Electing Circuit Delegates: The Key to the Convention (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

The next national convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod begins one year from today, on July 10, 2010. But that convention will effectively be decided three months from today, on October 10, 2009. For October 10 of this year is the deadline for electing circuit delegates to the convention, and who those delegates are will determine the outcome. Simply put, electing circuit delegates is the key to the convention.

Why is this so important? We have an opportunity, a very realistic opportunity, to turn the synod in a much better direction than the way it’s been going. That will mean doing four things: 1) Defeating the power-centralizing restructuring proposals of President Kieschnick’s Blue Ribbon Task Force; 2) Defeating Jerry Kieschnick (only 52% last time) and electing someone who would do a much better job as Synod President, e.g., Matt Harrison; 3) Electing competent, theologically sound vice-presidents, officers, and board and commission members; and 4) Defeating bad resolutions and passing good ones. But to accomplish these goals, we need to elect circuit delegates who share these goals. And that means concerted action, now.

So if you are concerned about the theological direction of the synod, you need to know, and you need to get actively involved in, the process for electing circuit delegates. And time is of the essence. There are a series of steps that need to be taken long before the October 10 deadline. This article will now outline these important steps.

  1. Know what circuit your congregation is in, and find out from your pastor or your circuit counselor when the circuit forum will be held and where. (The date and place might not even be set yet, but at least find out when you could know.) Most circuit forums probably will be held between late August and early October.
  2. Your congregation needs to select a layperson to go and vote at the circuit forum. (One pastor from your congregation automatically gets to vote.) Normally this selection of a lay representative is done by the congregational voters’ assembly. If your regular voters’ meeting is past, most congregations have a provision for calling a special meeting, and it could be a short 5-15 minute meeting for doing just this step, and possibly the next one. The name of your congregation’s selected lay representative then needs to be reported to the circuit counselor in advance of the forum.
  3. Your congregation may also nominate any one layperson from any congregation in your circuit to be on the ballot for circuit lay delegate and alternate. (All the non-advisory pastors in your circuit are automatically eligible for pastoral delegate and alternate.) Note: The layperson you nominate does not need to be from your own congregation, but if you have someone in mind, you should find out first if that person would be willing to serve as a lay delegate in Houston July 10-17, 2010. (Expenses will be paid for, but that person would need to have the time available to go.) The name of your congregation’s lay nominee then needs to be reported to the circuit counselor in advance of the forum.
  4. Your pastor and your lay representative need to show up at the circuit forum. This may sound obvious, but sometimes just showing up is half the battle. It may also be a good idea if the lay nominees show up as well, whether they are lay representatives or not. Being physically present can be an advantage. No new nominations are allowed at the forum; only those previously nominated are eligible. The balloting–and the elections must be by ballot–goes in this order: a) Pastoral delegate; b) Lay delegate; c) Pastoral alternate; d) Lay alternate. Once a delegate or alternate is chosen from one congregation, that congregation is eliminated from the other elections: Four persons, four different congregations. (There are additional detailed rules for the actual balloting at the forum; see the relevant bylaw, 3.1.2.1.)

Now what can be done to increase the likelihood of electing good delegates and alternates? Strategize in advance. The confessionally minded pastors in a circuit–and laymen, too–can talk with one another to see who they want to nominate and back. And they need to make sure that all their repesentatives will then show up at the forum to vote.

Doing these things can make the difference between getting two solid delegates and just one, between getting at least one good delegate and none. One delegate here or there–multiply that across 600+ circuits nationally, and that can make the difference overall. As I recall, the 1992 election was decided by just 12 votes; the 2001 election was decided by 18 votes–out of about 1200!

And to multiply this effort synod-wide, talk about the need to elect circuit delegates–and the process for how to do it–with your friends in the congregation, circuit, and district, and across the synod! Maybe even refer them to this article, send them the link, that sort of thing.

