Predictions on how the Blue Ribbon Task Force Will respond to the District Convention Feedback, by Klemet Preus

Now that the districts have given feed-back to the recommendations of President Kieschnick’s “Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod’s Structure and Governance,” it’s time to do some predicting.

Obviously the Task force has to consider what the districts said. Some of these districts glowingly approved the recommendations. Others asked that the entire process be scrapped. Still others memorialized synod asking that the process, deemed urgent in 2007 by President Kieschnick and his administration, be delayed until 2013.

So what will the Task Force suggest? These are my predictions. These are not my suggestions. These are what I think that the Task force will keep and throw away after the feedback from the districts.

Recommendation 1 to add a sentence to Article II of the constitution will be retained. Even thought it is very difficult to change the constitution of the synod and even though this pietistic suggestion is arguably the most dangerous in the entire report, it will be deemed “Missional” and promoted.

Recommendation 2 to change the Constitution by distinguishing certain doctrinal statements from others will be abandoned. It is too difficult for most people to understand these attempts to change the Constitution by distinguishing between this doctrinal assertion and that. Besides, changing the Constitution is a very difficult thing to do. The Task Force will not die on this hill.

Recommendation 3 to make sure everyone knows what it means to be a member of the synod will also be abandoned because it requires a constitutional change and is not worth it.

Recommendation 4 to allow teachers to become laypeople for the sake of voting at conventions, while a nice sop to the teachers of the church, will be abandoned because it creates more questions than it answers and the laymen don’t want it. The Task Force will figure this out.

Recommendation 5 to allow larger congregations more votes is the hill on which the Task Force will be willing to die. This will be retained. It is arguably the main reason why President Kieschnick appointed his task force in the first place. This one will not go away until we say, again, “NO!”

Recommendation 6 is to allow a certain number of delegates to each district according to the size of the district and to allow the districts to determine the way delegates are chosen are chosen. This recommendation actually tries to solve a problem (President Kieschnick’s notorious penchant for granting exceptions) by creating a larger one (taking away from circuits the right to chose delegates). So which problem is worse? I say the latter and the committee will agree thus allowing the exception granting to continue at least for another cycle. Push back is strong against the scandal of exceptions and public outcry may be sufficient for most the DPs simply not to let their BoD’s approve the request for the exceptions.

Recommendation 7 to decrease the number of delegates to the synodical convention, though a darling to the Task Force, will be abandoned. There is too much push back and this is a hill upon which the task force will not be willing to die.

Recommendation 8 to encourage resolutions from districts or circuit forums to be treated as more important than those from congregations is a toss up. It’s already being done and to “encourage” means very little in the church today so it may not be worth the fight. On the other hand Prescient Kieschnick has already requested this so the Task force may feel compelled to retain this recommendation. I’m guessing they keep it.

Recommendation 9 to move to a four year convention cycle will probably be abandoned by the Task Force. It’s not worth the hassle to push this too much and there is strong resistance.

Recommendation 10 is a toss up. It allows circuits to align themselves according to factors other than geography. It’s a bad idea and a thinly veiled attempt to allow the church growth congregations to meet without the encumbrance of confessional gadflies. And it allows the DP to appoint the counselors rather than the congregations to elect them. Again, too much push back and all sorts of pastors are already doing exactly what the recommendation wants. So it will probably be abandoned.

Recommendation 11 reconfigures the districts. It asks the DPs to bring a recommendation which would put most of them out of jobs. Right! Like that’s gonna happen. The Task Force can’t afford to alienate the DPs and this one bites the dust.

Recommendation 12 will never go away until President Kieschnick retires or is defeated. It is my absolute favorite; not because I like it but because it is quintessential, organizational bureau-speak. Look at it. It wants to “engage congregations” and “streamline national operations.” It’s got a really cool diagram so we know the Task Force really likes this one. It is so expansive yet apparently benign that it might possibly fool delegates. It is brilliant. More specifically in this recommendation President Kieschnick’s Task Force gives to him the authority to pick the Execs of the synod since they answer to him now and not to the synodically elected boards. It closes down certain synodical agencies such as LCMS World Relief and absorbs it into Missions thus ending the existence of one of the only financially effective synodical agencies. It kills certain synodical boards (BPE and BUE) which are elected by the delegates of the synodical convention. In short it dramatically increases the power of the president at the expense of delegates who elect program boards. This recommendation will never be abandoned by the Task Force. It was for this recommendation that the Task Force was created by President Kieschnick in the first place.

Recommendation 13 is still on the way.

Recommendation 14 and 15 create five regions from which the DPs must come. I think that the Task force might reluctantly abandon this idea. While it gives the liberal saltwater districts a greater chance of representation on the presidium it also creates another level of bureaucracy and limits the options of the convention. They will abandon this desire in hopes that recommendation 12 can pass.

Recommendation 16 which forces geographical representation on the BoD and also allows the BoD to elect almost 1/3 of its own members is an idea which, while taking options and power away from the delegates of the synod, is still very appealing to the St. Louis elite. It gives them a lot more power something they clearly want very badly. They will sacrifice this one only with great reluctance. Plan on seeing it in 2010.

Recommendation 17 basically takes away term limits from all DPs as well as synodical board members. This will not be abandoned. It gives incumbency more power something the Task Force is loathe to diminish.

Recommendation 18 about retaining the priority of governing documents is another recommendation which seems so great but is so wrong. It takes something already clear and makes it really cloudy. So, the Task Force will retain it.

Recommendation 19 basically takes away final certification of pastoral candidates from the seminaries and places it with the DPs, congregations and circuits. The theological implications of this ambiguous recommendation scream for analysis which will have to wait and has been done elsewhere. Presumably the seminaries are simply not doing their job and the tired litany of complaints against new pastors “in greater need of interpersonal and leadership skills” is officially baptized by this insulting recommendation. It continues the efforts of the administration to marginalize the seminaries and has put them on the defensive to the administration’s delight. There is no reason for the Task Force to abandon the insult to the seminaries inherent in this recommendation. It keeps them in their place.

Recommendation 20 asks for the synod to change its name. While this is an idea very dear to many and advocated by President Kieschnick for a long time I think that the Task Force will not pursue this idea. If they do they will still lose on this point and they know it. If they concede on this point it will give the appearance of being reasonable and open-minded. Consider this one gone.

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