiguous, constantly shifting bureaucracy and corporatism minimized.

  2. Can “Carl” explain how 6.1 would create an “episcopal empire”?

    Also, the link is broken in 14.1.

    Otherwise, an excellent response to the survey. Thank you, Carl!

  3. “Carl”, regarding No. 19-I think we need worry more about Seminarians making the trek to Willow Creek or Saddle Back, more than jumping the Tiber or swimming the Bosphorus. But your point is correct.

  4. Can “Carl” explain how 6.1 would create an “episcopal empire”?

    I reread the material on 6.1 again. This seemed to describe a situation where a pastor serves two or more small congregations because neither could support a fulltime pastor by itself.

    I also went back to the 2007, 2004, 2001, and 1992 Handbooks. The Synodical Handbooks up through 2001 provided for one lay vote for each member congregation of a multi-congregation parish along with the vote of the pastor serving those congregations. The greatly expanded 2004 Handbook appears to have dropped that provision. Therefore I have changed my response to 6.1 to “Agree.”

    In addition to applying to 6.3, my opposition to “episcopist empires” refers to the concept of multiple-congregation parishes where a pastor serves as an “archbishop” of the multiple congregations who can support their own separate pastor(s).

    The second sentence in my comment on 6.1 then applies only to 6.3.

    Also, the link is broken in 14.1.

    The link,, works for me.

    regarding No. 19-I think we need worry more about Seminarians making the trek to Willow Creek or Saddle Back

    Those “Seminarians making the trek to Willow Creek or Saddle Back” would be included in my designation as “unqualified,” which the seminaries need to take more responsibility to weed out.

  5. Carl,

    Excellent comments throughout. I especially like #19 with its real life example. Dr. Walther and the Missouri Synod were dead set against temporary “calls.” We are a congregational church body…something both the higher-ups need to recognize and something that the normal parishoner and pastor also need to recognize. The clergy/laity division that sometimes arises is one that should be dissolved when both clergy and laity themselves think in terms of “congregation.”

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