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.
The Blue Ribbon Task Force’s Proposals
|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.