If you want to read the official language on electing circuit delegates, it’s Bylaw 3.1.2.1 in the 2007 Handbook (pp. 90-91), which every congregation and pastor has. You can also read the relevant bylaw online: Bylaw 3.1.2.1 (pp. 90-91)

Secretary Hartwig put an official notice, summarizing the process, in the April Witness: Official Notice: Election of Voting Delegates

Now all this is mundane, nuts-and-bolts stuff, but it can make a huge difference in the theological direction our synod takes at the national level. As long as we are members of this synod, we should seek its good. And that means using the mechanisms of our polity–like electing circuit delegates–toward that end. We do the “politics” for the sake of our theology! The decisions made at the national convention (like who the Synod President is) will inevitably have an effect–for good or for ill, whether directly or indirectly–at the local level.

The circuit delegates we elect over the next three months will be making important decisions for us in Houston, starting one year from today. So let’s elect the best delegates we can. It’s time to get the ball rolling on that now!


Comments

Electing Circuit Delegates: The Key to the Convention (by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 22 Comments

  1. Given the nature of conventions and how things come up that are “inside baseball” that we may or may not have discussed with our laity ahead of time, our Circuit passed the following resolution regarding delegate seating at the Synodical Convention. I would also suggest that your Circuit Forum passes a similar resolution before the October deadline (and don’t forget to actually send it to 1333 S. Kirkwood Road!). After all, when there is a question about how to represent your circuit, who would you rather have your delegates talk to, one another or some delegate halfway across the country?

    WHEREAS the Synodical President designates seating arrangements at Synodical Conventions; and
    WHEREAS “Delegate seating for a number of conventions has been according to a computer-generated random plan.” (2007 Convention Proceedings, p. 47); and
    WHEREAS such random seating does help foster communication and the building of relationships between delegates from various and disparate parts of Synod; and
    WHEREAS many of the changes and amendments which are proposed from the floor make it desirous for delegates from the same circuit to caucus on how best to represent their circuit; and
    WHEREAS the Standing Rules of Synodical Conventions prohibit delegates from communicating by electronic means (verbal or non-verbal) while in the designated voter delegate area (Rule 17, 2007 Convention Proceedings, pp. 53f., Rule 16, 2004 Convention Proceedings, p. 49); and
    WHEREAS “Some have expressed an interest in being seated according to circuit delegations.” (2007 Convention Proceedings, p. 47); and
    WHEREAS less than a majority of the seated delegates (516/1239 or 42%) expressed a desire to be seated by random computer designation,
    Therefore be it
    RESOLVED that we, the [name] Circuit in Forum Assembled, request of the Synodical President that our Pastoral and Lay Delegates be seated next to one another at the 2010 Synodical Convention, and be it further
    RESOLVED that we request that the Synodical President give each and every Circuit delegation the option to be seated together, and be it finally
    RESOLVED that we express approval of the practice of the Synodical President in randomizing the seating arrangements of Circuit delegations, provided that Pastor and Lay Delegates from the same Circuit are given the option of being seated together.

  2. How about a resolution overturning and banning the SP from unilaterally applying Rule 17, 2007 Convention Proceedings, pp. 53f. and Rule 16, 2004 Convention Proceedings, p. 49?

    Of course that would first require delegates passing a resolution overturning Resolution 7-04A (pp. 164-165; Caution: 4.6MB .pdf file), which gives the SP the power to arbitrarily, based on his own opinion, exclude overtures from convention consideration by the voting delegates.

    And one wonders why Waltherian Lutherans oppose an episcopist polity in the Missouri Synod?!?

  3. Uh, in case you haven’t noticed, Carl, all this is being done without an episcopist polity! It’s all being done under a democratic, congregationalist, corporatist polity.

  4. Which just goes to show that the essential & critical problem is not what polity we have but that it doesn’t matter what polity you have if people are no longer willing to listen to the Word of God & to adhere to the Lutheran Confessions.

