Indiana District Convention – A View from the Floor, by Glen Piper

(Editor’s Note – We thank regular BJS website reader Glen Piper for this summary of the Indiana District Convention. You can also read this and his other posts on his blog.)

On Thu 6/25 & Fri 6/26, the Indiana District met in convention, the 30th out of 35 District conventions this year. I was the lay delegate for Heritage, Valparaiso, and from my view in Section C, Row 3, Seat 120, we did some good, some bad, and a whole lot of indifferent during our time in Hall A of the Grand Wayne Convention Center in Fort Wayne…

This was my third convention (District in 2003 & 2009, and Synod in 2007), and God help me, I loves me some Lutheran conventioneering! Sure, there’s a whole lot of frustration, and it can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing; but, when there *is* a flash of theological debate on the convention floor, or when you *do* get the chance to engage some outstanding theological & pastoral minds like Rick Stuckwisch or Matt Harrison (just to drop two of the more “famous” names…), or partake in the Divine Service (LSB Setting 4) at Historic St. Paul’s as part of a full house… well, for me, the good far outweighs the bad.

On to the event run-down…

The Indifferent:
We were presented with the usual amount of fluff that you get at every convention — the “Mom & Apple Pie” resolutions, wherein you commend folks/projects & thank God for them. These are the types of things that only heartless ogres would dare vote against. Even so, none of them passed with a full 100% approval.

And they’re the types of resolutions that fill the front end of conventions, draining the delegates’ energy away from the more substantive (read “difficult/contentious”) business that typically backloads a convention agenda. IMO, 17 of the 22 resolutions before us fell into this “Indifferent” category.

Given the overall tenor of the proceedings, and what we were given to do by/on the agenda (e.g., reports, recognizing various & sundry folks, eating, etc…), the vast majority of what we did reasonably fell into the “Indifferent” category. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, IMO.

The Bad:

“Trouble in River City” – Yup, we got the stump speech, both in its recorded and live forms, as SP Kieschnick (SPK hereafter) was in the house. We got the full laundry list of his bona fides, along with the list of four areas in which there is some disagreement within the LCMS today (1. Open/Close(d) Communion Policy, 2. The Service of Women, 3. Worship Styles, & 4. Unionism & Engagement — i.e., the same list that he put forth in his recent Pastoral Letter). The interesting thing to note was his emphasis, shaded but still given, that somehow these four areas are not as significant, doctrinally/theologically speaking, as those “agreements” on the laundry list of bona fides.

Ablaze! Focus in Examples – As expected, all of the examples given throughout the Synodically produced video clips were heavy on Ablaze! participants. While not (necessarily) bad in and of itself, the examples tended towards the Law-driven, in that they emphasized what people/congregations needed to be doing in order to “win souls” and “keep people from going to Hell”. There was much talk of “revitalization”, numbers, growth, effectiveness, and the like, and not so much on Sacramental life, faithfulness, or vocation. Nothing new, I know, but still enough to fall into the “Bad” category.

Our Trip to the Woodshed – Right after the River City extravaganza, SPK made mention of the fact that he knows that there are some things about Ablaze! that many folks don’t like; in fact, he admitted, there are some things about it that even he doesn’t like. That said, he also said that, as an agent of the Synod, he knows he has to carry out that which the Synod has determined & agreed to do. He also said that he knew that three years ago, the IN-D voted to not participate in Ablaze!/Fan The Flame. He wanted to remind us that the IN-D, and we as the voting assembly, were the Synod in that place, and thus also had an obligation to fully carry out that which the Synod had decided/agreed to, even if/when we didn’t fully agree with every part of it. Shortly after that admonition, Floor Committee (FC) 1 brought Resolution 1-05 (TO ENCOURAGE AND ASSIST CONGREGATIONS IN THEIR INVOLVEMENT WITH ABLAZE!) to the floor, where it was passed 55%-45%. I count this as bad, although the silver lining is that I’m not sure it would’ve passed without the Presidential scolding, and neither was it a resounding victory; rather, I don’t think it’ll matter all that much, other than providing The Reporter with their main factoid about the IN-D Convention.

