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!

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