  5. Uh, in case you haven’t noticed, George, the Rules 17 and 16, and Resolution 7-04A effectively turn the convention into a episcopist/CEO-type polity, blunting efforts by the congregational representative delegates to introduce and consider resolutions deemed unsuitable by the SP.

    of course there are no mitres or croziers yet, but those kinds of flourishes will come later.

  6. Yeah, Carl, & how were those changes implemented? By democratic voting by congregational representatives…

    Seems to me you’re making an issue of polity the be end all measure of the church. And you’re conflating CEO type leadership with Episcopal leadership. You kind of have your cake & eat it too. Everything that’s wrong with the church has to do with those rascally bishops whether they’re wearing suits & ties or mitres & croziers.

    So, what’s your solution? I assume we start by repealing all those rules & resolutions you speak of. But if those have been adopted by a democratic body composed of 50% laity, how can you question them? Should we make it so only laity can vote in conventions? How about if we get rid of all clergy completely, cause they’re the ones always apparently just waiting to leap out of the closet dressed in their mitres & croziers? Do we change our nomenclature, so that nobody can have a title like bishop or president or what?

    What I see is that you’ve taken some valid concerns about episcopal polity & pushed them to the extreme while ignoring any valid concerns about a congregationalist polity. And you’ve made a matter of adiaphora a matter of doctrine & are trying to bind people’s consciences to it.

    It’s one thing to say that the LC-MS has adopted Walther’s teaching on Church & Ministry & that we’ve adopted a certain type of polity; it’s another to say that polity is the only right polity one can have in the church, which I seem to think you’re doing. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood.

    And you still haven’t dealt with the fact that the polity we received from Walther, this congregationalist one with one pastoral/one lay vote, has now given us through all valid democratic voting, the system you say is an episcopal one. I don’t quite see what your solution is.

  7. Hey, fellas, could we not get sidetracked from the main subject of this particular blog entry? This article has to do with electing circuit delegates to the national convention at the upcoming circuit forums. It is not a debate about episcopal polity, etc.

    The comment section of this blog is *not* a democracy, btw. I am the Bishop of this Blog, and I rule! ;^) And I *can* delete comments if I feel like they’re distracting from the main message and taking us far afield.

  8. No problem, Charlie. I will comment on the actual subject matter later. Right now I have to go eat Mexican food. 🙂

  9. Maybe the problem isn’t so much the type of, but size of polity. When organizations get too big they become unwieldy and difficult to oversee in a faithful way. The overseers will also fail because of their sin, but they may have so much power within the larger polity that they become unaccountable to the people they are called to serve and thus do not heed the call to repentance.

    Large groups also tend to get the big tent mentality which allows for many different confessions within the same tent, but God doesn’t tolerate different confessions when it comes to His name.

  10. Rev. Henrickson,

    Sorry for continuing off topic. I read your post #7 after I posted #9.

    I agree that we should nominate and send as many confessional guys to the convention as possible. At the same time I believe our opponents will be hard to defeat and if they are not defeated at this convention it is time to come up with plan B. If voting with ballots doesn’t work we better be ready to vote with our feet because too many sheep are being endangered in the LCMS.

  11. Pr. Henrickson wrote: “As long as we are members of this synod, we should seek its good. And that means using the mechanisms of our polity–like electing circuit delegates–toward that end. We do the “politics” for the sake of our theology! The decisions made at the national convention (like who the Synod President is) will inevitably have an effect–for good or for ill, whether directly or indirectly–at the local level.”

    A good quote & a good optimistic view. However, no matter how much politics we do, it still won’t save the Synod nor bring unity. But as you point out, it is a start & should be done conscientiously.

  12. So, your solution is politics as usual? Doing what’s been done in the past? Haven’t we already been trying to do these exact things? Trying to educate the laity on their rights & responsibilities. Trying to get good solid delegates elected. Trying to hold people accountable for their actions.

    Don’t get me wrong. We should be doing those things. But we’ve been doing it for how long &, if we believe your take on things, we’ve only moved closer to an episcopal system? I fail to see that as a solution.