The BRTFSSG – this bad boy gets its own set of sub-bullets…

  • Everything you’ve heard about the presentation is true…
  • It’s too fast
  • There’s not enough time for any substantive discussion/debate
  • Specificity is kept to a bare minimum
  • Both sides of the fence are played, wrt the “proposals” being actual, you know, proposals, or merely being placeholders until someone tells the Task Force what they should put in as actual proposals
  • Some attempts at rationales were given, although many of those were lacking the same specificity as the “proposals”
  • Other rationales were just plain troubling. Some of my faves:
    • Comm. Ministers can be lay delegates because it “utilizes their gifts and gives flexibility to congregations…” — my question: if they’re “ministers”, why aren’t they splitting the clergy/minister vote? Why dilute & disenfranchise the lay vote? While I do think that Comm. “Ministers” are laity (and that they whole “minister” thing is just a tax dodge), it just irks me that the default thought is to disenfranchise the pewsitting layman. You can’t have it both ways…
    • Funneling of Overtures through Circuit Forums & District Conventions, “expands leadership & participation of congregations, and fosters more meaningful participation at District conventions…” — The spin of this proposal was laid bare when, after it was stated that the “priority” given to overtures submitted via the Circuit->District channel was not actually a way to disenfranchise congregations & have that official channel serve as a chokepoint to stifle non-sanctioned change, someone rose from the floor to lay out just how it would serve that purpose. There was no response from the presenter, Rev. Greene.
    • Most all of the Officer/Election rationales centered on geographic representation, symmetry, equity, and that, somehow even when it was only symbolic, it would all result in things being more “effective.” Trouble is, that “effective” was never defined…
    • Cost Savings was another recurring rationale. Oddly enough, though, when pressed for details on just how and when the cost savings would be realized, details were once again sorely lacking. Terms like “immediately” and “several million dollars” were bandied about, but never with specific dates or amounts attached to specific proposals or plans.
    • Also of note was the response when the recent Reporter statement by Tom Kuchta was mentioned, in which the Synod’s Treasurer stated that none of the BRTFSSG proposals would result in significant savings at this point. Rev. Greene responded that he was aware of that statement, and that he and the Task Force disagreed, noting that Kuchta has a different understanding of “significant” than the Task Force. Kuchta’s “significant”, it was hinted, falls north of $5 million, and the Task Force doesn’t think that savings of (potentially) $1 – $5 million is anything to sneeze at. (Frankly, in this context, I’ll side with Treasurer Kuchta on this matter…)
  • At one point, in order to blunt the force of some criticism (note: I don’t think this is an unfair assessment; rather, it is an objective take on motive — no 8th Commandment bombs, please…), Rev. Greene made the statement that three Districts had fully commended the work of the Task Force.
    • I followed up with a question, asking if he could provide us with the number of Districts that had passed resolutions against the work of the Task Force.
    • Rev. Greene response was that, to his knowledge, no other District had passed the type of resolution (that we were debating) rejecting all of the work done by the Task Force.
    • Let the Reader understand the difference between the question I asked, and the one that Rev. Greene answered…
  • Perhaps the most fascinating exchange came when XIV and the proposal for additional pastoral “evaluation” prior to certification (aka, “conditional ordination” or “shacking-up”). When presented with that question, Rev. Greene’s response was, “I’m not a theologian. I’m a bureaucrat.” This was met with a stunned silence, shortly followed by the statement from the original questioner, “Well, maybe that’s the problem; we need more theologians working on this.”

The Good:

The Elections – Dan May got re-elected to his third term as DP, and the entire slate of VPs were also re-elected. I view this as a good thing. We ain’t perfect here in the IN-D, but we’re doing better than most when it comes to our executive branch, from what I can see & hear, and for that I’m thankful. We elected some good folks on the various committees & boards, and my own failure to get elected aside, I’m pleased.

SPK’s Q&A Session – I put this into the good column for one reason: he took questions from the floor! This yielded some interesting info, IMO, including the following…

  • LCMS Future – pretty standard stuff, i.e., the same as has been reported from other conventions, wrt changing the “spirit of rancor” in Synod, the “very bright” future of Synod, and the “strong agreement on fundamentals” in Synod, etc…
  • Challenges Facing Seminaries – $$$/Funding, Growth of Alternate Routes, & Declining Enrollments, with the greatest challenge being that of “How to still operate two seminaries?”
  • Any Discussion of Closing One Seminary? – “No serious conversations of significance.”
  • Impact of Hate Crimes Bill – It is being watched closely, but we must not compromise our message.
  • Pastoral Promotion of Gay Lifestyle – This was interesting, because after some initial vagueness, Washington State was mentioned. And SPK was forceful in stating that the promotion of the gay lifestyle was/is something that would not be tolerated, and that should fall under church discipline if it continued in an unrepentant fashion. However, to his knowledge, he was unaware of any such promotion in Washington.