    My thoughts in Comment #11 still sums up the situation for me. We do what we can & realize that even if we do take back a majority of votes & positions in our synod, that that doesn’t solve our problems or bring unity or do away with the bureaucratic power structure that’s in place.

    Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to present Matthew Harrison as a candidate for President to my congregation or that I’m not going to go to the Circuit Forum along with a lay member to participate in choosing delegates for the convention.

  13. “Still doesn’t mean I’m not going to present Matthew Harrison as a candidate for President to my congregation or that I’m not going to go to the Circuit Forum along with a lay member to participate in choosing delegates for the convention.” –GN

    Bingo! That’s what we need to be doing, George, and that’s why I wrote this article. I know I have never thought or suggested that we can “save the synod” and automatically get everyone theologically united just by winning a presidential election. But that should not stop us from trying to win the presidential election! Harrison as SP instead of Kieschnick would be a huge improvement! Many decisions, appointments, etc., would be a whole lot better theologically. And Harrison would support and encourage and seek to implement the *long-term* task of building increased theological unity in doctrine and practice.

  14. Charlie, sorry to imply that you were thinking or suggesting “that we can ‘save the synod’ and automatically get everyone theologically united just by winning a presidential election.”

    I didn’t mean to do that. I know that that’s not been your position at all. But I have heard that thinking from others, that if only we could control things, things would get better in the synod. If it were only “our” guys, etc.

    Actually I think if Matt is elected, things might tend to get worse in the synod, but it would be a good kind of worse because our differences and disunity might actually start being addressed in an honest, open way.

  15. “So, your solution is politics as usual? Doing what’s been done in the past? Haven’t we already been trying to do these exact things? Trying to educate the laity on their rights & responsibilities. Trying to get good solid delegates elected. Trying to hold people accountable for their actions.”

    Well, this time let’s do it with a more positive attitude.

  16. To have a synodical president who is a theologian and has done ministry instead of just talking about it would be a huge step in the right direction for the LCMS.

  17. Well folks, I have noted several statements of “politics as usual” or words to that effect. If we have elected officials and votes to pass or defeat memorials/resolutions doesen’t that make the whole thing political? So, I suggest that everyone quit your griping about the politics and organize politically to get things back to a Scriptural and Confessional form as the LCMS is supposed to be with a presidium that will adhere!

  18. The polity of the Missouri Synod has elected may good district and synodical presidents. That a few rotten apples and resolutions are occasionally elected or passed does not mean the polity is bad, but that the delegates are not making wise voting decisions or are competent on how to use parliamentary procedures at a convention.

  19. Thanks for this, Charlie. I wrote a similar piece a while back: http://preachrblog.blogspot.com/2009/03/where-lcms-president-is-really-elected.html

    I’d add one thing. Perhaps just as important is getting as many nominations for the right presidential candidate as possible.

    It is powerfully persuasive to “undecided” delegates if a candidate, especially a challenger, gets more congregational nominations than the other. People have a natural tendency to vote with the crowd, or on the “winning side”.

    So in this way, too, the convention (at least the election of president) may be decided well before July of 2010.

    Remember that each congregation gets to nominate 2 for President. So even if it’s a congregation of mixed opinion (some favoring the incumbent, some not) they should be encouraged to nominate both men!!

    Just as it’s hard to overstate the importance of electing delegates at the circuit forums, it’s also paramount to win the nomination contest, too.

  20. “I’d add one thing. Perhaps just as important is getting as many nominations for the right presidential candidate as possible. . . . Just as it’s hard to overstate the importance of electing delegates at the circuit forums, it’s also paramount to win the nomination contest, too.” –TC

    You are correct, Tom Chryst. Circuit delegates and congregational nominations are the two main tasks we need to get done in advance of the convention. The reason I did not mention nominations at this time is that that process does not begin until late October (although we can certainly do some prep work before then, to get congregations familiar with a candidate). Right now the task at hand is delegates.

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