Matt Harrison – The high point of the whole event, though, was quite possibly Matt Harrison’s greeting and presentation on behalf of LCMS World Relief. It was the strongest, clearest, sweetest proclamation of the Gospel that we got. Was it also a bit of a stump speech, in stark contrast to that of SPK’s? You betcha! Did that detract at all from the brilliant simplicity of the Gospel, simply but powerfully proclaimed? Nope. We got a clear distinction between the Law of “River City” on one hand, and the Gospel of the Balm of Gilead on the other.

By a vote of 65%-35% we passed resolution 4-04A, which has a key resolution that reads, “RESOLVED, that the Indiana District memorialize Synod to reject the presented proposals of the BRTFSSG.” (note: the amendment had been to substitute “presented proposals” for “recommendation” in the quoted resolved…)

We voted down (56%-44%) a resolution (1-06) encouraging District congregations to utilize the District “revitalization process” – Now, to my knowledge, this process does not have any hooks into the TCN process; however, that still doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing, IMO, and there were a few passionate statements from the floor against the process. Which, when combined with the general lack of up-front specificity about the program, I think helped carry the day.

Devotions/Music/Worship – Everything was, as far as I could tell, solidly liturgical, theological, and orthodox. No happy-clappy, contempo-worship for the IN-D! The in-session devotions were nicely done, and the Divine Service, Friday morning at Historic St. Paul, was LSB Setting IV.

Guidelines for Corporate Worship for Conventions, Meetings, Workshops, and Gatherings of The Indiana District – The previous bullet point was possible thanks to the great work done by the Committee on Worship and Spiritual Care, led by the Rev. Dr. Rick Stuckwisch. Included in the 6/26 “Today’s Business” was document starting this bullet point. In short, it recommends “that conventions, meetings, workshops, and other gatherings of the Indiana District use the hymns, orders of service, and other material from Lutheran Service Book.” (note: there is much good, solid, theological & fraternal rationale given in the document for this endorsed position of encouragement, I just didn’t quote it here; Pr. Stuckwisch did a great job of explaining it during his report.) Thank you for that, Pr. Stuckwisch!

In Conclusion:
I know the “Bad” list is a bit longer than the “Good” list; however, I don’t mean that to be taken as an indictment of the work that was done by this convention. No, my intent is to clearly state that I think that much good was done by the Indiana District this go-around. Was there a lot left on the table? Sure, but that’s true at every convention. Nothing truly bad was enacted or ratified, and some very good things were passed and endorsed. When combined with the massive inertia of indifference that pervades so much of Synodical conventions, I think this can be tallied up on the positive side of the ledger.

Thanks for reading this far, and sorry for running on so long. But a lot of stuff happened, and I wanted to make sure that I presented it in as complete, accurate, and readable a form as possible.

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.

Comments

Indiana District Convention – A View from the Floor, by Glen Piper — 16 Comments

  1. Glen, thank you for all of the information on your convention.

    A couple things I was wondering and hoping that others here could help me with are:

    “He wanted to remind us that the IN-D, and we as the voting assembly, were the Synod in that place, and thus also had an obligation to fully carry out that which the Synod had decided/agreed to, even if/when we didn’t fully agree with every part of it.”

    Am I wrong in thinking that representatives at District conventions are there to represent the congregations in their area and not the Synod. Viewing them as representing Synod gives a different impression of synodical structure than I thought it was supposed to be. Is Synod supposed to help congregations coordinate their efforts and support them, or act as the head of all the congregations? Am I wrong in thinking it seems to be one in theory and another apparently in practice?

    “the Task Force doesn’t think that savings of (potentially) $1 – $5 million is anything to sneeze at.”

    If this is how much they are planning on saving with all these changes does anyone have an idea how much this task force has cost synod overall up to this point? It seems like if they only want to save that much money that all the consultants and guest speakers from CG groups have cost somewhere in that neighborhood. Is the 2010 convention going to be longer to deal with this? If so, how much would that cost?

    From both a marketing and fiscal standpoint, if we focused on what makes the Lutheran church different from every CG congregation it would be cheaper and more successful since we would not be competing with churches at what they do best, “relevant” sermons, casual services and contemporary music. We are so late to the game and divided on it that we wouldn’t be able to get a significant share of the CG market.

    From a theological point of view we should focus on what makes the Lutheran church different because our doctrine is excellent and people need to hear it. We can offer a deeper and better understanding of the Law and Gospel than churches that reduce the Gospel. If we educate the laity on why the liturgy is helpful, why we have closed communion and our understanding of the Means of Grace then the “Confessional” position would be much clearer. If our churches are “Christ Centered and Cross Focused” as Issues Etc. would put it, we can bring the pure Gospel to people and help them to grow in their faith and remain steadfast instead of just getting the same sort of high you get from a rock concert and some sour spiritual milk without solid food.

  2. Alex:

    “He wanted to remind us that the IN-D, and we as the voting assembly, were the Synod in that place, and thus also had an obligation to fully carry out that which the Synod had decided/agreed to, even if/when we didn’t fully agree with every part of it.”

    Am I wrong in thinking that representatives at District conventions are there to represent the congregations in their area and not the Synod. Viewing them as representing Synod gives a different impression of synodical structure than I thought it was supposed to be. Is Synod supposed to help congregations coordinate their efforts and support them, or act as the head of all the congregations? Am I wrong in thinking it seems to be one in theory and another apparently in practice?

    You are not wrong, IMO. However, I think we’re in the middle of an attempt to reframe the debate and/or change the context in Missouri. Current leadership seems to want a top-down leadership model. For that to work best, the subordinate levels need to be agents of the superior levels, and not act as free agents, able to disregard edicts as they see fit.

    At least that was the vibe that I got as I listened to it. And I must say that it fits in with what I’ve observed coming out of St. Louis over the past few years.

    -ghp

  3. From Post #2 – Am I wrong in thinking that representatives at District conventions are there to represent the congregations in their area and not the Synod. Viewing them as representing Synod gives a different impression of synodical structure than I thought it was supposed to be. Is Synod supposed to help congregations coordinate their efforts and support them, or act as the head of all the congregations? Am I wrong in thinking it seems to be one in theory and another apparently in practice?

    I believe his comment would refer to the process that states a district cannot put forth a resolution to overturn or reject what was already approved at Synodical convention.

  4. The interesting thing all this is that the Synod in convention didn’t necessarily approve everything that is being claimed. For instance, go back and look at the approvals of the Ablaze program. There was little detail in the resolutions, broad goals but not details of method or process. Now, however, if someone says, “I have a problem with this or that issue in Ablaze,” he’ll hear, “This was approved by the Synod in convention. As a member of the Synod you have an obligation to toe the line.”

    The same thing is being done with the Revitalizing Congregations effort. The resolution in 2007 didn’t identify any method as to how “revitalizing” would be done. It was a baseball, mom, and apple pie type resolution setting the goal of revitalizing 2000 congregations by 2017. Who could be against that? It turns out the chief method of accomplishing the revitalizing goal is TCN, the Transforming Congregations (or Churches) Network. So, now if you question the method or theology TCN proposes guess what you’ll hear? Synod approved revitalizing congregations at the 2007 convention. You need to stop criticizing what Synod has approved.

    It’s the sort of thing that creates a great deal of suspicion about every resolution presented. You have to ask not just what does this propose, but also how will it be used?

  5. Good report, Glen. The only thing that I would add would be the sense of urgency that both Dr Kieschnick and VP Greene tried to convey. Right out of the Rahm/Obama playbook. Never let a {perceived} crisis go to waste!

    We were told that we had to do something NOW, with both (a)ABLAZE and (b)the BRTFSSG proposals, else it might be too late to save (a)souls and (b)Synod.

    IRT resolution 1-06, I did speak with Pr Robinson (District Outreach Executive), who developed the district revitalizing process. It sounded pretty solid and Bible-based to me, unlike what I’ve read of the TCN process. I wish Pr Robinson could have responded to some of Pr Albers concerns at the time they came up.

  6. I find the seminary talk interesting. I’m at Fort Wayne currently, and trumpeting to anyone who will listen the utter lack of Synodical funding for her seminaries. This is mostly done to my home congregation, which still is home to many who think that Synod foots the bill for you starting in undergrad if you’re at a Concordia and pursuing the ministry.

    I think what I find the most troubling is their response to talk about closing a seminary, that there have been “No serious conversations of significance” tells me that there have, in fact, been conversations, but in the eyes of our bureaucrats, the chatter is insignificant. Unless I’m way off target with this, I see ANY conversation about closing a seminary as extremely significant. Just because it’s not on the BoD minutes and at the Violet Vatican’s watercooler doesn’t make it insignificant. Anyone else troubled by that?

  7. “These are the types of things that only heartless ogres would dare vote against. Even so, none of them passed with a full 100% approval.”

    Was voting done by hand/voice or was it electronic? I was once told that with a twelve key pad (0-9, Yes, No), user error was about 1% (hence a couple of Synodical Conventions ago, the resolution commending the quilting ladies had like 17 people who voted “No”). If it was electronic, I wouldn’t put it past user error, rather than ogredom.

    The Padre

  8. PPPadre:

    The voting was electronic — wireless devices. I found them to be *much* better than wired devices we used at Houston in 2007.

    Oddly enough, there was *1* vote where we got 100% — it was near the very end of the convention, and the vote was 192-0 (our full slate of voters at the start was about 360…).

    -ghp

  9. curious point about the seminary conversations, maybe it is significant maybe it is not: in his ‘Meyer Minute’ for July 1, Pres. Meyer said the the 2009-10 fisical year was make or break for St. Louis, and that Synod was watching to see if the Sem finished the year in the red or the black; and that red was not an option.

  10. Clearly, your convention went a lot better than ours (PSD). All questions to S.P. Kieschnick had to be submitted in writing the day before on purple paper included in the convention packet. I think that most of the questions chosen mentioned the word “rumor” in them.

    I would rather that we could have asked him questions from the floor. I saw him hanging around in the lobby after the jubilarian/memorial service on Sunday evening, so I guess we could have asked him questions privately. I didn’t try to do that this time, but I did that once when he came to Concordia University Irvine after having been interviewed on “The Bible Answer Man” during the first year of his presidency. Because of his earlier statement that he did not agree with the resolution passed by the synodical convention that stated that the ELCA was not an orthodox Lutheran church body, I asked him if he knew that Dr. James Nestingen, then a professor at Luther Seminary, had welcomed that resolution because he said that the ELCA needed to hear it. (I had heard Nestingen on “Issues, Etc.”). I was shocked to hear from S.P. Kieschnick that he didn’t even know who Dr. Nestingen was. Nestingen was one of the (five?) candidates for presiding bishop of the ELCA only a few weeks after Kieschnick was elected, but didn’t last past the first ballot.

  11. Ryan:

    “I think what I find the most troubling is their response to talk about closing a seminary, that there have been “No serious conversations of significance” tells me that there have, in fact, been conversations, but in the eyes of our bureaucrats, the chatter is insignificant. Unless I’m way off target with this, I see ANY conversation about closing a seminary as extremely significant. Just because it’s not on the BoD minutes and at the Violet Vatican’s watercooler doesn’t make it insignificant. Anyone else troubled by that?”

    Yep.

  12. “the 2009-10 fisical year was make or break for St. Louis, and that Synod was watching to see if the Sem finished the year in the red or the black; and that red was not an option.”

    If red is “not an option,” I wouldn’t worry too much if I was at the St. Louis sem. If Synod acts the way it has with other synodical schools, red is, in fact, an option. How many of our synodical colleges/universities have been running in the red for years on end and Synod doesn’t intervene the way they should. They lecture, give you the “angry eyes” and walk away. At least that’s what I’ve seen happen with one of our schools…

  13. Pastor Stuckwisch posts his sermons on-line, they are great! I regularly download and listen as I often miss portions of the sermon at my congregation (not at member of Emmaus nor do I live in South Bend) as I wrestle with two children during worship. It is also interesting to hear a sermon that may have emphasized a different weekly reading. http://www.emmaus24.org/

    Does it seem like the SPK wants to redefine what it means to be a secondary doctrine? If it is still doctrine, then we have an existing defined set of beliefs, right? It isn’t like secondary or tertiary doctrine represents those beliefs with multiple, or optional, understandings?

  14. #15 — I think this mention by Nadasdy *was* the impetus for our question, actually. SPK did mention that he was aware of the 4th VP having voiced a personal opinion, and that he would have to speak to him about it at some point…

    -ghp

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